The examples on which they tended to draw later in their careers were from the feudal period Marx ; Engels to Schmidt — They do not seem to have specifically considered that capitalism might also develop in this way. The second is a single passage in a review of Frederick List written during List had argued that Germany should seek to follow the same path of economic development as England List Marx, on the other hand, rejected the idea that every nation had to repeat the same experience and argues instead that it might be possible for nations to draw on what other nations had accomplished in the specific areas where they were most advanced Marx — a By the time of the foundation of the Second International in , those developments had begun to unfold.
The nation in which this position was articulated and upheld more rigorously than any other was, appropriately enough, Russia, in whose future Marx and Engels had briefly glimpsed a possible alternative, before dismissing it. The key figure on the Russian Marxist left was Georgi Plekhanov. Given the opposition which Plekhanov showed for the Russian Revolution towards the end of his life, it is important not to read back later positions onto those of an earlier period, for Plekhanov was perhaps the most sophisticated thinker of his entire generational cohort. His recognition of the necessity for capitalism in Russia was accompanied by an insistence that the working class which it was bringing into being had to struggle against the new bourgeoisie as hard as it did against the feudal—absolutist state against which both classes were ostensibly opposed.
But this element of his thought was quickly submerged by the need to emphasise the necessity of capitalist development against the Populists. The ultimate outcome of the revolution in Russia, given the preponderance of land-hungry peasantry, could only be the more extensive implantation of capitalist economy in the countryside, not the agrarian communism predicted by the Populists Plekhanov b—6. If this was true for Russia, then it was even more so for those states, like China, which were further east in geographical terms and further behind in developmental terms:.
The West European revolution will be mighty, but not almighty. Plekhanov b—8. This is a more pessimistic perspective conclusion than that of Engels. It is important to note that, for Plekhanov at least, this was not a racist or paternalist discourse. It does not exist at all when that similarity is near to zero. Plekhanov c, The debate on colonial policy that took place at the Stuttgart Conference of the Second International in raised some of these issues in stark relief.
In the end an anti- imperialist position was adopted by the conference, but opposition to von Kol and his supporters, while stressing that Marx did not propose a universal linear path of development, had little positive to say in respect of how the colonial world could contribute to the struggle for socialism.
Marchlewski argued on relativist grounds that non- Western societies also possessed important cultures; Kautsky argued that free trade would allow development to take place; but these positions either celebrated the culture of a pre-colonial past or saw. What of the present? The previous year, Kautsky had identified the disproportionately advanced role which Russian workers were playing in the revolution of , despite the paradoxical backwardness of Russian capital Kautsky But here, as in the work of Marx and Engels — and his contemporaries like Luxemburg and Mehering — Russia is seen as an exception in Europe, not a model for Asia or Africa.
No-one, however, had drawn the connection between them. The problem lay in the conception of unevenness which emerged from the centre and left of the Second International. This was, to begin with, a major achievement which Lenin was mainly responsible for consolidating into a unified theory. The first is inter-imperialist rivalry, the way in which the relative position of the dominant national capitals changed within the overall ordering of the system, as Germany had overtaken Britain and Japan overtaken Russia.
Lenin is thinking of states like Argentina and Portugal in the latter category Lenin , —8, —4. What is of interest here is the process by which the few states which achieved Great Power status in the nineteenth century had done so, for it suggests a third aspect of unevenness. Ironically, it. But for Herzen and contemporaries like Chernychevsky this meant that Russia could avoid the traumas of the capitalist transition completely. It was only in the early years of the twentieth century that the insight was properly theorised in a more realistic basis.
The insight was not restricted to Marxists. In the radical American economist Thorstein Veblen claimed — with some exaggeration — that in both economic and political terms Germany in had been years behind England. By the time of the First World War Germany had overcome this lag, but only in some respects.
By the First World War then, a group of politically diverse thinkers had arrived at broadly similar conclusions about how capitalism had developed since the first epoch of bourgeois revolutions from above had ended in Specifically, they recognised that there were advantages in starting from a relatively backward position. It was possible to begin industrialisation with the most advanced forms of technology and industrial organisation, rather than work through all the stages of development that their predecessors had experienced. Indeed, it was impossible for them to avoid doing so if they wished to enter the competitive struggle between national capitals with any hope of success.
In Results and Prospects Trotsky. Where he went beyond Kautsky — and indeed everyone else who took this position — was in suggesting that the Russian Revolution could lead, not only to the overthrow of absolutism, but to socialism, provided it was joined by the revolutionary movement in the advanced West Trotsky —6, —6. The advanced nature of Russian industry, to which he devoted more attention in , did not in itself provide an explanation. To do so he had to transcend the theory of uneven development, a process he did not complete until the early s. As a result, Russia ceased to be the most backward region of the capitalist world and consequently an exception and became the most advanced region of the backward world and consequently a model.
In a sense, until The History of the Russian Revolution, permanent revolution was a strategy lacking a complete theoretical basis, which Trotsky now provided. But what of those which were unable to adopt all characteristics of the advanced? Where the differences between a backward social order and that of the colonial settlers were too vast to be overcome, the former would simply be overwhelmed and, as in North America and Australasia, virtually exterminated.
The real issue concerned those societies like Russia and further back, China or India , which were sufficiently developed in feudal or tributary terms for capitalism to become established, but insufficiently developed to produce the full range of economic, social and political institutions characteristic of the established capitalist states — in many cases, because they had been forcibly prevented by imperialism from doing so.
The implications are threefold. First, Trotsky was not saying that forms characteristic of different stages of development simply coexist alongside each other in striking or dramatic contrasts, although that could be true. Nor was he just emphasising the existence of transitional modes of production, such as those analysed by Lenin in The Development of Capitalism in Russia, although he recognised that these could exist.
It was rather that the archaic and the modern had melded or fused in all aspects of these social formations, from the organisation of arms production to the structure of religious observance, in entirely new and unstable ways. Second, the tensions inherent in these new formations gave rise to conflicts unknown in earlier historical periods. Tsarism established factories using manufacturing technology characteristic of monopoly capitalism in order to produce arms with which to defend a state characteristic of feudal absolutism. On the other hand, by doing so they bring into being a class more skilled, more politically conscious than that faced by any previous absolutist or early capitalist state Trotsky Veblen and all subsequent non-Marxist theories of the advantages of backwardness Gerschenkron, and others assumed that technological transfers had a limited, or at least delayed, impact on other aspects of social life.
