Orthodox Trotskyism

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Orthodox Trotskyism is a branch of Trotskyism which aims to adhere more closely to the philosophy, methods and positions of Trotsky and the early Fourth International, Lenin, and Marx than other Trotskyists.

The first Trotskyist international to describe itself as "Orthodox Trotskyist" was the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). Shortly after its formation in 1953, it wrote an open letter in which it described the tradition of the Fourth International as Orthodox Trotskyism, and called for Orthodox Trotskyists to rally to the ICFI.[1] "Orthodox Trotskyism" embodied their opposition to the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (ISFI), whose policies they described as "Pabloism". The ICFI claimed that it alone defended the principles of the Fourth International, while the "Pabloites" subordinated the international workers movement to the bureaucracies or bourgeois leaders.[2]

The subsequent history of Orthodox Trotskyism is essentially that of the ICFI. Its largest section, the American Socialist Workers Party, left to join the "Pabloites" in 1963, eventually breaking with Trotskyism altogether in the 1980s[citation needed]. The Orthodox Trotskyists suffered another split in 1973 between the Socialist Labour League (SLL) of Gerry Healy and the Internationalist Communist Organisation (OCI) of Pierre Lambert. The official explanation for the split was that the OCI believed that Orthodox Trotskyism should be based on Trotsky's Transitional Programme, while the SLL held that as the Transitional Programme was merely the outcome of Trotsky's application of Marxist dialectics, it was possible and even necessary to revise Trotsky's programme as the objective situation changed.[3]

Today, the surviving ICFI continue to characterise their politics as Orthodox Trotskyism.[2] Other groups have come to Orthodox Trotskyism from different backgrounds, and either like the International Trotskyist Committee believe that the ICFI later degenerated,[4] or like the Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International, that the ICFI never represented healthy Orthodox Trotskyism, but that they support the early Fourth International and its approach in a similar manner.[5]

Many Orthodox Trotskyist groups attach particular importance in holding that the Soviet Union was a degenerated workers' state and other similar societies are deformed workers' states. However, many other Trotskyist groups which have not described themselves as "Orthodox Trotskyist" also hold this view.

Orthodox Trotskyism has been critiqued by activists from the Third Camp socialist tradition and from the International Socialist Tendency. Max Shachtman of the Workers Party was describing the Fourth International as Orthodox Trotskyist by 1948.[6] The IST similarly criticises both the ICFI and the ISFI traditions as Orthodox Trotskyist.[7]


  1. ^ A Letter to Trotskyists Throughout the World
  2. ^ a b Bill Vann, Bill Vann replies to a member of the International Socialist Organization
  3. ^ Bob Pitt, The Rise and Fall of Gerry Healy
  4. ^ The Founding Documents of the International Trotskyist Committee
  5. ^ José Villa, Ten Years of the LRCI
  6. ^ Max Shachtman, An Analysis of the Bankruptcy of "Orthodox Trotskyism"
  7. ^ Alex Callinicos, Trotskyism