If you have been around in internet leftist circles for any amount of time you have probably seem memes mention the "Trot to neocon pipeline" or that neo-conservatism came out of Trotskyism. This works its way into more serious takes, I think most people who repeat this have never looked into it at all and are just repeating memes.

The typical claim is some Trotskyists split off and became conservatives but they kept some of their Trotskyist opinions like Permanent Revolution which people think means invading other countries to spread the revolution, and so therefore these Trots turned Conservative who created Neo-Conservatism were for invading countries to spread conservatism and liberal democracy, and therefore Trots are responsible for the Iraq war or the Gulf War or whatever.

This myth came out of the 1980s US where Palecons and Neo-Cons were engaging in debates and polemics, and this myth was created by paleocons to slander the neocons, but it has been spread a lot further then just Paleocons

Now for this video I am basically pulling all of this from William F King’s Neoconservatives and "Trotskyism" published in the American Communist History which is a peer-reviewed journal focusing on the historical impact of Communism in the United States, if you want a more in depth breakdown please go read his article.

The Claims

So first lets talk about the claims, well I did some digging on the internet to find examples of what the most modern claims are about this so I can target those.

The most common I found was something along the lines of well former Trotskyists founded Neo Conservatism, so that’s the main claim I am going to be dealing with. Most of these are taken from Reddit.

This one from an upvoted post on r/communism101 "The route from Trotsky to Neo-conservatism was mostly that of the Jewish, New York intellectuals.

I actually managed to lose track of where this post is from. "The entire neo-con movement was founded by former Trots"

From the New York Times in 1998

"Nathan Glazer has had more second thoughts in his lifetime than most people have had thoughts. He is the most modest (and the least tendentious) of the brilliant Jewish boys who attended City College 60 years ago and later came to be known collectively as the New York Intellectuals. The City College crowd helped chart postwar America’s ideological frontier; like many of his classmates, Glazer journeyed steadily rightward for decades, from Trotskyist to social democrat to neo-conservative. "

Founding of Neo-Conservatism and the Origins of the Myth

So first it is probably best to establish a bit of history what even is neo-conservatism, and this is hard as it was not the self descriptions of a group of people, but something applied to various figures. After spending a few days reading about it there seems to be a lot of inconsistency. The exact start date does not even seem to be agreed upon. This actually makes this sorta of theory hard to debunk, because people can sorta of arbitrary include who is a NeoCon. But I will first cover what I think the best way of defining the group is and then deal with some alternatives.

They hated the New Left and Counterculture and the Vietnam protests. They didn’t think the market was moral and humans had to enforce that and generally were critical of unrestrained capitalism, not that they didn’t love capitalism, just more they would take issues with the idea of people like Hayek, and wouldn’t agree with someone who held more libertarian views, they felt the government had a role to play. They didn’t reject the New Deal or even some parts of the Great Society, this is the main aspect of what made this group different.

Nathan Glazer who is considered one of the First NeoConseravtives talked about the group like this

"All of us had voted for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, for Hubert Humphrey in 1968 .. continued to vote for Democratic presidential candidates all the way to the present"

"Had we not defended the major social programs, from Social Security to Medicare, there would have been no need for the "neo" before conservatism""

We should also talk about where exactly did these people originate from, well they were built up of really two groups, a section of the New York Intellectuals, this would be Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer(who I might add didn’t like the label of neocon) who are typically the NeoCons from a more leftist background, and more hawkish Democrats like Elliott Abrams, and Daniel Moynihan. [Brandon High, “The Recent Historiography of American Neoconservatism,” The Historical Journal 52, no. 2 (2009): 475–91, 480-481]

But even that distinction is not that useful because while some parts of who formed Neo Conservatism were part of the New York Intellectuals(Don’t conflate the two groups people often do, some NeoCons were New York Intellectuals, but not all became Neocons) this group did have a lot of Marxist influence for many of their time at the City College of New York, this was during the 1930s, they had become Liberals for the most part before and during WW2, I will get more into specific figures and their histories a bit later. So fundamentally the Neocons were Cold War Liberals and had been for decades become coming to neo-conservatism. [William King, “Neoconservatives and ‘Trotskyism,’” American Communist History 3, no. 2 (2004): 247–66, 253-254]

So alongside these Neo Conservatives they started to fight with what has been termed Paleoconservatives basically more "old fashion" conservatives, they were very opposed to immigration, and you might say well aren’t all conservatives anti-immigrant, but you should remember the last president to do full amnesty for undocumented immigrants was Reagan, also this is all relative and in comparison to each other. So there is certainly conservatives who support immigration from an economic perspective. Where Neocons often were still for New Deal and some Great Society programs the paleocons remained opposed to the New Deal, and the Great Society. Where Neo Conservatives often claimed to support the civil rights movement in part, though many argued some aspects of it ‘went too far’, the paleocons full out rejected it. Again it is all relative were talking here certainly they weren’t exactly progressive, but compared to other conservatives they were more for these things. Another big difference is paleocons tend to be more isolationist where neoconservatives, though this can’t be universal and members associated with neocons opposed the Gulf War at times.

