Forwarded from Anthony (permanent rev)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Apr 30 16:57:16 MDT 2002

Regarding the permanent revolution:

Lou's problem with the 'Trotskyist view' of the permanent revolution,
seems to me to be with his own misunderstanding of Trotsky, and
Trotskyism. Lou wrote, ( Subject: Re: Comment for Richard Fiddler
From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 13:24:15

"Basically, we are offered a tautology by our Trotskyist comrades
with their "theory" of Permanent Revolution. It states that unless a
revolution is socialist, it cannot succeed. This is tantamount to
saying that unless the sun comes up, it will remain dark outside. Or
that unless a cancer patient is treated successfully, he will die. It
adds nothing to Marxism to offer such simplistic advice."

Lou rewrites Trotsky so that he can shoot down an idea Trotsky never
proposed. Here is how Trotsky summarised his own theory in chapter 10
of the Permanent Revolution. Those of you who take the time to read,
or reread, this chapter (if their personal lives and rereadings of
Burt Cochran allow time {just kidding, geez Lou}) should take note
that it was written in 1931 at a time when Trotsky and his
co-thinkers still considered themselves to be part of the Communist

Leon Trotsky's Permanent Revolution & Results and Prospects



I hope that the reader will not object if, to end this book, I
attempt, without fear of repetition, to formulate succinctly my
principal conclusions.

1. The theory of the permanent revolution now demands the greatest
attention from every Marxist, for the course of the class and
ideological struggle has fully and finally raised this question from
the realm of reminiscences over old differences of opinion among
Russian Marxists, and converted it into a question of the character,
the inner connexions and methods of the international revolution in

2. With regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development,
especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of
the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine
solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national
emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the
proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its
peasant masses.

3. Not only the agrarian, but also the national question assigns to
the peasantry-the overwhelming majority of the population in backward
countries-an exceptional place in the democratic revolution. Without
an alliance of the proletariat with the peasantry the tasks of the
democratic revolution cannot be solved, nor even seriously posed. But
the alliance of these two classes can be realized in no other way
than through an irreconcilable struggle against the influence of the
national-liberal bourgeoisie.

4. No matter what the first episodic stages of the revolution may be
in the individual countries, the realization of the revolutionary
alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is conceivable
only under the political leadership of the proletariat vanguard,
organized in the Communist Party. This in turn means that the victory
of the democratic revolution is conceivable only through the
dictatorship of the proletariat which bases itself upon the alliance
with the peasantry and solves first of all the tasks of the
democratic revolution.

5. Assessed historically, the old slogan of Bolshevism-'the
democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry'-expressed
precisely the above-characterized relationship of the proletariat,
the peasantry and the liberal bourgeoisie. This has been confirmed by
the experience of October. But Lenin's old formula did not settle in
advance the problem of what the reciprocal relations would be between
the proletariat and the peasantry within the revolutionary bloc. In
other words, the formula deliberately retained a certain algebraic
quality, which had to make way for more precise arithmetical
quantities in the process of historical experience. However, the
latter showed, and under circumstances that exclude any kind of
misinterpretation, that no matter how great the revolutionary role of
the peasantry may be, it nevertheless cannot be an independent role
and even less a leading one. The peasant follows either the worker or
the bourgeois. This means that the 'democratic dictatorship of the
proletariat and peasantry' is only conceivable as a dictatorship of
the proletariat that leads the peasant masses behind it.

6. A democratic dictatorship of the prolelariat and peasantry, as a
regime that is distinguished from the dictatorship of the proletariat
by its class content, might be realized only in a case where an
independent revolutionary party could be constituted, expressing the
interests of the peasants and in general of petty bourgeois
democracy-a party capable of conquering power with this or that
degree of aid from the proletariat, and of determining its
revolutionary programme. As all modern history attests-especially the
Russian experience of the last twenty-five years-an insurmountable
obstacle on the road to the creation of a peasants' party is the
petty-bourgeoisie's lack of economic and political independence and
its deep internal differentiation. By reason of this the upper
sections of the petty-bourgeoisie (of the peasantry) go along with
the big bourgeoisie in all decisive cases, especially in war and in
revolution; the lower sections go along with the proletariat; the
intermediate section being thus compelled to choose between the two
extreme poles. Between Kerenskyism and the Bolshevik power, between
the Kuomintang and the dictatorship of the proletariat, there is not
and cannot be any intermediate stage, that is, no democratic
dictatorship of the workers and peasants.

7. The Comintern' s endeavour to foist upon the Eastern countries the
slogan of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and
peasantry, finally and long ago exhausted by history, can have only a
reactionary effect. lnsofar as this slogan is counterposed to the
slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat, it contributes
politically to the dissolution of the proletariat in the
petty-bourgeois masses and thus creates the most favourable
conditions for the hegemony of the national bourgeoisie and
consequently for the collapse of the democratic revolution. The
introduction of the slogan into the programme of the Comintern is a
direct betrayal of Marxism and of the October tradition of

8. The dictatorship of the proletariat which has risen to power as
the leader of the democratic revolution is inevitably and, very
quickly confronted with tasks, the fulfillment of which is bound up
with deep inroads into the rights of bourgeois property. The
democratic revolution grows over directly into the socialist
revolution and thereby becomes a permanent revolution.

