[Marxism] Nicaraguan Contradictions

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Sep 5 09:31:43 MDT 2018

On 9/5/18 11:23 AM, John Reimann via Marxism wrote:
> How has the colonial revolution degenerated so much? Isn't what we're
> seeing visible proof of the theory of permanent revolution? After all, the
> leadership of none of these revolutions linked the colonial revolution with
> the overthrow of capitalism itself.

Permanent revolution? Nicaragua?

Trotsky's theory is a product of his study of the Russian 
class-struggle. He did not develop it as a general methodology for 
accomplishing bourgeois-democratic tasks in a semi-colonial or dependent 
country. He was instead seeking to address the needs of the 
class-struggle in Russia. In this respect, he was identical to Lenin. 
They were both revolutionaries who sought to establish socialism in 
Russia as rapidly as possible. Their difference centered on how closely 
connected socialist and bourgeois- democratic tasks would be at the 
outset. Lenin tended to approach things more from Plekhanov's "stagist" 
perspective, while Trotsky had a concept more similar to the one 
outlined by Marx and Engels in their comments on the German revolution.

Trotsky sharpened his insights as a participant and leader of the 
uprising of 1905, which in many ways was a dress-rehearsal for the 1917 
revolution. He wrote "Results and Prospects" to draw the lessons of 
1905. Virtually alone among leading Russian socialists, he rejected the 
idea that workers holding state power would protect private property:

"The political domination of the proletariat is incompatible with its 
economic enslavement. No matter under what political flag the 
proletariat has come to power, it is obliged to take the path of 
socialist policy. It would be the greatest utopianism to think that the 
proletariat, having been raised to political domination by the internal 
mechanism of a bourgeois revolution, can, even if it so desires, limit 
its mission to the creation of republican-democratic conditions for the 
social domination of the bourgeoisie."

Does not this accurately describe the events following the Bolshevik 
revolution in October, 1917? The workers took the socialist path almost 
immediately. If this alone defined the shape of revolutions to come, 
then Trotsky would appear as a prophet of the first magnitude.

Before leaping to this conclusion, we should consider Trotsky's entire 
argument. Not only would the workers adopt socialist policies once in 
power, their ability to maintain these policies depended on the 
class-struggle outside of Russia, not within it. He is emphatic:

"But how far can the socialist policy of the working class be applied in 
the economic conditions of Russia? We can say one thing with 
certainty--that it will come up against obstacles much sooner than it 
will stumble over the technical backwardness of the country. Without the 
direct State support of the European proletariat the working class of 
Russia cannot remain in power and convert its temporary domination into 
a lasting socialistic dictatorship."

While there is disagreement between Lenin and Trotsky on the exact 
character of the Russian revolution, there is none over the grim 
prospects for socialism in an isolated Russia. We must keep this 
uppermost in our mind when we consider the case of Nicaragua. 
Well-meaning Trotskyist comrades who castigate the Sandinistas for not 
carrying out permanent revolution should remind themselves of the full 
dimensions of Trotsky's theory. According to this theory, Russia was a 
beachhead for future socialist advances. If these advances did not 
occur, Russia would perish. Was Nicaragua a beachhead also? If socialism 
could not survive in a vast nation as Russia endowed with immense 
resources, what were Nicaragua's prospects, a nation smaller than 
Brooklyn, New York?

Our Trotskyist comrades are very picky and choosy. If a revolution is 
not up to their exacting standards, they will give it thumbs down. While 
they are unanimously in support of the Russian revolution, there is 
divided opinion over the Cuban revolution. Cuba tends to get some thumbs 
up and some thumbs down.

Let us consider Russia first within the paradigm of permanent 
revolution. In a very real sense, the collapse of the Soviet Union and 
its allied Eastern European states is a very real negative confirmation 
of the theory of permanent revolution. Let us leave aside the question 
of whether or not an alternative course was possible. Trotsky's best, if 
often misguided, efforts, failed to lead to revolutionary victories in 
China, Spain, France, Germany or elsewhere. The isolation of the Soviet 
Union led to horrible economic and social distortions that eventually 
led to the regime's collapse.


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