Against this, Trotsky argued that these transfers could in fact quicken the pace of change more generally, so that they attained higher levels of development than in their established rivals. As an example of this he drew attention to the greater implantation of Marxist theory among the working classes of Russia and, later, China than in that of Britain. Third, combined development is a process necessarily confined to individual states. Uneven development occurs at the international level, but it is meaningless to talk about combined development in this respect.
The significance of the process is precisely the tensions and conflicts to which it gives rise within the territorial boundaries of particular states, not least because the state itself is a combined formation. We can now summarise the argument. The theory of uneven development was a major theoretical breakthrough in two respects, by identifying both the relative changes in position between the advanced capitalist powers and the structural inequalities between these powers and the colonial and neo-colonial world which they dominated.
It further showed, with regard to the first set of relationships, how in the competitive struggle, national capitals could attain temporary economic advantage, but that their rivals could appropriate the technologies, skills or organisations which had given this lead in their completed form, without having to repeat the entire developmental process. This applied in the case of those undertaking capitalist industrialisation and those already engaged in industrial competition. What the theory omitted, particularly as it became codified under Stalinism, was how this process applied in the case of the colonial and neo-colonial world.
Indeed, it was assumed that it was irrelevant: unevenness was seen as a dynamic process within the advanced capitalist world, but essentially as static between the advanced capitalist world and the colonial or neo-colonial world. But the resulting combined forms, because of their inbuilt social instability, paradoxically made revolutionary outbreaks more likely than in the developed world, with its greater levels of stability and reformist traditions. In other words, combined and uneven development made it possible for a strategy of permanent revolution to be pursued.
He never faltered in his belief that the socialist revolution could only ever be accomplished on a global basis, but was equally forceful in. Anderson, P. Berlin, I. Brett, E. Davidson, N. Engels, F. Gramsci, A. Hoare and G. Hilferding, R. Bottomore from translations by M.
Watnick and S. Gordon London: Routledge. Hobsbawm, E. Kautsky, K. Kuusinen, O. Labriola, A. Kerr Chicago: Charles H. Lenin, V. List, F. Lloyd with an introduction by J. Shield Nicholson, new edition London: Longmans, Green. Mandel, E. Novack, G. Plekhanov, G. Riddell, J.
Scott, W. Hook, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Eastman London: Pluto Press. Breitman New York: Pathfinder Press. Turgot, A. Meek Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Veblen, T. Dorfman New York: Viking Press. In fact, the idea of permanent revolution appeared already in Marx and Engels, notably in their Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, written in March , while the German Revolution of —50 — in an absolutist and backward country — still seemed to unfold. Against the unholy alliance of the liberal bourgeoisie and absolutism, they championed the common action of the workers with the democratic parties of the petty bourgeoisie.
But they insisted on the need for an independent proletarian perspective:. Marx and Engels —4. This striking passage contains three of the fundamental themes that Trotsky would later develop in Results and Prospects: 1 the uninterrupted development of the revolution in a semi-feudal country, leading to the conquest of power by the working class; 2 the need for the proletarian forces in power to take anti-capitalist and socialist measures; 3 the necessarily international character of the revolutionary process and of the new socialist society, without classes or private property.
With the exception of Trotsky, these ideas seem to have been lost to Russian Marxism in the years between the end of the nineteenth century and The Menshevik view, which considered the future Russian revolution as bourgeois by its nature and that its driving force would be an alliance of the proletariat with the liberal bourgeoisie. Only after Russia has developed its productive forces, and passed into the historical stage of advanced capitalism and parliamentary democracy, would the requisite material and political conditions be available for a socialist transformation.
The Bolshevik conception also recognised the inevitably bourgeois—democratic character of the revolution, but it excluded the bourgeoisie from the revolutionary bloc. According to Lenin, only the proletariat and the peasantry were authentically revolutionary forces, bound to establish through their alliance a. Of course, as we know, Lenin radically changed his approach after the April Theses of Parvus and Rosa Luxemburg, while acknowledging the bourgeois character of the revolution in the last instance, insisted on the hegemonic revolutionary role of the proletariat supported by the peasantry.
However, such a proletarian government could not yet transcend in its programmatic aims the fixed limits of bourgeois democracy. Curiously enough, Trotsky does not mention, in Results and Prospects, any of the above-mentioned pieces by Marx and Engels. He probably ignored the Address of March the re-edition of in Zurich, in German, was not well known in Russia. The vital kernel of the theory, its concept of the uninterrupted going-over of the democratic towards the socialist revolution, was denied by Mehring. However, this bold piece of writing remained for a long time a forgotten book.
It seems that Lenin did not read it — at least not before — and its influence over contemporary Russian Marxism was desultory at best. Like all forerunners, Trotsky was in advance of his time, and his ideas were too novel and heterodox to be accepted, or even studied, by his party comrades. There seems to exist an intimate link between the dialectical method and revolutionary theory: not by chance, the high period of revolutionary thinking in the twentieth century, the years —25, are also those of some of the most interesting attempts to use Hegelo- Marxist dialectics as an instrument of knowledge and action.
The young Trotsky did not read Hegel, but his understanding of Marxist theory owes much to his first readings in historical materialism, namely the works of Antonio Labriola. His initiation into dialectics thus took place through an encounter with perhaps the least orthodox of the major figures of the Second International. Formed in the Hegelian school, Labriola fought relentlessly against the neo- positivist and vulgar-materialist trends that proliferated in Italian Marxism, for example Turati.
He was one of the first to reject the. Labriola defended historical materialism as a self-sufficient and independent theoretical system, irreducible to other currents; he also rejected scholastic dogmatism and the cult of the textbook, insisting on the need for a critical development of Marxism Labriola , Moreover, in an astonishing passage from a critique against the Menchevik Tcherevanin, he explicitly condemned the analytical — i. Of course, Trotsky was not a philosopher and almost never wrote specifically philosophical texts, but this makes his clear-sighted grasp of the methodological dimension of his controversy with stagist conceptions all the more remarkable.
