M. J. Olgin

The Social Basis and Logic of Trotskyism (1935)

Moissaye J. Olgin (b. 1878-1939) was a Ukrainian-Jewish revolutionary journalist. He immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1915, unable to return home due to the war, and henceforth worked as a special foreign correspondent for Pravda in the Soviet Union, as well as for various American socialist newspapers and organizations. He founded The Morning Freiheit in 1922, and served as its editor for the rest of his life.

These are excerpts from Olgin’s book Trotskyism: Counter-Revolution in Disguise (1935). The whole book is worth reading, but I thought some excerpts might entice readers to do so in the first place.

The first two segments are from chapter 2 (“The Social Basis of Trotskyism”), the third segment is from chapter 4 (“Socialism in One Country”), and the last segment is from chapter 5 (“The Revolution of the Peasantry”). [1]

Trotskyism is not a one-man affair. It is not a peculiarity of an individual. Trotskyism is a social phenomenon. The fact that Trotsky happened to be in the revolution adds a certain prestige to his utterances in the eyes of the unwary. In this, as in many other instances, the personal element cannot be ignored. But even if Trotsky did not exist, the brand of opposition to the revolution which he represents would find its expression. Trotskyism is being reborn on every stage of the revolutionary movement because it is the expression of the attitude of a certain class, namely, the petty bourgeoisie.


The fact that he is neither a shopkeeper nor a petty artisan must not deter those unfamiliar with the Marxian interpretation of social movements. It must not be supposed, says Marx, that those who represent the petty bourgeoisie “are all shopkeepers, or enthusiastic champions of the small-shopkeeper class”:

According to their education and their individual position they may be as far apart as heaven and earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter practically. This is, in general, the relationship between the political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent. [2]


The denial of the possibility of Socialism in one country is the basis of all the ideas and policies of Trotskyism. This denial, in turn, is composed of two major premises:

  1. The denial of the possibility of a victorious proletarian revolution in one country when there is no simultaneous revolution in one or several other countries;
  2. The denial of the possibility of building Socialism in one country where a proletarian revolution has taken place — if there is no simultaneous revolution in other countries.

This is contrary to historical facts and contrary to the very essence of the Leninist understanding of the proletarian revolution.


What follows from a wrong premise is a number of counter-revolutionary conclusions which make up the main features of Trotskyism:

  1. The basis is: The impossibility of socialism in one country;
  2. Hence — the assertion that what is going on in the Soviet Union is not socialism;
  3. Hence — the conclusion that what is being built in Russia is “national socialism”;
  4. Hence — the conclusion that the “national socialist” government of the Soviet Union is “Thermidorian,” i.e., counter-revolutionary, and stands in the way of the world revolution;
  5. Hence — the assertion that the Communist International, which is dominated by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which is the party of “national socialism,” is blocking the way of the world revolution;
  6. Hence — the conclusion that the crying need of the world proletariat is to build a “fourth international” to be led by the “great strategist” of the revolution, Leon Trotsky.
  7. It follows from the above that support of intervention and the killing of Soviet leaders are revolutionary acts.

As you see, there is logic in these ravings. They all follow with iron-clad necessity from the fountainhead of the Trotskyite denial of socialism in a single country. That they do not happen to tally with historic facts is not the Trotskyites’ fault.

  1. M. J. Olgin, 1935. Trotskyism: Counter-Revolution in Disguise. [web] 

  2. Karl Marx, 1852. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. (I replaced the translation that Olgin transcribed with the equivalent translation currently available at the Marxists Internet Archive because it conveys the same idea less convolutedly. — R. D.) [web]