Imperialist Economism, Democracy and the Socialist Revolution: A response from Doug Lorimer

The Activist - Volume 10, Number 2, February 2000

By Doug Lorimer

"Capitalism and imperialism can be overthrown only by economic revolution. They cannot be overthrown by democratic transformations, even the most `ideal'. But a proletariat not schooled in the struggle for democracy is incapable of performing an economic revolution. Capitalism cannot be vanquished without taking over the banks, without repealing private ownership of the means of production. These revolutionary measures, however, cannot be implemented without organising the entire people for democratic administration of the means of production captured from the bourgeoisie, without enlisting the entire mass of the working people, the proletarians, semi-proletarians and small peasants, for the democratic organisation of their ranks, their forces, their participation in state affairs." -- V.I. Lenin, Reply to P. Kievsky (Y. Pyatakov) (September 1916)

"The economic revolution will create the necessary prerequisites for eliminating all types of political oppression. Precisely for that reason it is illogical and incorrect to reduce everything to the economic revolution, for the question is: how to eliminate national oppression? It cannot be eliminated without an economic revolution. That is incontestable. But to limit ourselves to this is to lapse into absurd and wretched imperialist Economism." -- V.I. Lenin, A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism (October 1916)

 

Introduction

In the late 1890s a trend of thinking -- known as Economism -- arose among the adherents of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party that argued that because capitalism had become dominant in Russia socialists should not seek to lead a political revolution for democracy but should limit themselves to organising the workers' economic struggle against their capitalist exploiters. The right-wing Economists argued that the leadership of the political struggle for democracy should be left to the liberal bourgeoisie. A smaller group of left-wing Economists argued that instead of seeking to organise the workers to lead a political revolution for democracy, socialists should organise the workers for an immediate socialist revolution through a general strike.

During the first imperialist world war, a trend began to emerge among the Russian revolutionary Marxists that argued that since national oppression could not be abolished without an economic revolution against imperialism and capitalism, Marxists did not need to concern themselves with the problems of a political revolution to achieve democracy. Instead, the "nascent trend of imperialist Economism" (as Lenin characterised it) argued that all that was needed to abolish national oppression was the anti-capitalist economic revolution, i.e., the socialist revolution. The imperialist Economists ignored the fact, as Lenin explained in his October 1916 article "A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism", that in "all the colonies and the semi-colonies ... there still exist oppressed and capitalistically undeveloped nations" and, therefore, "Objectively, these nations still have general national tasks to accomplish, namely, democratic tasks, the tasks of overthrowing foreign oppression" in the political sphere.(1)

Furthermore, the imperialist Economists displayed "just as complete a misinterpretation of the relationship between socialism and democracy" as the "late and unlamented Economism of 1894-1902".(2) Explaining what he meant by this, Lenin wrote:

All "democracy" consists in the proclamation and realisation of "rights" which under capitalism are realisable only to a very small degree and only relatively. But without the proclamation of these rights, without a struggle to introduce them now, immediately, without training the masses in the spirit of this struggle, socialism is impossible.

Having failed to understand this, Kievsky bypasses the central question, that belongs to his special subject, namely, how will we Social-Democrats abolish national oppression? He shunts the question aside with phrases about the world being "drenched in blood", etc. (though this has no bearing on the matter under discussion). This leaves only one single argument: the socialist revolution will solve everything! Or, the argument is sometimes advanced by people who share his views: self-determination is impossible under capitalism and superfluous under socialism.

From the theoretical standpoint that view is nonsensical, from the practical political standpoint it is chauvinistic. It fails to appreciate the significance of democracy. For socialism is impossible without democracy because: (1) the proletariat cannot perform the socialist revolution unless it prepares for it by the struggle for democracy; (2) victorious socialism cannot consolidate its victory and bring humanity to the withering away of the state without implementing full democracy.(3)

In his first article criticising my pamphlet on Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution(4), and even more so in his second article ("Either a `Socialist Revolution or a Make-Believe Revolution' -- A Rejoinder to Doug Lorimer"), Phil Hearse advances the same sort of caricature of Marxism as the imperialist Economist trend that Lenin had to ideologically combat more than eight decades ago. That is, he dissolves the objective democratic tasks of winning full political and economic independence in the imperialist- dominated, semi-colonial countries into the anti-capitalist economic (socialist) revolution. Thus he argues that "there can be no `national-democratic revolution', i.e., a revolution that solves the tasks of the national-democratic revolution, which is not simultaneously anti-imperialist and thus anti-capitalist"; that the anti-imperialist revolution in the semi-colonial countries "will necessarily combine socialist and `national-democratic' measures, tasks of the socialist revolution with those of the national-democratic revolution"; and that "In the epoch of imperialism it could not be otherwise, because without anti-capitalist measures, tasks of the socialist revolution, national-democratic tasks cannot be solved". Hence, Hearse answers the question of how Marxists will abolish national oppression with the same caricature of Marxism offered by his imperialist Economist forebear Kievsky (Yury Pyakatov): the socialist revolution will solve everything!

Furthermore, Hearse claims that his conception of the relationship of the national-democratic revolution and the socialist revolution in the semi-colonial countries, i.e., that the anti-imperialist tasks of the national-democratic revolution will/must be carried out simultaneously with the anti-capitalist tasks of the socialist revolution, is a "basic proposition of the permanent revolution theory".

While there is a definite element of truth in this claim (i.e., in his June 1928 discussion of the prospects for the future dynamics of the Chinese revolution, Trotsky advanced just such a proposition), Hearse's elevation of this element into the strategic line of march of the proletariat in all the semi-colonial countries today amounts to a caricature of Trotsky's post-1928 application of his theory of permanent revolution to these countries. Nevertheless, the fact that Hearse can sincerely believe that his imperialist Economist conception of the relation between the national-democratic revolution and the socialist revolution in the semi-colonial countries today is a faithful application of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution, is a graphic illustration of why rejection of this theory is required in order to arrive at a genuine Marxist strategic policy in the imperialist-dominated countries.

I will return to Hearse's imperialist Economist approach to the relationship between the national-democratic revolution and the socialist revolution in the semi-colonial countries later in this article. First though, I will take up his utterly confused response to my reply to his critique of my pamphlet Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution: A Leninist Critique.

 

Once again on the purpose of my pamphlet

Hearse begins his rejoinder by noting that my reply to his first article criticising my pamphlet "starts off by denying that the pamphlet represents an attempt to outline the DSP's policy in relation to revolution in the semi-colonial and dependent countries". I pointed out that Hearse "alleges that my pamphlet presents Lenin's policy of carrying out the proletarian revolution in semi-feudal Russia in two-stages (a bourgeois-democratic and then a socialist stage) `as a general schema for the `Third World' today". I stated that, "Nowhere in my pamphlet, however, do I make such a claim".

"The aim of my pamphlet", I explained, "was not to set out a `general schema' for revolution in all semi-colonial countries today", but "as I explicitly stated in the introduction to the pamphlet, to discuss where and how Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution differed from Lenin's policy for carrying out a socialist revolution in semi-feudal Russia", i.e., in an imperialist country in which the immediate objective tasks were a democratic political revolution against an autocratic regime and a peasant bourgeois-agrarian revolution against the survivals of feudal landed property. In the Third World today the main issue is winning freedom from the political and economic domination of imperialism.

One of Hearse's main criticisms of the pamphlet was that it largely remained on the "terrain" of "what happened in Russia":

Doug Lorimer confines his critique [of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution - DL] to the experience of pre-revolutionary Russia, and to 1920s-30s China, and does not discuss either the other revolutionary experiences of the 20th century, or post-Trotsky attempts to analyse and re-analyse the theory in the light of subsequent experience.

Instead of confining his criticism of my pamphlet to this "terrain" (i.e., "where and how Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution differed from Lenin's policy for carrying out a socialist revolution in semi-feudal Russia"), Hearse decided to expand his criticism of my pamphlet to the question of contemporary revolutionary strategy in the imperialist-dominated, underdeveloped capitalist countries. He evidently felt that this would provide a better vantage-point from which to rebut my criticism of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution than the "terrain" of "what happened in Russia". However, in doing so, he made the claim that my pamphlet was guilty of "abstracting from the Russian experience and transferring it, without any mediations of any kind, to contemporary conditions". In reply, I pointed out that this accusation was based on a two-fold false assumption, i.e.:

1. That my pamphlet was aimed at providing an exposition of contemporary revolutionary strategy in the imperialist-dominated countries, and;

2. That I had argued in my pamphlet that the experience of carrying out a socialist revolution in tsarist Russia (an imperialist state with a semi-feudal political regime and semi-feudal system of land ownership) could be transferred without any mediation to semi-colonial capitalist-ruled countries today.

In his rejoinder Hearse attempts to portray these points as if they were some sort of devious ploy on my part to dissociate the pamphlet from having any connection with the DSP's policy on revolutionary strategy in the semi-colonial countries. Thus he writes:

[Lorimer's] claim that the pamphlet does not pertain to contemporary DSP policy calls for suspension of disbelief among his readers of quite spectacular proportions. In the introduction to his pamphlet comrade Lorimer says (he even repeats it in his reply):

"Any attempt to build an international Marxist movement that is really based, as Cannon put it more than fifty years ago, on `genuine Marxism as it was expounded and practised in the Russian revolution and the early years of the Communist International' cannot avoid dealing with the misrepresentations of Bolshevik theory and policy by Trotsky in the 1920s and '30s."

Why could such a rebuilt international Marxist movement "not avoid" this task? There are three possible interpretations of this statement. It could mean that Lorimer thinks a renewed revolutionary socialist movement will be a history debating club. It could mean that he has the sectarian notion that agreement on all aspects of revolutionary history is vital. Or it could mean that to be "really based" on "genuine Marxism" it has to reject permanent revolution, not for reasons of historical accuracy but for reasons of contemporary policy. In other words, Lorimer's statement is either totally bizarre, or he thinks that rejecting permanent revolution is vital for the rebuilding of a movement based on "genuine Marxism". On balance, I opt for the latter interpretation, which is how most other readers will have seen it.

I explicitly stated just this argument in the introduction to my pamphlet:

James P. Cannon, one of Trotsky's key collaborators in this project [the founding of the Fourth International -- DL], pointed out in The History of American Trotskyism that: "Trotskyism is not a new movement, a new doctrine, but the restoration, the revival of genuine Marxism as it was expounded and practised in the Russian revolution and in the early days of the Communist International." In one important doctrinal respect however the movement that Trotsky founded in the 1930s departed from this claim.(5)

I would have thought that any reader would have interpreted this statement to mean exactly what it says, i.e., in one important doctrinal respect the Trotskyist movement departed from "genuine Marxism as it was expounded and practised in the Russian revolution and the early days of the Communist International", i.e., the theory of permanent revolution departs from a genuine Marxist policy in regard to carrying through to completion democratic revolutions in capitalistically backward countries.

Why then did Hearse feel it necessary to make such a tortured argument to arrive at exactly the same point that I openly stated in the introduction to my pamphlet? Because he interprets my reply to his criticism that my pamphlet does not attempt to present the DSP's strategic policy in relation to revolution in the semi-colonial countries today, as a "claim that the pamphlet does not pertain to contemporary DSP policy".

Nowhere in my reply to his criticism, however, did I claim that my pamphlet did not pertain to contemporary DSP policy, i.e., that it did not have some relation to the DSP's strategic policy toward the imperialist-dominated countries. I simply pointed out that my pamphlet did not aim at, or attempt to, present the DSP's strategic policy for carrying out the proletarian revolution in all semi-colonial countries today.

The reason Hearse has confused these two lines of argument is because he asserted in his first article that my pamphlet argued that Lenin's strategic policy for carrying out a socialist revolution in semi-feudal, imperialist Russia could be transferred, without any mediation whatsoever, as a "general schema for the Third World today" (which he claimed was the "DSP theory" of revolution in semi-colonial countries). In his rejoinder he interprets my denial that the pamphlet had this objective as a denial that Lenin's policy for carrying out a socialist revolution in Russia has any relation to the DSP's policy for carrying out socialist revolutions in semi-colonial countries today. Thus he argues:

Lorimer now says: "It's true that the basic conclusion I make in my pamphlet is that the Leninist theory and policy of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution is superior to Trotsky's permanent revolution theory as a guide to action in countries where Trotsky thought his theory has general applicability, i.e., as Trotsky put it in his 1928 pamphlet The Permanent Revolution, `countries with a belated bourgeois development' in which the peasantry constitutes `the majority of the population'." (my emphasis - PH).

This statement, as it stands is untrue. Lorimer actually came to the conclusion that "Lenin's theory" was superior as a guide to revolutionary action, full stop. The qualification about countries with a peasant majority, i.e., the section I have highlighted in the above quote, was nowhere made in Lorimer's pamphlet.

Really? In the pamphlet I discussed Lenin's strategic policy and Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution in relation to revolutions in three countries, all of which had peasant majorities in the early years of the 20th century -- Russia, Hungary and China. In relation to the first two, I pointed out that:

Lacking any conception of the possibility and necessity of measures transitional to the socialist revolution, [in his 1906 work Results and Prospects] Trotsky believed that the working class would immediately have to begin the socialist expropriation of bourgeois property in city and village. Lacking political support for this among the poor peasants, who would still be under the leadership of the peasant bourgeoisie, the Russian proletariat would very quickly find itself a besieged minority surrounded by a hostile peasant population. The bourgeoisie would be able to rally the Russian peasantry against the "workers' government" and easily overthrow it, unless the Russian workers quickly gained material, presumably military, support from revolutionary workers' regimes in Western Europe.

