Degenerated workers' state

In Trotskyist political theory the term degenerated workers' state has been used since the 1930s to describe the state of the Soviet Union after Stalin's consolidation of power in or about 1924. The term was developed by Leon Trotsky in The Revolution Betrayed and in other works , but has its roots in Lenin's formula that the USSR was a workers' state with bureaucratic deformations.

The Trotskyist definition

The Soviet state of that period was held to be a workers' state because the bourgeoisie had been politically overthrown by the working class and the economic basis of that state lay in nationalized property. The Soviet state degenerated because the working class became politically dispossessed. After the death of Lenin, the ruling stratum of the Soviet Union was held to be a bureaucratic caste, and not a new ruling class, because its political control did not also extend to economic ownership. The theory that the Soviet Union was a degenerated workers' state is closely connected to Trotsky's call for a political revolution in the USSR, as well as Trotsky's call for defense of the USSR against capitalist restoration.

The term "degenerated workers' state" is commonly used to refer only to the Soviet Union. The term deformed workers' state was coined by the Fourth International to describe those states which are or were based upon nationalized property, but in which the working class never held direct political power.


Besides supporters of the Soviet Union who believe that the nation was a healthy workers' state, the theory has been criticised from within the Trotskyist movement, and by other socialists critical of the Soviet Union. Among the disputed issues are the relationships between a workers' state (of any type), a planned economy, and some form of socialism. Some tendencies tend to equate two or all three of these concepts, while other tendencies draw sharp distinctions between them.

Some of these critics hold that the Soviet Union was at one point a degenerated workers' state, but that at some point during its political evolution, it became something else. Other hold that this was never an apt description.

Among Trotskyists, alternative theories include state capitalism and bureaucratic collectivism.

See also


The concept was developed by Trotsky in his book, The Revolution Betrayed, which is freely available online by clicking here

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