Paleocons often argued against the Iraq war, for example Samuel T. Francis in 2003 described the point of the war "the point is to wipe out Israel’s enemies. " and claimed describing the neocons "Of course the Likudniks don’t care about American casualties very much." Charges that neocons aren’t loyal to America and are only loyal to Israel are pretty common among Paleocons, he even calls them "Likundniks". You can find a lot of this stuff and shouldn’t be a shock that Paleocons are often open white nationalists, they reject that the NeoCons are even American and that they are loyal to Israel, which I would hope you all recognize as ridiculous and bigoted, the Paleocons often think the US has no logical reason for supporting Israel and that the fact that the US government does is some conspiracy. I hope anyone would see how ridiculous this is the American ruling class backs Israel because it is in their interests in the region, it has nothing to do with Israel Jewish, and supported by some Jewish Cabal is controlling the US. Just in the same way there is not some Arab cabal controlling the white house to make the US support Saudi Arabia.

This is important to keep in mind that Paleocons often go down the road of anti-semetic conspiracy theories and this ties into the whole Trot-NeoCon thing which I will get into in a minute.

Creation of the Myth

As noted by William F King, in 1988 the paleocon historian Paul Gottfried authored "The Conservative Movement" which was supposed to be a history of the conservative movement with a focus on the Neocon and Paleocon divide, and there is 0 mention of some trotskyist connection in the work, however in the 90s when he wrote a revived edition suddenly he inserted all this Trotskyist connection. According to King the form of this idea originated after the Gulf War. Though there is some indication of it prior to the Gulf war in 1986 at a debate Stephen Tonsor complained of "former Marxists" and that had Stalin not killed Trotsky he would be working for the Hoover Institute. But this was more of a claim or a joke made at a debate rather then in the more academic histories of neocons produced by the Palecon movement. [William King, “Neoconservatives and ‘Trotskyism,’” American Communist History 3, no. 2 (2004): 247–66, 250-253]

According to King the article that created it in the form we know today that Neo Conservatism has Trotskyist roots was written for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and was written by Leon Hadar of the Cato Institute.

Let us take a look at these "Trotskyists"

In this he argues the major figures in the Neocon movement were former Trots who went to "poor man’s harvard" CCNY, naming Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Midge Decter, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Bell and Ben Wattenberg.

However again as King points out there is some really huge issues with this theory. Ben Wattenberg was 4 years old when Irving Kristol went to CCNY, and Wattenberg never even attended CCNY, Wattenberg never was even a leftist let alone a Trot he was a capitalist his whole life. Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter also never went to CCNY, or ever been Marxists.

Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell however actually did attend CCNY in the 30s, so ya know the article gets at least one thing right, but there is more problems.

Nathan Glazer

Nathan Galzer was never a Trotskyist he was a Left Socialist-Zionist, never a Trotskyist. Even the New York Times called him a Trotskyist, in the article I pulled from earlier. I have seen several attempts to tie Trotsky to zioinism which is really just antisemetic nonsense and assuming he is a zionist because of his background.

Daniel Bell

Well what about Daniel Bell, well he was a member of the YPSL in the early 30s, in 1936 the Trotskyist movement in the US decided to implement the "french turn" in the US and enter into the Socialist Party with the intention of breaking off the young radicals in the party. [R.J. Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement (Duke University Press, 1991). 785]

However while that was happening in part in reaction of the Trotskyists entering the Socialist Party the Social Democratic Federation was formed and Glazer became a member, then in Nathan Glazer also wrote "Trotskyism as a derivative of Leninism, is alien to freedom of thought and conscience and must be fought" in 1939 [William King, “Neoconservatives and ‘Trotskyism,’” American Communist History 3, no. 2 (2004): 247–66, 252]

