The power of socialism as an ideology, and its more specific trotskyist flavour, has ensured the continuing existence of active Trotskyist groups throughout post-war British history. But the leading British Trotskyist organisation, the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), typically polarises opinion. As a result, movement analyses of contemporary protest tend to focus soley on the SWP, or else entirely ignore or argue against the SWP and its kindred spirits. Yet a more objective view must include the various revoluntionary socialist organisations alongside the diversity of other key players within recent protest.
The revolutionary socialist frame identifies a set of ideas whose interconnection flows partly from the history of communist and Trotskyist activism in the UK. This chapter offers a brief discussion of that history, singling out those periods that seem to have had a lasting effect on the beliefs and behaviour of Trotskyists today. For instance, Trotskyists have had to broaden their understanding of the social base of revolution. This results from both the need for Trotskyist organisations to come to terms the strength of the students’ movements, womens’ movements, movements of sexual identity and so on, and the simultaneous economic restructuring that shrunk the industrial working class base. While Trotskyist discussion often continues a focus on the power of the working class, Trotskyists can now be found agitating and recruiting in universities as much as in the industrial workplaces.
Nevertheless, at the core of the revolutionary socialist frame lie a range of ideas that will likely be espoused wherever a society can be described as capitalist. These include:
- a class-based analysis of exploitation;
- the value on equality of political power, justified through human nature;
- the need for a sudden (and perhaps violent) moment of change;
- the need for a vanguard organisation at the centre of a mass revolutionary movement; and
- a belief in the scientific truth of Marxism.
Beyond that core of beliefs spin-off a range of less central and/or more practical ideas about society and how to change it. This chapter explains these, and importantly their interconnections, in some detail. Despite the focus on Trotskyism in this introduction, I also argue that these ideas are more broadly influential. Many people who are not members of such organisations utilise many of the core arguments in their political discussions. Indeed, some ideas, such as the value on power equality, seem ubiqitous throughout contemporary movements. Certainly, this idea is widely espoused. But, equality is coloured with different hues depending on the context of surrounding beliefs.