Leon Trotsky and his supporters—including many of the most important leaders of the Russian Revolution—formed the Left Opposition in October 1923, during the last period of Vladimir Lenin’s life and amid the aborted 1923 German revolution. The aim of the Left Opposition was to reform Communist Party policy in the Soviet Union and fight for a correct line in the Communist International, in opposition to the rising conservative and nationalist bureaucracy headed by Joseph Stalin. The Stalinist bureaucracy assumed a consciously counterrevolutionary role in the 1930s, carrying out a political genocide against its left-wing opponents in the Soviet Union and collaborating with world imperialism in the suppression of revolutionary struggles internationally.
The conflict that emerged between Stalin and Trotsky was not a subjective fight between two individuals over personal power, but a fundamental battle waged between irreconcilable political programs. The consolidation of power by Stalin, and the bureaucratic dictatorship that he personified, was not the inevitable outcome of the Russian Revolution. It developed out of the conditions of an economically backward workers’ state that was surrounded by world imperialism and isolated by the delay of the international and European revolution. A series of revolutionary upheavals were defeated due to the political immaturity of the revolutionary leadership internationally.
In his critique of Stalinism, Trotsky developed a theory of world socialist revolution that proved immeasurably more far-sighted than the pragmatic nationalist maneuvers of the Stalinist bureaucrats. The struggle waged by the Left Opposition concentrated on the most decisive questions of revolutionary policy for the international working class.