Trotsky’s ideas rise from the ashes

It has been 70 years since Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, was assassinated by an undercover Soviet agent.

Trotsky spent his last days in Mexico, after being deported for opposing Joseph Stalin's policies, but his socialist ideas are finding more support among those hit by Europe's financial downturn.

To many, the ideas of Leon Trotsky embody genuine socialism – revolution, an international coalition of the working classes and fighting bureaucracy. They might seem like outdated ideas, but they are alive and well across Europe.

Trotsky’s assassination at the hands of an undercover NKVD agent took place 70 years ago in Mexico. Regardless, in many other places around Europe his theories live on through organizations, such as Workers Power, which calls for the working classes to seize power from the capitalists and start a permanent revolution.

Workers Power is a movement active in 12 countries from the United States to Sri Lanka. Simon Hardy from the organization believes it is relevant today more than ever, as ordinary people feel they are suffering most from an economic crisis brought about by the rich.

“A lot of the work of socialists now is focusing on talking to working people about how they are suffering under the recession and engaging them in the political arguments and ideas which will help them fight back against the governments, against the capitalist class, so they don’t have to bear the brunt of the crisis,” Hardy said.

Amid discontent in Europe about cuts in public spending and job losses, this summer has seen violent protests, most notably in Greece. Socialists around Europe believe those demonstrations were successful. In their view, they stopped the Greek government imposing harsher austerity measures.

According to German Trotskyist group SAB, it is just the beginning.

Michael Koschitzki, an activist with the German Socialist Alternative, says “I think if they can develop a real program which does, for example, stop all debt payments, starts the nationalization of banks, starts the nationalization of bigger companies and puts them under workers control and management, I think that will lead to where you can really fight back the measures of the government. Also spread these struggles to other countries in southern Europe, for example, but also countries such as Germany.”

According to the Trotskyists, the world is heading for an Autumn of Discontent, with demonstrations and general strikes across Europe attacking austerity measures and governments. The aim is to spread left-wing ideas, and plant the idea the economic crisis wasn’t brought about by individual policies – it stems from capitalism itself.

“When capitalism went into its bust phase in 2008, went into the recession, the governments decided to give the banks as much money as they wanted, there was billions and billions of dollars given to the banks in bailouts, but when it comes to ordinary people, we suffer cuts, we suffer austerity measures, so it is about making that political argument and making it clear that the problems are capitalism itself, and therefore the alternative is socialism,” Simon Hardy concludes.

Marxist-Trotskyists say genuine socialism, minus the cult of personality and the bureaucracy, was never given a chance to prove itself. In Europe, it has never managed to get more than token support at the ballot box. Now its supporters think capitalism is on its deathbed and it may be time to finally implement Trotsky's philosophy.