Louis, DSP, permanent and by stage revolutions
alternative at sbcglobal.net
Fri Apr 12 04:45:02 MDT 2002
Your first post about the DSP, their support for the "two stages" and
your counterpoising of the PR theory to the "two stages" was, IMO,
generally on the mark. You did, however, ran into some hurdles when
trying to argue with somebody else and used the Nicaraguan example.
I think you may consider some additional elements, thrown on the table
without any particular order of importance, to further attempt to
clarify this conversation:
1. Nowadays, IMO, Marxists often confuse historical tasks with practical
tasks of a revolution. The fact that the working class must carry out
the unfulfilled bourgeois democratic tasks cannot be confused with the
particular form that the resolution of such pending historical tasks
will take in practical terms.
For example: in Argentina, to use a subject you're dealing with, the
agrarian revolution is pending as much as it is in Mexico or Ecuador
from the economic standpoint in the sense that any successful socialist
revolution in Argentina will have to deal with the process of socialist
primitive accumulation and with breaking the back of resistance of an
important and still very influential layer of the bourgeoisie and the
But, there is no peasantry to speak of in Argentina, thus the left is
not even mentioning the agrarian revolution. There is not a single left
group that is putting forward the need to expropriate the landowners,
both national and foreign, and implement a national program of agrarian
revolution based on public ownership and the introduction of industrial
means in the agrarian production to a) avoid the pitfalls of imperialist
economic intervention and blockade and b) accumulate the necessary
capital to eventually develop the country industrially, under socialist
terms and conditions, so to speak.
We can refer to other sectors of the economy as well.
IN fact, we can analyze all aspects of the economy, but still no answer
to the simple questions in the minds of many workers and other oppressed
layers who know that revolution brings reaction and attacks from all
national and international bourgeois circles: how do leftist propose to
rebuild the infrastructure of the country so affected by 30-40 years of
de-industrialization (even though the situation in Argentina is not as
dramatic as in those countries where there is little evidence of
industrialization) and, at the same time, do so on a socialist basis?
Sure, you can do the revolution, and then imperialism will blockade the
country. What would you do next? Where will the money come from to
guarantee all those beautiful things you promise socialism will bring?,
Last week I was discussing with a rather large group of Argentinean
revolutionaries from different organizations about different questions.
When we touched the question of the agrarian revolution they - who often
disagreed on many things - were almost unanimous in their first
reaction. "There is no peasantry - they argued - thus, raising the
issue of the agrarian revolution is distracting."
Well, but you DO have a decimated working class and national industry
and you DO have a high number of unemployed and you DO have immense
territories of very productive land which is not being used. And you DO
have a lingering and influential land-based layer of the bourgeoisie,
etc You also have a need to produce hard currency and feed your people,
and do all these things necessary to build an infrastructure after the
Then, you still need to carry out the economic tasks of the agrarian
revolution. What it is not necessary is the "agrarian reform" to
distribute the land among the peasants since there are not peasants in
This last task was necessary in Russia, and its critical in Mexico or
Ecuador, etc to attract the support of the peasantry, not an end in
itself, since very clearly what revolutionaries should do is to
patiently and through example, show the peasantry how much more
productive and beneficial the collective exploitation and property of
the land could be. You can "jump" that "stage" in Argentina and avoid
the ideological battle altogether.
