Shachtmanites believe that the Stalinist rulers of Communist countries are a "new (ruling) class", completely distinct from the workers. Therefore, they go beyond Trotsky's description of Stalinist Russia as being a "degenerated workers' state"; Max Shachtman described the USSR as a "bureaucratic collectivist" society. Other Trotskyist thinkers such as Tony Cliff describe such societies as "state capitalism" and are accused of sharing a basic theoretical agreement with Shachtman. This was rejected by Cliff however in his essay The Theory of Bureacratic Collectivism - A Critique (1948).
Left Shachtmanites consider Communist nations to be as bad as imperialist nations (often calling Soviet aggression "imperialist"); the more right-wing, social democratic Shachtmanites (including Shachtman and SDUSA) consider Communist nations to be worse than Western capitalism, usually siding with the US government in international conflicts. In America, Shachtmanite groups include the, the International Socialist wing of Solidarity, and (most notoriously) Social Democrats USA. In Australia and the UK, the Workers' Liberty groupings are sometimes called Shachtmanite organizations.