Under the spreading terror of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and fascism in Western Europe, the forces of Marxism were decimated or extinguished during the 1930s. Only the genius and determination of Trotsky (murdered by a GPU agent in 1940), and a very small band of followers, remained to re-educate a coming generation in the ideas of the workers’ struggle for socialism.

To the end of his life Trotsky continued to defend the gains of the October revolution – in essence, the state-owned and planned economy – despite the monstrous bureaucratic deformation of the “Soviet” regime, and rejected the idea that Russia had become “state capitalist”.

At the same time, he explained that there was no possibility of “reforming” the regime to re-establish workers’ democracy. It would have to be defeated and overthrown by the mass movement of the working class, once again taking power into its own hands, to re-open the road to socialist transformation.

Outstanding among Trotsky’s works is The Revolution Betrayed, providing a detailed and scientific explanation of the processes that have been outlined in this pamphlet.

Today the balance of forces in the Soviet Union is radically different. The working class is the most powerful and best-educated in the world. The bureaucracy has no role left; it had become an absolute obstacle to economic and social progress. Gorbachev’s attempts to streamline the bureaucracy (like those of Brezhnev and Krushchev before him) cannot alter the historical bankruptcy of its rule.

Rather, it reflects a new stage in the crisis of Soviet Stalinism, in which the objective conditions are ripening for political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy and restore the role of the working class.

Brilliant “dress rehearsals” of the approaching political revolution have already been provided by the working class in Hungary in 1956, in Poland in 1980-81, etc.

Internationally, also, the conditions of the 1980s are the reverse of the late 1930s. Revolutionary movements are awakening in every sector of the world. The program of Marxism is once again gripping the minds of workers and youth from Liverpool to Sri Lanka, from South Africa to Spain.

The lessons of the triumph and degeneration of the Russian Revolution must be relearned in order to rise to the task that will face us in the next period: the conquest of power by the working class on every continent, the establishment of workers’ democracy, and the socialist transformation of the world.