Trotsky was certainly correct in his view of what the consequences would be of a revolutionary government immediately putting "collectivism on the order of the day" in a country with a peasant majority. This prognosis was tragically confirmed by the 1919 Hungarian revolution.(6)

At the end of the pamphlet I examined Trotsky's summary of the "basic postulates" of his theory of permanent revolution as he presented them in the first (1929) edition of his pamphlet The Permanent Revolution (written in October 1928), wherein Trotsky applied the theory to "countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries" and in which Trotsky himself noted that the peasantry constituted the "overwhelming majority of the population". I explicitly criticised Trotsky for his "theoretical dogma that there could not be a transitional stage of worker-peasant state power in a proletarian revolution in a predominantly peasant country".(7)

The concluding comments in my pamphlet about the inferiority of Trotsky's permanent revolution theory compared to Lenin's strategic policy of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution were within precisely this context, i.e., the strategic line of march of the proletarian revolution in the "countries with a belated bourgeois development" in which the peasantry constituted the majority of the population and in which a peasant revolution against survivals of pre-capitalist agrarian relations was objectively necessary.

 

How and why Hearse thinks I am now a supporter of the permanent revolution theory

Continuing his misrepresentation of the content of my pamphlet, Hearse writes: "Indeed, as I pointed out in my critique, the fact that most `Third World' countries are not today `peasant countries' was nowhere referred to in Lorimer's pamphlet." (That's because my pamphlet did not aim, nor did it attempt, to discuss the applicability or otherwise of either Lenin's strategic policy of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution or Trotsky's permanent revolution theory to the Third World today.) Hearse goes on:

The important thing is that Lorimer now recognises that the "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry", which he defends against permanent revolution, does not apply to countries where the peasantry is not a majority. Excellent. This immediately poses the question -- what general political approach should revolutionaries take today in the majority of semi-colonial and dependent countries dominated by imperialism, where the peasantry is not a majority? Apart from quoting a passage from the DSP program (of which more below), Doug Lorimer doesn't tell us.

The DSP rejected permanent revolution as a strategy for the countries dominated by imperialism in the name of the "revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry". Now we find out that this doesn't apply to most Third World countries.

Where in my reply did I say that? All I said was that in my pamphlet I did not present the "revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry" as "a `general schema' for all semi-colonial countries today". In the English language and in logic, that's not quite the same thing as saying that this formula only applies to countries where the peasantry is the majority of the population.

In his eagerness to score a debating point, Hearse has overreached himself and attributed to me an argument I did not make. In my reply I did not say that the concept of a workers' and peasants' democratic dictatorship is not applicable to countries where the peasantry is a minority of the population. I simply said that in my pamphlet I did not present this concept "as a `general schema' for all semi-colonial countries today". In the pamphlet I limited the discussion of revolutionary strategy in the semi-colonial countries to one such country -- China in the late 1920s -- though I cited (without any qualification, i.e., with implied approval) the following statement from the 1927 platform of the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition (led by Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev) within the CPSU:

The slogan of "soviets" proposed by Lenin for China as early as 1920 had every possible justification in the conditions existing in 1926-27. Soviets in China would have offered a form through which the forces of the peasantry could have been consolidated under the leadership of the proletariat. They would have been real institutions of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry...

The doctrine of Lenin, that a bourgeois-democratic revolution can be carried through only by a union of the working class and the peasantry (under the leadership of the former) against the bourgeoisie, is not only applicable to China, and to similar colonial and semicolonial countries, but in fact indicates the only road to victory in those countries...

It follows from this that a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, taking the form of soviets in China, would have every chance, in the present age of imperialist wars and proletarian revolutions and given the existence of the USSR, of developing relatively rapidly into a socialist revolution.(8) (emphasis added - DL)

In his criticism of my pamphlet, Phil Hearse decided to devote a major part of his article to arguing that Lenin's formula of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry could not be applied to most semi-colonial countries today, because the peasantry is allegedly no longer a majority of the population. However, in the process of doing so, he actually ended up extending the concept of the workers' and peasants' democratic dictatorship to all semi-colonial countries today. Thus he concluded that:

In the movements around national and democratic objectives today, the revolutionary forces have to advance the objective of a "workers and peasants government" -- i.e., a government politically led by the working class, supported by the poor peasants and other oppressed groups. This can only be the first stage of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This is precisely the argument that the DSP has been making since we rejected Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution in the mid-1980s. In a report on the debates at the 12th World Congress of the Fourth International adopted by our National Committee in October 1985, we explained that:

The [FI] majority leaders now recognise that the revolution in the [nationally] oppressed capitalist countries must unfold in two stages -- a democratic stage in which the revolutionary vanguard seeks to mobilise the broadest multi-class alliance against imperialism and its agents, followed by a socialist stage in which the revolutionary vanguard seeks to mobilise an alliance of the workers and other sectors with interests opposed to capitalism.

In an interview published in the June 17 [1985] International Viewpoint in which he assesses the World Congress, Daniel Bensaid, who was the majority reporter on this item at the congress, says:

"While the bourgeois democratic and socialist tasks are not separated in time by a Chinese wall, they are not totally telescoped either. The proletariat can have different allies at different times in the revolutionary process."

This represents an advance in the comrades' thinking. Unfortunately, the majority leaders refuse to acknowledge that this view is in contradiction with Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution, which explicitly excludes the idea of a distinct democratic stage preceding a socialist stage. They claim that their new view is in fact what Trotsky's theory really says. But if that were true why is it that they have only come to this view now, 43 years after Trotsky founded the Fourth International and made his theory one of the cornerstones of its programmatic basis.

In reality, the majority leaders are being forced to redefine the theory of permanent revolution in order to reconcile it with the experience of the Nicaraguan revolution, which has convincingly demonstrated that the revolutionary process in the oppressed countries unfolds in two, fairly distinct stages. In order to reconcile this fact with the permanent revolution theory the majority leaders now use the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" to describe the revolutionary regime in the first, democratic, stage of this revolution. This is because Trotsky's permanent revolution theory is based on the idea that in order to solve the democratic tasks (agrarian reform, national independence) the workers in the oppressed capitalist countries have to take state power out of the hands of the local landlord-capitalist class and its imperialist masters.

Of course, this position isn't in conflict with the Leninist two-stage theory. Vietnamese Communist Party leaders like Truong-Chinh, for example, point out that "in the countries which carry out the new-type bourgeois democratic revolution (that is, one led by the proletarian vanguard), the worker-peasant dictatorship is a transition state due to grow into the dictatorship of the proletariat, of which it constitutes the basis and for the establishment of which it paves the way". At the same time, they point out that the worker-peasant dictatorship, considered historically, is a form of the proletarian dictatorship.

That is, as we've explained it, the worker-peasant dictatorship or workers' and peasants' government is the first stage of the proletarian dictatorship, a regime transitional to the full, or socialist, proletarian dictatorship.(9)

In his rejoinder Hearse claims that "Lorimer now insists that the `revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' he now advocates is a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat" (my emphasis) and that this "means he thinks the solution to the national and democratic tasks of the revolution in `backward' countries requires the proletarian dictatorship, i.e., the political rule of the working class supported by the poor peasantry and `semi-proletarian' strata". Hearse adds that this "is exactly what permanent revolution (and Trotsky) says". Therefore, he alleges, I have actually repudiated the Leninist policy of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution in favour of Trotsky's policy of permanent revolution. However, as the comments cited from my report to the October 1985 DSP NC plenum demonstrate, the DSP's recognition of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry as the first stage of the dictatorship of the proletariat is not something new. It has been our view for over 15 years now, i.e., since we rejected Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution!

The reason Hearse interprets the statements made in my pamphlet that the worker-peasant dictatorship/workers' and peasants' government is a special form of proletarian state power, as actually being a repudiation of the Leninist strategic line of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution is because he thinks that Lenin's formula of a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry did not signify a "workers' and peasants' government" (the first stage of the proletarian dictatorship in Russia) but, rather, a bourgeois state.

 

Two Tactics and the bourgeois revolution

In my reply to his criticism of my pamphlet I pointed out that Lenin's formula of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry meant "the conquest of state power by the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry to solve first of all the tasks of the democratic revolution". I further pointed out that Trotsky, in his 1929 summary of the basic postulates of his theory of permanent revolution, presented the same view of what this formula meant, i.e., "the victory of the democratic revolution is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat which bases itself upon the alliance with the peasantry and solves first of all the tasks of the democratic revolution", to which Trotsky added the comment: "Assessed historically, the old slogan of Bolshevism -- `the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry" -- expressed precisely the above-characterised relationship of the proletariat, the peasantry and the liberal bourgeoisie. This has been confirmed by the experience of [the] October [Revolution]".(10)

Hearse ignores this argument and continues to claim that the "old Bolshevik" formula did not mean the conquest of power by the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry to solve first of all the tasks of the democratic revolution. He continues to assert that it meant a perspective of fighting for the establishment of a bourgeois republic and a prolonged period of capitalist economic development. He bases this assertion upon seven sentences taken from Lenin's July 1905 booklet Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution -- the same seven sentences which he cited in his first article:

 

     

  • Marxists are absolutely convinced of the bourgeois character of the Russian revolution. What does this mean? It means that the democratic revolution in the political system, and the social and economic reforms that have become a necessity for Russia, do not in themselves imply the undermining of capitalism, the undermining of bourgeois rule; on the contrary, they will, for the first time, really clear the ground for a wide and rapid, European, and not Asiatic, development of capitalism; they will for the first time, make it possible for the bourgeoisie to rule as a class.(11)

     

  • [The victory of the revolution can be achieved by] only a dictatorship because the accomplishment of transformations immediately and urgently needed by the proletariat and the peasantry will evoke the desperate resistance of the landlords, the big bourgeoisie, and czarism... But this will of course be not a socialist but a democratic dictatorship. It will not be able to touch (without a whole series of transitional stages of revolutionary development) the foundations of capitalism. It will be able, in the best case, to realise a radical redivision of landed property in favor of the peasantry, introduce a consistent and full democratism up to instituting the republic, root out all Asiatic and feudal features not only from the day-to-day life of the village but also the factory, put a beginning to a serious improvement of workers' conditions and raise their living standards, and last but not least, carry over the revolutionary conflagration to Europe.(12) (his emphasis)

     

In my reply to Hearse's first article I demonstrated -- using Lenin's own further comments on these sentences in Two Tactics -- that they do not prove what he contends they do, i.e., that Lenin's perspective was limited to the revolutionary creation of a bourgeois republic which would preside over a prolonged period of rapid development of capitalism.

Hearse claims that I feel compelled not to agree with his misrepresentation of the above cited passages from Two Tactics because I think that "everything Lenin said was correct" and therefore "every last word of Lenin's texts has to be defended". He makes this accusation despite the fact that in my reply I explicitly described as incorrect an assessment made by Lenin in one of his 1917 "texts", i.e., the argument in "On Slogans" that the bourgeois counter-revolution in July 1917 had ended the dual-power situation. If I thought the points made in the above-cited passages from Two Tactics contradicted a Marxist estimate of the social character of the democratic revolution in Russia I would have no hesitation in saying so. But, however unpalatable it may be to Hearse, in my opinion they don't.

Hearse refuses to accept my explanation that the points made in the cited passages are simply a restatement of elementary Marxist precepts -- i.e., maxims, general truths drawn from experience. Is this because my explanations are "tainted" in his eyes by my rejection of the permanent revolution theory? But the same points were made by the author of that theory. Trotsky's 1906 work Results and Prospects begins with the following five sentences:

The Russian Revolution came unexpectedly to everybody but the Social Democrats. Marxism long ago predicted the inevitability of the Russian Revolution, which was bound to break out as a result of the conflict between capitalist development and the forces of ossified absolutism. Marxism estimated in advance the social character of the coming revolution. In calling it a bourgeois revolution, Marxism thereby pointed out that the immediate objective tasks of the revolution consisted in the creation of "normal conditions for the development of bourgeois society as a whole."

Marxism has proved to be right, and this is now past the need for discussion or proof.(13)

Moreover, in his November 1929 introduction to the first edition of The Permanent Revolution, Trotsky did not repudiate, but affirmed as correct, this evaluation of the social character of the Russian revolution:

In its essential features, the theory of permanent revolution was formulated by me even before the decisive events of 1905. Russia was approaching the bourgeois revolution. No one in the ranks of the Russian Social Democrats (we all called ourselves Social Democrats then) had any doubts that we were approaching a bourgeois revolution, that is, a revolution produced by the contradictions between the development of the productive forces of capitalist society and the outlived caste and state relationships of the period of serfdom and the Middle Ages. In the struggle against the Narodniks and the anarchists, I had to devote not a few speeches and articles to the Marxist analysis of the bourgeois character of the impending revolution.(14)

In Two Tactics Lenin argued that the realisation of the immediate objective tasks of the democratic revolution in Russia, "far from undermining capitalism", would in fact "clear the ground for a rapid development of capitalism". In Results and Prospects Trotsky argued that the realisation of the immediate objective tasks of the democratic revolution in Russia would create "normal conditions for the development of bourgeois society as a whole". Is Hearse going to claim that there is a difference of substance here? Or that a revolution that goes no further than creating normal conditions for the development of bourgeois society wouldn't make it possible for the bourgeoisie to rule as a class?

