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In Trotskyist political theory the term degenerated workers' state has been used since the 1930s to describe the state of the Soviet Union after Stalin's consolidation of power in or about 1924. The term was developed by Leon Trotsky in The Revolution Betrayed[1] and in other works ,[2] but has its roots in Lenin's formula that the USSR was a workers' state with bureaucratic deformations.[3]

Contents

The Trotskyist definition

The Soviet state of the period between the 1917 October Revolution and Joseph Stalin's consolidation of power, was held to be a genuine workers' state, as the bourgeoisie had been politically overthrown by the working class and the economic basis of that state laid in collective ownership of the means of production. Contrary to the predictions of many socialists such as Lenin himself, the revolution failed to spread to Germany and other industrial Western European countries, and consequently the Soviet state began to degenerate. This was worsened by the material and political degeneration of the Russian working class by the Civil War of 1917–1923. After the death of Lenin in 1924, the ruling stratum of the Soviet Union, consolidated around Joseph Stalin, was held to be a bureaucratic caste, and not a new ruling class, because its political control did not also extend to economic ownership. The theory that the Soviet Union was a degenerated workers' state is closely connected to Trotsky's call for a political revolution in the USSR, as well as Trotsky's call for defense of the USSR against capitalist restoration.

The term "degenerated workers' state" is commonly used to refer only to the Soviet Union. The term deformed workers' state was coined by Trotskyists of the Fourth International to describe those states, like the Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe, which are or were based upon collectivised means of production, but in which the working class never held direct political power.

Critics

Besides the supporters of the Soviet Union holding the belief that the state was a healthy workers' state, the theory has been criticised from within the Trotskyist movement, and by other socialists critical of the Soviet Union. Among the disputed issues are the relationships between a workers' state (of any type), and a planned economy. Some tendencies tend to equate the two concepts, while others draw sharp distinctions between them.

Among Trotskyists, alternative but similar theories include state capitalism and bureaucratic collectivism.

See also

References

  1. ^ Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, 1936
  2. ^ See, for example, Leon Trotsky, "The USSR and Problems of the Transitional Epoch", extract from The Transitional Program (1938), or "The ABC of Materialist Dialectics", extract From "A Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party" (1939), in Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism, 1942)
  3. ^ Cf. among other places: "Our Party Programme ... shows that ours is a workers’ state with a bureacratic twist to it." V. I. Lenin, "The Trade Unions, the Present Situation and Trotsky's Mistakes", speech on December 30, 1920, in V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 32.
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