The Transitional Programme and the tasks of Marxists today

By Bob Pitt

SIXTY YEARS ago, in September 1938, the founding conference of the Fourth International adopted a document written by Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, better known as the Transitional Programme. Even today, many Marxists from the Trotskyist tradition claim this programme as their own. Although they usually recognise that events have moved on since 1938 and that the programme needs updating in various respects – to take account of the rise of the women’s movement and struggles for gay and lesbian rights, for example, or the collapse of the Soviet Union – these comrades still declare themselves in favour of the “transitional method” underlying the programme and claim that it has direct relevance to the tasks of Marxists today.1

In this article I intend to examine the transitional method and the perspectives on which it was based. I will address three questions: was the programme correct when it was adopted in 1938; does it have any relevance to the struggles of Marxists in a non-revolutionary situation such as exists in Britain today; and if the answer to these first two questions is no, as I believe it is, then what programme should Marxists be arguing for and seeking to organise working people around?

The Transitional Programme in historical context
To begin with the Transitional Programme in 1938. When I say that the programme was wrong, I don’t just mean that certain of its predictions failed to materialise; I mean that its basic conceptions were false. It wasn’t a question of this or that mistaken prognosis but of a fundamental error in perspectives.

Of course, it is easy to say this with the benefit of sixty years’ worth of hindsight. Today we know how things panned out after 1938, whereas Trotsky and his co-thinkers obviously couldn’t. They had to proceed in the only way possible – they tried to identify the main trends in the existing situation and, by projecting those trends, to anticipate the future course of development. It is in the nature of such attempts to penetrate the future that you can get your perspectives seriously wrong. It is possible to underestimate the trends that subsequently prove to be the dominant ones, while it is equally possible to exaggerate other trends. Certainly Marxists, who are subjectively committed to putting an end to capitalism and establishing a socialist society, have a long record of overestimating the trends that we believe are leading in that direction. Revolutionary optimism often becomes revolutionary over-optimism. This was true of Marx and Engels when they wrote the Communist Manifesto, it was true of the Bolsheviks in the early years of the Communist International, and it was emphatically true of Trotsky when he formulated the Transitional Programme.

By this I don’t mean to suggest that Trotsky developed the perspectives behind his programme in a fog of subjective fantasy. These perspectives, wrong though they were, nevertheless had some basis in reality. The two decades between the end of the First World War and the writing of the Transitional Programme had been a period of extreme economic and political turmoil throughout world capitalism, and Trotsky’s mistaken analysis has to be understood in this context.

Economically, these were years of continuous crisis, of short-lived booms, temporary recoveries and partial upturns, interspersed with slumps and crashes. The most dramatic example of the latter was of course the Great Slump of 1929-31, during which industrial production in advanced economies such as the United States and Germany fell by a third and mass unemployment on a scale never seen before afflicted the entire capitalist world. From 1932 onwards there was a general recovery, but in the United States – and the Transitional Programme was originally written for adoption by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the USA – there was a further crash in 1937-8, even if with less disastrous effects than in 1929.

Politically, too, the situation was extremely unstable. Bourgeois democracy seemed to be under systematic attack from the right. Mussolini’s seizure of power in Italy was followed a decade later by the Nazi victory in Germany, and by 1938 Franco was well on the way to defeating the Republican forces in Spain, while extreme right-wing regimes had also come to power in Poland and Hungary, under Pilsudski and Horthy. As for revolutionary possibilities, though the post-war revolutionary wave had ebbed fairly rapidly, the inter-war period had been marked by the growth of anti-imperialist movements in the colonial countries, which had obvious revolutionary potential, and in Spain in 1936 even Europe had seen the development of a classic revolutionary situation, which had been sabotaged by the socialist, anarchist and Stalinist leaderships of the Spanish workers’ movement.

This situation was in sharp contrast to the two decades or so before the First World War, which of course included Trotsky’s own formative years as a Marxist. This had been a period of sustained economic expansion, of the stability of parliamentary institutions, of limited revolutionary opportunities (1905 being the obvious exception), and in general of a relatively peaceful growth of trade unions and working class political parties. In 1938 it was easy for revolutionaries (and even for many non-Marxist commentators, for that matter) to believe that capitalist stability belonged to the pre-1914 era and that a new epoch of decay and permanent crisis had opened up.

From the vantage point of the end of the twentieth century, however, we can see that the inter-war years were in fact merely a particularly unstable phase in the overall development of the capitalist mode of production. The error that Trotsky committed was that he mistook this unstable phase for the terminal crisis of the system – the “death agony of capitalism”. And it was this error which skewed the perspectives underpinning the Transitional Programme.

