What are the core "tenets" of Trotskyism? Most lefties I know just rag on them and the Wikipedia entry doesn't really clarify anything for me
Basically its Marxism-Leninism, with a few adjustments and a very different perspective on the history of the USSr than typical MLs have, although similar to that of mlms (less tankie mlms, at least). Basically, Trotskyists see the decline and fall of the USSR as the result of a decline in party democracy and the solidification of the bureaucracy into a new ruling elite.
Part of the reasons trots have a reputation for “splitting” (forming several different groups that all say basically the same thing but hate each others’ guts) is that we tend to be at cross purposes because we value both party discipline and party democracy, and its can be very hard to balance the two. This is in stark contrast to say, Juche or Hoxhaism, where the authority of a party elite is outright celebrated. “In a genuine Bolshevik organisation, the only authority a leadership can have is a moral and a political authority. You cannot demand authority on the basis of positions and titles: “full-timer”, “leading comrade”, “CC member”, “EC member” or even “General Secretary”. All this means less than nothing unless it is built on the correctness of your ideas and your ability to convince and inspire with political arguments.” This is ignored by many modern day mls and mlms, who seem to take the distorted vision of the vanguard party as some unassailable monolith “above” the people - a distortion propagated by anticommunists - at face value. For a better understanding of what a true Leninist vanguard is meant to do, see:
Trotskyism has a lot of anxiety about the movement and its marxist-leninist principles becoming “submerged” within another tendency, be that bourgeois nationalism, bureaucratic elitism, or social democracy, but also sometimes practice “entryism,” that is entering larger socdem parties as a means of converting them to our purposes from within.
Permanent revolution is a big deal but is often misunderstood; Trotsky simply drew on Marx to say that a bourgeois revolution could quickly become socialist, as was proven true in Russia in 1917, rather than the “stagism” of Stalinism. Also there is the law of combined and uneven development, saying that revolution will first emerge on the periphery of the capitalist system because the international capitalist division of labor retards these nations growth and prevents them from fully developing to the level of mature capitalism, necessitating social revolution to increase prosperity (see Cuba for another example of this). This is because these countries undergo an awkward development in which multiple tendencies, some bourgeois some feudal, emerge under the aegis of empire, meaning smashing both simultaneously becomes the essential task of the revolution.
http://trotsky.net/trotsky_year/permanent_revolution.html - a fuller explanation of the concept
https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/tpr/rp01.htm - an application of the concept by trotsky himself to Russian conditions
Also Trotsky himself was not the only theorist of Trotskyism, it is a rich intellectual tradition of its own, my fave being Ernest Mandel, though not without its share of right and left deviationists, like any movement. I myself am fond of some ex-Trots turned leftcoms/marxist-humanists, like Victor Serge, CLR James, and Raya Dunayevskaya. Below I’ve’ included some representative writings from
(James isn’t included because his writing tends to be a bit more long-winded than is fitting for an article at the end of a link)
Hope that helps clear things up! :)