Binding all countries together with its mode of production and its commerce, capitalism has converted the whole world into a single economic and political organism This immediately gives the events now unfolding an international character, and opens up a wide horizon. The political emancipation of Russia led by the working class Trotsky He had a rich and dialectical understanding of historical development as a contradictory process, where at every moment alternatives are posed. In Results and Prospects, as well as in later essays — for instance, his polemic against the Mensheviks, The Proletariat and the Russian Revolution , ch.
In a remarkable passage from the History of the Russian Revolution he explicitly formulated the viewpoint that was already implicit in his essays:.
Dogmatism vs. dialectical thought: Stagism vs. permanent revolution
In its struggle with Narodnikism, Russian Marxism, demonstrating the identity of the laws of development for all countries, not infrequently fell into a dogmatic mechanisation discovering a tendency to pour out the baby with the bath. Trotsky vol. I, It was the combination of all these methodological innovations that made Results and Prospects so unique in the landscape of Russian Marxism before ; dialectics was at the heart of the theory of permanent revolution.
Vladimir Illich remained faithful to the orthodox views of Russian Marxism till , when the beginning of the war led him to discover dialectics: the study of. This is the road which led to the October Revolution Martov Geschichte der Russischen Sozialdemokratie Berlin. Blackstock and B. Mehring, F. In this chapter I argue that the theory most commonly associated with Trotsky, that of permanent revolution, has an implicit theory of capitalist decline,1 as it was later developed.
Trotsky never tried later to develop such a theory. He preferred to argue in terms of both the long wave of capitalist development and of a disintegrating or terminal capitalism, but there is little difference. His overall political economy of such a capitalism is nuanced and complex. Since that time both political forms have been extensively used and theorised.
It is curious that such basic weapons in working-class struggle either appeared first or were taken furthest in one of the least developed countries in Europe. It should be noted that the concept of decline is not a simple empirical argument but one that takes the view that capitalism itself goes through stages and that the last stage is one of decline. It is a period of decline of the law of value, as the basic law of capitalism, i. Imperialism and war function in this way and are a direct result of that decline. Looking deeper, it is a period in which mediations in the poles of the contradic- tion become increasingly difficult, leading to the use of non-value forms.
None of this precludes capitalism growing, expanding or at times raising the standard of living of the population. However, there is an increasing gap between what is materially possible and what is actually produced and an increasing tendency to prolonged crisis, which may or may not be terminal see Ticktin He does not, however, use the word decline, speaking rather of the pusillanimity of the capitalist class. Trotsky is justly famous for his analysis of capitalism see Ticktin which is partly encapsulated in his theory of permanent revolution.
That, in turn, can be described as a theory of a capitalism in decline, and it is discussed below. The cycle of birth, growth, maturity, decline and death is a dialectical concept. At this point, we can define dialectics, with Trotsky, as the logic of motion or as developmental logic. What is motion?
Judy Cox: Trotsky for the 21st century (Summer )
It is not simply the mechanical movement of a circular body in space but the evolution of entities over time and space. In other words, everything is born, matures, declines and dies. The implication of the sentence in the quote above is that capitalism in its decline has its own special laws, additional to the fundamental laws of capitalism.
This book, as Trotsky makes clear p. It includes chapters of his book Our Revolution, written in , which in turn included work originally written in , which is extant in his untranslated Collected Works. Results and Prospects, which is the usual work to which reference is made, was an added chapter of Our Revolution.
Anyone looking at and Results and Prospects will note that the first three chapters are similar, but have been amplified in Dialectics is constructed on the transition of quantity into quality and the reverse. He was speaking of feudalism but the reference to the overthrow of the bourgeoisie is clear. Trotsky is arguing, in the above quote, the importance of the concept of transition and the move to transition, with what amounts to an accompanying decline. Although he wrote these notes in the s, they are consonant with his early philosophy and viewpoint and look more like reflections drawn from his earlier experience.
Trotsky, on the other hand, is already quite clear that capitalism has entered a new period, that of finance capital, when writing in the period — They argued that as a result, it falls to the working class to undertake those responsibilities. Marx had argued that the revolution became permanent only when the working class had taken power. He developed this case in the period January to October Trotsky vi and was proved correct. Trotsky repeated his thesis on the nature of Russia several times and the three chapters involved are an elaboration of what he wrote earlier in Results and Prospects.
It is also in the partly untranslated Russian material in the Collected Works. The bourgeoisie were opposed to the second general strike and did little to mitigate the massive repression that followed. This was a remarkable political evolution. The Mensheviks drew the opposite conclusion from the failure of For them, the bourgeoisie had to be on board for the revolution against autocracy to succeed. In other words, they considered the working class too weak to undertake its tasks of overthrowing the capitalist system and hence it was necessary to proceed through a capitalist stage first before undertaking a socialist revolution.
If one looked at the working-class movement in the limited perspective of Russia and , this seemed a necessary conclusion. It was only by putting the Russian Empire in the context of world capitalism that one could make another inference. Strangely, since they were Marxists, they did not do so. Even more strangely, for Marxists, they appeared to have no concept of the dialectics of capitalist growth, i.
Trotsky had stood between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks after and it was precisely for that reason that he was acceptable to both as the de facto leader of the Petrograd Soviet Deutscher —1. He was critical of Lenin for his authoritarian stance on the nature of the party, as he argued in his work Our Political Tasks in The Mensheviks had taken a more optimistic view of the working-class and socialist revolution until the events of Deutscher , and Trotsky went along with that, although he grew more critical of their organisational stance as well as of their gradual conversion to the support of liberals.
Trotsky, therefore, stood in a very different theoretical position from either of the two factions, one which proved to be correct in and which Lenin then adopted. In reality the nature of the Russian Revolution, as it unfolded, could give rise to three possible interpretations. One was the increasingly. Marx himself integrated these concepts into his method, as he himself says in the Afterword to Capital, where he indicates approval of a summary of his dialectical method by a Russian reviewer of Capital.
