Leon Trotsky and his supporters—including many of the most important leaders of the Russian Revolution—formed the Left Opposition in October 1923, during the last period of Vladimir Lenin’s life and amid the aborted 1923 German revolution. The aim of the Left Opposition was to reform Communist Party policy in the Soviet Union and fight for a correct line in the Communist International, in opposition to the rising conservative and nationalist bureaucracy headed by Joseph Stalin. The Stalinist bureaucracy assumed a consciously counterrevolutionary role in the 1930s, carrying out a political genocide against its left-wing opponents in the Soviet Union and collaborating with world imperialism in the suppression of revolutionary struggles internationally.

The conflict that emerged between Stalin and Trotsky was not a subjective fight between two individuals over personal power, but a fundamental battle waged between irreconcilable political programs. The consolidation of power by Stalin, and the bureaucratic dictatorship that he personified, was not the inevitable outcome of the Russian Revolution. It developed out of the conditions of an economically backward workers’ state that was surrounded by world imperialism and isolated by the delay of the international and European revolution. A series of revolutionary upheavals were defeated due to the political immaturity of the revolutionary leadership internationally.

In his critique of Stalinism, Trotsky developed a theory of world socialist revolution that proved immeasurably more far-sighted than the pragmatic nationalist maneuvers of the Stalinist bureaucrats. The struggle waged by the Left Opposition concentrated on the most decisive questions of revolutionary policy for the international working class.

Leon Trotsky with leaders of the Soviet Left Opposition in 1927
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Vadim Rogovin (1937-1998): Historian of the Left Opposition

Rogovin’s greatest work was accomplished in the aftermath of the dissolution of the USSR. Beginning in 1992, he began intensive work on what would become a seven-volume history of the revolutionary Marxist opposition, led by Leon Trotsky, to the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR.

Covering the years from 1923 to 1940, Rogovin’s Was There an Alternative? is an unsurpassed work of historical scholarship, indispensable for an understanding of the Stalinist regime and the deep-rooted socialist opposition to its betrayal of the principles and program of the October Revolution.

Rogovin documented the immense popularity of Trotsky, even after his exile from the Soviet Union in 1929, and established that the principal purpose of Stalin’s bloody terror in the 1930s was the eradication of Trotsky’s political influence.

More about Vadim Rogovin
Memoirs and interviews

The split with the Workers' Revolutionary Party in 1985-86 enabed the ICFI to intervene in the crisis of Stalinism in 1985-1991. For the first time since the Stalinist terror of the 1930s half a century earlier, the Trotskyist movement could fight for its program and the reestablihment of the continuity of Marxism within the Soviet working class. Out of this intervention, the ICFI established contact with Vadim Rogovin as well as several figures who had either fought directly in the Left Opposition - like Nadezhda Ioffe - or whose parents had been members of the opposition. Below are several interviews and memoirs with Left Oppositionists and their descendentants that grew out of this work.

Trotsky, second from left, with Adolf Joffe, far right, at Brest-Litovsk negotiations
Documents of the Left Opposition from the ICFI-Marxist Archive
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