Economically, Trotsky came to the view that capitalism had reached a complete impasse, in which bourgeois relations of production had become an insuperable obstacle to the further development of the forces of production. Towards the end of 1937, he wrote: “Why does capitalism find itself in a blind alley? Because it is no longer capable of developing the productive forces, either in the advanced countries or in the backward countries … the economic life of capitalist countries no longer teaches us anything except different forms of stagnation and decay.” Capitalism had become “a society which is absolutely reactionary, since it fetters and even destroys the productive forces”.2

This perspective is stated unequivocally in the opening section of the Transitional Programme: “The economic prerequisite for the proletarian revolution has already in general achieved the highest point of fruition that can be achieved under capitalism. Mankind’s productive forces stagnate. Already new inventions and improvements fail to raise the level of material wealth. Conjunctural crises under the conditions of the social crisis of the whole capitalist system afflict ever heavier deprivations and sufferings upon the masses. Growing unemployment, in its turn, deepens the financial crisis of the state and undermines the unstable monetary systems. Democratic regimes, as well as fascist, stagger from one bankruptcy to another.”3

With the outbreak of war, Trotsky believed, this situation of stagnation and decay would be transformed into economic catastrophe in all the belligerent countries. In discussions around the Transitional Programme with the SWP, he argued that, if the United States managed temporarily to stay out of the war, “the US will have a postponement of the economic collapse. What is clear is that in the countries involved in the war the collapse will come in not four to six years but in six to twelve months”.4

The economic situation, combined with the imminent prospect of war, meant that capitalism was afflicted by “a social crisis characteristic of a pre-revolutionary state of society”,5the Transitional Programme claimed. Revolutionaries were faced with “a pre-revolutionary period of agitation, propaganda and organisation”.6 With the onset of war, and the resulting economic collapse, this pre-revolutionary crisis would quickly escalate into a full-blown revolutionary situation: “the revolution will come”, Trotsky insisted, “not after four years but much earlier, after some months.”7

Furthermore, in such a situation the continued viability of bourgeois democracy was out of the question. Trotsky asserted that “the deepening of the crisis will force the bourgeoisie to abolish the remnants of democracy and replace them with fascism”.8 The alternative confronting the workers’ movement was therefore socialist revolution or fascist dictatorship.

Were these perspectives correct? Obviously not. First of all, the claim of economic stagnation, at least in the sense that Trotsky meant it, was fundamentally mistaken. In the quarter-century between 1913 (which in Trotsky’s view marked the end of the epoch in which capitalism was able to advance the productive forces) and the writing of the Transitional Programme, industrial production worldwide increased by 80%.9 This, admittedly, was half the rate of growth during the previous twenty-five years, so there had been a relative stagnation, but it was certainly not the absolute stagnation that Trotsky identified. With such a huge increase in the total quantity of use values produced, it cannot seriously be argued that technological developments under capitalism had “failed to raise the level of material wealth”.

Nor was it the case that economic collapse followed within months of the outbreak of war. On the contrary. Wartime demand boosted production, mopped up unemployment and helped to resolve the economic crisis (which had already been ameliorated by 1939 anyway, partly as a result of the growth in armaments production during the run-up to war). In the course of World War II, GNP in the United States increased by two-thirds.10 And during the quarter-century after the end of the war, far from being stuck in an economic blind alley, world capitalism succeeded in generating the greatest expansion of production in its entire history.

Politically, too, the perspectives of the Transitional Programme proved largely false. In retrospect it is clear that there was no generalised pre-revolutionary situation throughout world capitalism in 1938. In any case, pre-revolutionary crises arise from a combination of factors, among which economic dislocation may well be decisive, but which will also include ideological forms, established political traditions, the specific character of the workers’ movement and so on, all of which will vary from country to country. So the notion of a world-wide pre-revolutionary situation in 1938 deriving exclusively from economic conditions was highly dubious on theoretical grounds, quite aside from being empirically false.

As for the idea that a revolutionary crisis would develop within months of the outbreak of war, prompted by economic collapse, that too was wrong. This is not to say that revolutionary opportunities didn’t arise towards the end of the war. But these were usually the outcome of military developments in which Communist-led armed partisans controlled the situation in a number of countries and were in a position to take power. The perspectives for revolution as outlined by Trotsky in 1938 were invalidated by actual events.

