[Marxism] Lenin, Trotsky and Permanent Revolution (was Bolivia Discussion)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jan 11 07:27:12 MST 2006

Michael Karadjis wrote:
>Later Louis posts an excerpt from Lenin's 'Two Tactics' which includes a
>number of formulations that are confusing and not very well put. I think
>you need to read the entirety of what Lenin wrote in 'Two Tactics' and
>throughout the revolutionary upsurge in 1905-6, and put this excerpt
>together with all the rest he wrote: that there would be no 'Chinese
>wall' between the democratic and socialist revolutions, that they would
>be connected by "a series of intermediary stages of revolutionary
>development", ie, not a formal stable bourgeois "stage" as in
>Menshevik-Stalinist theory, that the Bolsheviks stand for "uninterrupted
>revolution", that the more complete the completion of
>bourgeois-democratic tasks, the more rapidly the revolution can pass
>over into its second, socialist, phase. Put some of the less well
>formulated pieces from that particular part of Two Tactics together with
>Richard Fidler's post from Lenin in 1921 re the kinds of democratic
>tasks that the Bolshevik revolution completed very rapidly in 1917-18
>and we get a good idea of what Lenin was talking about.

A lot would change between 1905 and 1921. 16 years is a long time and would 
include political growth on Lenin's part.

But in 1905, there was nothing confusing about what Lenin was writing. In 
calling for a bourgeois revolution, he was simply following Marxist 
orthodoxy. If you read Neil Harding's "Lenin's Political Thought," a book 
that certainly deserved the Deutscher prize unlike some others, you'll 
discover the extent to which Lenin took his cues from Kautsky. Kautsky was 
considered the preeminent Marxist theorist of the early 20th century, 
before his defection to the counter-revolution. Kautsky believed that it 
was necessary for a society to achieve full-blown capitalist property 
relations before socialism could be built. This kind of "stagism" was 
actually a misreading of some of the things that Engels had written, 
especially in "Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State" but 
was not that inconsistent with ideas found in the Communist Manifesto and 
elsewhere. Kautsky, Lenin and others saw socialist revolution on the agenda 
in industrialized Germany, Great Britain and France. But for semifeudal 
Russia, it was necessary to create the bourgeois-democratic foundations for 
future socialist bids for power.

This is clearest in Lenin's 1899 "Development of Capitalism in Russia" 
which is simultaneously a study of agrarian class relations and an extended 
polemic against the Narodniks. If you look at the chapter "The "Mission" of 

you will be struck by Lenin's insistence that capitalism was a stage that 
Russia would be forced to undergo for a historical period. For instance:

"The socialisation of labour by capitalism is manifested in the following 
processes. Firstly, the very growth of commodity-production destroys the 
scattered condition of small economic units that is characteristic of 
natural economy and draws together the small local markets into an enormous 
national (and then world) market. Production for oneself is transformed 
into production for the whole of society; and the greater the development 
of capitalism, the stronger becomes the contradiction between this 
collective character of production and the individual character of 
appropriation. Secondly, capitalism replaces the former scattered 
production by an unprecedented concentration both in agriculture and in 
industry. That is the most striking and outstanding, but not the only, 
manifestation of the feature of capitalism under review. Thirdly, 
capitalism eliminates the forms of personal dependence that constituted an 
inalienable component of preceding systems of economy."

It is extremely doubtful that Russia went through this process between 
February and October 1917.



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