First published: January 1995
The most important strategic debate in the international labour movement since Marx and Engels was that which took place between Stalin, Bukharin and Trotsky in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. The fundamental issue at the core of that debate was Stalin and Bukharin’s strategy of ‘socialism in one country’. Although Stalin resolved the debate by liquidating his opponents, he could not liquidate the real contradictions which gave rise to the conflict. Those remain the fundamental driving forces of the crisis which has unfolded in Russia since Yeltsin came to power in August 1991. As the Russian working class faces a struggle with capital today as desperate as 1917 and 1941, the starting point for a theoretical understanding of that struggle remains the issue of socialism in one country.
The issue of ‘socialism in one country’ is the most fundamental question of socialist strategy in the twentieth century. Trotsky regarded this issue – not, for example, democracy or the popular front – as the fundamental point of divide between Stalin and Bukharin; between what he called ‘national reformism’ and Marxism.