[Marxism] Re: treacherous and bourgeois regime

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Jan 30 13:12:11 MST 2006

On Monday, Jan 30, Lueko Willms submitted:
On Sun, 29 Jan 2006 08:22:15 -0500, Joaquín Bustelo wrote:

> This goes back to a question I've asked repeatedly on this list of 
> I consider ultraleft on this issue, which is, if some Bolshevik
> committee had somehow wound up in charge after the February 
> would that have transformed the February Revolution into the October
> Revolution? Was the Kerensky period a historical accident, or was it a
> *necessary* part of the process (albeit not necessarily in that 

   I don't think that it was a necessary phase, but one has to cope with

the fact that history does not advance according to a previously 
outlined blueprint, but that the only constant element is the big 

Fred comments:
In his history of the Russian revolution, Trotsky clearly indicated that
what was NOT inevitable about the February revolution was the Menshevik-
SR-Cadet leadership of the government that emerged from it.
If they had been strong enough and the masses more prepared and
experienced, the Bolsheviks could have led it, presumably in alliance
with the left of other parties. I recall that Trotsky speculated that
the upsurge of 1912-1914, which was cut off by the opening of the war,
might have seen the Bolsheviks arising to power at an earlier stage of
the process.

But that would not have made the anti-Czarist, anti-landlord, democratic
thrust into a directly socialist, proletarian-dictatorship thrust.  The
result would have been more like what Lenin advocated in 1905 -- the
revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.
The most important difference between Lenin and the Mensheviks on the
right and Trotsky that year was over whether the Bolsheviks should take
power in and lead the democratic revolution in alliance with the
peasantry.  The Mensheviks were against it, and Trotsky was for it only
if the workers party was guaranteed a majority in the new government --
an administrative precondition.
The big difference in the socialist movement was not over whether the
socialist revolution was on the agenda in 1905 -- Trotsky had a very
valuable insight on the socialist potentialities, while Lenin was much
more cautious about how things would proceed, but at the time Trotsky's
estimate had a speculative character and could not have formed the basis
of a sharp division, despite his attempts retrospectively to see things
otherwise in Three Concepts of the Russian Revolution. 
The difference was over whether the workers party should fight to take
power in the bourgeois-democratic revolution in alliance with the
peasantry, which, itwas assumed, would have mass parties of its own.
Coalition governments and many of the political battles with the other
parties that helped lead to the October victory would still have had to
be fought and won.  Despite Trotsky's insight about how the character of
the revolution would evolve, he was more hesitant about the workers'
party fighting for government power in the bourgeois-democratic
Lenin said yes, and his current alone unconditionally advocated a
working class party fighting for power in these circumstances.
The Mensheviks said no.  Trotsky, on this as on many other questions
then and later (the national question, breaking with the Second
International, breaking decisively with the Mensheviks, and so on) had a
kind of left in-between position.  He said the workers party could join
peasant parties in a coalition only if the workers party was guaranteed
a "compact majority" in the government.  Since no one could guarantee
that the parties organizing tens of millions of peasants would accept
this condition under circumstances where the peasantry was rising, this
amounted to a conditional rejection of Lenin's readiness to grasp right
then and there what Joseph Hansen, in his writings on the workers and
farmers governments, later called the "key link" of political power.
In "Three Concepts of the Russian Revolution," Trotsky portrays Lenin as
standing between himself and the Mensheviks (that is, as the "center")
on what he now saw as the key question of the ultimately socialist
character of the revolution.  BUT THIS COULD NOT HAVE BEEN AND WAS NOT

The key question was whether the workers vanguard should aim for
political power in the revolution that all (including, in fact, Trotsky
despite subsequent distortions of his views) agreed was the
bourgeois-democratic revolution.  In Lenin's view Trotsky stood between
the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks (that is, in the center) on this
question.  I think Lenin's estimate was correct.
Of course, I write as someone who learned through experience (Vietnam
was a big turning point for me) to reject Trotsky's special theory of
permanent revolution insofar as it differed from Lenin's strategic
If the worker -peasant alliance Lenin advocated had been established
earlier, it was not necessary for the revolution to be led by forces who
accepted the imperialist war and the leadership of the class interests
of the bourgeoisie.  The revolutionary-democratic dictatorship, which
Lenin said was established in a half-way, paralyzed form led by traitors
in February, would have been established and led in a revolutionary way.
The peasant war for land would not have been put off.  The soldiers
would have been granted the demand for peace. And the transition to a
socialist revolution might not have required a new insurrection, etc.
But I don't  think that the Bolsheviks could have transformed February
from an anti-Czarist, bourgeois-democratic moment into the direct
opening of a socialist transformation.  A February revolution was not
inevitable, but not "Kerenskyism" etc.
What Morales seems to me to have represented in the Bolivian process was
the current determinedly fighting to place a government based on the
mass movement in power, and to continue the revolutionary process from
the  vantage point of this summit of political power. I believe this was
his consistent aim even in the dealings with Mesa, etc.-- whetheer or
not his specific tactics were always correct.  With the driving force of
the masses as the decisive factor, he has now achieved this goal, and so
far he is acting in accord with it. Like Castro and Chavez, he seems to
have represented the most conscious current trying to place the
revolutionary process in power, although his tactics were as different
from Chavez's as Chavez's were from Fidel.
I can't see why we cannot be firmly supportive of THIS development and
of taking it forward.  Success is not guaranteed, to put it mildly, but
failure will hardly prove that the effort was a mistake.  Passive
won't-be-fooled-again skepticism and organic disappointment in the
spirit of Petras, etc., is less than worthless in politics.  So-called
cheerleading from the sidelines may not be of profound value in this,
but I hardly see that booing from the sidelines constitutes a profouind
contribution or front-page endorsements of "skepticism" about whether
Morales can accomplish his goals (latest issue of International
Viewpoint) constitute a profound contribution by comparison.
Fred Feldman

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