The Socialist Equality Party (US) and the World Socialist Web Site held a summer school entitled “Marxism and the Historical Foundations of the Fourth International” from August 14 to August 20, 2005, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
During the course of the week, participants in the school heard nine lectures on important theoretical and historical problems of the 20th century. One theme centered on the significance of post-modernism, the Frankfurt School and various forms of anti-Marxism. David North, then the national secretary of the SEP (US) and chairman of the International Editorial Board of the WSWS, gave a series of lectures focusing on the theoretical foundations of Marxism, the science of perspective and the defense of objective truth in the sphere of social development.
The other lecturers spoke on a broad range of interrelated topics, including the origins of the First World War, the rise of fascism in Germany, the origins and counterrevolutionary character of Stalinism in the Soviet Union, Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, and an examination of problems of art and culture in the Soviet Union.
By the time Leon Trotsky was assassinated in August 1940, all the major events that determined the political characteristics of the twentieth century had already occurred.
The growth of the European socialist movement and of the influence of Marxism on the working class during the last three decades of the nineteenth century are among the most extraordinary political and intellectual phenomena in world history.
Few works have been subjected to such a degree of misrepresentation and falsification as Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?. To the innumerable Lenin-haters of the bourgeois academy—some of whom professed until 1991 to admire Lenin—this is the book that is ultimately responsible for many, if not all, of the evils of the twentieth century.
There is no element of Marxism that has aroused so much opposition as its claim to have placed socialism on a scientific foundation. In one form or another, its critics find this assertion unacceptable, implausible and even impossible.
In his book War and the International, first published in serial form in the newspaper Golos in November 1914, Leon Trotsky provided the most outstanding and far-sighted analysis of the war that had erupted just three months earlier.
The essential theoretical issues that arose in the struggle over these two opposed perspectives were not only fought out by Trotsky against the Stalinist bureaucracy in the latter half of the 1920s, but have reemerged as the subject of repeated struggles within the Fourth International itself.
I would like to begin, at least, to consider the debate over cultural problems that occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1920s—specifically, the debate over the “proletarian culture” movement.
When the Third Congress of the Communist International convened, it was clear that the initial revolutionary upsurge that had followed the First World War was receding. The working class had failed to come to power in Germany, the Hungarian revolution had been overturned, and there was a certain economic revival following the deep-going crisis of 1919-1920.
Along with the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of fascism in Germany is another major question of the twentieth century that has not been understood. By “not understood” I do not mean unknown.