By Tony Cliff
After the Second World War, Trotsky's followers were faced with three dilemmas. Trotsky, murdered on Stalin's orders in 1940, had predicted that after the war the Soviet Union would be racked by political instability, that the West would be plunged into severe economic crisis and that national liberation in the Third World would only be brought to victory by the working class. Instead Stalin extended Russia's empire in Eastern Europe, the West entered the "long boom" and national liberation movements came to power without the active intervention of the working class.
Tony Cliff explains how the classical Marxist tradition, kept alive by Trotsky in the 1930s in the most difficult conditions, had to develop in order to explain the new circumstances that revolutionary socialists confronted. Revolutionaries had to preserve the essence of his theories whilst rejecting a slavish devotion to Trotsky's words. The state capitalist analysis of Russia, the analysis of the role of arms spending in sustaining the long boom and an explanation of the fate of Third World national liberation movements were the product of this attempt to understand the post-war world and its contradictions.
Cliff not only provides a brilliant introduction to these theories of the post-war world and their inter-relationship - he also explains why they continue to be of relevance to revolutionary socialists today.