Taken in isolation from everything else Trotsky wrote in Results and Prospects the above-quoted five sentences could easily lend themselves to the interpretation that Trotsky believed the Russian revolution would lead to nothing more than the creation of normal conditions for the development of capitalism in Russia. Obviously, that is not the perspective that Trotsky put forward in Results and Prospects. Yet, on the basis of seven sentences taken out of Two Tactics -- a literary work that fills 126 book-size pages -- Hearse wants us to accept his claim that Lenin's revolutionary perspectives were limited to clearing the way for bourgeois rule and the rapid development of capitalism in Russia.

Hearse claims that I made "three replies" to this claim: "(a) the revolution did bring the bourgeoisie to power, (b) it did provide for the rapid development of capitalism, and (c) it is wrong to interpret the above passages [from Two Tactics - DL] as implying a program for a bourgeois republic."

On the first of these replies, Hearse claims my response -- i.e., that the first stage of the workers' and peasants' democratic revolution in Russia (the February Revolution) did enable the bourgeoisie to seize state power from the semi-feudal autocracy -- "is absurd". As proof of this Hearse provides us with the following truly absurd argument:

When Lenin says that the revolution will make it possible for the bourgeoisie to rule for the first time as a class, he evidently means that it will be possible for them to establish their social dictatorship, i.e., "rule as a class". Nine and a half months of provisional government, with a situation of dual power, is not the bourgeoisie ruling as a class, i.e., establishing its social dictatorship.

What does this mean? That the Provisional Government was not a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie?

Hearse's argument is either an attempt to claim that, because the bourgeoisie did not exercise total state power (i.e., it had to share power with the soviets), the Provisional Government did not represent a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie -- or it is a rather clumsy attempt to counterpose the concept of state power to the words "social dictatorship (i.e., rule as a class)".

Dictatorship, as Lenin explained in his November 1918 pamphlet The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, is a form of state power, of class rule. It is class rule which is exercised by direct force, unrestricted by any laws. The Provisional Government was just such a form of state power, of class rule.

Does Hearse now think Lenin was wrong when he wrote in April 1917 that the "government of Lvov and Co. is a dictatorship, i.e., a power based not on the law, not on the previously expressed will of the people, but on seizure by force, accomplished by a definite class, namely, the bourgeoisie"(15)? I raise this question because in his first article Hearse approvingly quoted the following comments by Lenin from his April 1917 "Letters on Tactics":

After the [February -- DL] revolution, the power is in the hands of a different class, a new class, namely the bourgeoisie.

The passing of state power from one class to another is the first, principal, the basic sign of a revolution, both in the strictly scientific and in the practical political meaning of that term.(16)

Furthermore, Hearse claimed that in my pamphlet I had failed to explain "why the `democratic dictatorship' was incapable of doing anything in Russia except putting the bourgeoisie in power" (emphasis added). Is Hearse now telling us that the February Revolution did not put the bourgeoisie in power, that it did not result in a transfer of state power from the landed aristocracy to the bourgeoisie? Which class then does he think the Provisional Government ruled on behalf of?

According to Hearse, the "October 1917 revolution prevented the bourgeoisie from establishing its power, or its social rule as a class" (my emphasis). This claim raises a number of questions. Firstly, if the bourgeoisie had not established its power prior to the October Revolution as a result of the February Revolution, what was the class character of the state power that was overthrown by the Bolshevik-led insurrection of November 7 (October 25), 1917? Secondly, if the bour- geoisie did not hold state power prior to the October insurrection, why did the revolutionary proletariat have to organise an insurrection, an armed uprising, in order to establish its power over the bourgeoisie?

If Hearse now denies that the Russian bourgeoisie came to power as a result of the February Revolution, he must think the whole of Trotsky's 1930 History of the Russian Revolution is based on a falsehood. (As an aside, since Hearse repeats in his rejoinder his claim that he finds it "inexplicable" how I could praise Trotsky's History in the introduction to my pamphlet as an "incomparable Marxist exposition" and at the same time reject Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution, I should point out that I did not say that Trotsky's History provided an "incomparable Marxist exposition" of Bolshevik strategic policy. I said something else, namely, that it provided "an incomparable Marxist exposition of the events that led to the Bolshevik victory in 1917".)

Evidently feeling the untenability of his attempt to make a distinction -- utterly meaningless from a Marxist standpoint -- between the bourgeoisie's seizure of control over the organs of state power and the establishment of its "class rule", Hearse opts for a different line of argument to defend his rejection of the idea that a democratic revolution in the political system in Russia would enable the bourgeoisie to rule as a class. He writes: "In any case, [in Two Tactics - DL] Lenin does not say `briefly' or `for a historically insignificant period of time, after which they will be ejected by a proletarian upsurge'."

True enough, Lenin doesn't say either of these things. That's because he did not believe that the Russian bourgeoisie would lead an anti-autocratic, democratic revolution in Russia; he thought that this revolution could be carried through to completion only through the conquest of power by the proletariat in alliance with the peasant masses. This, of course, did not mean that Lenin excluded the possibility that if the workers were insufficiently class-conscious and organised, an armed uprising by the workers against the autocratic government might be utilised by the bourgeoisie to place itself in power. In Two Tactics Lenin warned against the possibility of just such a "partial victory" (and thereby anticipated, 12 years before it happened, the February 1917 revolution!):

Even after a partial victory in an armed struggle (the victory of the Berlin workers over the troops on March 18, 1848) an "incomplete" revolution, a revolution "that has not been carried to completion", is possible. On what, then, does its completion depend? It depends on whose hands immediate power passes into, into the hands of the Petrunkeviches and Rodichevs [Petrunkevich and Rodichev were leaders of the liberal bourgeois Constitutional Democratic Party - DL], that is to say, the Camphausens and the Hansemanns, or into the hands of the people... In the first instance, the bourgeoisie will possess power, and the proletariat -- "freedom of criticism", freedom to "remain the party of extreme revolutionary opposition" [this was how the Mensheviks conceived of the role of the proletariat in the democratic revolution - DL]. Immediately after the victory the bourgeoisie will conclude an alliance with the reactionaries (this would inevitably happen in Russia too, if, for example, the St. Petersburg workers gained only a partial victory in street fighting with the troops and left it to Messrs. Petrunkeviches and Co. to form a government). In the second instance, a revolutionary- democratic dictatorship, i.e., the complete victory of the revolution, would be possible.(17)

If an examination of what Lenin wrote in Two Tactics isn't restricted to the seven sentences that Hearse fixates upon, it will be seen that Lenin argued (a) that the democratic revolution (bourgeois in its social and economic essence) could only be realised in Russia through the conquest of political power by the proletariat, supported by the peasant masses, and (b) that the completion of the democratic revolution would open the road to the proletariat, in alliance with the semi-proletarian section of the peasantry, beginning a struggle for a socialist revolution. What else can Lenin have meant when he wrote, "The complete victory of the democratic revolution will mark the end of the democratic revolution and the beginning of a determined struggle for a socialist revolution", or "The more complete the democratic revolution, the sooner, the more widespread, the cleaner, and the more determined will the development of this new struggle [i.e., the struggle for a socialist revolution -- DL] be"?

 

Once again on the `democratic dictatorship' and the bourgeois republic, or how Hearse turns Lenin and the Bolsheviks from Marxists into petty-bourgeois democrats

Looking back on the October Revolution in November 1918 Lenin explained that "if the Bolshevik proletariat in the capitals and large industrial centres had not been able to rally the village poor around itself against the rich peasants [in the second half of 1918 -- DL], this would have indeed proved that Russia was `unripe' for socialist revolution. The peasants would have remained an `integral whole', i.e., they would have remained under the economic, political, and moral leadership of the kulaks, the rich, the bourgeoisie, and the revolution would not have passed beyond the limits of a bourgeois-democratic revolution."(18) (emphasis added - DL)

In that case, of course, the Bolshevik proletariat would not have been able to retain its hold on power -- it would have been overthrown by an alliance between the bourgeoisie and the peasant masses. But, Lenin added in parentheses, "even if this had been the case, it would not have proved that the proletariat should not have taken power" because in late 1917 and the early months of 1918 the Bolshevik proletariat had "really carried the bourgeois-democratic revolution to its conclusion".(19) That is, it would have simply created "normal conditions for the development of bourgeois society as a whole", i.e., it would have gone no further in its socio-economic measures than having cleared "the ground for a wide and rapid, European, and not Asiatic, development of capitalism" in Russia.

Hearse wants us to accept his claim that prior to April 1917 this is the limit of what the Bolsheviks aspired to accomplish. But if that were true, then prior to April 1917 the Bolsheviks would not have been Marxists -- partisans of the proletarian-socialist revolution -- but petty-bourgeois democrats who, like the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, falsely labelled themselves socialists.

While Hearse does not explicitly describe the Bolsheviks as petty-bourgeois democrats, in his first article he recommended a book -- The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg, by Norman Geras -- which does explicitly make that claim. According to Geras, "the Menshevik view was in fact common to all Social Democrats before 1917, except Trotsky"(20), i.e., Trotsky was the only Marxist, the only consciously proletarian revolutionary socialist, in Russia prior to 1917!

Confusing the proletarian revolution (i.e., the conquest of power by the proletariat) with the socialist revolution (i.e., the centralisation of large-scale production in the hands of the proletarian state), Geras claims that before 1917 Lenin was opposed to any struggle by the proletariat to seize state power.

"Lenin's incomparable historical merit", however, according to Geras, was that "even against his own view that the proletarian revolution was not yet on the agenda in Russia, Lenin forged the organisational consequence of the theory that it was, a revolutionary proletarian party with its sights on political power".(21) Geras attributes this "paradox" to Lenin's insistence "on the need for the proletariat to assume the leadership of the Russian revolutionary movement and of the peasantry in particular".(22)

That Geras could attribute to Lenin the view that the proletariat would lead a revolution -- the forcible transfer of state power from the semi-feudal autocracy to a workers' and peasants' government -- without itself conquering state power, is not so much a paradox as it is a paralogism!

In his rejoinder Hearse cites as a reference a book by Ernest Mandel in which Mandel claims that Lenin limited the tasks of the Bolsheviks in Russia to playing "a similar role to that of the Jacobins [i.e., the consistent petty-bourgeois democrats - DL] in the French Revolution" of 1789-93: "... these revolutionary forces, while displacing and even politically crushing the bourgeoisie, would still open a capitalist development in Russia." According to Mandel:

In terms of political practice, this would involve a revolutionary leadership (government) in which a working-class party would enter into coalition with a revolutionary peasant party: the famous "democratic dictatorship of the workers and the peasants", different from both a proletarian dictatorship and a bourgeois dictatorship. However, the state emerging from that dictatorship (or revolutionary government) would be a bourgeois state, and the economy developing out of the victorious revolution would be a capitalist economy: "The revolution cannot jump over the capitalist stage."(23)

Hearse obviously agrees with Geras' and Mandel's view of the Bolsheviks' strategic perspective. Indeed, in his rejoinder he reaffirms his earlier argument that the Bolsheviks' revolutionary aims were limited to a (petty-bourgeois democratic) program of creating a bourgeois republic and clearing the way for a prolonged development of capitalism:

Lorimer is outraged that I suggest that the meaning of these passages from Two Tactics [i.e., the seven sentences Hearse is fixated upon - DL] is that the Bolsheviks will fight for a bourgeois republic. Well, the text says -- does it not? -- that the revolution will be able "in the best case" to "introduce a consistent and full democratism up to instituting the republic" -- in Lorimer's translation it says "including instituting a republic". This is the sole reference to the type of political regime.

Hearse evidently assumes that for Lenin (in 1905) the only conceivable "republic" was a bourgeois republic, i.e., that Lenin could not have conceived of the possibility of a workers' and peasants' republic. If Hearse were right and in July 1905 -- more than 30 years after the Paris Commune and Marx's comments on it -- Lenin had believed that a bourgeois republic was the realisation of "a consistent and full democratism", then we'd be forced to conclude that Lenin was indeed a petty-bourgeois democrat and not a Marxist. But is this what Lenin understood, in July 1905, as "consistent and full democratism"? An examination of what he wrote elsewhere in Two Tactics does not bear this out.