Irving Kristol

So that leaves us just with Irving Kristol and I want to spend some extra time on him specifically since he is probably your best argument if your going to tie Trotskyism and Neo Conservatism together. He actually wrote an autobiographical essay titled "Memoirs of a Trotskyist" so hey that is something. In it he says

"I was a member in good standing of the Young People’s Socialist League (Fourth International). This organization was commonly, and correctly, designated as Trotskyist"

However Irving really was not a full member of the YPSL he was a Fellow Traveler, and in 1940 he did not join the Socialist Workers Party the Trotskyist party in the US at the time, but the Workers Party led by Max Shachtman. Which Trotsky described Schactman this way in 1940 in an article titled "Petty-Bourgeois Moralists and the Proletarian Party"

and to read this I asked Socialist in a Barrel who is new to creating videos, you should go subscribe to them and if you like my content you will probably like either of these two videos "One time Russian almost got its own Latin alphabet, The Problems with soviets in the Media "

"Only the other day Shachtman referred to himself in the press as a “Trotskyist.” If this be Trotskyism then I at least am no Trotskyist. With the present ideas of Shachtman, not to mention Burnham, I have nothing in common. I used to collaborate actively with the New International, protesting in letters against Shachtman’s frivolous attitude toward theory and his unprincipled concessions to Burnham, the strutting petty-bourgeois pedant. But at the time both Burnham and Shachtman were kept in check by the party and the International. Today the pressure of petty-bourgeois democracy has unbridled them."

and of the Workers Party Kristol belonged to the "Shermanites" which was a right wing faction of the party that eventually was thrown out in 1941 because they rejected Marxism. [William King, “Neoconservatives and ‘Trotskyism,’” American Communist History 3, no. 2 (2004): 247–66, 254-255]

Kristol is also quoted as having said

"I was a young Trotskyist for 18 months or so ... but even when I was in it, I couldn’t quite take it seriously." —Irving Kristol"

Going to quote King’s conclusion on Irving

"Looking beyond both journalistic reminiscences and polemically motivated exaggerations, a more balanced appraisal of Irving Kristol’s Trotskyism is that he was involved on the intellectually energetic margins of the movement, and then briefly passed through the movement itself while maintaining a non-Trot- skyist—and arguably, given the Shermanites’ emphasis on political democracy, a non-Marxist—political outlook. As Kristol himself would remark in later years, "I have never considered myself to be an ‘ex-Trotskyist’ in the sense that some people conceive of themselves as ‘ex-communists’. The experience was never that important to me .…"* By the end of the Second World War, during which Kristol saw service with the US Army in Europe, he was no longer a socialist of any stripe."

He is even more "positive" on Kristol’s Trotskyism, he was in the right wing of a party led by a man Trotsky declared to have nothing in common with his ideas. I would say he never really was a Trotskyist.

Another thing to keep in mind when this was, this was 1930 and very briefly into the very early 1940s, it would be another 30ish years before NeoConservatism would be founded, I was not even alive 30 years ago. That is a long time if you are in your 20s like me imagine you changed political ideology then 30 years from now in 2050 you were part of a movement of a new sorta ideology, it sounds pretty ridiculous to act like your opinions you left behind in 2020 had some great impact on your opinions in 2050s and 2060s.

What about the other neocons

Alright lets maybe take a look at a larger list of NeoCons who could maybe be listed to support this theory, see the issue most of the people who talk about this theory never actually list names half the time, and when they do well as you saw above only 1 of the people they listed even flirted with Trotskyism and only for a moment decades before the founding of Neo Conservatisim.

Jeane Kirkpatrick

She was actually a member of the Socialist Party, however she was in the 1940s after all of the Trotskyists were out of the party.

See the Trotskyists were purged over the course of 1937/1938[R.J. Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement (Duke University Press, 1991). 792]

Daniel Moynihan

Dude was just always a democrat to the best I can find out.

John Podhoretz

Born to Norman Podhoretz who was never a Marxist, and he was raised conservative by his parents.

Seymour Lipset

Seymour Lipset joined the YPSL in highschool which would have been before the Trotskyist entryism and following that he ended up also a part of that Shermanite faction who really weren’t so he was in a similar camp to Irving Kristol a brief few month flirtation in the 30s, he remained in the Socialist Party until 1960, so he never left with the Trotskyists to the SWP implying he was never a Trotskyist.