Argentina can establish a national industrial agrarian plan combined
with industrialization and socialist structures from the get go. That
will allow the revolution to feed, clothe, educate and house millions if
nothing else, if for any number of reasons this could not evolve into
the necessary means to develop the industrial base of the country. At
least such an initiative will prevent that whatever resources in the
industrial sector subsist are used to guarantee those elementary needs
of the masses, instead than for other, also essential tasks. This
"agrarian revolution" will also strike a mortal blow to one of the most
significant layers of the ruling class and thus enhance the stability of
Sure, but "real" revolutionaries cannot be distracted from their daily
obligation of leading the overthrown of the bourgeoisie to prepare such
a plan to deal with things that will be important only after power is
conquered, right? Uhmmm, many do not understand that the tasks of
overthrowing capitalism will depend not only on the refusal of the
majority of the working class and the oppressed to continue to be ruled
by the bourgeoisie at certain point, but significant layers of the
working class and the oppressed need also to understand clearly what is
going to happen the day after, before they lend their support to the
Of course, if your answer is "only socialism will resolve this or that
problem" after the revolution takes place, it seems to me that you're in
need of some "practical application of the program's" course from one
After all, that was the objective of Lenin's 8 points (were they 8 or
9?) of the immediate actions that he proposed the revolution takes
immediately after the working class seizes power in Russia. If I'm not
mistaken, the point Nr. 1 referred to the need to form a national,
centralized, state-owned bank to deal with the questions of cheap
agrarian credits and so on.
2. What about if you do not have a working class or you have one that is
tiny as it was in Nicaragua during revolutionary times (even though I do
dispute it was so small)?
The Theory of the Permanent revolution does not say anything about to
frantically search who to expropriate, just what HISTORICAL tasks are
necessary and needed to be carried out in order to move on to higher
levels of development of the revolution.
If you have a tiny working class, this does not mean that it cannot lead
the rest of the oppressed layers of society and then commence a process
of proletarianization and progressive withering away of the other
Revolutionary socialists in such countries, or in Congo or any other
similar country, have the historical task of formulating an economic
plan for development of the country to expand the numbers, influence and
structural power of the working class.
This task - reproducing and strengthening the proletariat - won't be
fulfilled by the bourgeoisie either (as the bourgeoisie won't fully
complete any of its historical democratic tasks) or, in the best case,
you'll have "maquilas" owned by imperialism in your territory. This may
mean some limited development of the productive forces under capitalism,
but will do little for the primitive accumulation necessary under a
working class government to develop a socialist society.
What reformists would say is that only a bourgeois revolution is needed
in this kind of country which will develop the proletariat and then, and
only then, will the socialists take over and fulfill their historical
task of advancing towards socialism. So much reformists actually believe
this that they will attempt to govern even with the shadow of the
bourgeoisie or, even worse, substitute themselves for the bourgeois
class. For some reason, the Somalian example comes to mind...
3. This process of reproducing the working class or in some very
peculiar and atypical cases even to create it - and the task of the
socialist primitive accumulation - were problems revolutionaries faced
in Russia (thus the experiment of the NEP to accelerate it), Cuba,
China, Nicaragua, etcetera. This process of proletarianizing society
has to be done, however, parallel and simultaneously with the
progressive withering away of all other classes of society, through a
process of economic development, otherwise revolutionaries are just
digging themselves into explosive troubles.
The resolution of these and other tasks like these, by each and every
revolution in relatively developed or economically underdeveloped
countries will determine their fate. Of course, the degree of resistance
of the international ruling class would be a critical factor for the
survival of every revolutionary process. But the alternative of not
trying in the face of the potential opposition from imperialism, is
simply the election to bypass the revolutionary process.
So far, these proved to be some of the most complex set of tasks to be
resolved. Pragmatically, for example, China is trying to resolve them
by regressing to capitalism, Cuba through different stages and
experiments in its economy, including the re-introduction of capitalism,
It will be a good idea that new generations of revolutionaries would get
these experiences and develop their understanding and a program to start
addressing these tasks BEFORE working class assume political power in
their countries. Why to insist in learning the same lessons, the hard
way, every time? Isn't the time to develop further the theory of the PR
according to the empirical evidence of some many past failures and also
add to it the necessary programmatic points?
4. Other aspect of the discussion, the one on Lenin, his support for the
"two stages" theory, his change of position (getting relatively closer
to Trotsky's PR theory with the April Theses) should be clarified as
much as possible, but I doubt it will be completely dilucidated, unless
we get access to some more elaborated records of the discussions
surrounding the issue. People should understand that Lenin faced an
overwhelming opposition on that particular question and that only by
threatening with an all out factional struggle among the ranks of the
party, did he get approval for his new proposals.
