"The New Course" and "The Struggle for the New Course"

Submitted by martin on 9 November, 2009 - 9:44

Leon Trotsky's "The New Course" and Max Shachtman's "The Struggle for the New Course".

1. Trotsky argues that bureaucratism is not just a bad habit, but "a social phenomenon". What were the roots of that "social phenomenon" in Russia in 1923?

2. What evil results does Trotsky see as coming from bureaucratism if unchecked?

3. Shachtman argues that Trotsky misidentified the chief dangers of bureaucratism in Russia in the 1920s. How? And do you think Shachtman was right about that?

4. Trotsky insists that a Bolshevik must be someone who has and can sustain an independent opinion on all major questions, while in a disciplined way (the letter of 8 December 1923). Why? And how does that fit with his argument that the opening-up of party democracy could not wait until there had first been a higher education of the members?

5. The Troika argued for "playing safe" by sticking to old Bolshevik "tradition". How does Trotsky respond?

6. Trotsky argues that an earlier turn towards NEP would have averted many difficulties. Why? Do you think he's right?

7. It is often argued that Trotsky's error in 1923 was to appeal only to the Bolshevik activists, not to the broader working-class public. Shachtman disputes that. Why? And is he right?

8. What was the Lenin Levy, and why did it have a bad effect?

9. Shachtman argues that the USSR bureaucracy consolidated into a ruling class around 1936-8. Why, and do you think he is right?