Referring to the resolution on the provisional revolutionary government adopted by the Bolshevik Third Congress of the RSDLP held in April 1905, Lenin wrote:

Of what significance is a provisional revolutionary government in the present revolution and in the general struggle of the proletariat? The resolution of the Congress explains this by pointing at the very outset to the need for the "fullest possible measure of political liberty", both from the standpoint of the immediate interests of the proletariat and from the standpoint of the "final aims of socialism". And complete political liberty requires that the tsarist autocracy be replaced by a democratic republic, as our Party programme has already recognised. The stress the Congress resolution lays on the slogan of a democratic republic is necessary both as a matter of logic and in point of principle, for it is precisely complete liberty that the proletariat, as the foremost champion of democracy, is striving to attain... To attain a republic it is absolutely necessary to have an assembly of people's representatives, which must be a popular (i.e., elected on the basis of universal and secret suffrage, direct elections, and secret ballot), and constituent assembly.(24)

So far, Lenin has set as the Bolsheviks' aim in the democratic revolution achieving no more than a republic with a national legislative assembly of freely, and directly, elected representatives -- the kind of state power that, as he pointed out in his April 1917 article "The Dual Power", "generally exists in the parliamentary bourgeois-democratic republics in the advanced countries of Europe and America".(25) Further on in Two Tactics, after explaining that the democratic revolution will not immediately go beyond the bounds of bourgeois social and economic relations, and in this sense will still be a bourgeois revolution, Lenin argues that:

Marxism teaches the proletarian not to keep aloof from the bourgeois revolution, not to be indifferent to it, not to allow the leadership of the revolution to be assumed by the bourgeoisie but, on the contrary, to take a most energetic part in it, to fight most resolutely for consistent proletarian democratism, for the revolution to be carried out to its conclusion.(26)

Now, if Lenin had believed in 1905 that a parliamentary republic was the realisation of "consistent proletarian democratism" he would still have been a petty-bourgeois democrat and not a Marxist, since as Lenin explained in his April 1917 pamphlet The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution: Draft Platform for the Proletarian Party:

The most perfect, the most advanced type of bourgeois state is the parliamentary democratic republic: power is vested in parliament; the state machine, the apparatus and organ of administration is of the customary kind: the standing army, police, and the bureaucracy -- which in practice is undisplacable, is privileged and stands above the people.

Since the end of the nineteenth century, however, revolutionary epochs have advanced a higher type of democratic state, a state which in certain respects, as Engels put it, ceases to be a state, is "no longer a state in the proper sense of the word". This is a state of the Paris Commune type, one in which a standing army and police divorced from the people are replaced by the direct arming of the people themselves. It is this feature that constitutes the very essence of the Commune, which has been so misrepresented and slandered by the bourgeois writers, and to which has been erroneously ascribed, among other things, the intention of immediately "introducing" socialism.(27)

But what type of state did Lenin, in Two Tactics, advocate the Bolsheviks fight for -- a parliamentary bourgeois-democratic republic (a state with a standing army commanded by unelected, privileged officials) or a democratic republic of the Paris Commune type (a state without a standing army in which "the people themselves" were organised into the only armed force)? He argued that in order to carry through the democratic revolution:

... the proletariat must be armed -- for in a revolutionary situation matters develop with exceptional rapidity to the stage of open civil war -- and must be led by the Social-Democratic Party. The object of its armed pressure is "to defend, consolidate, and extend the gains of the revolution", i.e., those gains which from the standpoint of the proletariat's interests, must consist in fulfilling the whole of our minimum programme.(28)

The "minimum program" of the RSDLP called for the replacement of the tsarist autocracy by a "democratic republic" based upon the "replacement of the standing army by the universally armed people", i.e., a state of the Paris Commune type!

In my previous reply to Hearse I demonstrated that in July 1905, in an article reviewing the experience of the Paris Commune, Lenin had pointed out that "the real task the Commune had to perform was primarily the achievement of the democratic and not a socialist dictatorship, the implementation of our `minimum programme'," and that the Bolsheviks had to imitate the "successfully practical steps" undertaken by the Paris Commune (i.e., replacement of the standing army with a people's militia, etc.). Further, he pointed out that in Russia, a state of the Paris Commune type would be a "revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry".

Hearse simply ignores all this and on the basis of one word ("republic") asserts that Lenin's perspectives in 1905 did not go beyond those of a petty-bourgeois democrat!

How did Hearse get himself into such an absurd position? He did so by uncritically accepting the grotesque falsification of the Bolsheviks' views that Trotsky presented in his 1939 essay "Three Conceptions of the Russian Revolution". In this article Trotsky claimed that Lenin and the Bolsheviks shared the same perspective as the Mensheviks:

Plekhanov ... separated the bourgeois revolution as a task from the socialist revolution -- which he postponed to the indefinite future...(29)

Within these limits, Lenin followed Plekhanov. The bourgeois character of the revolution served both factions of the Russian Social Democracy as their starting point...

The bourgeois republic as an arena for a protracted class struggle for the socialist goal -- such was the perspective...(30)

Bolshevism [however] absolutely refused to recognize that the Russian bourgeoisie was capable of leading its own revolution to the end... To Plekhanov's idea of an alliance between the proletariat and the liberal bourgeoisie Lenin counterposed the idea of an alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry...(31)

The weak point of Lenin's conception, however, was the internally contradictory idea of "the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry." Lenin himself underscored the fundamental limitation of this "dictatorship" when he openly called it bourgeois.(32)

Contrary to Trotsky's frame-up here, Lenin did not call the workers' and peasants' dictatorship "bourgeois" but "revolutionary-democratic", by which he meant, as he explained repeatedly, including after April 1917, "a state which in a revolutionary way abolishes all privileges and does not fear to introduce the fullest democracy in a revolutionary way".(33)

 

The `old Bolshevik slogan' and the dictatorship of the proletariat

Hearse claims that "what precisely Two Tactics doesn't have is a clear notion of the uninterrupted -- permanent -- character of the revolution", i.e., that "the overthrow of the czarist and semi-feudal regimes will be directly linked with the dictatorship of the proletariat and the coming to power of the working class".

In Two Tactics Lenin repeatedly argued that the democratic revolution in Russia could only be carried to completion by a dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Is Hearse seriously arguing that Lenin thought such a dictatorship could be established without the coming to power of the working class?

According to Hearse, in presenting the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry as a special form of the dictatorship of the proletariat and in refuting his claim that it was actually a "bourgeois republic", "Lorimer goes to extraordinary pains to prove that black is white". Was Trotsky trying to "prove that black is white" when he wrote in The Permanent Revolution that "the old slogan of Bolshevism -- `the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' -- expressed" the idea that "the victory of the democratic revolution is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat which bases itself upon the peasantry and solves first of all the tasks of the democratic revolution"?

In an article entitled "A Contribution to the History of the Question of the Dictatorship" in the November 1920 issue of the Comintern's English-language journal Communist International, Lenin wrote:

The question of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the fundamental question of the modern working-class movement in all capitalist countries without exception...

With reference to Russia, special importance attaches, as far as theory is concerned, to the Programme of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party as drafted in 1902-03 by the editorial board of Zarya and Iskra... In this Programme, the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat is stated in clear and definite terms, and, moreover, is linked up with the struggle against Bernstein, against opportunism. Most important of all, however, is of course the experience of revolution, i.e., in the case of Russia, the experience of the year 1905...

The last three months of that year -- October, November, and December -- were a period of a remarkably vigorous and broad mass revolutionary struggle, a period that saw a combination of the two most powerful methods of that struggle: the mass political strike and an armed uprising...

The mass strikes and the armed uprisings raised, as a matter of course, the question of the revolutionary power and dictatorship, for these forms of struggle inevitably led -- initially on a local level -- to the ejection of the old ruling authorities, to the seizure of power by the proletariat and the other revolutionary classes, to the expulsion of the landowners, sometimes to the seizure of factories, and so on and so forth. The revolutionary mass struggle of the time gave rise to organisations previously unknown in world history, such as the Soviets of Workers' Deputies, followed by the Soviets of Soldiers Deputies, Peasants' Committees, and the like. Thus the fundamental questions (Soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat) that are now engaging the minds of class-conscious workers all over the world were posed in a practical form at the end of 1905...

By that time, the disputes as to the significance of the Soviets were already linked up with the question of dictatorship. The Bolsheviks had raised the question of the dictatorship even prior to the revolution of October 1905 (see my pamphlet Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, Geneva, July 1905, reprinted in a volume of collected articles entitled Twelve Years).(34)

Was Lenin -- in 1920! -- trying to pass off a "bourgeois republic" as a dictatorship of the proletariat -- "to prove black is white" -- to the class-conscious workers all over the world? Hearse evidently must think so.

In response to my claim that he has the peculiar Trotskyist affliction of "thinking that Trotsky had a clearer and more definite idea about the necessity for a proletarian dictatorship [in Russia] than Lenin had" before 1917, Hearse makes the comment: "In which case it is a bit inexplicable why Lenin never used the phrase `proletarian dictatorship' or `proletarian dictatorship supported by the peasantry', but `democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry."

What is perhaps even more inexplicable is that Hearse should have recommended in his first article Norman Geras' book The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg as a "very important work" dealing with Lenin's and Trotsky's views on the Russian revolution and yet be unaware of the fact that in his book Geras demonstrates that Lenin was quite prepared to accept the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the peasantry". Geras wrote:

Trotsky had formulated this in July 1905: "It goes without saying that the proletariat must fulfil its mission, just as the bourgeoisie did in its own time, with the help of the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie. It must lead the countryside, draw it into the movement, make it vitally interested in the success of its plans. But, inevitably, the proletariat remains the leader. This is not the `dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry', it is the dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the peasantry." In 1908, this same formula was adopted in preference to the Bolshevik one by the Sixth Congress of Luxemburg's own party, the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania... Where their [i.e., Luxemburg's and Trotsky's - DL] formula emphasised the leading role of the proletariat in a proletarian-peasant alliance, Lenin's stressed only the alliance itself. Its more "open" character, and what Trotsky was later to term the "algebraic" aspect of Lenin's position, were due to a more sanguine estimation on his part of the independent political role that might be played, within the dictatorship projected for Russia's bourgeois revolution, by a revolutionary peasants' party. Lenin was always clear however, this estimation notwithstanding, that the proletariat, under Social-Democratic leadership, must strive to remain in the forefront of the struggle: wanting to push the bourgeois revolution to the furtherest most limits because its ulterior goals lay beyond them, and guided by the scientific theory of Marxism, it would be more clear-sighted and more consistently democratic than even the most revolutionary representatives of the peasantry. The mere Leninist formula, speaking only of proletariat and peasantry, may not have said anything about proletarian leadership. But the texts in which Lenin explained that formula did. On countless occasions, in fact, he insisted on the need for the proletariat to assume the leadership of the Russian revolutionary movement in general and the peasantry in particular.

Lenin himself defined the extent of his differences with Luxemburg and the Polish Social-Democrats. They were limited to the "terms" on which Social-Democracy might participate, alongside the political representatives of the peasantry, in a provisional revolutionary government of the democratic dictatorship. For the rest, he regarded the difference between the two slogans and the two positions as of no strategic significance. At the London Congress of 1907, he had already affirmed that the Bolsheviks and the Poles saw "eye to eye" on the fundamental issues concerning the relationship of classes in the Russian revolution. Then, in December 1908, the Poles succeeded in getting their slogan adopted by the Fifth Conference of the Russian party. When Martov tried to represent its adoption as a break with the Bolshevik position, Lenin derided him and labelled the attempt "a model of pettifoggery": "Is it not obvious that the same idea runs through all these formulations, that this idea is precisely the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, that the `formula', the proletariat relying upon the peasantry, remains part and parcel of the same dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry?" Both the Bolsheviks and the Poles, he went on to point out, recognised that the proletariat must play the leading role in the conquest of power and that its main ally in this would be the peasantry.(35)

Lenin certainly rejected using the formula "dictatorship of the proletariat" -- because that would mean ignoring the necessity for an alliance with the peasantry who, it should be recalled, accounted for 80% of Russia's population.

In his 1909 article responding to Martov's claim that in accepting the Poles' formula the Bolsheviks' had abandoned the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, Lenin wrote:

Comrade Martov's attempt to deny that "relying upon" is part of the concept of joint action is a model of pettifoggery. Comrade Martov quotes Dan, Axelrod and Semyonov as saying that the conquest of power "by the proletariat, relying upon the peasantry", means the conquest of power by "the proletariat alone"; but this can only make the reader smile. If we were to say that Martov and Potresov, relying upon Cherevanin, Prokopovich and Co., have liquidated the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution, would anyone take that to mean that Martov and Potresov liquidated this idea alone, without Cherevanin, Prokopovich and Co.?

No, comrades, a discussion in the Central Organ should not be reduced to pettifoggery. Such methods will not help you wriggle out of admitting the fundamental and undoubted fact that the majority of the R.S.D.L.P., including the Poles and the Bolsheviks, stand firmly for (1) recognition of the guiding role of the proletariat, the role of leader, in the revolution, (2) recognition that the aim of the struggle is the conquest of power by the proletariat assisted by other revolutionary classes, (3) recognition that the first and perhaps sole "assistants" in this matter are the peasants. Those who want to discuss the real issue should challenge at least one of these three propositions. Comrade Martov has not examined a single one of them seriously.(36)

The same must also be said of Hearse: instead of a serious examination of the Bolsheviks' strategic line, he implies that there is a distinction of principle between the words "supported by" and the word "and". Fortunately Hearse, unlike some other Trotskyists (Michael L”wy, for example), does not go any further in this slide toward pettifoggery. (In his 1981 book on the permanent revolution theory, L”wy tried to make a distinction of principle between the "old Bolshevik" formula of a "revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry", which supposedly "reflected within itself all the ambiguities of the first [sic] Leninism" and the "radically innovative dimension of Lenin's politics, which so sharply demarcated Bolshevism and Menshevism", which L”wy claimed "was expressed in the far more flexible and realistic formula of `Workers' and Peasants' Power'." According to L”wy, the latter formula, "had an `algebraic' character in that the specific weight of each class was not determined a priori by some mechanistic principle".(37) L”wy seemed to have been completely ignorant of the fact that it was precisely the "algebraic" character of the "old Bolshevik" formula that Trotsky later claimed was its chief weakness: "I came out against the formula `democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry', because I saw its shortcoming in the fact that it left open the question of which class would wield the real dictatorship."(38))

 

Lenin's and Trotsky's `conceptions' of the revolution and how they applied them in 1905

Hearse claims that "Lorimer goes to extraordinary pains to prove that black is white, because he cannot stomach the idea that on this question [i.e., the necessity for a proletarian dictatorship -- DL] Trotsky had a clearer, more precise and more prescient conception of the revolution than Lenin". However much it might pain Hearse, the evidence of what Lenin and Trotsky each wrote before 1917 -- i.e., what is available to us in black and white -- demonstrates that this idea is simply not true.

