Permanent revolution

Philip Ferguson PLF13 at
Thu Jul 10 20:39:30 MDT 2003

Walter Lippmann wrote:

> Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution, as I said in
> the last episode, was better as a description of the
> logic of a process, but wrong as s PRESCRIPTION
> or as a program for what should be done. It was due
> to the SWP's acceptance of the theory of permanent
> revolution as a program, as a PRESCRIPTION of
> what should be done, that they took their position in
> opposition to the Cuban leadership of Fidel Castro.

I too find it strange how Trotskyists talk about "the programme of
permanent revolution".

Last week the leader of a NZ Trotskyist group - an odd outfit that
declares itself to be in "military blocs" all over the world - posted on
the antiwar/anticap list here (in NZ) that their current, which has no
members in Iraq, was taking the programme of permanent revolution to the
Iraqi working class.

I responded that PR was a theory not a programme, but he was unfazed.

I think that as a description of the subordination of Third World
countries and a structural explanation of why bourgeois-democratic
revolutions are nigh on impossible there, PR is extremely useful. And it
is massively impressive that Trotsky developed it so early on.  But PR
doesn't actually provide a 'programme' for how to advance from there.

Indeed, it's a rather sad comment on those who followed after Trotsky
that they have such a bizarre idea of what a programme is and fail to
understand that programmes come out of the interplay of theory, active
involvement with the masses and the concrete conditions in each
particular country.  A lot of Trotskyists seem to think that programmes
are ready-made, written on stone tablets by the Old Man and handed on,
through some bizarre process of 'communist continuity', to anointed ones.

Helps explain, however, why no post-Trotsky Trotskyists have ever come
anywhere near posing a serious threat to capitalism, let alone taking
power, while several movements unblessed by the rites of Trotskyist
succession did.

Philip Ferguson

More information about the Marxism mailing list