Sidney Hook

Sidney Hook was actually a Marxist, he was a Marxist, he actually studied at the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, and was a supporter of the Communist Party and William Z. Foster until 1933. Then he ended up being part of the American Workers Party which the early Trotskyist movement merged with. However he never actually joined the Trotskyist parties he remained a fellow traveler of the movement until 1939. [William King, “Neoconservatives and ‘Trotskyism,’” American Communist History 3, no. 2 (2004): 247–66, 252]


I could probably find more, but the thing is I would just start listing a bunch of non Trotskyists, really only Irving and Lipset are the only ones to have even touched Trotskyism there there are many numerous others who never even Trots and some never even Marxists. Even if you count Irving Kristols wife who also briefly flirted with Trotskyism that brings it up what to 3, out of how many of this sorta first generation Neo Conservatives.

Shachtmanism created Neo Conservatism

So lets talk about another alternative theory that while maybe Neo Conservatism was not created by Trots there is a whole second generation of neocons created from Shachtmanism. Now there is a smidge of truth to this one as a number of Neocons did come out of the Socialist Party who were in leadership at the time Shachtman was in the party. However

Trotsky said that if Shachtman is a Trotskyist then he(being trotsky) is not one. This was in 1940, not only that he his group was required to declare they no longer followed his quasi-trotskyist ideology by the time he joined [William King, “Neoconservatives and ‘Trotskyism,’” American Communist History 3, no. 2 (2004): 247–66, 257]

Also worth bringing up that people might find interesting a position he came to and joined the SP to advocate for was for the idea of them becoming a group that influenced the Democrats into pulling left [R.J. Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement (Duke University Press, 1991). 812-813]

You might recognize a name that was part of Shachtman’s group and was for pulling the Dems to the left Michael Harrington who been in Shachtman’s group who would eventually would form the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, and eventually the Democratic Socialists of America along with Irving Howe another follower of Shachtman. So ya a few people who associated with Shactman did become neocons, this was after really any claim of connection to Trotskyism were really gone. More figures moved to form the DSA then became Neocons, the DSA has more in common with Shachtman’s legacy. So I don’t think this really proves any connection given Shactman was an odd person in the Trotskyist movement and was disliked by Trotsky and when he joined the Socialist Party he rejected his old ideology as part of the conditions, after that a few people he had influence on became Neocons, so this is really stretching to try and prove any connection.

Burnham the original Neocon

So another sort of "idea" i guess for how Neocons were founded is pinning it on James Burnham he was the original Neocon not figures like irving, that it was the William F. Buckley’s national review not The Public Interest and Commentary that sorta started Neo-Conservatism.

First a little bit of backstory of how Burnham ended up and his position within the Trotskyist movement. I think best to maybe attempt to provide a short summary of the American Trotskyist movement and how it came about

I attempt to explain the history of American Trotskyism

First a note on the name of Trotskyism historically Trotskyists called themselves Bolshevik-Leninists it is what Trotsky called his group, but I use the term Trotskyists because it is what people know today.

Formation of the Communist Party

So lets start with how the Communist Party came about. The Communist Party originated within the Socialist Party, the Left Wing the party had be helped along by the influence of the paper Novy Mir which both Nikolai Bukharin and Leon Trotsky wrote for, Bukharin advocated for the left wing of the Socialist Party to Split where Trotsky advocated more for them to purge the party of opportunist elements[S.F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888-1938, Vintage Books (Vintage Books, 1975). 43-44] In January of 1917 a meeting was held in the flat of Ludwig Lore, this meeting goal was to debate if to split and to try and unify the left wing elements withing the Socialist Party. Bukharin, Kollontai and Trotsky would all be there and debate the question, this meeting along with Novy Mir on the whole played a part in Trotsky coming close to the Bolsheviks. Though Trotsky’s position apparently "won" the debate and from this meeting would come the editorial board of "Class Struggle" a journal to advocate for the left wing of the Socialist Party. [J.A. Zumoff, The Communist International and U. S. Communism, 1919 - 1929, Historical Materialism Book Series (Haymarket Books, 2015). 32-33]

