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Leon Trotsky 19350000 The State and the USSR

Leon Trotsky: The State and the USSR

Late 1934 or Early 1935

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p. 561 f.]

On the question of the state, as on all important questions, there are three points of view: that of capital, that of the proletariat, and that of the petty bourgeoisie.

Capital understands its state well, despite the diverse forms in which it presents itself. Capital is never defeatist [toward its state] merely because it does not like the government. The bourgeoisie becomes defeatist when it is expropriated, that is, when it ceases to be a bourgeoisie.

The proletariat has a less well-developed class consciousness, but it clearly discerns, through its vanguard, its position in the bourgeois state. The Soviet proletariat, despite its hate of the bureaucracy, regards the state as its own. The sympathies of the working masses for the USSR, in spite of the crisis in the Soviet bureaucracy, prove the same thing.

The situation is different in' regard to the petty bourgeoisie, especially the intellectuals. They have no state of their own. They continually swing back and forth. They base their evaluation of the state on secondary symptoms, fleeting impressions, etc.

Thus the German Social Democratic bureaucracy, fiercely patriotic under the Hohenzollerns and more so under “democracy,” has become defeatist since the advent of Hitler.

The fundamental character of the German state has changed for neither the German bourgeoisie nor the conscious proletariat; the bourgeoisie remains patriotic as it was under “democracy” and the proletariat remains defeatist as it was under “democracy,” but the petty-bourgeois intellectuals have made a 180-degree turn. Why? Because the form of the state has changed, and the intellectuals live precisely on the state “form” (press, education, parliament, etc.).

It seems to me that from these fundamental considerations important lessons must be drawn for our evaluation of the USSR. The oscillations on this question have the origin indicated above: they spring from the superficial viewpoint of the petty-bourgeois intellectuals. This does not mean that the comrades in question are “petty bourgeois.” They may be excellent proletarian revolutionaries, but the best revolutionaries commit mistakes, and Marxism obliges us to seek the social origins of these mistakes: here it is a matter of petty-bourgeois intellectual influence over a proletarian revolutionary.