In that particular situation inside the party, it is not surprising that
he did not attempt to completely discard the old theories and simply
referred to them as outdated, too complicated, etcetera ... maybe with
the objective of not burning more bridges than necessary in a dispute in
which he was in a minority. After all, that was the method he employed
many times when he opposed some documents but he felt he did not count
with the forces necessary to defeat them (i.e.: his insistence in
amending the 1907 Resolution on Colonialism in the Stuttgart Congress,
Lenin, in confronting new problems to be resolved in the revolutionary
process took two different approaches SIMULTANEOUSLY: a scientific
approach to theory, and certain empirical approach on practical matters
of policy and work of the party, and later the government.
Lenin understood that BOTH approaches fed each other and depended from
each other. Once he realized that a past theoretical understanding
clashed with reality, he appealed to its empirical resolution trying to
resolve the contradiction in the most appropriate way for the
revolution, and in accordance with his overall Marxist principles.
He did partially support the "two stages" theory until around 1916, but
as he wrote in the discussions around his April Theses (the few that are
available), he did so with a series of algebraic formulae and
complicated qualifications that actually undermined the "two stages"
theory such as the formulations around the "democratic dictatorship of
the workers and peasants" and made it disputable in the worst case
scenario and rendered them worthless in the best.
I would refer you to a comparison between these more "Leninist" formulae
and the direct, to the point, "two stages" Kaustkyist formulae.
Kautsky, that was a man who was clear on the alleged immaturity of the
conditions for the proletariat to establish its dictatorship or "jumping
stages"! ... Because he actually opposed it all the way as he wrote in
Kautsky, as opposed to Lenin, was not a moderate empiricist kind of
politician, but a pragmatist. Since the experiences of Social democracy
at the end of the 19th century worked so well to acquire mass influence
and actually got workers a number of big concessions, why to put
obstacles such as the abolition of private property and this anxiety of
"jumping stages" on a revolutionary process if "evolutionary socialism"
was actually working fine?
Well, we all know what happened with those hopes, right? It was only a
question of quantitative accumulation of political and economic reforms
combined with a cyclical capitalist crisis, to unleash the dogs of war,
Bonapartism, fascism, etc.
5. The discussion on the question of the "Provisional" government arose
briefly in Russian's Marxist circles during the 1905 revolution, but
when revolution was defeated other matters took over as important
theoretical issues for the Marxist movement: the colonial question,
immigration, the war, the question of what kind of tool, party, what
kind of international, even the question of spontaneism came back, the
paper as scaffold of the organization, the trade union and electoral
That is what Lenin referred to when he wrote that the question of the
two stages as not being the central theoretical question until 1917.
Only in the weeks preceding the overthrown of the Czar and in the months
from February to October, the issue became a hot item again.
After all, during the February days, most of the Russian-based Bolshevik
Executive and three quarters of the CC were supporting the provisional
government "insofar they do" this or that. If you add to that that there
were only a half a dozen or so Bolsheviks in a position to theoretically
develop the party at that historic moment, you are getting the picture
of a difficult conjuncture for a theoretical discussion in the heat of
the burning practical questions of the revolutionary process.
The empirical Lenin had to deal with the theoretical aspects of a very
practical and pressing matter on which the party, officially, already
has taken the wrong approach before he arrived to St. Petersburg: what
to do with this government, new and different, that emerged after the
overthrown of the autocracy? How to do this and steer the party on a new
direction under pressure of events? The April Theses were the
resolution, in his view, of the contradiction.
I would not get too worked out about the diplomatic paragraphs and
cumbersome pages of explanations, saying that in previous formulations
of the "two stages" formulae were probably correct but "too algebraic"
proposals, etc as they probably reflect some diplomatic efforts not to
alienate those sitting on the fence during the discussion.
My time is short and I need to cut this short, sorry for these rushed
notes, but the discussion seemed very interesting. Over and out, now.
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