Within the Left Wing of the Socialist Party there was two factions by 1919, on the whole they wanted to become part of the Third International, but one side favored leaving the Socialist Party right away, the other side wanting to avoid a premature split wanted to wait and see if the left could take over the party at the convention, and sought to bring Eugene V Debs to their side, two notable names of this faction was John Reed and James P Cannon. They would fail to convince Debs as he didn’t want to take a position on the factional struggle. Eventually parts of the group would be broken off and other parts were expelled eventually they would form the Communist Labor Party and attempt to influence to SP, but CLP were barred. Those that had pushed for an immediate split had formed the Communist Party of America. [J.A. Zumoff, The Communist International and U. S. Communism, 1919 - 1929, Historical Materialism Book Series (Haymarket Books, 2015). 36-41] The typical way these groups are presented is as "immigrants" vs "indigenous Americans", I really hate this way of explaining it, as for one these people were settlers not indigenous, and the immigrant group was pretty much just eastern European immigrants, Asian immigrants avoided both groups. As well neither party had a single black delegate at their founding conventions, there was breakaways of black socialists away from the Socialist Party such as the African Blood Brotherhood, they didn’t join with either faction as they felt neither took the issue of black liberation seriously [P.S. Foner and E. Vandepaer, American Socialism and Black Americans: From the Age of Jackson to World War II, Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies (Greenwood Press, 1977). 305-311]

Both factions pledged support to the October Revolution and the Third International, and both published a newspaper with the name Communist. This nonsense would go on for some time and would disorganize US Communism and cause a lot of the left wing of the Socialist party to drift away, eventually the Comintern had enough of this and they made John Reed of the CKP and John Anderson of the CPA sign an agreement to merge the parties. This is how America got a unified Communist Party.[J.A. Zumoff, The Communist International and U. S. Communism, 1919 - 1929, Historical Materialism Book Series (Haymarket Books, 2015). 43-44]

Factional Struggles

American Trotskyism has its roots in the faction of this Communist Party led by James P. Cannon. Within the party at the time there was roughly The William Z Foster Faction, Jay Lovestone, and The Cannon faction. The Lovestone faction took control of the party in 1925 from the Foster-Cannon Faction they were able to do this due to the support of the Comintern, there would be various struggles within the party over issues of the language federations and legalization during the whole of the 20s, within the US the debates in the USSR between Trotsky’s Left Opposition and the Stalin-Bukharin faction were basically unknown. Cannon tried to go to Moscow to gain some support from the Comintern against the Lovestoneites, the differences were over focus with Foster and Cannon favoring basing the party in Chicago and trade union work. [R.J. Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement (Duke University Press, 1991). 760-765]

Canon had previously gone to Moscow to get their support in 1922 when the debate was over legalization of the party, as the party had been operating as an underground party with a front party called The workers Party. Cannon was part of the group that wanted to merge the underground party into the legal party and become a fully legal party. The reason people opposed it many felt only an underground party could be revolutionary and that America would soon have its own October Revolution and had no purpose for a legal party. Cannon went to Moscow and met with Trotsky, and Trotsky promised to talk to Lenin and that Lenin would support legalization [J.P. Cannon, History of American Trotskyism, The, 1928-38: Report of a Participant (Pathfinder Press, 2002). 40-43]

Cannon went to Moscow again in 1928 for the Sixth World Congress of the Comintern, he was hoping for a repeat of 1922 and to get support for his position. While there he was placed on the program commission, while there someone in the Comintern had accidentally given Trotsky’s document "The Draft Program of the Communist International: A Criticism of fundamentals" to the translators and it was translated into English and mistakenly given it to James P Cannon, and Maurice Spencer. Cannon would smuggle this out of Moscow and planned to advocate for Trotsky, but at the time there was not a single member of the American Communist party who was a support of Trotsky.[J.P. Cannon, History of American Trotskyism, The, 1928-38: Report of a Participant (Pathfinder Press, 2002). 76-49]


Cannon would recruit within his allies in the party, however as the Fosterite faction became more aware of the Cannonite factions movement towards Trotskyism they broke up their alliance, and eventually James Cannon would make a public declaration of their 100 percent support of the Russian Opposition.

Jay Lovestone who was Party secretary would carry out a purge of the Trotskyists, he also had people led raids into the apartments of Trotskyist leaders in the US, Trotskyists were attacked and beaten in their meetings. All of these efforts were considered very aggressive and members who refused to endorse these tactics were often removed from the party, this caused many members in Minneapolis to be removed despite not being favorable to Trotsky which drove them into the arms of the Trotskyists.

Once removed the Trotskyists set out to start publishing a newspaper and they did The Militant began publishing in November 1928. They also found some allies who were followers of Bordiga. Eventually this would result int he formation of the Communist League of America, Left Opposition of the Communist Party, they held their conference in Chicago in May of 1929 it had to be protected by coal miners and IWW members to prevent it from being attacked by the Communist Party members.

The position at the time of the Trotskyists was that they were an opposition group of the Communist Party within the Comintern fighting for reform within the Comintern and within the Soviet Union.