Nor was the capitalist class forced to abandon bourgeois-democratic forms of rule and resort to the imposition of fascism in order to maintain its domination. As it turned out, the main fascist regimes – in Germany and Italy – were swept away as a consequence of military defeat and replaced by parliamentary democracies. The stark alternative posed by Trotsky – socialist revolution or fascist barbarism – was refuted by history.

The question then arises: can the specifically programmatic aspects of the Transitional Programme – the “transitional method” – be separated from these false perspectives? The answer, again, is obviously not.

The transitional method was developed in response to what was perceived to be a transitional situation – a pre-revolutionary crisis on the eve of transformation into a revolutionary crisis, during which the struggle for workers’ power would be directly posed, with the imposition of fascist regimes being the inevitable result of a defeat for the proletarian revolution.

From this standpoint, the traditional social-democratic minimum-maximum programme was inapplicable. In a situation where capitalism was on the verge of economic collapse and the bourgeoisie could only continue to rule by means of fascist dictatorship, minimum demands whether economic or political could no longer be conceded. And general propaganda for workers’ power and socialism some time in the future – the “maximum” part of the programme – was a diversion if, as Trotsky believed, the socialist revolution was posed as an immediate possibility and necessity.

What was therefore required, Trotsky argued, was an entirely different approach, based on the idea of transitional demands. “It is necessary”, he wrote, “to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demands and the socialist programme of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of transitional demands, stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class and unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.”11

The classic example of a transitional demand was the sliding scale of hours. The Transitional Programme proposed that workers should respond to the threat of lay-offs by rejecting redundancy and demanding instead the sharing-out of available work among the existing workforce with no loss of pay. This would pose a direct challenge to capitalist property relations, placing the struggle for power on the order of the day, and is obviously a demand appropriate only to a transitional situation.

In his discussions with the SWP, Trotsky explained the meaning of the demand for a sliding scale of hours: “What is this slogan? In reality it is the system of work in socialist society. The total number of workers divided into the total number of hours…. It is the programme of socialism, but in a very popular and simple form.” Asked whether the slogan could actually be realised, Trotsky replied: “It is easier to overthrow capitalism than to realise this demand under capitalism. Not one of our demands will be realised under capitalism. That is why we are calling them transitional demands.”12

The Transitional Programme in a non-revolutionary situation
Are such demands relevant to the class struggle in a non-revolutionary situation? It is difficult to see how they could be. Indeed, this was bought home to the British Trotskyists – the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) – towards the close of World War II. With the expected end of the wartime boom and the demobilisation of conscripted workers, the threat of large-scale redundancies in the factories loomed, and the RCP drew up a draft programme in anticipation of this development.13 (In fact the situation never arose because the boom continued beyond the end of the war – for another quarter of a century or so.)

Roy Tearse, the RCP industrial organiser, was given responsibility for drafting the programme, which included such principles as “nons-first” and seniority. These were basic defensive policies adopted by trade unionists themselves to defend workplace organisation in the face of redundancies. By “nons-first” was meant the demand that non-trade-unionists should be given priority when redundancies were required, in order to prevent employers discriminating against unionised workers in favour of those who were unorganised, while seniority embodied the principle of last in, first out – an automatic criterion which couldn’t be manipulated by the employers to victimise militants.

This draft programme was condemned by an oppositional minority in the RCP led by Gerry Healy, who argued that the party leadership had rejected the Transitional Programme. This accusation was undoubtedly true. Because if the RCP leaders had applied the transitional method they would have opposed redundancies of any sort and advocated instead the sliding scale of hours, issuing a direct challenge to capitalist property rights and posing the struggle for state power. But such a method could not have been applied to the situation in Britain in 1945, which was not remotely pre-revolutionary and thus clearly non-transitional.

The RCP leadership responded to Healy’s challenge by arguing that they were merely adapting the Transitional Programme to the concrete conditions. It would have been better if they had stated openly that the 1938 programme was wrong, that its perspectives had not been borne out by subsequent developments, and that its programmatic demands were therefore inapplicable. They should have argued that it was necessary to formulate a different programme which bore some relationship to the real situation that existed in countries like Britain where socialist revolution was not on the agenda.

This, I believe, was what Trotsky himself would have done. In his 1938 discussions with the SWP he stated: “You can raise the objection that we cannot predict the rhythm and tempo of the development, and that possibly the bourgeoisie will find a political respite. That is not excluded – but then we will be obliged to realise a strategic retreat.”14 Trotsky was assassinated in 1940, and was unable to accomplish this. However, we do have another example of Marxists carrying out a strategic retreat from over-optimistic perspectives and programmatic demands – and that was Marx and Engels in the aftermath of 1848.

