marxism

THE TRANSITIONAL PROGRAM Study Guide


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THE TRANSITIONAL PROGRAM Study Guide

REQUIRED READING

A  Trotsky, “The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International”

B  “A Discussion with Trotsky on the Transitional Program”

SUPPLEMENTARY READING

C. The Political Backwardness of American Workers Trotsky

D  A Bill of Rights for working people

DISCUSSION POINTS

1. “Classical social democracy, functioning in an epoch of progressive capitalism, divided its program into two parts independent of each other: the minimum program, which limited itself to reforms within the framework of bourgeois society, and the maximum program, which promised substitution of socialism for capitalism in the indefinite future. Between the minimum and the maximum program, no bridge existed.” (Trotsky; b, 26) Why was such a program adequate in the epoch of “progressive capitalism”? What does such a program. lead to in the epoch of decaying capitalism?

2    “It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demands and the socialist program of the revolution.”  (Trotsky; b, 25) Why is a “bridge” necessary between the program of “minimum” (immediate and democratic) demands and the maximum program of socialist revolution in the present epoch?

3     “This bridge should include a system of transitional demands ... ” (Trotsky; b, 25) What is the difference between transitional demands and immediate demands?    Why is the demand for a 32-hour workweek on 40 hours pay an immediate demand while the demand for sliding scale of wages (automatic wage indexation) a transitional demand?

4   “Property owners and their lawyers will prove the ‘unrealizability’ of these demands. Smaller, especially ruined capitalists, in addition will refer to their account ledgers.” (Trotsky; b, 27) How do Marxists advise workers to respond to such capitalist blackmail?

5  “The struggle against unemployment is not to be considered without calling for a broad and bold organization of public works. But public works can have a  continuous and progressive significance for society, as for the unemployed themselves, only when they are made part of a general plan, worked out to cover a considerable number of years.” (Trotsky; b, 32) Why is this?

6  “The working out of even the most elementary plan – from the point of view of  the exploited, not the exploiters – is impossible without workers’ control .. , Thus, workers control becomes a school for planned economy.” (Trotsky; b, 32) What is “workers control”? How does it differ from the workers’ management of socialized industry?

7   “Only the expropriation of the private banks and the concentration of the entire credit system in the hands of the state will provide the latter with the necessary actual, i.e., material resources – and not merely paper and bureaucratic resources – for economic planning”, However, the state-ization of the banks will produce these favorable results only if the state power passes completely from the hands of the exploiters into the hands of the toilers,” (Trotsky; b, 34) How can propaganda and agitation for the implementation of’ a system of transitional demands to deal
with the problem of unemployment be used to “help the masses in the process of daily struggle to find the bridge between present [immediate] demands and the socialist program of [proletarian] revolution”?

8   “The arming of the proletariat is an imperative concomitant element to its struggle for liberation. When the proletariat wills it, it will find the road and the means to arming,” (Trotsky; b, 36) Why is it essential for the proletariat, in order to liberate itself, to become armed? Why is the question of the arming of the working class in the imperialist countries a problem of political will (i.e., class consciousness and organization) rather than a problem of’ the workers’ individual ability to obtain firearms? What is the Marxist approach to solving this problem?

9  “From April to September 1917, the Bolsheviks demanded that the SRs and Mensheviks break with the liberal bourgeoisie and take power into their own hands … the demand of the Bolsheviks, addressed to the Mensheviks and SRs: ‘Break with the bourgeoisie, take the power into your own hands!’ had for the masses a tremendous educational significance … The agitation around the slogan of a workers’ and farmers’ government preserves under all conditions a tremendous educational value.” (Trotsky; b, 43- 44) How did the Bolsheviks agitate for a workers’ and peasants’ government in 19177 Is it true that “agitation around the slogan of a workers’ and farmers’ government preserves under all conditions a tremendous educational value”? How, for example, could such agitation be carried out today in Australia in a manner that would win broad masses of workers away from allegiance to the Laborites to supporting a Marxist party?

10 “Sectarians are capable of differentiating between but two colors: red and black. So as not to tempt themselves, they simplify reality … These sterile politicians generally have no need of a bridge in the form of transitional demands because they do not intend to cross over to the other shore. They simply dawdle in one place, satisfying themselves with a repetition of the self-same meager abstractions.” (Trotsky; b, 56-57) What does Trotsky mean when he writes that “revolutionary” sectarians simplify reality so as not “to tempt themselves”? How do the Trotskyist sects transform transitional demands into sterile abstractions?

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