During this time they ran into several issues, one of which was a lot of people joined for the wrong reasons, not because they were Trotskyists but they were bitter about being removed from the Communist Party. Cannon described these people as "petty-bourgeoise-minded people who can’t stand any discipline", they were also small and very scattered around the country. Cannon called this the dog days. There would also be divisions between Cannon and Shachtman and factional disputes, if you want to know more about this period you can look up The Dog Days of the Left Opposition by James P Cannon for his perspective on it as a leader of American Trotskyism. [R.J. Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement (Duke University Press, 1991). 764-774]

Minneapolis general strike of 1934

The dog days came to an end with the General Strike in Minneapolis in 1934, this is one of the most interesting events in American Labor History and I would highly encourage you to check out Teamster Rebellion by Farrel Dobs, please pirate it or by it used, don’t give the bastards at pathfinder the money. You can also check out Cannon’s account on "The Great Minneapolis Strikes".

But this would be the event that would take American Trotskyism forward, brought them into contact with workers and actual labor struggles. However it would have a major downside as it made Trotskyists a major target by FDR’s government.

This is kind of an aside, but the police shot striking workers here and this launched a major growth in the Teamsters unions in the US and this event is hardly talked about. Minneapolis was not a friendly place to unions or organizing and they managed to pull it off, I think any American socialist needs to read about this event. A short overview I could do would not do it justice.

Merger with Muste

While the Trotskyists were playing a leading role in this strike, another party the American Workers Party were leading a strike in Toledo Ohio which like the Minneapolis one resulted in the deaths of strikes and the calling in of the national guard. These two massive strikes occurred both in 1934, and it drove both the AWP and the CLA towards each other. The Trotskyists made a call to the American Workers Party for them to unify. The AWP were not Trotskyists, but Cannon and the Trotskyists considered it a "political menagerie" that had everything from "proletarian revolutionaries to reactionary scoundrels and fakers". [J.P. Cannon, History of American Trotskyism, The, 1928-38: Report of a Participant (Pathfinder Press, 2002). 214-215]

This is how James Burnham, and Sidney Hook came into the Trotskyist movement he was a member of the American Workers Party. It might sound odd that the Trotskyists merged with a non-trotskyist party, but Trotsky conceived of the Fourth International being made up of all revolutionary marxists who agreed with the programme, not just those that called themselves Bolshevik-Leninists or as they are known now Trotskyists.

French Turn, Entryism

Shortly after the merger which formed the Workers Party, the Trotskyists looked to apply the French Turn also known as Entryism in the US to further increase their reach. They became more aware that within the Socialist Party a new left wing was forming especially among the Youth Sections so Cannon and others started pushing for entry into the SP.

I also want to give a short explanation of what Entryism is, it is something a lot of people talk about but few know much about it or Trotsky’s conception of it. Especially given many so called "Trotskyists" apply a distorted version of it themselves.

The French Turn was the entry of Bolshevik-Leninists into the SFIO "French Section of the Workers’ International"

I could do a video going in depth, but based on points made in Lessons of SFIO Entriysm and The appeal "To revolutionary organizations and groups"

1. The goal is not to reform or change a reformist party 2. It is not a long term tactic, Trotsky described it may be limited to only an episode. 3. It is to be focused on the youth in an organization which is often the most radical. 4. It is a hostile tactic the end goal is a split and the destruction of the reformist organization 5. It is there to accelerate and assist developing differences, not create them.

So we can see clearly how American Trotskyists applied this to the socialist party, while it was reformist it had a much more radical youth wing. So the goal was basically enter and win the youth wing.

In Cannon’s words, which is being read by Cyan Lime, another content creator whos channel you should subscribe to.

"The Socialist Party was destined, in any case to be torn apart. The only question was how and along what lines ...

The question was: Would the potentially revolutionary elements of the centrist party - the worker activists and rebellious youth be engulfed by these forces? Or, would they be fused with the cadres of Trotskyism and brought over to the road of proletarian revolution? This could be tested only by our entry into the Socialist Party. It was not possible for the Trotskyists to come into contact with these potentially revolutionary elements of the Socialist Party otherwise than by joining the Socialist Party"

