Trotsky and “The German Ideology”

[From Paul Hampton]

Trotsky was discussing why the reasons why the bureaucracy (and the state) had revived. He wrote:

Two years before the Communist Manifesto, young Marx wrote: ‘A development of the productive forces is the absolutely necessary practical premise [of Communism], because without it want is generalized, and with want the struggle for necessities begins again, and that means that all the old crap must revive’.

Trotsky (August 1936) Revolution Betrayed. 1937: 59; 1972: 56

This is taken from the German Ideology, which Marx and Engels drafted in 1845-46, but then left to the “gnawing criticism of the mice”. The manuscript was only published in Russian (1924), German (1932) and then the MEGA Marx and Engels Collected Works edition (1932).

I think this is important for a number of reasons. First, it underlines that the material basis of communism is a level of development of the productive forces sufficient to meet human needs (without ignoring ecological limits). If human wants are not met, then class society, bureaucracy, the state etc, can revive. Second, it also shows how Trotsky continued to read and learn, even during the difficult circumstances of exile.

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