That was almost certainly based on their interpretation of the relative strengths of the working class and sections of the ruling class and was reinforced by the defeat of the revolution. The second was that of Trotsky, who had observed the realities of the struggle during , when the working class established itself as a self-conscious independent decision-making entity, leading the struggle.
He concluded that any struggle to overthrow the autocracy would necessarily take the same form and that therefore the working class would be compelled to take that struggle to its necessary socialist conclusion. The third was that of Lenin, who formulated the goal as the dictatorship of the working class and peasantry, arguing that there would be a bourgeois democratic phase before moving to the dictatorship of the proletariat. So far did Lenin argue this case that he even said that in the aim of the proletariat was to achieve a republic, a bourgeois republic, in which the proletarian party should take part in government Lenin — He was defying the general socialist ban on taking part in bourgeois governments by theorising that such a bourgeois government would be a revolutionary bourgeois government.
This would have put him to the right of the Mensheviks and not just of Trotsky, if it were not for his insistence on and even glorification of armed struggle at the time Lenin It should be noted that the real difference with the Mensheviks was the less active role they attributed to the working class at the time of the overthrow of the autocracy. Both Lenin and Trotsky saw the working class as the mainstay of the revolution, but Lenin felt that it could not succeed without the support of the broad mass of the non-proletarian population, including the revolutionary section of the bourgeoisie, and hence the proletariat would subordinate its class interest until it was ready to take power in its own name.
Menshevik theory was clearly in transition and hence composed of different conflicting strands. The first was that the proletariat had to engage in armed struggle, win over the army and then take power but hand it over to a Constituent Assembly as part of a bourgeois republic, because the proletariat needed allies. The second strand was that the proletariat and its parties would remain independently organised and responsible only to themselves at a time when their.
It is clear today that capitalism would not be able to function under those conditions. It is hard to imagine Lenin as an early market- socialist theorist, but one cannot avoid such an implication. He takes Lenin to his logical conclusion. If the bourgeoisie itself will not be the leading party in the revolution and it is replaced by the proletariat, why does the proletariat have to abstain from pursuing its own goals? There have been various theories as to why Lenin changed his programmatic viewpoint in April , and fought his own party until they accepted his new strategy.
Others have simply assumed that Lenin was a pragmatic politician and took the opportunity. Lenin was certainly the most down-to- earth revolutionary socialist politician of his time, but he was no opportunist. However, the very possibility of taking power, without the concessions he had earlier predicated, which he clearly saw, indicated that his viewpoint was outdated. Nonetheless, he needed a mental framework which allowed him to see that possibility itself. In other words, a capitalism which could only survive through its brutal invasion of the Third World in order to extort tribute and which then fought a world war to re-divide the spoils had lost its earlier democratic ethos.
In contrast to Lenin, Trotsky is arguing precisely that the bourgeoisie wants and needs democracy for capitalism to operate efficiently, but fearing that capitalism itself could be overthrown it is forced to compromise and hence it does not get much of what it wants. Neither Lenin nor the Mensheviks had a theory of the nature of the Russian autocracy. Lenin had criticised the Narodniki and. Trotsky at the age of 26—7 had already formulated an overall political economy for the Russian Empire, which explained its dynamic Trotsky — He argued that it was not feudal but semi-Asiatic.
This much he derived from Plekhanov. What was crucial was the extraction of the surplus product and its distribution. The surplus product went into the military to maintain the Russian state, besieged as it was on all sides. As a result, the peasants were reduced to a new serfdom, with a close resemblance to slavery. This in turn resulted in a low level of productivity and so a relatively small surplus product, which in turn meant that taxation was high and the state disproportionately large and bureaucratic in order to maintain the stability of the system.
Unlike in the Asiatic mode of production there were landlords but they were part of the state bureaucracy.
Trotsky for the 21st century
By the peasants were no longer enserfed, but their economic position was often worse than before their emancipation in This was neither feudalism nor capitalism. Likewise, the autocratic social structure had no future in a capitalist society. Logically, the two sides stood opposed. Indeed, the students were overwhelmingly critical of the Tsarist autocracy. The fact that the bourgeoisie supported the October strike showed where they stood. And yet they did not carry through their demands for the full removal of the old state and its replacement by a bourgeois democratic structure, which could have provided the necessary environment for the full development of capital.
Trotsky argued that they were afraid to go further because they knew that they would be replaced by the working class, once the Tsarist bureaucratic police state was removed. Engels had remarked earlier that the bourgeoisie had lost its stomach for governing, when he was talking of German unification and noting that it was the Junkers who carried out that task.
Trotsky was essentially building on this Marx—Engels conception of the bourgeois loss of courage and leadership. Western Europe, including Germany, had had a long evolution of the market. Landlords were part of the market, even while maintaining semi-feudal aristocratic forms, so it was not surprising that the Junkers could carry through the unification of Germany.
That was not the case in Russia, where the extraction of the surplus product remained bound to the old forms of the semi-Asiatic mode of production of the village commune, ties to the land and the brutal assertion of bureaucratic and landlord authority. This meant that the rising capitalist class would have had to assert itself in revolutionary not evolutionary form in order to establish its own dominion, even though there was a world capitalist market. While it had been prepared to do so in France in earlier times, it could not do so in the Russia of the twentieth century.
As noted above, it was afraid to act in case it would destroy the very bulwark which prevented its left taking power, but it also had another reason and that presaged the events of the late s. Finance capital had come to dominate modern capitalism and that meant that foreign investment in Russia played a critical role in the emerging industrial economy.
The short-termist nature of finance capital is its hallmark. Hilferding theorised it as abstract capital, which therefore had no place, industry or worker to which it was tied, unlike industrial capital. Its only aim was to make money out of money. This meant that it was not interested in the development of Russia, only that it made the maximum return on its investments.
Logically, as today in post- Soviet Russia, it sought out extractive industry, whose output was largely exported. However, the interests of this section of capital were much more in terms of stability and the strong state rather than the overthrow of the Tsarist system. Indigenous industrial capital was therefore too weak to assert itself. It constituted a relatively.