Eventually the Trotskyists within the Workers Party talked the party into joining the Socialist Party, this is how some figures like Sidney hook ended up in the Socialist Party pulled along with the Trotskyists when they entered. They would enter in 1936 with the intention of destroying the Socialist Party their goal was to secure recruits this is inline with what entryism is a hostile tactic. In this they essentially would succeed it is a bit more complex, but to keep it short, they would enter in 1936 and by June of 1937 Trotsky was pushing for a split as he felt their goals had been accomplished, however he was opposed by Max Shachtman, James Burnham, and honestly if it was not for the fact they were purged from the Socialist Party I think Shachtman and Burnham would have stayed and not ended up in the Socialist Workers Party, but anyway by April of 1938 the removing of "Trotskyists" had been complete. With the Socialist Workers Party being formed earlier in 38, with much of the YPSL joining the SWP. The SWP had double the membership the American Workers Party had entered the Socialist Party with it was considered a great success, and contributed greatly to the decline of the Socialist Party. Things looked bright however about as soon as they left the Socialist Party a major schism would split the SWP. [R.J. Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement (Duke University Press, 1991). 780-799]

The Russian Question

Starting even before the split figures like James Burnham and Max Schatman moved towards and adopted the Bureaucratic collectivism analysis of the Soviet Union, that the USSR represented not Socialism, not a Workers State Degenerated or otherwise, or even capitalism, but that it was a whole new mode of production. This was in contrast to the position of Trotsky.

What was Trotsky’s analysis of the USSR

Trotsky considered the Soviet Union a Degenerated Workers State, this mean it was a dictatorship of the proletariat or a workers state that had undergone a degeneration due to its isolation, that many of these actions much of which was forced on the state. That this is not because of the bad intentions of any given man, but historical processes, that slowly degenerated the leading segments into forming their own caste, but no class over the proletariat that would inhibit the state from moving forward to the Lower Phase of Communism or sometimes called Socialism, instead it was stuck with a capitalistic measure of value, not a socialist mode of production, but not a fully capitalist state. The degeneration comes from the part of the state that regulates the bourgeois norms which exists even under socialism but en even greater extent while in the transitional epoch, this degeneration would inevitably continue so as long as the bureaucratic caste was in power. Trotsky predicted that unless this caste was overthrown the state would eventually return fully to capitalism. But that an overthrow of this state would only be a political not social revolution, and from this it is necessary to advocate for defense of the USSR, but not a defense of Stalin, but a defense of what progressive elements there is against Stalin. In The USSR in War Trotsky said if Hitler turned his armies against the USSR(remember Trotsky didn’t live to see the invasion of the USSR so this was speculation) that the USSR must be defended as they could not permit Hitler to overthrow Stalin, but that they had to overthrow Stalin not Hitler at the next stage one Hitler had been defeated. Trotsky remained against seizures of new territories by the bureaucracy, and said they cannot take responsibility for Stalin’s actions in Poland or Finland, and that these events showed the need to rip the USSR from the hands of the bureaucracy.

This is my attempt to summarize Trotsky’s position, if your looking for a more in depth look Revolution Betrayed is a great place to start as is The USSR in War, thankfully both can be found on

The Split

This all came to a head due to the events of 1939 with the invasion of Poland and Finland, many become a lot more critical of the USSR and Trotsky’s position on it, some while not outright rejecting the degenerated workers state theory many felt the USSR had become imperialist. Trotsky also intensified his already existing dislike of Burnham and attacked him for his rejection of dialectics and historical materialism. During a response Burnham would even say Trotsky was just a stale rehash of Engels, Trotsky however would also invite Shachtman to Mexico to have a debate, Trotsky was still thinking they could be debated and convinced, however Shachtman turned him down. This would climax at the 1940 convention in April where Cannon’s group who stuck to the position of Trotsky, Cannons group got 60 percent of the support where the minority group got only 40 percent, eventually Cannons group would try to force the minority group to accept the decisions at this congress, but began suspending and removing the members from the party. These people left and formed the Workers Party. [R.J. Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement (Duke University Press, 1991). 802-804]

Workers Party

The Workers Party would be made up by a few different groups, Max Shachtman and his Bureaucratic collectivism theory, that still did advance the idea of conditional defense of the USSR. But you had others who advanced a State Capitalist position on the USSR, which under that analysis of it was State Capitalist would mean if it went to war with German or the US it would be similar to WW1 with competing capitalist powers at war.

CLR James. Dunayevskaya

The two most prominent members of this group would be C. L. R. James who is particularly well known for writing a history of the Haitian revolution titled Black Jacobins, and Raya Dunayevskaya who at this time wouldn’t have been as well known as CLR James who had published several books like World Revolution and Black Jacobins, she had been Trotsky’s secretary for a while, she would later become well known for her translations of Marx’s early works, as well as her contributions to Marxist-Humanism and founding the Johnson–Forest Tendency with CLR James and Grace Lee Boggs, and later the News and Letters Committees.