Beginning with his first political work, the book What the `Friends of the People' Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats, published in 1894, Lenin explained the necessity for a proletarian-led revolution in Russia:

The political activity of the Social-Democrats lies in promoting the development and organisation of the working-class movement in Russia, in transforming this movement from its present state of sporadic attempts at protest, "riots" and strikes devoid of a guiding idea, into an organised struggle of the WHOLE Russian working CLASS directed against the bourgeois regime and working for the expropriation of the expropriators and the abolition of the social system based on the oppression of the working people. Underlying these activities is the common conviction of Marxists that the Russian worker is the sole and natural representative of Russia's entire working and exploited people.

Natural because the exploitation of the working people in Russia is everywhere capitalist in nature, if we leave out of account the moribound remnants of serf economy; but the exploitation of the mass of the producers is on a small scale, scattered and undeveloped, while the exploitation of the factory proletariat is on a large-scale, socialised and concentrated. In the former case, exploitation is still enmeshed in medieval forms, various political, legal and conventional trappings, tricks and devices, which hinder the working people and their ideologists from seeing the essence of the system which oppresses the working people, from seeing where and how a way can be found out of this system. In the latter case, on the contrary, exploitation is fully developed and emerges in its pure form, without any confusing details. The worker cannot fail to see that he is oppressed by capital, that his struggle has to be waged against the bourgeois class... When its advanced representatives have mastered the ideas of scientific socialism, the idea of the historical role of the Russian worker, when these ideas become widespread, and when stable organisations are formed among the workers to transform the workers' present sporadic economic war into conscious class struggle -- then the Russian WORKER, rising at the head of all the democratic elements, will overthrow absolutism and lead the RUSSIAN PROLETARIAT (side by side with the proletariat of ALL COUNTRIES) along the straight road of open political struggle to THE VICTORIOUS COMMUNIST REVOLUTION.(39)

In his highly valuable study of Lenin's conception of the revolutionary party, the American Trotskyist Paul Le Blanc accurately describes these concluding remarks in Lenin's polemic against Narodnism as summing up "the central programmatic orientation of revolutionary socialism that guided his work for the next three decades"(40), i.e., until his death in 1924.

Before examining how Lenin applied this orientation during the revolutionary events of 1905 (and comparing his orientation to the political line put forward by Trotsky), I want to draw readers' attention to the fact that in the above-quoted passage Lenin explains that the necessity for the class-conscious workers to lead "all the democratic elements" in overthrowing absolutism before leading all of the Russian working people in carrying out a socialist revolution flowed from the fact that capitalist exploitation of "the mass of producers" in Russia (i.e., the peasantry) was "still enmeshed in medieval forms ... which hinder" them from "seeing the essence of the system which oppresses the working people". That is, Lenin's strategic perspective of a proletarian-led bourgeois-democratic revolution as necessary to clear the way to the socialist revolution flowed from his recognition of the uneven and combined character of capitalist exploitation in tsarist Russia.

Lenin repeatedly drew attention to this fact in his writings before 1917. Thus, for example, in February 1908 he pointed out that "it has to be understood that without the break-up of the old agrarian order there can be no escape from the contradiction which most profoundly of all explains the Russian revolution, namely, the most backward system of landownership and the most ignorant peasantry on the one hand, and the most advanced industrial and finance capitalism on the other!"(41) (it should be recalled that in 1913 tsarist Russia was the sixth largest producer of industrial goods in the world).

I have called attention to Lenin's recognition of the uneven and combined development of capitalism in Russia because Hearse makes the comment in his rejoinder that "the theory of combined and uneven development ... was the theoretical underpinning of Trotsky's permanent revolution theory, and of one of the major expositions of that theory -- Trotsky's monumental History of the Russian Revolution", adding "I asked Lorimer in my critique: do you agree with the theory of combined and uneven development? He did not reply (and with good reason)."

I did not bother to respond to his original posing of this question since it seemed superfluous to the debate. After all, Hearse himself had pointed out in his critique of my pamphlet that:

Against the Menshevik notion of subordinating the revolution to the liberal bourgeoisie, Lenin and the Bolsheviks developed the idea that the democratic revolution would be lead by the workers and peasants -- against the resistance of the bourgeoisie itself. In making this decisive theoretical advance, the Bolshevik leadership implicitly acknowledged the workings of the law of uneven and combined development, later formulated by Trotsky and explained in the History of the Russian Revolution, as applied to Russia.

Hearse now seems to be implying that if you don't agree with Trotsky's permanent revolution theory you must also not agree -- either implicitly or explicitly -- with the law of uneven and combined development -- or that agreement with this elementary concept of Marxism (which Trotsky first described as a basic law of historical materialism in his 1930 History of the Russian Revolution) somehow necessitates agreement with the permanent revolution theory. I certainly do not agree with either of these propositions.

Beginning in early 1905 Lenin began to argue for the Bolsheviks to set themselves "the task of organising the forces of the proletariat for direct struggle against the autocracy by means of mass political strikes and the armed uprising", and to "start preparing the political mass strike as well as the organisation of special groups for the obtainment and distribution of arms, for the elaboration of a plan of the armed uprising and the direct leadership of the rising".(42)

On October 13, 1905, workers in St. Petersburg began electing delegates to a city-wide committee (the Soviet of Workers' Deputies) to organise a mass political strike against the autocratic system of government. Leadership of the soviet fell into the hands of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. While still in exile in Geneva, Lenin sent an article on October 19 to the Bolshevik paper Proletary in which he observed:

The working class has shown its titantic might in the all-Russia political strike, but there is still much to be done among the backward sections of the urban proletariat. While establishing a workers' militia -- the only bulwark of the revolution -- while preparing ourselves for new and even more determined struggles, while upholding our old slogans, we must also pay attention to the army... we must attract the soldiers to workers' meetings, intensify our agitation in the barracks, extend our liaisons with the officers, creating, along side of the revolutionary army of workers, cadres of class-conscious revolutionaries from among the troops as well, troops which only yesterday were most loyal to the tsar and are now on the verge of becoming a people's army.(43)

Arriving in Stockholm on November 2 on his way back to St. Petersburg, Lenin wrote his first article on the St. Petersburg soviet, "Our Tasks and the Soviet of Workers' Deputies". In this article he argued that "politically the Soviet of Workers' Deputies should be regarded as the embryo of a provisional revolutionary government", adding:

It is absolutely necessary, in contrast to the decay of the tsarist, counter-revolutionary forces, to organise the revolutionary forces at once, immediately, without the slightest delay. This organisation has been making splendid progress, particularly of late. This is evident from the formation of contingents of a revolutionary army (defence squads, etc.), the rapid development of Social-Democratic mass organisations of the proletariat, the establishment of peasants' committees by the revolutionary peasantry, and the first free meetings of our proletarian brothers in sailor's or soldier's uniforms...

What is lacking now is the unification of all the genuinely revolutionary forces, of all the forces that are already operating in a revolutionary fashion...

The Soviet must proclaim itself the provisional revolutionary government, or form such a government, and must by all means enlist to this end the participation of new deputies not only from the workers, but, first of all, from the sailors and soldiers, who are everywhere seeking freedom; secondly, from the revolutionary peasantry, and thirdly, from the revolutionary bourgeois intelligentsia. The Soviet must select a strong nucleus for the provisional revolutionary government and reinforce it with representatives of all revolutionary parties and all revolutionary (but, of course, only revolutionary and not liberal) democrats. We are not afraid of so broad and mixed a composition -- indeed, we want it, for unless the proletariat and the peasantry unite and unless the Social-Democrats and revolutionary democrats form a fighting alliance, the great Russian revolution cannot be fully successful.

... to do this, we must unite those forces as speedily as possible through the proletariat proclaiming a provisional revolutionary government. True, only an armed uprising can really form the basis of such a government. But the projected government will in fact be the organ of this growing and already maturing uprising. The formation of such a revolutionary government could not be initiated in practice until the insurrection had assumed proportions evident to all, proportions that were, so to speak, tangible to all. But now is the time to unify this uprising politically, to organise it, to give it a clear-cut programme, to turn all the contingents of the revolutionary army, which are already numerous and are growing fast in strength, into the mainstay and into instruments of this new, truly free and truly popular government. The struggle is imminent, the uprising inevitable, and the decisive battle close at hand. It is time to issue a direct challenge, to set the organised power of the proletariat against the decaying tsarist power, to address to the whole people a manifesto on behalf of the provisional revolutionary government constituted by the foremost workers.(44)

This was how Lenin applied his policy of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry to the revolutionary events of 1905. Now let us see how Trotsky applied his permanent revolution theory -- which Hearse claims expressed "a clearer, more precise and more prescient conception of the revolution" -- to these same developments.

Trotsky made his first appearance at the St. Petersburg soviet, then assembled in the Technological Institute, on October 15. Aligning himself with the Mensheviks, he quickly became the key ideological leader of the soviet. As Trotsky himself acknowledged in his 1929 autobiography My Life, "all the decisions of the Soviet, with the exception perhaps of a few that were accidental and unimportant, were shaped by me; I submitted them first to the Executive Committee, and then, in its name, I placed them before the Soviet".(45)

On October 17 the tsarist police dispersed the meeting of the soviet. That same day, however, the tsar signed a manifesto promising a constitution, political liberties, and the election of a legislative assembly on the basis of universal suffrage. The following day, Trotsky joined a small crowd assembled outside the Technological Institute. In his 1908 book 1905, he gave the following description of the events of the day:

"Let's go to the University," someone said, "there'll be speeches."

I went along with them. We walked rapidly and in silence. The crowd grew every minute...

We crossed the bridge to the Vasilyevsky Island. A huge bottleneck of people formed on the quay, through which a countless mass poured. Everyone was trying to push their way through to the balcony from which the orators were to speak. The balcony, windows, and spire of the University were decorated with red banners. I got inside with difficulty. My turn to speak came third or fourth. The picture which opened before my eyes was extraordinary. The street was packed with people.(46)

Trotsky began to address the crowd. When the shout was raised "Down with Trepov!" (a reference to the army general and minister of the interior who had ordered the dispersing of the soviet the day before), Trotsky responded:

Yes, down with Trepov! but is he the only one? Are there no villains in the bureaucracy's reserves to take his place? Trepov rules over us with the help of the army. The guardsmen covered in the blood of 9 January are his support and his strength. It is they whom he orders not to spare bullets against your breasts and heads. We cannot, we do not want to, we must not live at gunpoint. Citizens! Let our demand be the withdrawal of troops from Petersburg! Let not a single soldier remain within a radius of twenty-five versts from the capital! The free citizens themselves will maintain order. No one shall suffer from violence and arbitrary rule. The people will take everyone under their protection.

According to Trotsky's own account, his call met with immediate approval from the crowd: "Out with the troops! All troops to leave Petersburg!"(47)

In a later chapter of his book, Trotsky recounts that the soviet's "attitude towards the [tsar's] manifesto was expressed very bluntly and precisely on the day of its publication. The representatives of the proletariat demanded amnesty, dismissal, of the police at all levels of rank, withdrawal of troops from the city, and the creation of a people's militia."(48)

In October-November 1905 Lenin argued that the revolutionary workers needed to "attract the soldiers to workers' meetings", "intensify" their "agitation in the barracks" and create "along side of the revolutionary army of workers, cadres of class-conscious revolutionaries from among the troops as well"; that the St. Petersburg soviet had to "proclaim itself the provisional revolutionary government, or form such a government, and must by all means enlist to this end the participation of new deputies not only from the workers, but, first of all, from the sailors and soldiers, who are everywhere seeking freedom; secondly, from the revolutionary peasantry, and thirdly, from the revolutionary bourgeois intelligentsia". Trotsky, by contrast, argued for and secured the soviet's endorsement of a policy of calling on the autocratic government to withdraw the troops from the city, i.e., to isolate the rank-and-file soldiers (most of whom were drawn from the peasantry) from the workers' meetings and from their agitation in the barracks!

In the first volume of his three-volume biography of Trotsky, Isaac Deutscher correctly observed that the "working-class was unarmed; and it could not get arms, in sufficient quantity, until the army itself was in rebellion".(49) That, of course, was precisely why Lenin argued -- in direct contrast to Trotsky's approach to the ranks of the army -- for the workers to "attract soldiers to workers' meetings" and to "intensify their agitation in the barracks", and for the soviet to "enlist new deputies" from among the soldiers.

The soviet called a new general strike on November 2, after the government announced that sailors in the naval base at Kronstadt who had participated in the October general strike would be court martialled (the strike was ended on November 7 when the government announced that the Kronstadt sailors would be tried in ordinary military courts, not courts martial).

