The UK’s revolutionary left expired twice last century. The first time was the Communist Party in the post war years, probably finished off by the 1956 Hungarian uprising. The second would have been the Trotskyist movement in the 1980s. Both times ended with the disillusionment of the cadres who often worked with religious sect like effort.
The failure of the Communist Party can be blamed on the actions of Russian government and on Stalin in particular. This was what the second movement most certainly did. It wasn’t that the ideal of a socialist state or that bringing this about by revolution was wrong, it was this one man that did the damage.
Looking back the forty years to when I was a young cadre, to be burnt out within a couple of years, I can see the mistake. We were asking the right question, ‘Why did the Russian revolution go so badly wrong’. We just weren’t getting the correct answer. Of course Stalin was a bad guy, a murderer and a traitor to the socialist cause, but what allowed him to become the leader of the party?
It was easy for us to believe Trotsky equals good guy, Stalin equals bad guy. What this doesn’t take into account is that system allowed Stalin to become leader. It wasn’t a coup, he was the successor to Lenin. So what sort of system had Lenin and Trotsky put in place that let this happen?
Once you start have doubts in Leninism you wonder if the idea of a revolutionary vanguard leading the proletariat is possibly not such a great idea. Maybe real change comes from the bottom up. Interesting idea.