Workers Vanguard No. 982

10 June 2011


Only Workers Revolution Will Put an End to Capitalist Crises

(Quote of the Week)

In the depths of the Great Depression in 1934, and following Hitler’s taking power in Germany, fascists in France attempted a coup, which spurred the working class into political and strike action. Polemicizing against the false concept that capitalism would generate its own final crisis, Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky emphasized the need for the overthrow of the capitalist system by a class-conscious proletariat led by a revolutionary party.

Under the domination of industrial capital, in the era of free competition, the cyclical booms exceeded by far the crises: the first were the “rule,” the second the “exception.” Capitalism in its entirety was advancing. Since the war, with the domination of monopoly finance capital, the cyclical crises far exceed the upswings. We may say that the crises have become the “rule” and the booms the “exception”; economic development in its entirety has been going down and not up....

The revolutionary worker must, before all else, understand that Marxism, the only scientific theory of the proletarian revolution, has nothing in common with the fatalistic hope for the “final” crisis. Marxism is, in its very essence, a set of directives for revolutionary action. Marxism does not overlook will and courage, but rather helps them to find the right road.

There is no crisis that can be, by itself, fatal to capitalism. The oscillations of the business cycle only create a situation in which it will be easier, or more difficult, for the proletariat to overthrow capitalism. The transition from a bourgeois society to a socialist society presupposes the activity of living people who are the makers of their own history. They do not make history by accident, or according to their caprice, but under the influence of objectively determined causes. However, their own actions—their initiative, audacity, devotion, and likewise their stupidity and cowardice—are necessary links in the chain of historical development.

The crises of capitalism are not numbered, nor is it indicated in advance which one of these will be the “last.” But our entire epoch and, above all, the present crisis imperiously command the proletariat: “Seize power!” If, however, the party of the working class, in spite of favorable conditions, reveals itself incapable of leading the proletariat to the seizure of power, the life of society will continue necessarily upon capitalist foundations—until a new crisis, a new war, perhaps until the complete disintegration of European civilization.

—Leon Trotsky, “Once Again, Whither France?” March 1935, printed in Leon Trotsky on France (1979)