In his 1908 account of these events, Trotsky observed that the second general strike "stirred the consciousness of many circles within the army and, in a matter of a few days, gave rise to a number of political meetings in the barracks of the Petersburg garrison." Continuing his description, Trotsky wrote:

Not only individual soldiers but also soldiers' delegates began to show up in the Executive Committee and even at meetings of the Soviet itself, making speeches, demanding support: revolutionary liaison among the troops was reinforced; proclamations were widely read...

The "regrettable moral influence" of the proletariat on the soldiers led the government to institute a number of repressive measures. Arrests were made in one of the guards regiments; a number of sailors were transferred under escort from Petersburg to Kronstadt. From all sides soldiers were asking the Soviet what they should do. To these inquiries we answered with a proclamation which became known as the Manifesto to the Soldiers.

This manifesto called on the soldiers to "form unions" and "[e]stablish links with the Soviet of Workers' Deputies". However it was, as Trotsky himself states, "adopted and published during the last day of the Soviet's existence", i.e., on December 3, 1905.(50)

In his 1908 book on the 1905 revolution, Trotsky explained the connection between his "conception" of the revolution in Russia -- his permanent revolution theory, which he counterposed to Lenin's perspective of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry -- and his opposition to drawing soldiers' deputies into the St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers' Deputies, as follows:

As it became the focus of all the country's revolutionary forces, the Soviet did not allow its class nature to be dissolved in revolutionary democracy; it was and remained the organized expression of the class will of the proletariat...(51)

By the October strike [the revolution] showed that it could disorganize the enemy, paralyse his will, and reduce him to complete humiliation. Finally, by organizing workers' Soviets throughout the country, the revolution showed that it was able to create organs of power. Revolutionary power can rest only on active revolutionary strength. Whatever one's views of the further development of the Russian revolution may be, the fact is that no social class except the proletariat has hitherto shown itself capable and ready to support revolutionary power...(52)

The Soviet's weakness was not its own weakness but that of any purely urban revolution...(53)

It has been said that the Soviet's fundamental flaw was its class nature. In order to become the organ of "national" revolution, the Soviet should have broadened its structure, so that representatives of all the strata of the population might find their place within it. This would have stabilized the Soviet's authority and increased its strength. But is that really so?

The Soviet's strength was determined by the role of the proletariat in a capitalist society. The Soviet's task was not to transform itself into a parody of a parliament, not to organize equal representation of the interests of different social groups. The principal weapon in the Soviet's hands was the political strike -- a method unique to the proletariat, which is the class of wage labour. The homogeneity of its class composition eliminated internal friction within the Soviet and rendered it capable of revolutionary initiative.(54)

Lenin, against whom the above-cited comments were directed, did not call for the conversion of the St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers' Deputies into a "parody of a parliament", but rather into an organ of insurrection and into a provisional revolutionary government of workers', soldiers' and peasants' deputies, into a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Trotsky's rejection of such a strategic line of march flowed from his theory of permanent revolution, i.e., a perspective for the conquest of power by the proletariat alone.

Lenin accurately summed up the mistakenness of Trotsky's pre-1917 "conception" of the revolution when he wrote: "From the Bolsheviks Trotsky's original theory has borrowed their call for a decisive proletarian revolutionary struggle and for the conquest of political power by the proletariat, while from the Mensheviks it has borrowed `repudiation' of the peasantry's role."(55)

Prior to 1917 Trotsky held an ultraleft-sectarian, i.e., workerist, conception of the revolution. It may have been "clearer" and "more precise", i.e., much less complicated, than Lenin's Marxist theory and policy of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, but it was far inferior to the latter in its "prescient" capacity, i.e., as a correct guide to revolutionary action.

 

The October Revolution and `permanent revolution'

In 1917 Trotsky invested the idea of "permanent revolution" with the same content as Lenin's strategic policy, i.e., the seizure of power by proletariat and the peasant soldiers in order to effect "the immediate offer of a democratic peace, the immediate handing over of landowners' lands to the peasants, the transfer of all power to the Soviets, and the honorable convocation of a Constituent Assembly"(56).

After the October Revolution, Trotsky drew attention to that part of his pre-1917 "conception" of the revolution which he had shared in common with the Bolsheviks, i.e., the recognition of the necessity for the conquest of power by the proletariat, while downplaying his previous, erroneous, views on the non-revolutionary role of the peasant masses. For example, in the preface to a 1922 Russian re-edition of his book 1905 he wrote:

It was precisely in the interval between 9 January and the October strike of 1905 that those views which came to be called the theory of "permanent revolution" were formed in the author's mind. This rather high-flown expression defines the thought that the Russian revolution, although directly concerned with bourgeois aims, could not stop short at those aims; the revolution could not solve its immediate bourgeois tasks except by putting the proletariat into power. And the proletariat, once having power in its hands, would not be able to remain confined within the bourgeois framework of the revolution. On the contrary, precisely in order to guarantee its victory, the proletarian vanguard in the very earliest stages of its rule would have to make extremely deep inroads not only into feudal but also into bourgeois property relations. While doing so it would enter into hostile conflict, not only with all those bourgeois groups which had supported it during the first stages of its revolutionary struggle, but also with the broad masses of the peasantry, with whose collaboration it -- the proletariat -- had come to power.

The contradictions between a workers' government and an overwhelming majority of peasants in a backward country could be resolved only on an international scale, in the arena of a world proletarian revolution. Having, by virtue of historical necessity, burst the narrow bourgeois-democratic confines of the Russian revolution, the victorious proletariat would be compelled also to burst its national and state confines, that is to say, it would have to strive consciously for the Russian revolution to become the prologue to the world revolution.

Despite an interruption of twelve years, this analysis has been entirely confirmed. The Russian revolution could not culminate in a bourgeois-democratic regime. It had to hand power over to the working class. In 1905, the working class was still too weak to seize power; but subsequent events forced it to gain maturity and strength, not in the environment of a bourgeois-democratic republic, but in the underground of the Tsardom of 3 June [this is a reference to the counter-revolutionary coup against the limited democratic gains of the 1905 revolution effected by tsarism in June 1907 - DL]. The proletariat came to power in 1917 with the help of the experience acquired by its older generation in 1905. That is why young workers today must have complete access to that experience and must, therefore, study the history of 1905.(57)

It should be noted that what Trotsky, in the above-cited passage, claims had been "entirely confirmed" in his 1905 conception of the revolution by the October Revolution was the idea that the Russian revolution "could not culminate in a bourgeois-democratic regime" but "had to hand power to the working class".

As for his view that in making "deep inroads not only into feudal but also bourgeois property relations", the "workers' government" would "enter into hostile conflict ... with the broad masses of the peasantry", he avoided comment on this part of his "analysis", since this had not eventuated. That's because the Bolshevik-led Soviet government, guided by Lenin's strategic line of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution, did not attempt to simultaneously make "deep inroads" into both feudal and bourgeois property relations in the countryside. Instead, it supported the peasantry as a whole (including its bourgeois elements, the rich peasants) in abolishing the remnants of feudal property while making "deep inroads" into the rights of bourgeois property in the cities and industrial centres (imposing workers' control over the capitalist managers). It was only in the second half of 1918, when the semi-proletarian majority of the peasantry came into conflict with the rich peasants that the revolutionary process in Russia passed over from carrying through bourgeois-democratic socio-economic tasks to socialist (anti-capitalist economic) tasks.

In his "Speech on the Anniversary of the Revolution", given on November 6, 1918 to the Extraordinary Sixth All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers', Peasants', Cossack and Red Army Deputies, Lenin explained that:

... when we ask ourselves what big changes we have made over the past year, we can say the following: from workers' control, the working class's first steps, and from disposing of all the country's resources, we are now on the threshold of creating a workers' administration of industry; from the general peasants' struggle for land, the peasants' struggle against the landowners, a struggle that had a national, bourgeois-democratic character, we have now reached a stage where the proletarian and semi-proletarian elements in the countryside have set themselves apart from the others and have begun to build a new life; the most oppressed country folk are fighting the bourgeoisie, including their own rural kulak bourgeoisie, to the bitter end.(58)

Elaborating on "this transitional stage" Lenin pointed out that:

We did not decree socialism immediately throughout industry, because socialism can only take shape and be consolidated when the working class has learnt how to run the economy and when the authority of the working people has been firmly established. Socialism is mere wishful thinking without that. That is why we introduced workers' control, appreciating that it was a contradictory and incomplete measure, but an essential one so that the workers themselves might tackle the momentous tasks of building up industry in a vast country without and opposed to exploiters...

We know that in this extremely backward and impoverished country where innumerable obstacles and barriers were put in the workers' way, it will take them a long time to learn to run industry. But we consider it most important and valuable that the workers have themselves tackled this job, and that we have passed from workers' control, which in all the main branches of industry was bound to be chaotic, disorganised, primitive and incomplete, to workers' industrial administration on a national scale.(59)

It was not the introduction of workers' control over capitalist-owned and managed businesses but the implementation by the Soviet state of "workers' industrial administration on a national scale" (plus the beginning of the abolition by the poor peasants' of the kulaks' domination of the grain market) that marked the beginning of the socialist revolution, the beginning of the abolition of capitalist relations of production.

If the Soviet regime had not been able to undertake the latter measures then the revolution would have remained, as far as its social content was concerned, a bourgeois revolution. As Ernest Mandel correctly observed in his book Marxist Economic Theory:

The programme of the first Bolshevik government did not envisage the immediate expropriation of all the capitalists. It envisaged only the universal establishment of workers' supervision of production, the workers having as a first stage to apprentice themselves to the task of management by checking on the capitalist managers. It further envisaged the nationalisation of the banks, after these had been previously merged into a single national bank; the progressive nationalisation of the chief monopoly-controlled sectors of the economy; the non-recognition of foreign debts; and the nationalisation of the land and subsoil, together with the division of the land among the peasants. All these measures taken together would not have meant a qualitative overturn in the social structure of Russian economy.(60) (emphasis added - DL)

 

Once again, what is the socialist revolution?

Hearse falsely claims that in my reply to him I argued that "the nationalisation of the means of production is the socialist revolution". What I actually argued was that, in the Marxist view, the socialist revolution is the socialisation of the ownership of large-scale production by the proletariat organised as the ruling class, in order to direct this production according to a centralised plan.

Engels explained in October 1847, in the first draft of the Communist Manifesto (later published under the title Principles of Communism), that the fundamental socio-economic task of the proletarian-socialist revolution is to replace the capitalist social order with a "totally new organisation of society", in which the "running of industry and all branches of production" will be taken "out of the hands of disjoined individuals competing among themselves and will instead run all these branches on behalf of society as a whole, i.e., according to a social plan and with the participation of all members of society".(61)

On the basis of the experience of the October Revolution, the Communist International, in its founding platform, reaffirmed the view advanced by Marx and Engels that the fundamental socio-economic task of the proletarian-socialist revolution is to "subordinate production to a centralised plan", adding that the "the proletarian dictatorship will be able to accomplish its economic task only to the degree that the proletariat can establish centralised agencies to administer production and introduce workers' management".(62)

Hearse, on the other hand, affirms that the conquest of political power by the working class, rather than the beginning of the centralisation of large-scale production in the hands of centralised agencies of the proletarian state, is the beginning of the socialist revolution. This would only be true if the former automatically guaranteed the latter. Historical experience, however (e.g., Hungary 1919, Nicaragua 1979-85), has demonstrated that the mere fact that the working class has conquered state power does not inevitably lead to its ability to "establish centralised agencies to administer production and introduce workers' management" so as to "subordinate production to a centralised plan". Even to begin this task, the proletariat needs to attain a level of class consciousness and organisation that is higher than that needed to conquer political power, as well as the experience of supervising and learning from the capitalist managers how to run industry.

In complete contradiction to his argument that the seizure of state power by the working class is the inception of the socialist revolution, Hearse also reaffirms his view that the "seizure of the factories" by the workers employed in them at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 was the inception of the socialist revolution in Spain. Like the anarchists, Hearse regards "the occupation of the factories" and their running by decentralised committees of workers as the socialisation of industry. In defence of this proposition, he rhetorically exclaims:

Or is Doug Lorimer going to say that the seizure of the factories and the collectivisation of the land "doesn't touch the foundations of bourgeois property"!

The conversion of factories by the workers employed in them into producers' cooperatives may impinge on the managerial rights of the previous bourgeois owners, but it does not, in and of itself, "touch" (by which I presume he means, attack) the foundations of bourgeois property.

The foundation of bourgeois property, of capitalist relations of production, is the conversion of means of production and labour-power into commodities. Within the factories run by their workers as cooperatives (just as in capitalist-owned factories) neither labour-power nor the means of production circulate as commodities, but as use-values. But what happens when the products of these capitalist- or cooperatively-owned factories (including means of production that they produce) or the workers employed in these factories leave them? These products and the workers' labour-power will be exchanged as commodities, subject to the law of value, which in turn will react back on the co-operative factories, compelling their managers to operate them to maximise the extraction of surplus value from the workers.