The Johnson–Forest Tendency would split from the Workers Party because they supported State Capitalist theory over Bureaucratic collectivization and due to the workers party lack of interest in black activism. Because they still believed in the importance of a party they would end up rejoining the Socialist Workers Party until the 1950s.

If your interested in her positions on this and her disagreement with the Schamanites on this has her essay "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a Capitalist Society.


Within the Workers Party there was also the Shermanites who were anti-Bolshevik, the leader of the shermanite faction was Philip Zelznick who used the name Sherman. This faction considered its self Revolutionary anti-Bolshevik, and opposed the idea that Marxism should be the doctrine of the Workers Party. This is the faction that Seymour Lipset and Irving Kristol were a part of the two neocons we talked about earlier who were the few to have any kind of contact with Trotskyism and at most it was being in the Anti-Bolshevik, Anti-Marxist Shermanite faction of the Workers Party which was founded by members kicked out of the Socialist Workers Party for their anti-USSR position, as well as for some their rejection of historical materialism and dialectics. The Shermanites would leave the Workers Party as well as being kicked out at the same time as the Workers Party considered them too anti-bolshevik. So the offshoot of a Trotskyist party who had a lot of issues with Trotsky and who Trotsky declared members of to not be Trotskyists stil found this faction of Shermanites which is who the people who would eventually become neocons too anti-Bolshevik and Marxist and had them removed after less then a year. [A.M. Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (University of North Carolina Press, 1987). 218-225]

Back to Burnham Finally

After that probably too long of a detour back to Burnham, Burnham would join the Workers Party and be in it for the most brief of moments. After a few weeks he left the workers party. Acording to Shachtman said that he refused to use "trotskyist jargon" and had only started learning Trotsky’s ideas when the Trotksyists joined the party with the American Workers Party, which would means he only started picking up these ideas in 1935-1936. [R.J. Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement (Duke University Press, 1991). 803-805]

So Burnham was against the idea of the formation of the Socialist Workers Party and really only picked up Trotskyism in 1935 at the earliest, to a year or two being against forming a Trotskyist Organization, and he rejected Dialectics and Historical Materialism following this. By the time of WW2 he had pretty much flat out rejected Marxism, he only ended up in the Trotskyist movement due to them merging into a party he was a member of. So what at most Burnham could have been described as a Trotskyist for 3-4 years?

Burnham Conclusion

So assuming that ok, the idea is that Burnham and the National Review created neo-conservatism, the typical argument for it is on the basis of their foreign policy which is not really what defined neo-conservatism, it was their domestic policy as noted earlier. Also there were plenty of contributors to the National Review who werent ex-leftists at all, and there was plenty who were former MLs. The other argument is that the reason Neocons decends from Trotskyism is the idea that Neo-Cons foreign policy aims are a global revolution of "democratic capitalism", but Burnham’s foreign policy was focused on only working in American interests he never was in favor of spreading democratic revolution. [William King, “Neoconservatives and ‘Trotskyism,’” American Communist History 3, no. 2 (2004): 247–66, 264]

So the argument for Burnham to be the proof of the Trot-Neocon pipeline is weaker if you consider him to be the starting point of American Neo-Cons then if you went with the other people mentioned above who contributed to The Public Interest and Commentary.

Inverted Permanent Revolution

I touched on this already, but a common idea is that Neocons wanted to spread Democracy by the sword, and Trotsky wanted to spread Communism at the tip of a bayonet they are the same. However Trotsky his theory The Permanent Revolution don’t argue for this, so this argument really falls down. I also did a video already on this question in regards to Trotsky you should go watch it.


So to summarize, a few of the original Neocons briefly flirted with Trotskyism, before moving onto being Liberals for decades before founding Neo-Conservatism, and really of them the extent of their Trotskyism has been greatly greatly exaggerated. As mentioned above the idea of linking permanent revolution to neo-conservatism does not follow because permanent revolution does not mean or advocate revolution worldwide by force or invading, and really Neo-Cons were willing to work with "undemocratic" states as long as it was in the interest of the US plenty very few of them were these "crusaders" for democracy.

I hope you found this video educational, please go watch content from those other creators mentioned, as always you can find my script in the description, I am now uploaded them to a website so they are even easier to view. You should share this video, and subscribe to me on here and Twitter.

Also sorry for the long break this was not my planned next video, but it is the one I finished first so I wanted to get it out.


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