Leon Trotsky’s Contribution to the Marxist Theory of History

Leon Trotsky's contribution to historical materialism has been the subject of two broadly defined critical assessments. Detractors have tended to dismiss his interpretation of Marxism as a form of productive force determinism, while admirers have tended to defend his Marxism as a voluntarist negation of the same. This article suggests that both of these opinions share an equally caricatured interpretation the Marxism of the 2d International against which Trotsky is compared. By contrast, Trotsky's Marxism can best be understood as a powerful application and deepening of the strongest elements of 2d International methodology to a novel set of problems. Thus, against Trotsky's admirers, his Marxism is seen as both emerging out of, in addition to breaking with, 2d International Marxism. The strengths of the 2d International's interpretation of Marxism informed Trotsky's powerful contributions to historical materialism: his concept of combined and uneven development and his discussion of the role of individual agents within the Marxist interpretation of history.