Transitional demand

Transitional demand

In Marxist theory, a transitional demand is a demand made by a socialist organisation with the aim of linking the current situation to progress towards their goal of a socialist society.

The theory was developed by the early Communist International and championed by Leon Trotsky. The most famous example of a transitional programme constructed from transitional demands is the The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, adopted by the Fourth International.

Transitional demands differ from calls for reform (a minimum programme) in that they call for things that governments and corporations are unwilling or unable to offer, and therefore, any progress towards obtaining a transitional demand is likely to weaken capitalism and strengthen the hand of the working class.

Transitional demands differ from calls for revolution (a maximum programme) in that they call for things that could be achieved under capitalism. So "Rule by workers' councils" would not be a transitional demand, as it would imply the overthrow of capitalism. Examples of transitional demands would be "Employment for all" or "Housing for all," demands that sound reasonable to the average citizen, but are practically impossible for capitalism to deliver on. Trotsky held that, while socialists should not hide their programme, it was essential to plan a possible route to it.

The BBC Documentary "Lefties", which aired in several parts in April 2006 featured interviews with English citizens who were radicals in the 1960s, in which the concept of transitional demands is described clearly.

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