Marx and Engels and the revolutionary programme
There are in fact some close similarities between the Communist Manifesto and the Transitional Programme, although this doesn’t mean that the Manifesto is an early example of the transitional method, as some commentators including Trotsky himself have claimed.15 Marx himself did refer to the Manifesto as including “transitional measures”.16 But the ten-point programme in the Manifesto is not transitional in the sense of the 1938 programme, which addresses the transformation of the immediate struggles of the working class into the struggle for power. The Manifesto, by contrast, outlines a programme to be implemented by a workers’ government, and presents a series of measures by means of which the passage from the seizure of power by the working class to the economic expropriation of the bourgeoisie would be accomplished. The programme advanced in the Manifesto is thus not of a transitional but rather of a maximum character.

The parallel with the Transitional Programme lies in the perspectives underlying the Manifesto. In 1847-8 Marx and Engels believed, as Trotsky was to do ninety years later, that capitalism had become an obstacle to economic development: “The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered.”17 They also believed that the struggle for workers’ power was immediately on the agenda – the “overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat” was defined as the “immediate aim” of the Communists and other working class forces.18 Indeed, Marx and Engels believed that Britain in particular was ripe for a workers’ revolution, because of the polarisation of the classes and the existence of a mass working class political organisation in the Chartist movement.19

All of this turned out to be mistaken. First of all, capitalism proved quite capable of advancing the productive forces after 1848. As Marx and Engels observed in their preface to the 1872 edition of the Manifesto, modern industry had made “gigantic strides” in the intervening quarter-century.20 In his 1895 introduction to The Class Struggles in France, Engels made this point even more bluntly: “History has proved us, and all who thought like us, wrong. It has made clear that the state of economic development on the Continent at that time was not, by a long way, ripe for the elimination of capitalist production; it has proved this by the economic revolution which, since 1848, has seized the whole of the Continent.”21

Moreover, as Engels pointed out in his preface to the 1892 edition of the Manifesto, in the 1848 revolutions the working class generally ceded political leadership to the bourgeoisie, the one exception being in Paris, and even there “neither the economic progress of the country nor the intellectual development of the mass of French workers had as yet reached the stage which would have made a social reconstruction possible”.22 In Britain, contrary to Marx and Engels’ expectation, the movement never even reached the stage of a revolutionary crisis. Its high point was the great Chartist demonstration of 10 April 1848 at Kennington when the Chartist leaders backed off from an unequal confrontation with the state, following which the movement went into decline and eventually collapsed.

When the workers’ movement began to revive in the early 1860s, Marx had to reassess the perspectives and programmatic demands of the Manifesto. In a situation where the struggle for workers’ power was not directly on the agenda, the maximum programme of 1848 was not appropriate. This did not mean that Marx rejected the necessity of the working class taking power, or the need to state this plainly and openly. Such explicit statements are to be found in the documents Marx wrote for the First International, despite the fact that he was collaborating in the International with British trade union leaders and French Proudhonists who were not exactly great enthusiasts for the seizure of state power by the workers.

For example, in his “Instructions for Delegates” to the Geneva Congress of 1866, Marx took issue with the view that the growth of co-operatives would in and of itself put an end to capitalism. “To convert social production into one large and harmonious system of free and co-operative labour”, he wrote, “general social changes are wanted, changes of the general conditions of society, never to be realised save by the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves.”23

But it was in the nature of the situation that such statements were of necessity on the level of propaganda. As far as agitation was concerned, Marx put forward a number of basic demands, embodying reforms which were realisable under capitalism. In the course of struggling for and achieving these demands, Marx reasoned, the workers’ movement could raise itself to the level where taking state power would become a realistic prospect.

Economically, Marx placed central emphasis on the demand for a legal eight-hour day. This was not a transitional but a minimum demand. It didn’t challenge bourgeois property rights nor did it directly pose the struggle for power – given sufficient pressure from the organised working class, Marx believed, it was a policy that could be legislated by the existing bourgeois state. Its significance was that it was a demand around which the whole class could be united in struggle, and which, once it was achieved, would provide working people with the time and energy to engage more effectively in social and political action.

Marx was also actively involved at this time in the campaign for the extension of the franchise to workers in Britain. Again, this was a minimum demand that could unite the class in a campaign for an elementary democratic right, the realisation of which would open the way for a working class political party to contest elections and place its programme before the masses.