In principle Trotsky was arguing that capital wanted to remove absolutism but would be pusillanimous at best in removing the autocracy. He was essentially making the same case as modern economists, the neo-conservatives and the rest, that the development of capitalism requires the extension of civil rights to the whole population, and he makes the case explicitly Trotsky —9 , citing case after case in which sectors of Russian capital explicitly, in prosaic language, as he says, make their case for democracy.
Why then did he argue that they would not go the whole way? In , once the Tsar had granted a parliamentary system and civil rights, the bourgeoisie was satisfied. Trotsky, at the time, argued that the Tsarist concessions were a sham and they had to push for immediate concessions such as an amnesty and release for political prisoners, removal of the old Tsarist ministers, the standing down of the army, in short an immediate shift in power. The promised new constitution was little more than a sham. So indeed it proved to be as the regime had prepared both a massacre and a pogrom, which was wisely avoided by the Petrograd Soviet Deutscher — There were essentially two issues.
The first was that the autocracy did not want to concede anything if it could help it and if it could undo any concessions it would do so, once it felt sufficiently strong. The bourgeoisie was not, however, prepared to fight to the bitter end for its own demands. One had, therefore, to conclude that they were prepared to accept a malfunctioning and limited market. This was not the bourgeoisie of the French Revolution but a bourgeoisie afraid of its successor.
One aspect of bourgeois democracy is that labour power should be free. In Russia, however, personal rights were limited and one of the most obvious limitations, as in Stalinist Russia, was the internal passport, which was a major grievance. Censorship was another example of civil rights and the printers acted to remove it in Mass education was an elementary demand which was essential to raise the level of productivity. The demand for the eight-hour day, which a century later is still not fully implemented in many countries, clearly went further.
How much further is shown by the absurd discussion in the British press in May in which it largely. The point, however, is that all these demands are not in themselves socialist, but the Russian bourgeoisie refused to support them when the Petrograd Soviet called the second general strike in November The problem with such an argument is that a mature capitalism with a confident bourgeoisie at its head would have no problem implementing them, and more, in its own interest. In principle capital needs conditions for abstract labour, which requires a fully flexible, fluid and well-trained labour force, and without those conditions it can only be crippled.
It became clear that capital in Russia had accepted its limited role and hence could not perform its own tasks. He does, however, have all the ingredients of the conception of decline, which he later uses, as in the following quote in History places this task squarely before us. If the proletariat is, for one reason or another, incapable of routing the bourgeoisie and of seizing power, if it is, for example, paralysed by its own parties and trade unions, the continued decay of economy and civilization will follow, calamities will pile up, despair and prostration will engulf the masses, and capitalism — decrepit, decayed, rotting — will strangle the people with increasing strength, and will thrust them into the abyss of a new war.
Capitalism, in its decline, had come to incorporate trade unions as tolerated non-political entities, but in Russia trade unions could not easily function as non-political entities within an autocratic police state and consequently were not tolerated, except for those few which were economistic. Migratory illiterate labour, living under appalling conditions, had little use for trade-unionist bargaining when they needed more radical solutions. As long as they had the support of their constituents there was no point in arresting them.
In themselves, they did not pose the question of socialism. For that there had to be direction, coming from the Marxist leaders. In the last 15 years up to , we have seen many. After a time they become demoralised as they go nowhere and then they are suppressed. That did not happen in the Russia of The process snowballed in the towns and the countryside and built up through two general strikes to the point where ultimately the Bolsheviks ended up fighting the Tsarist army in Moscow.
This cannot be explained as a purely spontaneous series of actions. The first general strike, with the Petrograd Soviet at its head and Trotsky its de facto leader, made a series of demands, but the leaders called off the strike, after ten days, when the Tsar made his concessions. It was consciously and coherently led.
There were, of course, a number of parties involved, not just one, but that does not alter the point. This was as far as the bourgeoisie would go. It did not want to overthrow the system. The second general strike, now based on the working class and the support of the socialist parties, was again very consciously led. It might be argued that a fully developed, prepared and conscious underground socialist party could have succeeded where the Petrograd Soviet and the Marxists failed.
As there was no such party, the argument could be regarded as speculative if it were not for the fact that just such a party succeeded twelve years later. In the upshot, the Tsarist system went for wholesale repression on an extreme scale and it took until before the left began to recover. We can ask whether the second strike was not a mistake and it is obvious that the outcome could lead to such a conclusion.
It might have been wiser to have called off the strike earlier, when it was clear that it could not succeed, but it would be hard to avoid the conclusion that it was right that it was called in the first place.
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One of the features of finance capital to which Hilferding pointed was the fact that it can act as the organisational centre of capital. In its decline, capital has developed a highly conscious nucleus which can plan its defence, which in turn requires an equally conscious trained socialist nucleus. Later in the same book he quotes Marx to the effect that at a decisive moment in a revolution it is necessary to stake everything, whatever the chances of the struggle Trotsky Spontaneity cannot succeed against a trained, determined and highly conscious opponent.
Nor is a general strike in itself sufficient to change a regime. We have to understand as the revolution which led to the evolution of the theory of permanent revolution, the need for the formation of a theoretically armed and militant working-class party, an understanding of the limited importance of soviets and a rather better appreciation of the role of the general strike. In theoretical terms, the use of the concept of decline radically alters the perspective of the thinker.
For Trotsky the bourgeoisie was getting weaker and the proletariat stronger both objectively because the categories of capital were themselves changing towards socialisation and because subjectively the bourgeoisie had lost its earlier self-confidence in opposition to the working class. Clearly, if capitalism had a long and relatively stable future then any shift to socialism would either be doomed or take a long time.
Lenin had shifted to this view by the time he wrote Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism in and it does not seem surprising that by he would abandon the very cautious position he had held earlier. The concept of permanent revolution itself is a statement that only the working class as the universal class can change society and society is ripe for overthrow, but until it is overthrown the world is doomed to endure one struggle after another, one repression after another, until the final victory.