9. The conquest of power by the proletariat does not complete the
revolution, but only opens it. Socialist construction is conceivable
only on the foundation of the class struggle, on a national and
international scale. This struggle, under the conditions of an
overwhelming predominance of capitalist relationships on the world
arena, must inevitably lead to explosions, that is, internally to
civil wars and externally to revolutionary wars. Therein lies the
permanent character of the socialist revolution as such, regardless
of whether it is a backward country that is involved, which only
yesterday accomplished its democratic revolution, or an old
capitalist country which already has behind it a long epoch of
democracy and parliamentarism.

10. The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits
is unthinkable. One of the basic reasons for the crisis in bourgeois
society is the fact that the productive forces created by it can no
longer be reconciled with the framework of the national state. From
this follows on the one hand, imperialist wars, on the other, the
utopia of a bourgeois United States of Europe. The socialist
revolution begins on the national arena, it unfolds on the
international arena, and is completed on the world arena. Thus, the
socialist revolution becomes a permanent revolution in a newer and
broader sense of the word; it attains completion, only in the final
victory of the new society on our entire planet.

11. The above-outlined sketch of the development of the world
revolution eliminates the question of countries that are 'mature' or
'immature' for socialism in the spirit of that pedantic, lifeless
classification given by the present programme of the Comintem.
Insofar as capitalism has created a world market, a world division of
labour and world productive forces, it has also prepared world
economy as a whole for socialist transformation.

Different countries will go through this process at different tempos.
Backward countries may, under certain conditions, arrive at the
dictatorship of the proletariat sooner than advanced countries, but
they will come later than the latter to socialism.

A backward colonial or semi-colonial country, the proletariat of
which is insufficiently prepared to unite the peasantry and take
power, is thereby incapable of bringing the democratic revolution to
its conclusion. Contrariwise, in a country where the proletariat has
power in its hands as the result of the democratic revolution, the
subsequent fate of the dictatorship and socialism depends in the last
analysis not only and not so much upon the national productive forces
as upon the development of the international socialist revolution.

12. The theory of socialism in one country, which rose on the yeast
of the reaction against October, is the only theory that consistently
and to the very end opposes the theory of the permanent revolution.

The attempt of the epigones, under the lash of our criticism, to
confine the application of the theory of socialism in one country
exclusively to Russia, because of its specific characteristics (its
vastness and its natural resources), does not improve matters but
only makes them worse. The break with the internationalist position
always and invariably leads to national messianism, that is, to
attributing special superiorities and qualities to one's own country,
which allegedly permit it to play a role to which other countries
cannot attain.

The world division of labour, the dependence of Soviet industry upon
foreign technology, the dependence of the productive forces of the
advanced countries of Europe upon Asiatic raw materials, etc., etc.,
make the construction of an independent socialist society in any
single country in the world impossible.

13. The theory of Stalin and Bukharin, running counter to the entire
experience of the Russian revolution, not only sets up the democratic
revolution mechanically in contrast to the socialist revolution, but
also makes a breach between the national revolution and the
international revolution.

This theory imposes upon revolutions in backward countries the task
of establishing an unrealizable regime of democratic dictatorship,
which it counterposes to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thereby
this theory introduces illusions and fictions into politics,
paralyses the struggle for power of the proletariat in the East, and
hampers the victory of the colonial revolution.

The very seizure of power by the proletariat signifies, from the
standpoint of the epigones' theory, the completion of the revolution
('to the extent of nine-tenths', according to Stalin's formula) and
the opening of the epoch of national reforms. The theory of the kulak
growing into socialism and the theory of the 'neutralization' of the
world bourgeoisie are consequently inseparable from the theory of
socialism in one country. They stand or fall together.

By the theory of national socialism, the Communist International is
down-graded to an auxiliary weapon useful only for the struggle
against military intervention. The present policy of the Comintern,
its regime and the selection of its leading personnel correspond
entirely to the demotion of the Communist lnternational to the role
of an auxiliary unit which is not destined to solve independent

14. The programme of the Comintern created by Bukharin is eclectic
through and through. It makes the hopeless attempt to reconcile the
theory of socialism in one country with Marxist internationalism,
which is, however, inseparable from the permanent character of the
world revolution. The struggle of the Communist Left Opposition for a
correct policy and a healthy regime in the Communist lnternational is
inseparably bound up with the struggle for the Marxist programme. The
question of the programme is in turn inseparable from the question of
the two mutually exclusive theories: the theory of permanent
revolution and the theory of socialism in one country. The problem of
the permanent revolution has long ago outgrown the episodic
differences of opinion between Lenin and Trotsky, which were
completely exhausted by history. The struggle is between the basic
ideas of Marx and Lenin on the one side and the eclecticism of the
centrists on the other.

All the best, Anthony

Louis Proyect, lnp3 at on 04/30/2002

Marxism list:

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list