Trotsky's "The War and the International": discussion points

Submitted by martin on 22 October, 2009 - 9:29

1. Why and how did nation-states arise? Why does Trotsky argue that the capitalist development of the forces of production has come into conflict with the European nation-state framework?

2. What is Trotsky's bedrock argument for refusing support to any side in the World War?

3. "In the dealings between the Danube monarchy [i.e. the Austro-Hungarian empire] and the Serbian government, the historic right... rests entirely with Serbia". Why not then back Serbia and its allies (Russia, France, England...) in the World War?

4. Trotsky does not question that the Tsarist state is the most vicious in Europe, "a cruder and more barbarian form of organisation than... Austria-Hungary". Why not then back Russia's adversaries, Germany and Austro-Hungary?

5. Doesn't the working-class movement in every country have a duty to support the defence of that country against foreign conquest? Wasn't the right policy, then, once World War One had broken out, for the working-class movement in each country to support its own country's military efforts while trying to ensure that they were limited to the defensive?

6. "The Second International... has accomplished a huge cultural work... It has educated and assembled the oppressed classes". How then does Trotsky explain what he sees as "the collapse of the Second International"?

7. The Marxist position in World War One is often described as "defeatism". But Trotsky nowhere uses the term. Is that just a matter of terminology (i.e. a matter of him using slightly different words to convey the exact same idea)? Or is there a real issue here?