Jorn Andersen ccc6639 at
Mon Apr 22 19:55:27 MDT 1996

Louis N Proyect wrote:
> Gary MacLennan:
> > Now for this post I want to insist that there can only be two kinds of
> > revolutions in our epoch.  They can either be bourgeois or socialist. Now I
> > know that an outbreak of dogmatism on this list makes such statements at
> > best unpopular.  But clarity is not dogma. Well not necesarily so.
> >
> Louis: There can be no bourgeois revolutions today.

- and I agree on Louis' arguments about the cowardly bourgeoisie.
But then he continues:

> The whole question of the character of the Nicaraguan revolution in its
> early stages is exceedingly complex. To force it into one or another
> category such as "bourgeois" or "socialist" seems reductionist.

Not necessarily, I think. The problem is that there were a
whole lot of revolutions like the Nicaraguan: China 1949, Cuba
1959, Vietnam etc. (Of course you could reject them as not being
revolutions at all - just a "change of guards". I don't agree.)

So I don't think it is sufficient to look at each of them
individually and say
> In 1979 it appeared that the Sandinista's goal was socialism.

And later?

I think, that some elements from Trotsky's theory of permanent
revolution can help provide a framework for understanding. What
Trotsky stated was (in outline):
1. In countries where the bourgeoisie arrives late on the scene
it usually is cowardly and unable to overthrow feudal or (in
these cases) imperialist rule.
2. The peasantry won't either (have never).
3. So that role is given to the workers.
4. - provided they could draw the peasants behind them.
5. But - as Russia 1917 confirmed: The workers wouldn't stop
here. They would have to make the revolution permanent nationally
6. - and internationally.

By this theory Trotsky provided a perspective for the Russian
workers (and was confirmed) - and for China 10 years later
(where it didn't succeed).

China was a warning, that Trotsky's theory was not to be
understood in a deterministic way. While the two first points
are "absolutes", the question remains: What happens when 3 (+ 4)
are not fulfilled? If the workers are too weak?

In China 1926-7 the answer was: No revolution (and points
5 + 6 become irrelevant). In China 1949, Cuba, Nicaragua etc.
the answer has to be different. Revolutions did take place.

What happened was that with a weak national bourgoisie
(and also: a bourgeoisie tied up with imperialism) and
a weak working class, room was left open for other
classes to intervene. Often this was educated middle class
intelligentsia, whose goal became conquering the state
to be used as a tool for national development.

Sometimes they did this through a guerilla war. Other
times by use of influence in the army (like Nasser in
Egypt, Gaddhaffi in Libya etc.). The important thing
however is, that no matter their rhetoric they were
of *another class*.

So what we get is a bourgeois revolution made by
another class - not the bourgeoisie, not the proletariat
(which was sometimes allowed to cheer from the sidelines).

This will explain:
- why the revolutions stopped where they did - the
workers were not leading.
- why they didn't liberate the peasants
- why the workers had to be oppressed

But what should the attitude of socialists be?
Should we paint them red (the petty bourgeois
revolutionaries)? Were they "socialists in 1979"?

I think Trotsky's perspective was right: The task
for Marxists would be to fight for independent
working class action. It would be to fight for
the workers to lead the revolution on to a
socialist one.

Louis has pointed out that lack of internationalism,
the fact that the revolution wasn't spread to
other countries, was the main problem for the
Nicaraguan revolution.

This is true, but the crucial link in getting this
internationalism was working class leadership in
the revolutions in Nicaragua, Cuba, China, Egypt etc.

Louis doesn't see this alternative - and becomes
satisfied with going only the first step:
> The real question, of course, is what to do next in
> light of capitalism's hegemony. Facile calls for "socialism"
> won't do. Lenin was a master at assessing the relationship
> of class forces and was deeply opposed to taking steps that
> the revolutionary movement could not follow through on.
> We should take the same attitude.

No, we should not. The "relationship of class forces"
was not so that socialist revolution should not be on the
agenda. Had the Sandinistas built their strength among
the workers and not through a guerilla army, they would
not have been weaker, but stronger. And the possibility
that the revolution could have spread to Mexico would
have been much bigger.

It is understandable that this point can be argued about
in the case of Nicaragua, where the working class is
relatively weak. But when it comes to countries like
Peru, Bolivia, South Africa etc. this sort of petty
bourgeois reformism should be rejected out of hand.

Of course we fight with the Sandinistas, Castro etc.
against imperialist intervention, but we should not
ever forget the class character of these regimes.
They were *never* socialist.


Jorn Andersen


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