[Marxism] Socialist Action on Libya and Syria -- Reply to David Walters

Joseph Green jgreen at communistvoice.org
Sat Oct 22 06:22:03 MDT 2016

David Walters wrote:

> All Permanent Revolution says/advocates/predicts is that
> in order to actually *achieve* those democratic *tasks* it will take the
> complete overthrow of the existing capitalist regime and the installation by
> the working class of Workers Government. That's it.

The prediction is completely wrong. For example, many countries have become 
independent, and most of the colonial system has collapsed. And yet there 
wasn't workers' government.

National independence hasn't brought the prosperity that people expected. It 
has also  left countries subject to political and economic domination. It has 
not fulfilled the program of radical parties, nor the promises that were made 
to the masses.

But this doesn't mean that national independence doesn't exist. It means that 
national independence, like all democratic changes, doesn't end exploitation; 
doesn't eliminate capitalism, but generally vastly expands it; doesn't usher 
us into the petty-bourgeois idea of the democratic utopia; doesn't guarantee 
that the working masses will obtain a lot of democratic rights; and so on. 
Socialism, not mere democratic changes, is necessary for working-class 

But national independence changes the class alignments in a country, as 
various other democratic changes too. The situation in the former colonies is 
vastly different than what it was before; the struggles in these countries 
occur in a different social and economic context than before.  And democratic 
changes can also open the way for an expanded class struggle. These changes 
are of the utmost importance for the working class. To say that national 
independence or other democratic changes "will take the complete overthrow of 
the existing capitalist regime and the installation by the working class of 
Workers Government" means replacing a serious assessment of the social, 
economic, and political situation with empty Trotskyist dogma.

The idea that these changes can't take place until socialism is generally 
defended by replacing the idea of democratic changes as they occur in the 
world, with a glorified idea of democracy. It might be said that the 
democratic struggle cannot be "completed" until the socialist revolution. By 
this  means judging the completion of the democratic movement by whether so 
many democratic changes have occurred, rather than by the changes in the 
class alignments and social conditions. If a very backward and abortive 
change nevertheless results in breaking up the impetus for democratic change, 
then the overall movement will have to grow up on a new basis. Even though 
various of the old democratic demands are still set forward, the overall 
character of the movement will have changed.

Marxism showed from the start that democratic changes alone do not end 
exploitation; the working masses have to continue the struggle to socialism. 
But any truth can be exaggerated until it's nonsense. From the truth that 
democratic changes are limited and are not the end of exploitation, one can 
pass on to the claim that democratic changes can't even take place until 

> There are none, ZERO,
> preconditions about who or whom to support in achieving this except that to
> go "all the way", again to achieve the reason people were rebelling in the
> first place, means to break with the capitalists *politically* who may be
> part of the initial phases of the revolution and keep the working class
> independent.

And yet  one Trotskyist group after another denounced various struggles in 
the Arab Spring. If nothing can be achieved unless one goes "all the way" and 
achieve workers' government, then this does affect what to organize and which 
struggles to support.

However,  I think the statement about zero preconditions does reflect one 
aspect of "permanent revolution". It reflects the idea that I have seen 
expressed elsewhere that everything is tactical, except that the revolution 
must continue to workers' government.  I think this view has had bad 
consequences.  But that for another time. 

-- Joseph Green

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