Political revolution
A political revolution, in the Trotskyist
Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by Leon Trotsky. Trotsky considered himself an orthodox Marxist and Bolshevik-Leninist, arguing for the establishment of a vanguard party of the working-class...

 theory, is an upheaval in which the government is replaced, or the form of government altered, but in which property relations are predominantly left intact. The revolutions in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in 1830 and 1848 are often cited as political revolutions.

Political Revolutions are contrasted with social revolution
Social revolution
The term social revolution may have different connotations depending on the speaker.In the Trotskyist movement, the term "social revolution" refers to an upheaval in which existing property relations are smashed...

s in which old property relations are overturned. Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

's book, The Revolution Betrayed
The Revolution Betrayed
The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going? is a book by the Russian Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, published in 1937, analyzing and criticizing Stalinism and the post-Lenin development in the Soviet Union....

, is the most widely cited development of the theory.


The Trotskyist movement advocates political revolution, as opposed to capitalist counter-revolution, in the countries with deformed workers states. Such political revolutions are envisioned to overthrow undemocratic governments of bureaucratic privilege, replacing them with governments based on workers' democracy while maintaining state owned property relations.

While the Trotskyist movement does not recognize any political revolution to have occurred against the deformed workers states, it saw a strong possibility for that potential in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the Czechoslovakian Prague Spring
Prague Spring
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II...

 of 1968, both crushed by Soviet invasion. Another uprising seen to have the possibility of sweeping in political revolution was the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, also known as the June Fourth Incident in Chinese , were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the People's Republic of China beginning on 15 April 1989...

, crushed by the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...


Unlike the movements that led to capitalist counter-revolution such Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

's 1991 coup in the USSR and Lech Wałęsa
Lech Wałęsa
Lech Wałęsa is a Polish politician, trade-union organizer, and human-rights activist. A charismatic leader, he co-founded Solidarity , the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland between 1990 and 95.Wałęsa was an electrician...

's Solidarnosc in Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, these previous movements were not seen as having stated capitalist goals and were not seen as hostile to socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

. As such the Trotskyist movement opposed the 1956 invasion of Hungary, the 1969 invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the Tiananmen Square massacre as the crimes of Stalinist governments.


While there is general agreement among Trotskyists on these questions regarding Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and China, there is disagreement on questions regarding capitalist counter-revolution. Some Trotskyist groups cheered the fall of the Stalinist governments of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, even under the leadership of pro-capitalist forces. These groups included Socialist Action (US)
Socialist Action (US)
Socialist Action is a Trotskyist political party in the United States. It publishes the monthly Socialist Action newspaper, has a youth affiliate called Youth for Socialist Action , and is associated with the Fourth International.-Origins:...

, Fourth International (ICR)
Fourth International (ICR)
The Fourth International was established as an "International Centre of Reconstruction" by co-thinkers of Pierre Lambert, in 1981 who argued that the post-war political evolution of the Fourth International under the leadership of Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel had taken the FI away from the...

, and the International Socialist Organization
International Socialist Organization
The International Socialist Organization is a revolutionary socialist organization in the United States that identifies with the politics of International Socialism, a current of Trotskyism, and the Marxist political tradition that American socialist writer and activist Hal Draper called...

. Arguments put forward by some of these groups included the idea that the mobilizations and political space created by smashing the Stalinist bureaucracy could bring about the ability of the working class to carry out the political revolution as a step towards creating a truly democratic and egalitarian socialist society.

The Spartacist League (modern) held onto the historic position of Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

 in advocating only Political Revolution against Stalinism
Stalinism refers to the ideology that Joseph Stalin conceived and implemented in the Soviet Union, and is generally considered a branch of Marxist–Leninist ideology but considered by some historians to be a significant deviation from this philosophy...

 while also standing for the defense of the deformed and degenerated workers' state
Degenerated workers' state
In Trotskyist political theory the term degenerated workers' state has been used since the 1930s to describe the state of the Soviet Union after Joseph Stalin's consolidation of power in or about 1924...

s from imperialism and internal capitalist counter-revolution. They argue that their position has been proven correct by the drop of the standard of living of the people of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe including the lack of medical care and jobs and the rise in racist terror unleashed by neo-fascist thugs. Internationally they point to the strengthened hand of U.S. Imperialism with the fall of the Soviet Union as a major cause of war, including the Anglo-American war in Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

. Other groups that agree with this outlook include the League for the Fourth International
League for the Fourth International
The League for the Fourth International is a Trotskyist international organisation, whose most noteworthy section is the Internationalist Group/Grupo Internacionalista in the United States. It has other affiliates in Mexico, Brazil and France. All of these are very small and based in at most one...

, International Marxist Tendency
International Marxist Tendency
The International Marxist Tendency is an international socialist organisation based on the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. The late Ted Grant was its chief theoretician and the person who built the organisation since its beginning. Currently, Alan Woods and Lal Khan are its best known...

 and Liberation News (Internationalist)
Liberation News (Internationalist)
Liberation News or usually just called Liberation News is a socialist / Luxembourgist print newspaper that appears irregularly as well as a regular online newsletter, edited by Steven Argue....


Today these debates continue regarding what some Trotskyists consider the deformed workers states of the Republic of Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...


See also

  • Degenerated workers' state
    Degenerated workers' state
    In Trotskyist political theory the term degenerated workers' state has been used since the 1930s to describe the state of the Soviet Union after Joseph Stalin's consolidation of power in or about 1924...

  • Bureaucratic collectivism
    Bureaucratic collectivism
    Bureaucratic collectivism is a theory of class society. It is used by some Trotskyists to describe the nature of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, and other similar states in Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere .- Theory :...

  • State capitalism
    State capitalism
    The term State capitalism has various meanings, but is usually described as commercial economic activity undertaken by the state with management of the productive forces in a capitalist manner, even if the state is nominally socialist. State capitalism is usually characterized by the dominance or...

  • New class
    New class
    The "New Class" model, as a theory of new social groups in post-industrial societies, gained ascendency during the 1970s as social and political scientists noted how "New Class" groups were shaped by post-material orientations in their pursuit of political and social goals...

  • State socialism
    State socialism
    State socialism is an economic system with limited socialist characteristics, such as public ownership of major industries, remedial measures to benefit the working class, and a gradual process of developing socialism through government policy...

  • Statism
    Statism is a term usually describing a political philosophy, whether of the right or the left, that emphasises the role of the state in politics or supports the use of the state to achieve economic, military or social goals...

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