This approach – combining propaganda for workers’ power and socialism with agitation around basic demands that could be achieved within the framework of capitalism – was later formalised in the minimum-maximum programme. The most famous example of this is the programme adopted by the German social democrats at their Erfurt Congress in 1891. The first (maximum) section, which consisted of a general theoretical exposition of socialism, was written by Karl Kautsky, while the second (minimum) section containing a range of agitational demands was drawn up by Eduard Bernstein.

Taking their cue from Trotsky – “between the minimum and the maximum programme, no bridge existed. And indeed the Social Democracy has no need for such a bridge, as the word socialism is used only for holiday speechifying”24 – Trotskyists usually dismiss this programmatic approach as a product of the opportunist degeneration of the Second International. In reality, the revisionist trend that later emerged within German social democracy, headed by Bernstein, was distinguished by its rejection of the minimum-maximum programme. They argued that propaganda for workers’ power and socialism should be played down if not renounced entirely, as it interfered with the real task of securing reforms within the existing system. This was the meaning of Bernstein’s notorious remark that “the movement is everything: the final goal of socialism is nothing”.25 It was in fact the anti-revisionists who defended the minimum-maximum programme. Thus Lenin wrote: “We are not in the least afraid to say that we want to imitate the Erfurt Programme; there is nothing bad in imitating what is good, and precisely today, when we so often hear opportunist and equivocal criticism of that programme, we consider it our duty to speak openly in its favour.”26

In 1891 Engels wrote a long critique of the draft of the Erfurt Programme, but at no point did he criticise the minimum-maximum approach or call for a bridge of transitional demands beginning with the immediate concerns of the workers and ending with the struggle for power.27 The reason, I would suggest, is that the socialist revolution was not a practical possibility in Germany in the early 1890s and this objective fact could not be voluntaristically overcome by including a bridge of transitional demands in the social democrats’ programme.

Far from repudiating the minimum-maximum approach, over a decade earlier Marx and Engels themselves had collaborated with the French Marxists Jules Guesde and Paul Lafargue in drawing up a programme for the Parti Ouvrier (PO) in France, a translation of which appears below. This was a classic minimum-maximum programme, with an opening statement of communist principles written by Marx himself, followed by a list of minimum demands – an end to press censorship, the right to assembly, a legal eight-hour day, progressive income tax etc – which would provide a basis for the PO to contest elections and engage in practical agitation among the masses. Marx placed particular emphasis on the fact that the economic part of the programme’s minimum section “consists solely of demands that actually have spontaneously arisen out of the labour movement itself”.28

Significantly, the minimum section of the programme proved a point of contention between Marx and his French supporters. Whereas Marx saw the minimum programme as a series of practical demands which were realisable under capitalism, in the course of fighting for which the workers’ movement would develop its level of consciousness and organisation to the point where workers’ power became a possibility, Guesde and Lafargue regarded these demands as having a purely propagandist purpose. They believed that the point of the minimum programme was to expose the fact that the bourgeoisie would not make any concessions, and that once this had been demonstrated to the workers they would turn to a revolutionary solution. Marx angrily rejected Guesde and Lafargue’s approach as sectarian ultra-leftism, and it was in the course of their dispute that he made his famous complaint that if this was Marxism, then he wasn’t a Marxist.29

Conclusion
What lessons can be drawn from all of this as regards the tasks of Marxists today? It seems to me self-evident that the minimum-maximum programme has far more relevance to the struggle in countries – at the present time, unfortunately, the majority of those in the world – where a revolutionary situation is a distant prospect.

What is needed here in Britain is not a bridge between the immediate struggles of the working class and the struggle for power, but a bridge between the present low level of consciousness and organisation and a rather higher level of consciousness and organisation. Propaganda for socialism is an obvious necessity, particularly now that the collapse of the Soviet Union has – in the minds of a majority of working people – discredited the whole idea of an alternative to capitalism. But propaganda has to be combined with agitation for basic demands around which the mass of working people can unite in struggle against both the employers and the Labour Party right wing.

For example, in opposition to the Blair government’s insulting proposals for a minimum wage we should promote the trade unions’ campaign for this to be set at half male median earnings, with all workers entitled to the full rate irrespective of age. This is a demand which enjoys overwhelming support among trade union members. It serves to demonstrate to young people, many of whom are alienated from the labour movement, that the trade unions are their allies and a potential source of strength. And if the demand can be enforced, then both in its achievement and in its application it will raise the confidence and combativity of the class.