This is why Marx, as long ago as 1864 (in his "Inaugural Address of the Working Men's International Association"), pointed out that "co-operative labour, if kept within the narrow circle of the casual efforts of private workmen, will never be able to arrest the growth in geometrical progression of monopoly, to free the masses, nor even to perceptibly lighten their burden".(63) In his instructions to the delegates of the provisional General Council for the first congress of the First International, held in Geneva in 1866, Marx explained that producers' cooperatives could be "one of the transforming forces of the present society based upon class antagonisms" provided however that they were not "restricted ... to the dwarfish forms into which individual wage slaves can elaborate" them by "their private efforts", adding that:

To convert social production into one large and harmonious system of free and co-operative labour, general social changes are wanted, changes of the general conditions of society, never to be realised save by the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves.(64)

It was the failure of the anarchist and POUMist leaders in Catalonia in 1936 to recognise this -- in fact, their rejection of this central Marxist proposition -- that doomed the Catalonian workers' spontaneous resistance to General Franco's bid to crush the workers' and peasants' democratic revolution in Spain.

 

The Spanish Civil War, the liberal-Stalinist counter-revolution and the role of the POUM

In what is perhaps the most astonishing of the comments in his rejoinder, Hearse states:

Lastly, I note that Lorimer is a strong partisan of some of the most sectarian and unbalanced things that Trotsky ever wrote, namely his attacks on the Catalonian POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification): I refer readers to his article "The Culpability of Left Centrism" (in the Pathfinder collection of Trotsky's writings on Spain). The POUM made mistakes, but to argue that the revolution went down to defeat "in large part" because of the lack of clarity of the POUM (and the anarchists) is totally unbalanced. The POUM was a (regional) revolutionary party, which -- in common with other revolutionary forces -- was smashed up, its militias destroyed and some of its leaders butchered by the Stalinist-led counter-revolution. That was the fundamental reason for the defeat of the revolution, not the "Menshevik" policies of the POUM.

I say this is the most astonishing of Hearse's comments because he himself acknowledges that it was "the reconstruction of a regular army, and the destruction of the [workers'] militias" that was the "key act of the Stalinist-led counter-revolution" during the Spanish Civil War, and yet he seeks to hide the fact that the leaders of the POUM endorsed these measures.

General Franco's pro-fascist revolt began in Spanish Morocco on July 17, 1936. His troops occupied the public buildings and arrested all known leaders and members of the left and bourgeois republican parties. All those who actively resisted the coup were executed without trial. The great majority of the army garrisons in Spain and most of the capitalists and landlords declared their support for Franco.

In the autonomous region of Catalonia, a stronghold of the anarchists and the POUM (it had 8000 militants in July 1936, but within a few months had grown to 40,000 members), the workers responded by spontaneously occupying the factories in order to produce weapons. Workers' militias were formed by the trade unions and the POUM to replace the police.

On July 21, 1936 a Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias of Catalonia was set up, and quickly became the only real power in Catalonia. However, it did not consist of elected delegates from the militias themselves (the POUM leadership actually prohibited elections of soldiers' committees within the militias it controlled). Rather, the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias consisted of 15 representatives from the trade unions, left and republican parties -- five from the anarchist-led CNT (National Confederation of Labour) and the FAI (Iberian Anarchist Federation), three from the Catalonian bourgeois nationalist Esquerra party, three from the social-democrat/Stalinist-led UGT (General Union of Workers), and one each from the POUM, the Peasants' Union, the Stalinist-dominated PSUC (Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia) and the right-wing bourgeois-nationalist Accio Catala organisation.

Instead of moving to transform the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias of Catalonia into a provisional revolutionary government of the workers and peasants in Catalonia, the anarcho-reformists and POUM leaders co-operated with and then joined the Catalonian bourgeois government of Esquerra leader Luis Companys y Jover (known as the Generalidad, after the palace in which it met). On September 26, 1936 the POUM's central leader, Andr‚s Nin, became minister of justice in Companys' cabinet.

On October 9, with the support of Nin and the rest of the POUM leadership, the Generalidad passed a decree dissolving the Central Committee of the Militias and turned over its authority to the bourgeois coalition government's ministries of defence and internal security. The decree also announced:

Article 1. There are dissolved in all Catalonia, the local committees, whatever be the name or title they bear, as well as all those local organizations which may have risen to down the subversive [i.e., the fascist - DL] movement, with cultural, economic or any other species of aims.

Article 2. Resistance to dissolving them will be considered as a fascist act and its instigators delivered to the Tribunals of Popular Justice.(65)

Then on October 27, 1936 -- again with the endorsement of Nin -- the Generalidad approved a decree disarming the workers:

Article 1. All long arms [e.g., rifles, machine guns, etc.] to be found in the hands of citizens shall be delivered to the municipalities or recovered by them, in a period of eight days after publication of this decree. Such arms shall be deposited in the Artillery Headquarters and the Ministry of Defense in Barcelona, in order to take care of the needs of the front.

Article 2. At the end of the cited period those who retain such armament will be considered as fascists and judged with the rigor which their conduct deserves.(66)

With his endorsement of these decrees Nin had handed over to the bourgeois government and its Stalinist supporters the political justification that they later used to outlaw and physically suppress the POUM. His services to the liberal-Stalinist bourgeois counter-revolution having been fulfilled, Nin was dismissed in a cabinet reshuffle on December 12, 1936.

On December 17, 1936 Stalin's personal mouthpiece (Pravda) declared: "As for Catalonia, the purging of Trotskyists and Anarcho-Syndicalists has begin; it will be conducted with the same energy with which it was conducted in the USSR." This was the cue for Stalin's murder machine, numerous agents of which had entered Spain under the cover of the Stalinist-organised International Brigade, to begin launching the sort of terror campaign against the POUM and anarchist workers that it had begun against left-wing opponents in the Soviet Union.

In May 1937 a deliberate provocation was staged by the Generalidad at the instigation of the Stalinists. On May 3 the bourgeois government's armed police (reconstituted in the period since July 1936) were sent to seize control of the Telefonia, the main telephone building dominating Barcelona's busiest square, which since July 1936 had been operated by anarchist workers of the CNT and guarded by a CNT militia. Sharp fighting broke out between the telephone workers and the police. When news of this spread through the city, armed workers set up barricades around the local centres of the CNT-FAI and the POUM. By the next morning the workers' militias dominated most of Barcelona. The government forces were completely outnumbered, and began surrendering to the CNT-FAI and POUM militias. On May 4, the Catalan Trotskyists issued the following leaflet, distributed on the barricades:

Long live the revolutionary offensive

No compromise. Disarmament of the National Republican Guard and the reactionary Assault Guard. This is the decisive moment. Next time it will be too late. General strike in all the industries excepting those connected with the prosecution of the war, until the resignation of the reactionary government. Only proletarian power can assure military victory.

Complete arming of the working class. Long live the unity of action of the CNT-FAI-POUM. Long live the revolutionary front of the proletariat. Committees of revolutionary defence in the shops, factories, districts.

Bolshevik-Leninist section of Spain (for the Fourth International)(67)

Leaflets distributed by the left-wing of the anarchists (the Friends of Durruti) presented the same line, calling for "a revolutionary Junta, complete disarmament of the Assault Guards and the National Republican Guards".

Instead of such a course of action, the CNT leaders decided to enter into a compromise with the bourgeois-Stalinist coalition and called on the workers to return to work, calls that were resisted until the morning of May 6, when the POUM ordered its members to leave the barricades, many of them still under fire from the Stalinist-led Assault Guard. That morning's issue of the POUM's paper, La Batalla, taking its cue from the CNT leaders, declared that "the counter-revolutionary provocation having been repulsed, it is necessary to leave the streets. Workers, return to work". Following the lead of the POUM workers, the CNT workers abandoned their barricades and returned to work.

The bourgeois liberal-Stalinist coalition then moved in for the kill. Five thousand Assault Guards were brought in from Valencia after the barricade fighting had collapsed and began to arrest and execute anarchist workers and POUM members by the hundreds. Hugh Thomas, in his detailed study, The Spanish Civil War, gives a graphic description of the suppression of the POUM in June 1937:

In Barcelona ... on the orders of Antonov-Ovsenko, the Russian Consul-General, the POUM headquarters at the Hotel Falc¢n, was closed. It was immediately, and convenviently, turned into a prison. The POUM itself was declared illegal, and 40 members of its central committee arrested. Andrs Nin was taken off separately, but his friends all found themselves in an underground dungeon in Madrid. All members or associates of the POUM went in fear of arrest, since the Stalinist habit of visiting the alleged crimes of the leaders upon all possible followers was well known. The Communist newspapers daily screamed accusations against those whom their party had arrested but did not bring to trial... And a rumour spread that Andrs Nin had been murdered in prison... In fact he was ... undergoing the customary Soviet interrogation of suspected deviationists. His resistance to these methods was apparently amazing. He refused to sign any document admitting his guilt or that of his friends... So, one dark night, ten German members of the International Brigade assaulted the house in Alcal where Nin was held. Ostentatiously, they spoke German during the attack, and left behind some German train tickets. Nin was taken away in a closed van and murdered.(68)

From this point on the fortunes of the anti-Franco camp began to steadily decline, as the workers and peasants became more and more demoralised by the anti-democratic measures imposed on them by the bourgeois-liberal/Stalinist coalition -- although the war of attrition was to drag on for 21 months.

Hearse asks me in his rejoinder: "is the historian Fernando Claudin, former leader of the Spanish CP, right when he argues that the Comintern team in Spain, led by [Italian Stalinist leader Palmiro] Togliatti, tried to force the revolution back into a `bourgeois-democratic straightjacket' from the spontaneously socialist and proletarian character it had assumed?" The answer is, yes and no!

The Stalinists certainly tried to force the workers' resistance to the fascist bid for power back into the framework of control by a bourgeois state machine. However, they did not attempt to lead to completion a bourgeois-democratic revolution during the Spanish Civil War. To the contrary, they allied themselves with the liberal bourgeois politicians to crush attempts by the workers to secure political liberties, opposed the handing over of land to peasant committees, and refused to recognise the right to self-determination of the Moroccan, Basque and Catalan nations. The Stalinists justified their counter-revolutionary course with the argument that the war against Franco's armies had to be won first, before the workers could struggle for political power.

Hearse's account of the Spanish Civil War loses sight of the real issue: how was the bourgeois-landlord counter-revolution headed by Franco going to be defeated? Through the creation of a workers' and peasants' government, which would carry through to completion the bourgeois-democratic revolution (as a necessary first step toward a socialist revolution)? This was the strategic line that Trotsky, basing himself on the experience of the October Revolution, argued for. Or, through the placing of the workers' organisations under the control of a revived bourgeois state? This is the course of action pursued by the liberal-Stalinist bloc.

What is most astonishing about Hearse's account of the Spanish Civil War is his accusation of "sectarianism" against Trotsky's criticism of the POUM leadership for adopting a similar line of argument as the Stalinists, i.e., that the war against Franco had to be won first before the workers could struggle for power.

In his May 1939 article "Centrism and the Fourth International" (an excerpt of which is printed in the Pathfinder collection of Trotsky's writings on Spain under the title "The Culpability of Left Centrism"), Trotsky wrote:

... Nin, honest and devoted to the cause, was not a Marxist but a centrist, in the best case a Spanish Martov, that is to say, a Menshevik of the left...

The mobilization of the vanguard against the reaction and its abject lackeys, including the anarcho-bureaucrats, the leaders of the POUM replaced by quasi-revolutionary homilies addressed to the treacherous leaders, declaiming in self-justification that the "masses" would not understand another, more resolute policy.

An enormous responsibility for the Spanish tragedy falls upon the POUM. I have all the greater right to say so because in my letters to Andr‚s Nin, since 1931, I predicted the inevitable conseqences of the disastrous policy of centrism. By their general "left" formulas the leaders of the POUM created the illusion that a revolutionary party existed in Spain and prevented the appearance of the truly proletarian, intransigent tendencies. At the same time, by their policy of adaptation to all the forces of reformism, they were the best auxiliaries of the Anarchist, Socialist, and Communist traitors. The personal honesty and heroism of numerous workers of the POUM naturally provoke our sympathy; against the reaction and the rabble of Stalinism we are ready to defend them to the utmost. But that revolutionist is worth precious little who, under the influence of sentimental considerations, is incapable of considering objectively the real essence of a given party.

The POUM always sought the line of least resistance, it temporized, ducked, played hide-and-seek with the revolution...

That is the position of Martov. But Martov, be it said in his honor, knew how to avoid mistakes as crude and shameful as participation in the Catalan government. To pass over openly and solemnly from the camp of the proletariat to the camp of the bourgeoisie! Marceau Pivert [a French centrist and apologist for the POUM - DL] closes his eyes to such "details."

For the workers who, during the revolution, direct all the force of their class hatred against the bourgeoisie, the participation of a "revolutionary" leader in a bourgeois government is a fact of enormous importance: it disorients and demoralizes them. And this fact did not fall from the sky. It was a necessary link in the policy of the POUM. The leaders of the POUM spoke with great eloquence of the advantages of the socialist revolution over the bourgeois revolution; but they did nothing serious to prepare this socialist revolution because the preparation could only consist of pitiless, audacious, implacable mobilization of the Anarchist, Socialist, and Communist workers against their treacherous leaders...

In the course of eight months, the Bolsheviks, from the small group that they were, became a decisive force. The energy and the heroism of the Spanish proletariat gave the POUM several years in which to prepare. The POUM had the time on two or three occasions to emerge from its swaddling clothes and to become an adult. If it did not, it is in no way the fault of the "democratic" imperialists and the Moscow bureaucrats, but the result of an internal cause: its own leadership did not know where to go or what paths to take.(69)

This criticism is certainly harshly worded, but the facts of the POUM's role in the revolutionary situation in Catalonia from July 1936 to May 1937 attest to its fundamentally Bolshevik-Leninist content. Is this why Hearse rejects it? Or is it because he has allowed his justifiable hostility to Stalinism and what it did during the Spanish Civil War to develop a bad case of political amnesia with regard to the non-revolutionary role of the POUM leadership?

