Marxism and the Fundamental Problems of the 20th Century

The seven lectures presented here represent a milestone in the revival of classical Marxism in the international working class.

They were delivered at the Socialist Equality Party International Summer School, held in Sydney, Australia from January 3 to 10, 1998, the first such international symposium organised by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), the world Trotskyist movement.

The central premise guiding these lectures is that an answer to the burning issues of the day—growing social inequality, deepening economic crisis, the decline in the cultural level of society and the prevailing political paralysis in the workers’ movement—is bound up with examining and assimilating the great strategical lessons of the 20th century.

Presented over eight days by leading members of the ICFI, as well as the Russian Marxist historian, Professor Vadim Rogovin, the lectures were not only the product of protracted theoretical work. They were exciting, insightful, original and thought-provoking.

Each presentation highlighted the existence of an alternative to the great betrayals of Stalinism, social democracy and the nationalist movements: the struggle for genuine Marxism undertaken by Leon Trotsky and the Fourth International.

 

Lectures of the 1998 ICFI International Summer School

 

Leon Trotsky and the Fate of Socialism in the 20th Century
A Reply to Professor Eric Hobsbawm

By David North

No discussion on the fate of socialism in the 20th century deserves to be taken seriously unless it considers, with the necessary care, the consequences of Trotsky’s defeat.

It is essential to consider not only "what happened" under Stalin; but also "what well might have happened" had Trotsky prevailed.

 

The Significance and Implications of Globalisation

By Nick Beams

The globalisation of production has prepared a new period of social revolution. This is the inevitable outcome of the vast changes in the structure of world capitalist economy over the past two decades—the culmination of processes stretching back over 200 years.

 

The Aesthetic Component of Socialism

By David Walsh

Art expresses things about life, about people and about oneself that are not revealed in political or scientific thought. To become whole, human beings require the truth about the world, and themselves, that art offers.

 

Reform and Revolution in the Epoch of Imperialism

By David North

In this lecture SEP (US) National Secretary David North examines the theoretical conflicts within the German Social Democratic Party in the 1890s. At that time Eduard Berstein, then a leading figure in the SPD, argued that capitalism was not leading to collapse or social disaster and could be gradually reformed, rather than replaced by an insurrectionary movement of the working class. The debate which ensued on the issues of reform and revolution retains all its significance 100 years later.

 

Stalinism in Eastern Europe: the Rise and Fall of the GDR

By Peter Schwarz

ICFI Secretary Peter Schwarz explains the historical origins of the East German state and demonstrates that Stalinism, not socialism, existed there.

 

Castroism and the Politics of Petty-Bourgeois Nationalism

By Bill Vann

Did the political strategy advanced by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara provide a new road to socialism or did it turn out, as the ICFI warned 35 years ago, to be a blind alley and a trap for the working class?

 

Marxism and the Trade Unions

By David North

The trade unions have been incapable of defending the working class against the onslaught of capital. Inasmuch as this failure has been demonstrated over several decades on an international scale, one is led inescapably to search for its objective causes—both in the socio-economic environment within which the trade unions now exist and, even more fundamentally, in the essential nature of the trade unions themselves.