[Marxism] [UCE] Theory of permanent revolution and Syria

John Reimann 1999wildcat at gmail.com
Thu Apr 26 11:25:03 MDT 2018


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*Oaklandsocialist has had a series of articles and pamphlets on the
revolution and the counter-revolution in Syria. Part of what’s needed is a
general theoretical understanding of what happened with the Arab Spring and
the Syrian revolution. Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent, or
uninterrupted, revolution explains why capitalism can never accomplish in
the underdeveloped world what it accomplished in the advanced capitalist
countries. How does that apply to Syria? Capitalism has meant crisis and
disaster without end in the former colonial world. Wars, mass slaughter,
repression, poverty have all been the order of the day. Why has this been
so? The theory of permanent revolution helps explain this.*

*What follows is based in a presentation made to a small group of
socialists in Oakland. That presentation was recorded and can be heard

*We should start by commenting that theory is not some principles derived
by contemplating one’s navel. It is just distilled history, so it’s history
we have to look to. The history of Syria exemplifies Trotsky’s theory.*

*The capitalist revolution*In Western Europe, the capitalist class
originally played a most revolutionary role. They united the different
little feudal fiefdoms into large land masses – the nation states. By doing
this, they created large markets needed for the capitalists to develop the
factories. They overthrew the feudal landlord aristocracy and redistributed
the land to the peasants. In order to be able to develop science and
technology they limited the superstitious beliefs (religion) that had
dominated feudal society and, as a concession to the masses, they
established some limited democratic norms.

But in the colonial world it was different. Capitalism was imposed from the
outside – by the colonial invaders. These colonial powers built a base in
their colonies from the old landlord classes that were already in
existence. Where such a class didn’t exist, they colonialists created it.
Then, some of this landlord class developed into a capitalist class, but
their ties to the landlord class remained. Because they were tied to both
the imperialists and to the old landlord class, they were unable to play
the role that had been played in the already developed capitalist world.
And because the working class already had its own traditions on a world
scale, they lived in perpetual dread of that class.

*The peasantry*As for the small farmers – the peasants – they were
scattered and also their overriding goal was to get their own land. While
they could play a revolutionary role, they could not *lead* a revolution
against imperialism and for a modern, capitalist democracy.

*The working class*That task falls to the “proletariat”, the working class.
But once started down that road, having seized power, they cannot stop half
way. If they do, then the capitalist class will intervene and crush them.
They must continue all the way and overthrow capitalism without
interruption. Thus the theory of “uninterrupted” or permanent revolution.

But there is another necessary step: Capitalism is a world system. It
cannot exist in just one country. Neither can socialism. A socialist
revolution can start in one country, but it must spread.

Syria is a case in point.

*Ottoman Empire*In the 19th century, what is now Syria was dominated by the
Ottoman Empire. In the late 1800s, that empire instituted a land reform
that was called Tanzimat. They transferred the land from the state to
private landlords. They did this to create a landlord class that, they
hoped, would serve as a bulwark against the capitalist revolutions that had
swept Europe. So we see already under Ottoman domination the reactionary
role of imperialism.
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