[Marxism] Fwd: Before Lenin: Bolshevik Theory and Practice in February 1917 Revisited | Historical Materialism

Joseph Green jgreen at communistvoice.org
Thu Mar 2 01:08:33 MST 2017

Proyect wrote:
> Joseph Green via Marxism wrote:
> > So what does history show? The theory of permanent revolution was
>> completely bankrupt with respect to the Arab Spring.
> [Proyect replied} To some extent, the Khiyana article that makes this point
>reflected the  influence of Sam Hamad who viewed any opposition to the Morsi
> government as coinciding with the al-Sisi.

Bull. An-Nar did not oppose agitation against the Morsi government, but 
called for a more intelligent form of it than backing the military coup.  

Moreover, the point isn't what Sam Hamad thinks, nor is it the many other 
debates among activists. The point is that in his article on the "democratic 
wager", an-Nar raised serious points of theory against permanent revolution. 
These should be dealt with.

The theory of permanent revolution sees only two alternatives: a struggle 
that becomes a socialist revolution led by the working class, or the 
bitterest counterrevolution. But how can one support the Syrian uprising or 
the Egyptian ovement with this perspective when, even if they are successful, 

it is not going to lead to workers power? There is a long path between these 
struggles and the eventual socialist revolution. 

An-Nar raises another alternative: what he calls the "democratic wager".  He 
points to the limited viewpoint of the working masses as well as the splits 
among them. A serious theoretical study would have to address this directly.

I don't agree with all of the views and formulations in An-Nar's article. But 

he emphasized looking at the actual situation among the masses. This was in 
contrast to the revolutionary phrasemongering of permanent revolution.

> If being a supporter of the "democratic revolution" means functioning as
> an ideological handmaiden to the Muslim Brotherhood, I'll stick with
> "permanent revolution" ...

More bull. Basically this amounts to saying that anyone who recognizes the 
split among the working masses and seeks way to overcome it is an apologist 
for the Muslim Brotherhood.  An-Nar searches for ways to deal with the 
political split among the masses, and this includes dealing with the  
"disenfranchised mass social base" of the Muslim Brotherhood. This is not 
easy, and mistakes will be made as one seeks for how to do this. But it is a 
path that the is needed for increasing the strength of the working class 

The type of super-revolutionary thinking that overlooks the trends of thought 

manifested among the working masses is part of what led the Revolutionary 
Socialists (RS) of Egypt to overlook the need for a protracted mass struggle 
rather than an immediate coup. At one time, the RS had dealt more seriously 
with the divisions among the people. But for a time they were euphoric over 
the masses in the street against Morsi, and didn't stop to think that the 
divisions among the workers were still there.

During the Morsi presidency, the mass struggle had started to bloom. There 
were many strikes and protests. Moreover, this included such things as 
Muslims coming out to defend Coptic churches. The longer these struggles 
continued, the more possibilities existed to make progress in uniting the 
working masses. The struggle under the Morsi regime was difficult, dangerous, 

and required sacrifice, but it was possible and it had the possibility of 
leading to progress.

An-Nar refers to "an alternative political space the revolutionary left could 

have occupied". I presume that he is referring to the squabbles and splits 
among the non-proletarian forces creating an opening for the working class 
movement. Under Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, the military, the judiciary, 
the Mubarak loyalists, and the liberals were divided among themselves. So 
they couldn't come to agreement against the masses. This was the class 
situation that created a certain "political space", but one which required 
determination, courage, and some political clarity to occupy. The coup would 
remove this space by uniting most of the hostile forces except the Islamists.

But it was not just the hostile class forces that were divided. So were the 
working masses, and this too had to be kept in consideration. The large 
demonstrations against Morsi didn't mean that the splits among the masses had 

been overcome, nor did it mean that strong organization had spread widely 
among them. To have faith that the working masses could gradually unite 
against the hostile political trends is presumably part of what an-Nar means 
by the democratic wager. To believe that the military coup could shortcut 
this process was a profound mistake.

The RS leaflets of the time illustrated how far RS, which had paid closer 
attention to the working class moods at one time, had ignored it in the runup 

to the military coup. At that time, I read those of their leaflets that were 
available in English. They reasoned, not from the actual state of the 
workers' movement, but from what the true Egyptian  revolution would be. The 
RS allowed itself to get carried away by revolutionary dreams. True, after 
the military coup began its mass repression, the RS opposed it.  But for 
awhile the RS wouldn't even express any sympathy for Islamic working people 
who were also being repressed. I don't know how their leaflets dealt with 
this later, but I recall being shocked by the callousness of a couple of 
their statements at that time.

>  I deal with some of these questions in  a review of Gilbert Achcar's latest:
> https://louisproyect.org/2016/08/03/morbid-symptoms/

I think that it would have been useful to spend more time directly on what 
an-Nar advocates, before going on to someone else.  At the very least, it 
would be important to say something about an-Nar's concept of the "democratic 

wager". How can one reply seriously to an-Nar without dealing with that? 

Still, a critique of Achcar's views is a significant topic. I haven't yet 
read Achcar's latest, but I did look at your article. Some of your points 
seem similar to those made by an-Nar, but expressed in a much harder to 
comprehend language, but some are different.

For example, it seems to me that you stay away from an-Nar's attempt to focus 

attention on the current political standpoint of the masses and the splits 
within the Egyptian workers movement. You write with enthusiasm about various 

inspiring struggles by the Egyptian workers, but don't look beyond that. You 
write that:

> [Egyptian workers] clashed with the government repeatedly in 2013,
> emboldened by the spirit of defiance that had arisen ever since the
> occupation of Tahrir Square. That year there were nearly as many working
> class protests as in the decade that concluded in 2010. This was something
> the Muslim Brotherhood would not tolerate. In April 2013, the army
> was used to suppress a strike of 70,000 railroad workers-
>evidence that the military and the Islamists shared class interests.

The development of workers struggle in Egypt was inspiring and important. But 

it didn't nean that Egypt was on the verge of proletarian revolution. You 
don't go into the splits among the working masses, and don't assess how the 
Muslim Brotherhood's opposition to the strikes affected the sentiment among 
them. Instead you sigh for the days 

>when someone like Ernest Mandel could have spoken to large audiences 
>in Syria or Lebanon and sowed the seeds of a revolutionary organization
> capable of carrying out the United Front alluded to above. In the absence
> of such a movement and even those with far more imperfect programs, a 
>vacuum came into existence that the Islamists were all too eager to fill

The theory of permanent revolution leads to the view that revolutionry 
leadership is all that is necessary. But the split among the working masses 
isn't simply because not enough silver-tongued orators are there. That would 
be an incredibly voluntarist view. An-Nar, instead, points to the need to 
reevaluate the nature of present-day mass struggles - what can be expected of 

them, and how revolutionary socialist should really work among them.<>

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