Election Lexicon: Trotskyite

We translate jargon so you don’t have to

What does it usually mean?

An archaic name for a follower of the ideas of Russian Marxist-Leninist revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky.

What does it mean in this election?

A passive-aggressive (and more economical) way to describe members of Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit, along with other left-wing candidates such as Clare Daly.


Both halves of AAA-PBP have their roots in parties (the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party respectively), which trace a complex ideological lineage back to the split that occurred in the Bolshevik party in the Soviet Union in the late 1920s (pay attention at the back).

When Josef Stalin emerged as the winner of the struggle to lead the party and the country, Trotsky was exiled, finally ending up in Mexico, where he was assassinated by a Stalinist agent in 1940. (Readers of a certain vintage will recall the reference in The Stranglers' No More Heroes to "Leon Trotsky, he got an ice pick that made his ears burn".)

In the years that followed, a range of small parties sprang up in countries around the world dedicated to Trotsky’s vision of global revolution (as opposed to Stalin’s “Socialism in One Country” in the USSR).

Their defining characteristics often included a policy of “entryism” – seeking power by taking over larger left-wing organisations from within – and a tendency to split into ever-smaller units over minute points of ideological difference.

Why is it passive-aggressive?

The general view about using Trotskyite rather than Trotskyist is that the former is redolent of quasi-religious basement conspiracies, whereas the latter conjures up images of harmless blokes in combat jackets and PLO scarves trying to sell you unreadable magazines on the street on a Saturday afternoon. However, the AAA-PBP do not seem keen on any mention of Trotsky at all. “Trotskyist is the Labour Party’s bizarre code word for anyone with strong left-wing principles,” according to a post on the PBP website, and there’s no reference at all to the great man on the AAA’s site.

Both are silent on the –ite vs –ist question. The issue is further complicated by the even more derisive abbreviation “Trots”, which appears now to have fallen out of favour almost completely.

Will it be used much in this election?

Yes, but only by opponents as a term of opprobrium, and usually only when they’ve already said “hard left” three times.