Moscow: Partizdat. Ticktin, H. Ticktin and M. If Jon Elster is. Thanks to Bill Dunn and Kristyn Gorton for their comments on this chapter in draft. Elsewhere I have argued that Trotsky did make a powerful contribution to historical materialism, which acted as a theoretical corollary to his political break with Second International fatalism without succumbing to political voluntarism Blackledge , cf. Thus, whereas Trotsky developed the theory of uneven and combined development to explain the concrete mechanisms at play in Russia and internationally at the beginning of the twentieth century, and from which, in the context of a failed revolution, he derived the strategy of permanent revolution, Novack naturalised the concept of uneven and combined development and deployed it as a theoretical prop for a fatalistic model of revolutionary change.
However despotic its nature,. For whereas Trotsky was adamant that socialism was on the agenda in Russia in only because the proletariat would be in the forefront of the revolution Trotsky —11; Knei-Paz —57 , the social transformations in Eastern Europe and China after the Second World War, which Novack described as socialist, involved at best only a minor role for the proletariat.
Moreover, on the basis of the theory of uneven and combined development, Trotsky had imagined the survival of the Soviet Union for years, not decades, before international revolutions saved it, and certainly not against an onslaught from the Wehrmacht. On the one hand, the realistic Stalin dismissed the perspectives for world revolution to concentrate on socialist construction in Russia, while, on the other hand, the naively optimistic Trotsky dismissed the hopes of socialist construction at home without the success of revolutions abroad.
Commenting on. The point is important. And this label covers a confused and shifting content. Hallas Hypotheses contained within the protective belt could be falsified without necessarily undermining the hard core; however, if hard core hypotheses were falsified then the research programme as a whole would be falsified. For where, in dogmatic falsification, the falsification of any hypothesis could lead to the rejection of the general scientific framework from which it originated, in his sophisticated falsificationist model, a research. Lakatos argued that a scientific theory should contain both a positive and a negative heuristic.
The positive heuristic would be that element of the theory which suggested further areas for research. The negative heuristic, meanwhile, was that element of the research programme that could not be challenged. A strong scientific research programme would, Lakatos argued, generate a positive heuristic through which novel facts would be predicted Whereas Stinchcombe argued that Trotsky had followed the inductive method in the formulation of his theory of uneven and combined development Stinchcombe , Burawoy suggests that Trotsky elaborated this theory as an implicit response to the generation of anomalies within the Marxist research programme.
However much one may compare the Russian Revolution with the Great [French] Revolution, the former cannot be transformed into the latter. Accordingly, whereas the theory of uneven development explained. Nevertheless, Burawoy argues that of the two novel predictions made by Trotsky in Results and Prospects, only one was realised.
In contrast to this approach, the great lesson that Trotsky learnt in was of the importance of political leadership within the class struggle Geras This is the thrust of his discussion of the crucial role played by Lenin in He argued that without the political reorientation led by Lenin, the Bolsheviks would not have seized the revolutionary opportunity in October; and, as the alternative to their rule was a military coup, fascism would have had a Russian precursor Trotsky , Similarly, he argued that the crucial role of political leadership had been negatively evidenced through the loss of a number of revolutionary opportunities in the s and s.
Nevertheless, as MacIntyre had previously suggested, there did exist a way out of this conundrum. According to Callinicos,. Arthur, C. Krasso ed. Blackledge, P. Burawoy, M. Callinicos, A. Carr, E. Cliff, T. Elster, J. Roemer ed. Geras, N. Hallas, D. Hallas et al. Harman, C. Johnstone, M. Knei-Paz, B. Krasso, N. Lakatos, I. Lakatos and A. MacIntyre, A. Stinchcombe, A. It was no longer the social base which supported the state superstructure, but the will of the superstructure which sought to engage the base. After his first stroke in March , Lenin urged Trotsky to begin fighting Stalin on the questions of the foreign trade monopoly, nationalities and especially the internal party regime.
In a letter to the Central Committee in October , Trotsky a denounced the bureaucratisation of state institutions. In December of the same year, he assembled these criticisms into a series of articles calling for a New Course. In a country lacking democratic traditions, and following the slaughter of the Great War, the hardships of the civil war left a people accustomed to extreme forms of social and physical violence. The upheavals of. Of the 4 million inhabitants of Petrograd in , there remained no more than about 1. More than , workers left production and only 80, remained at work.
The devastated cities lived on the back of authoritarian campaigns of requisition. The historian Moshe Lewin argues that in truth the state was formed on the basis of regressive social development. Privilege thrives on scarcity: therein lie the fundamental roots of bureaucratisation. That year, the prices of manufactures had practically tripled compared to pre levels, whereas farm prices had increased by less than 50 per cent.
This disproportion explains the imbalance between city and countryside, and the refusal of the peasants to deliver their harvests at imposed low prices while there was nothing to buy. The Bolshevik leaders had always conceived the revolution in Russia as the first step towards a European revolution or, at least, as a prelude to German revolution.
The question put in was therefore: how to hold on until a possible resumption of the revolutionary movement in Europe? In , all the Russian parties admitted that the country was not ripe for socialism. He saw no alternative between the military dictatorship of Kornilov and that of the soviets. This meant a pitiless fight between revolution and counter-revolution. These strategies implied divergent answers in relation to the principal international events: Anglo-Russian relations in , the second Chinese revolution of , the rise of Nazism in Germany, and later the radically contrary attitudes towards the Spanish civil war, the German—Soviet pact of and preparations for war.
They put forward policies of planning and industrialisation aimed at reducing the tensions between agriculture and industry. Self-interest provides plausible, and logical, explanations. He was, in the mids, perfectly conscious of the brittleness of a revolution whose working- class and urban base was thin, and of the need to work with a backward peasantry which constituted the overwhelming majority of the population.
However, the political struggle had in fact been joined from By , a united opposition was established which saw itself as a tendency that respected the legal authority of the party; their perspective was one of redirecting and reforming the regime. In May , after the defeat of the second Chinese revolution, they called for a militant mass mobilisation. In October of the same year, on the tenth birthday of the revolution, Zinoviev and Trotsky were excluded from the party. The latter was exiled to Alma Ata, while more than 1, oppositionists were deported.
The purges began. In , faced with a catastrophic economic situation, Stalin turned against the right of the party. He seemed, by instituting the first Five-Year Plan, to be adopting certain suggestions of the opposition. This turn precipitated a split among the opposition. Capitulations and defections followed one after another. Thus began a long exodus, forced to the margins of the mass movement. These tragic inter-war struggles shaped the original defining characteristics of Trotskyism.
