Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Trotsky: Militarization of Labor, 1920 Its Relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century


Marx and Engels:
Communist Manifesto

Civil War in France


Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
On Human Nature


Violence and the Origin of the State

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Marx, Engels, Lenin:
On Dialectics

What is to be done?


The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

The Cultural Revolution

Left-Wing Communism

The American Revolutions

The French Revolutions

On Workers Control

On Religion

On the Arms Race

Militarization of Labor

Russian Revolution

The Women's Question

Role of Communist Party

On Violence

On the Army

On Women

Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism

Leon Trotsky is best known today as the hero of many left sectarian organizations that work simultaneously against capitalism and against established communist parties around the world. He is revered above all for having dared to oppose Stalin's domination of the international communist movement in the 1930's.

As the commander of the Red Army of the newly revolutionary Soviet Union, he led the successful defense against invasion by the imperialist powers.

But his military heroism also translated into support for a socialist culture of war. This is stated clearly in his 1920 book, Terrorism or Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky, in particular, Chapter 8, entitled The Soviet Government and Industry. Trotsky argues here for "compulsory labor service" and the "militarization of labor."

Trotsky bases his argument in these chapters on a view of human nature in which people are considered to be innately lazy: "As a general rule, man strives to avoid labor. Love for work is not at all an inborn characteristic: it is created by economic pressure and social education. One may even say that man is a fairly lazy animal. It is on this quality, in reality, that is founded to a considerable extent all human progress; because if man did not strive to expend his energy economically, did not seek to receive the largest possible quantity of products in return for a small quantity of energy, there would have been no technical development or social culture. It would appear, then, from this point of view that human laziness is a progressive force."

Trotsky's view of human nature contradicts the view of Marx and Engels, for whom labor is the essential characteristic of human nature, which has been distorted and "estranged" by capitalism.

As a logical consequence of his view of human nature, Trotsky believes that people must be forced to work, using compulsion "from the gentle to the extremely severe:" "History is bringing us, along the whole line, to our fundamental problem—the organization of labor on new social foundations. The organization of labor is in its essence the organization of the new society: every historical form of society is in its foundation a form of organization of labor. While every previous form of society was an organization of labor in the interests of a minority, which organized its State apparatus for the oppression of the overwhelming majority of the workers, we are making the first attempt in world-history to organize labor in the interests of the laboring majority itself. This, however, does not exclude the element of compulsion in all its forms, both the most gentle and the extremely severe. The element of State compulsion not only does not disappear from the historical arena, but on the contrary will still play, for a considerable period, an extremely prominent part."

Hence, Trotsky comes to the conclusion that socialism needs to employ the "militarization of labor: "The introduction of compulsory labor service is unthinkable without the application, to a greater or less degree, of the methods of militarization of labor."

Trotsky explains further: "Why do we speak of militarization? Of course, this is only an analogy - but an analogy very rich in content. No social organization except the army has ever considered itself justified in subordinating citizens to itself in such a measure, and to control them by its will on all sides to such a degree, as the State of the proletarian dictatorship considers itself justified in doing, and does. Only the army—just because in its way it used to decide questions of the life or death of nations, States, and ruling classes—was endowed with powers of demanding from each and all complete submission to its problems, aims, regulations, and orders."

What Trotsky describes is indeed the culture of war, based on violence and authoritarianism.

Although Trotsky is known today for his opposition to Stalin, it was Trotsky's methods of the militarization of labor that were adopted by Stalin and that led the Soviet Union down the road of the culture of war to its ultimate collapse.

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Forum on Writings of Leon Trotsky on the Discussion Board:

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Revolutionary socialist culture of peace

Culture of War

Internal Culture of War

Culture of Peace

Education for nonviolence and democracy

Sustainable development for all

Human rights vs exploitation

Women's equality vs patriarchy

Democratic participation vs authoritarianism

Tolerance and solidarity vs enemy images

Transparency vs secrecy

Disarmament vs armament

Revolutionary leadership

Revolutionary organization

Proletarian Internationalism

National Liberation

Guerrilla Warfare


Agent Provocateurs

Communication systems

Psychology for revolutionaries

Capitalist culture of war

Socialist culture of war

Winning Conflict by Nonviolence

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Soviet Union
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Soviet Collapse

Has Socialism Failed?

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on Nonviolence

on Communism

Cuba's revolutionary medicine

People-power revolution in the Philippines