A similar approach is needed in response to the battery of anti-union laws – by Blair’s own admission, the most draconian in the western world – that remain as a legacy of past Tory governments. The slogan “repeal the anti-union laws”, raised by many on the left, runs up against the unfortunate fact that the majority of trade unionists are not in favour of complete abolition. A resolution to that effect at my own union’s annual conference this year was massively defeated. It would be far more effective to concentrate on a more limited objective for which majority support exists – such as the demand that the laws should be brought into compliance with ILO conventions.

I don’t propose here to spell out some detailed, bullet-pointed programme, but rather to indicate the necessary method. This involves fighting for widely-supported demands, preferably those arising spontaneously from within the labour movement, as in the case of the PO programme or the policies adopted by the RCP in response to the threat of redundancies – demands which would not in themselves bring about socialism but which would significantly strengthen working people in their struggles against capitalism.

As for the transitional method, I have tried to show that it was developed specifically in response to what was (wrongly) perceived to be a general pre-revolutionary crisis in the process of transformation into a revolutionary situation. To attempt to apply the method of the Transitional Programme to the present, non-transitional conditions invariably results in political impotence. Those groups who seriously argue for a programme based on transitional demands are unable to advance the consciousness and organisation of working people in any practical way, and are reduced to passive propagandism of the sort that Marx condemned in the case of Guesde and Lafargue over a century ago. Or, alternatively, their members adopt a schizoid approach, paying lip-service to the Transitional Programme while pursuing an entirely different method in their day-to-day work in the labour movement. Either way, the result is political disorientation.

The sixtieth anniversary of the Transitional Programme should provide an opportunity to reassess this mistaken approach and develop a programmatic method which enables us to intervene in the political situation as it actually exists and, in however limited a way, to change the world – which, after all, is whole point of the exercise. Hopefully the rather provocative stance adopted in this article will prompt some discussion of these questions in What Next?

Notes

1. See, for example, Richard Price, “The Transitional Programme in Perspective”, Workers Action, April 1998; John Lister, “Trotsky’s ‘Transitional Programme’ and its Value Today”, Socialist Outlook, October 1998.
2. Trotsky, Writings, 1937-38, 1977, pp.34, 35, 36
3. Trotsky, The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution, Pathfinder, 1977, p.111
4. Ibid, p.103
5. Ibid, p.112
6. Ibid, p.113
7. Ibid, p.103. Even after this prediction had been proved wrong, Trotsky still held to the view that revolutionary struggles were a short-term prospect. In “Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution”, the manifesto adopted by the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International in May 1940, Trotsky wrote that such struggles “can loom up directly before us in the next two or three years, and even sooner … the Fourth International’s programme of transitional demands, which seemed so ‘unreal’ to nearsighted politicians, will reveal its full significance in the process of the mobilisation of the masses for the conquest of state power”: Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years (1933-40), 1973, p.348.
8. The Transitional Program, p.156
9. W.W. Rostow, The World Economy: History and Prospect, 1978, p.662, cited in Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991, 1995, p.88
10. Herman Van der Wee, Prosperity and Upheaval: The World Economy 1945-1980, 1987, p.30, cited ibid, p.258.
11. The Transitional Program, p.114
12. Ibid, p.159
13. The following account is taken from Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson, The War and the International: A History of the Trotskyist Movement in Britain, 1937-1949, 1986, pp.161-9
14. The Transitional Program, p.101
15. See Trotsky’s comments in his article “Ninety Years of the Communist Manifesto”, Writings, 1937-38, pp.23-4. Alistair Mitchell takes a similar view in “Transitional Demands Reconsidered”, New Interventions, Autumn 1995: “The method of Marx and Engels is to connect the present situation and immediate aspirations of the proletariat with the task of the socialist revolution. The minimum and maximum programmes are linked in a transitional programme.”
16. Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, 1975, p.322
17. Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol.1, 1983, p.114
18. Ibid, p.120
19. See the speeches by Marx and Engels in London on 29 November 1847, in Marx, The Revolutions of 1848, 1973, pp.100-1
20. Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol.1, p.98
21. Ibid, pp.191-2
22. Ibid, p.106
23. Marx, The First International and After, 1974, p.90
24. The Transitional Program, p.114
25. Quoted in James Joll, The Second International, 1889-1914, 1974, p.93
26. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.4, p.235
27. “A Critique of the Draft Social-Democratic Programme of 1891”, in Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol.3, pp.429-39
28. Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, p.312
29. Bernard H. Moss, The Origins of the French Labour Movement, 1830-1914, 1976, pp.107, 116

Published in What Next? in 1998