Its essence can be summarised in four points. The elements of this strategy had emerged from the earlier Russian revolution of The conquest of power by the proletariat does not complete the revolution, but only opens it. Socialist construction is conceivable only on the foundation of the class struggle, on a national and international scale…. The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable. One of the basic reasons for the crisis in bourgeois society is the fact that the productive forces created by it can no longer be reconciled with the framework of the national state.
From this follow…imperialist wars…. Different countries will go through this process at different tempos. Backward countries may, under certain conditions, arrive at the dictatorship of the proletariat sooner than advanced countries, but they will come later than the latter to socialism. Trotsky —5. The questions put in the light of the Russian Revolution were: how to mobilise the greatest possible numbers; how to raise the level of consciousness through action; and how to create the most effective alliance of forces for the inescapable confrontation with the ruling classes.
The Russian example helped to inspire German workers and soldiers to overthrow the Kaiser in , thus bringing the world war to a close and opening a period of mass revolts that gripped Europe, Asia, and even Seattle. Even though the early years of the Russian Revolution confirmed the perspective of permanent revolution, Stalinists and Third World nationalists later revived the notion that conditions were unripe for socialism in this or that country, claiming that a struggle for democracy or national independence would have to precede a fight for socialism by years or decades.
The book argued that the special process of permanent revolution was possible in many late-developing countries-if revolutionaries based their strategy on the theory. The aim of this article is to explain how late-developing countries have largely outgrown the need for the special sort of socialist revolution that Trotsky described. The past hundred years of capitalist development has made it possible in most places to take the direct path to socialism that has long been available in the relatively advanced countries.
What follows is the barest sketch of an argument. It begins with the conditions in Russia and elsewhere that led Trotsky to formulate his theory, and continues with the changes that have made the applicability of the theory less and less general. These work relations, in turn, are crystalized into stereotyped class positions of command and subordination. In the Middle Ages, for example, capitalist enterprises grew in the cities between the estates of the feudal ruling class. Competition under the profit system gave rise to advances in productivity, and the increasingly wealthy capitalist class began to articulate a number of political goals that it dressed up as the natural and proper relations of human beings.
For example, one mundane economic imperative of capitalist commerce-the freedom to make deals with anybody for any purpose-flowered into the concept of equality before the law. Conflict sharpened between the two property-holding classes until bourgeois revolutions in Western Europe overthrew the feudal lords.
The winners implemented some of their political preferences with measures that promoted the dominance of capitalist property relations. Specifically, bourgeois revolutions seemed to bring with them a package of political ideas and institutions, including: equality before the law, which replaced feudal obligations and rights of birth; some form of democracy as opposed to monarchy; freedom of political association and freedom of the press; a degree of secularism in the state; etc.
It was ruled by a grotesquely repressive monarchy, supported by a reactionary church. There was no freedom to form political parties or trade unions. And although the peasants had technically been freed in , debt and raw coercion kept the vast majority of them in serflike bondage to the nobles.
A regime of scarcity can only be stable if it involves repression and inequality. One Russian Marxist conclusion, that of the Menshevik faction, was that Russian capitalists would behave like the French bourgeoisie of the eighteenth century-leading the peasants against the monarchy and the feudal lords to extend capitalism throughout the country and to establish democratic rights.
In this fight, the role of the proletariat would be to pressure the bourgeoisie to lead the democratic movement to its conclusion. Trotsky, however, looked at Russia by starting with the world situation, which gave him two clues. First, the productive techniques already in use in the advanced countries did promise material abundance if they could be spread to backward countries.
The uneven development between Russia and the West produced an unprecedented combination of factors within Russia that gave workers an opportunity to take power before they did in Germany, Britain, or the United States. The international perspective showed that Russian development was not an isolated replay of Western history but a response, by a backward country, to a challenge posed by advanced capitalism. The growth of capitalism in Russia was not mainly the product of internal class conflicts with the bourgeoisie in the lead. The monarchy itself-threatened by the growing military power of Western capitalism-took the lead in promoting capitalism.
The tsars taxed the peasants in order to import state-of-the-art machinery from the West to build the major industries necessary for national defense. Furthermore, because the native bourgeoisie was so undeveloped, he invited Western capitalist investors to fill the gaps in his new economy. In these conditions, the Russian proletariat grew into the low millions under conditions of medieval repression.
Nevertheless, workers were concentrated in huge factories that formed the jugular vein of both the economy and the state. As a result, workers possessed disproportionate social leverage. In the cities, the working class would rise as well. In this circumstance-a weak bourgeoisie combined with a strong proletariat-the bourgeoisie would ultimately line up with the feudal lords and the state for its own protection.
At the same time, the peasants were not in a position to lead the revolution that they themselves needed. They were dispersed through the countryside, riven by regional differences, and mostly illiterate. The only thing they could unite on was their hatred of the lords.
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Even if peasants succeeded in seizing noble estates, their movements were incapable of providing a vision for society as a whole. Workers would have to take state power-now-not after an extended period of capitalist development. This position at the head of the state, said Trotsky, would force the working class to move from the democratic revolution straight to socialist measures. No, it would help the strikers keep the place shut down-and thus would undermine the ability of the bosses ever to get back to making profit.
How far can the socialist policy of the working class be applied to the economic conditions of Russia? We can say one thing with certainty-that it will come up against political obstacles much sooner than it will stumble over the technical backwardness of the country.
Peasants would defect from the movement as workers turned to socialist measures. The Revolution followed the pattern that Trotsky predicted, except that the revolutions of the Western working classes did not succeed. The setbacks in the movement ultimately allowed Stalin to get a grip on power and to revert, within ten years, to a development strategy that would have looked familiar to the tsar. He strengthened the state autocracy to direct the economy toward competition with Western capitalism, especially in the crucial military sector.
The result was a catastrophe as Chiang first accepted the communists into the party but later slaughtered thousands of worker-militants when they showed what kind of a force the working class really was. The communists had to flee the cities. Following this defeat, Trotsky generalized the theory of permanent revolution beyond the Russian case to say that China and other late-developing countries also possessed a combination of features that made them ripe for permanent revolution: This is the kind of conflict between rising new powers of production and confining social forms that can fuel a movement to overthrow the old society.
The bourgeoisie may detest the state authority, but it depends on the state to keep the workers down. Either way, the small proletariat needs a peasantry that can overcome its natural fragmentation to unite along some lines as an ally to help dislodge the feudal or colonial state. Socialist revolution was on the agenda, but it would have to spread to the advanced world.
Since the Russian Revolution of , however, Trotsky had begun to emphasize a second key practical point-the need for a party of worker revolutionaries. The kernel of the theory is that a small working class in a backward country can get to power-and thus gain the footing to begin a socialist transition-but only by leading a broader revolutionary alliance that includes whole classes that are hostile to socialism.
The Russian proletariat needed an alliance with peasants en masse, but the movement to overthrow the tsar and landlords produced the division of the land into private family plots, not collectivization. Having achieved their common aim of acquiring full rights to productive land, peasants had no incentive to push the movement further. To defend their victory in the cities, however, workers were compelled to carry the revolution into further phases that included the collectivization of industry and an urgent search for new allies in the movements of the international proletariat.
Or the protection of some national minority might receive its greatest boost after workers have begun to control production. One of the ingredients of success in a permanent revolution is an independent working-class party that sets a goal of socialist revolution and makes the alliances necessary to project the class into state power. As such, a strategy for permanent revolution is woven inseparably into the theory. In the terms that revolutionary parties use, permanent revolution is thus a perspective, an assessment of objective social circumstances combined with what a party-or a broader working-class movement-can achieve in the circumstances if it plays its cards right.
It was invented to cover precapitalist societies whose internal structure had been partly reshaped by a collision with capitalism. In Russia, for example, the peasants formed a cohesive force against the nobility only because the persistence of feudal forms of exploitation retarded a sharp differentiation of peasants into mutually hostile classes.
As Trotsky put it in , beginning with a quotation from his Our Revolution:. It can be put at the service of revolution only by a force that takes state power in its hands. The prospect of the dictatorship of the proletariat consequently grows here precisely out of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. But the dictatorship of the proletariat does not come after the completion of the democratic revolution. The first clear exception to the theory was the anti-colonial movement in India. It was the largest and richest capitalist class in any colonial country. The middle class of lawyers and state functionaries, politically grouped in the Indian National Congress, was ultimately able to enlist most of the big bourgeoisie in a national struggle to end colonial rule.
Their bridge to the peasant masses was Gandhi, whose strategy for mobilization bypassed the proletariat and agitated the peasants on the narrowest of national grounds. The British had a tax system that literally starved the peasants, so they responded to the call. Where labor militancy was stronger, as in Bombay during the communist-led strikes of , mill owners were cautious in expressing nationalist ideas and tended to seek the protection of the colonial state. Bourgeois support of Congress surged in the early s when Gandhi re-emerged at the forefront of the struggle.
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In office, the party proved itself to the bourgeoisie by maintaining the unequal social status quo in the countryside and repressing a wave of industrial strikes. India became democratic, in the sense of having elections with wide suffrage, but the democracy movement was largely stripped of its class content-and failed to overturn caste oppression, a key task for any Indian movement that aims at real equality. By itself, the strength of the Indian bourgeoisie did not guarantee their leadership of the peasant movement.
The working class might have been an effective contender for that role if it had had Trotskyist instead of Stalinist leadership. The strength and self-confidence of the Indian bourgeoisie may be unique among colonized countries. But the other key feature of the movement-the strategy of creating an isolated focus on the national question-is something that became systematic in many future anti-imperial struggles.
When the Chinese party came back from their disaster and took power in , they came back as a new kind of force. Following their s retreat from the cities, Mao built an army-commanded by urban intellectuals and staffed by peasants-to capture control of the state and the cities from outside. The leading class in the cities-the key locus of state power-was the slice of the petit bourgeoisie that formed the leadership of the Communist Party. The CP embarked on a Russian-style, state-directed path of economic development, and the Chinese experience created a model for a new kind of national revolution.
Many others around the world tried to follow this example. This pattern came to characterize a whole generation of revolts in later-developing countries-what came to be known as the Third World. State planners would chart out a course for a fairly self-contained economy, one that was protected against competition from the more advanced ones in order to give the country a chance to play developmental catch-up.
The alternative of permanent revolution was still possible-there were still democratic revolutions to be made, and workers could lead peasant masses to win them-so this was still a theory of permanent revolution. Political power was fused with economic power, so monolithic parties were built to enforce the state plan with ruthless coercion from the top down. In order to understand why one-party dominance has broken down as widely as it has-and the relevance of permanent revolution to this process-we need to look at how state capitalism in mid-century set the stage for the democracy movements in the last quarter of the century.
Ruling elites constructed a new, politically monolithic, social superstructure in order to quickly modernize the economic base. Repression is well suited to promoting rapid economic growth through the use of labor-intensive methods. Further advances in production, however, require the adoption of more-advanced techniques to raise the productivity of labor.
This requires a larger middle class, plus a working class with higher skills, better education, and a higher standard of living. When these needs begin to predominate, repression needs to let up. The post-Second World War boom in the West involved a re-internationalization of the most advanced economies. The s Depression and the war had driven all economies inward-in the direction of self-contained state capitalism.
Nevertheless, peacetime gradually revealed the profit advantages of international trade and multinational production, especially among the big players in the U. There came a point when late-developing countries could no longer make adjustments that would allow them to compete-without breaking out of the state capitalist framework. Right up into the s, offices and universities in the Soviet Union did not have photocopy machines-because students or workers might use them as political printing presses.
By the s, this kind of conflict hit all state capitalists, not just in the Communist countries. The whole world entered a crisis of profitability, and the state capitalists were the biggest losers. Many responded by opening up to trade and investment-trying to find niches in the new world division of labor. In , however, the U. The credit squeeze, combined with depressed export prices, produced crises of debt repayment that stretched, in the early s, from the Third World to Eastern Europe.