 

National oppression, the national-democratic revolution and socialism

Hearse's arguments, in both his original critique of my pamphlet and in his rejoinder, demonstrate that he does not understand the relationship between the struggle to end the national oppression of imperialist-dominated countries and the socialist revolution. In his critique he wrote:

Real national liberation today means breaking the dominance of imperialist finance capital over the peoples of the exploited countries. This of course is a task of the socialist revolution, not the democratic revolution. A solution of the national and democratic tasks of the revolution, the "completion" of the national-democratic revolution, is inconceivable without anti-capitalist measures, for example, the establishment of a monopoly of foreign trade, the nationalisation of the banks and finance houses, a regime of workers' control over the finance houses and big monopolies, and the expropriation -- or at least the state control and supervision of -- the assets of transnational corporations.

Now, if Doug is going to turn around and say all these measures are quite compatible with the national democratic revolution, carried out by what he calls a "special form of the dictatorship of the proletariat", he has really just baptised the first steps of the socialist revolution with another name and agrees in essence with permanent revolution. If not, then he is going to be the partisan of a "democratic revolution" which singularly fails -- in the epoch of the domination of globalised finance capital -- to solve the national and democratic tasks of the revolution.

In his rejoinder Hearse argues that "in the epoch of neoliberal globalisation, more than ever the countries exploited by imperialism need to break the hold of imperialist finance capital if they are to achieve real national liberation -- a crucial task of the national-democratic revolution". According to Hearse, this "means that there can be no `national-democratic revolution' -- i.e., a revolution which solves the tasks of the national-democratic revolution -- which is not simultaneously anti-imperialist and thus anti-capitalist. This of course is a basic proposition of the permanent revolution theory".

In actual fact, it's not. Or, at least it's not a basic proposition of Trotsky's permanent revolution theory as he generalised it to the imperialist-dominated countries. In his 1929 summary of the basic postulates of his theory of permanent revolution, Trotsky argued that with "regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national independence is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all, its peasant masses".

Trotsky argued that the national-democratic revolution in the imperialist-dominated countries could be completed "only through the dictatorship of the proletariat which bases itself upon the alliance with the peasantry and solves first of all the tasks of the democratic revolution" adding that:

Assessed historically, the old slogan of Bolshevism -- "the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry" -- expressed precisely the above-characterized relationship of the proletariat, the peasantry and the liberal bourgeoisie.(70)

In other words, the tasks of the (bourgeois-)democratic revolution in "countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries" ("achieving democracy and national independence") could only be solved by a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry (a workers' and peasants' government).

The 1927 Platform of the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition in the CPSU made the same point: "The doctrine of Lenin, that a bourgeois-democratic revolution can be carried through only by a union of the working class and the peasants (under the leadership of the former) against the bourgeoisie, is not only applicable to China, and to similar colonial and semicolonial countries, but in fact indicates the only road to victory in those countries."(71)

In his 1929 summary of the basic postulates of the theory of permanent revolution Trotsky went on to argue that having "risen to power as the leader of the democratic revolution" such a workers' and peasants' government would be "inevitably and very quickly confronted with tasks, the fulfilment of which is bound up with deep inroads into the rights of bourgeois property" (my emphasis - DL), i.e., various measures of (proletarian) state control over the operations of capitalist-owned businesses. Through the implementation of such transitional measures, "the democratic revolution grows over directly into the socialist revolution".

In my pamphlet I argued, and cited evidence in support of the argument, that Trotsky tended to telescope the democratic and socialist revolutions together, i.e., before October 1928 he quite often argued that the proletarian state power would have to implement the tasks of the socialist revolution before the tasks of the democratic revolution had been completed. However, that is not the same thing as saying, as Hearse does, that the tasks of the national-democratic revolution (democracy and national independence) in the imperialist-dominated countries cannot be achieved without socialist, i.e., anti-capitalist, measures. Hearse puts an imperialist Economist interpretation upon Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution that Trotsky himself -- at least after October 1928 -- did not.

The source of Hearse's error is that he confuses the ending of the national oppression ("real national liberation") of the oppressed nations with the achievement of the tasks of the national-democratic revolution in the semi-colonial countries.

The tasks of the national-democratic revolution are to achieve democracy and national independence (this remains true whether or not, like Indonesia today, the proletariat is a minority of the population, or like Cuba before 1959, it constitutes the majority, including in the countryside).

"Democracy", as Lenin explained in his 1917 work The State and Revolution, "is a form of state" which "like every state" represents "on the one hand, the organised, systematic use of force against persons" and "on the other hand, it signifies the formal recognition of equality of citizens, the equal right of all to determine the structure of, and to administer, the state".(72) The fullest and most complete democracy, Lenin explained, is a democratic republic in which state power (the "organised, systematic use of force against persons") is administered by armed organisations of the majority of the population (a people's militia) directed by representative bodies which combine legislative and executive functions, in which all officials are elected, subject to recall by their electors and are paid no more than the average skilled worker, i.e., a Paris Commune type state, a revolutionary-democratic state. This is the best form of state through which the proletariat can conduct its class struggle against the bourgeoisie to its ultimate conclusion, i.e., the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the creation of a socialised, planned economy.

In support of these propositions Lenin cited the following remarks by Engels (from his critique of the Erfurt Program of the German Social-Democratic Party): "If one thing is certain it is that our party and the working class can only come to power in the form of the democratic republic. This is even the form for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the Great French Revolution [i.e., the Paris Commune - DL] has shown..."(73)

In the imperialist epoch, the citizens of the oppressed, semi-colonial nations cannot achieve lasting and full national democracy (i.e., the formal right to administer their own state free from foreign interference) without the establishment of a revolutionary-democratic state, a democratic dictatorship of the working people (led by the class-conscious vanguard of the proletariat). This is because, as long as state power in these countries remains under the control of the bourgeoisie, imperialist finance capital both in the form of transnational corporations and banks and through its state and quasi-state institutions (e.g., the IMF and the World Bank) will interfere in the determination of (actually, they will dictate) the social and economic policies of such semi-colonial states. Only a revolutionary-democratic state, a workers' and peasants' democratic republic, can assure the oppressed nation full political sovereignty within its state frontiers.

Furthermore, an oppressed nation in the imperialist epoch, the epoch of the domination of finance capital, cannot achieve real national independence so long as its economy is internally dominated by foreign capital. That is why the establishment of a state monopoly of foreign trade, the nationalisation of banks and finance houses, and the expropriation of -- or at least, state control and supervision of -- the activities of transnational corporations within its state borders are required to achieve genuine national independence, i.e., full political and economic sovereignty within its state frontiers.

Hearse claims that these economic measures are anti-capitalist and are therefore tasks of the socialist revolution, not the national-democratic revolution. Here he confuses measures which suppress or control a particular fraction of the bourgeoisie with measures aimed at abolishing capitalism. It was precisely the failure to distinguish between these two different sorts of measures that led some forces identifying with Trotskyism (the Committee for a Workers International, for example) to claim that a range of semi- colonial countries with petty-bourgeois nationalist leaderships that carried out all of these measures (e.g., Egypt under Nasser, Burma under Ne Win, Syria under the Baathists, Ethiopia under Mengistu, etc.) had ceased to be bourgeois states and had become "deformed workers' states". They equated nationalisation with socialisation, with the centralisation of the means of production in the hands of the proletariat organised as the ruling class.

Similarly, the majority of the Fourth International falsely assumed that because the petty-bourgeois nationalist Pol Pot regime called itself "communist" and suppressed all private property it was a "deformed workers' state" (on the basis of that false and non-Marxist analysis they condemned the Vietnamese proletariat for using the state power it commanded to invade Cambodia and overthrow Pol Pot's reactionary petty-bourgeois regime!).

Hearse's statement that "[r]eal national liberation today means breaking the dominance of imperialist finance capital over the peoples of the exploited countries" and that this is a "task of the socialist revolution, not the democratic revolution" is certainly correct. However, from this correct observation he draws false -- i.e., imperialist Economist -- conclusions. He dissolves the national-democratic revolution in the semi-colonial countries into the socialist revolution. Consequently, he fails to recognise that:

1. The oppressed and capitalistically underdeveloped nations still "have general national tasks to accomplish, namely, democratic tasks, the tasks of overthrowing foreign oppression" in the political sphere, i.e., winning full national independence.

2. Even a socialist revolution in an oppressed and capitalistically underdeveloped country in the imperialist epoch, the epoch of the domination of world economy by the financial oligarchies that rule the countries which have attained the highest stage of capitalism (monopoly capitalism), will not end national oppression. This is because it cannot end the material inequality that flows from the latter's monopolisation of advanced technology. Despite the fact that Cuba, for example, has had a socialist revolution it remains an imperialist-oppressed and imperialist-exploited nation. Consequently, the breaking of the dominance of imperialist finance capital over the peoples of the oppressed, semi-colonial countries (the only way to achieve their full national liberation) is, ultimately, a task of the socialist revolution in the imperialist countries.

3. In both the semi-colonial and imperialist countries, anti-capitalist economic measures "cannot be implemented without organising the entire people for democratic administration of the means of production captured from the bourgeoisie, without enlisting the entire mass of the working people, the proletarians, semi-proletarians and small peasants, for the democratic organisation of their ranks, their forces, their participation in state affairs".(74) The strategic line of march to the reorganisation of the economic basis of capitalist society along socialist lines therefore cannot "skip over" the revolutionary democratisation of the legal and political superstructure. The creation -- through the smashing of the bourgeois state and the substitution of organs of state power that organise the class rule of the proletariat and its semi- and non-proletarian allies -- of a genuinely democratic republic is a pre-condition (and therefore necessary first step) for carrying out the socialist revolution.

 

Indonesia and `Lenin's theory'

Hearse's failure to understand these points leads him to assume that in capitalistically backward countries in which the peasantry is a minority of the population the worker-peasant alliance could not be of the "same type as the (DSP account of) the worker-peasant alliance in Russia" (as he expressed it in his first article), i.e., a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants.

He devoted considerable space in his critique to the argument that such a perspective has no relevance where the proletariat and the semi-proletariat (that section of the labouring masses which owns or leases means of production but which also has to hire its labour-power part of the time to capitalist or semi-capitalist exploiters) constitutes the majority of the population.

In particular, he criticised a Green Left Weekly article by James Vassilopoulos on Indonesia for arguing (as Hearse puts it in his rejoinder) "for a two-stage revolution, based -- explicitly -- on `Lenin's theory' on Russia", which he falsely interpreted as meaning that a worker-peasant alliance would not "be under the organisational and political hegemony of the working class".

In his rejoinder Hearse returns to his criticism of Vassilopoulos' article, complaining that in my reply to his critique I did not respond to his arguments. He simply ignores the fact that I actually did respond to his arguments -- by refuting his claim that "Lenin's theory" projected a worker-peasant alliance under the hegemony of non-proletarian political forces.

According to Hearse, Vassilopoulos' article argued "for an alliance of the working class and the peasantry to achieve the `national-democratic' revolution" (which is true) and "that the majority of the rural population in Indonesia are `land-owning peasants"'. Where in the article did Vassilopoulos make this claim? He pointed out that there are 16 million landowning peasants in Indonesia, and 46 million rural labourers, i.e., proletarian and semi-proletarian labourers. Hearse, however, interprets this to mean 46 million exclusively proletarian labourers. On this basis he disputes Vassilopoulos' claim that the proletariat (i.e., completely propertyless workers who live exclusively by selling their labour-power to capitalist employers) is a minority of the Indonesian work force.

According to the World Bank's 1997 World Development Indicators (using the International Labour Organisation's 1995 Yearbook of Labor Statistics) in 1993 "employees" (which includes bourgeois managerial personnel, highly paid middle-class professionals, as well as wage-workers) accounted for only 37.8% of Indonesia's economically active population, while "employers and own-account workers" (i.e., capitalist employers and self-employed workers -- which can include not just petty proprietors but also much of the urban and rural semi-proletariat) accounted for 39.4% of the labour force. A further 20.8% were classified as "unpaid family workers" (which leaves 2% not accounted for). The latter category are most likely family dependents of petty-bourgeois peasants, small manufacturers and traders. Therefore, out of a total labour force of 86 million, the proletariat is quite clearly a minority of Indonesia's economically-active population (less than 32.5 million), while the petty bourgeoisie proper and the semi-proletarian urban and rural poor account for over 51 million (60%).

In any case, Hearse's whole argument is based on a false assumption, i.e., that "Lenin's theory" of a worker-peasant alliance to carry to completion a democratic revolution is inapplicable to capitalistically backward countries where the fully petty-bourgeois peasants (landowning or tenant farmers who use pre-industrialised farming techniques and who do not regularly hire wage labour) are a minority of the population. He seems to be ignorant of the fact that in tsarist Russia the big majority of peasants were landless semi-proletarian (i.e., semi-petty-bourgeois) labourers. Furthermore, the fundamental task of the uncompleted bourgeois-democratic revolution in Indonesia is not a peasant agrarian revolution to abolish remnants of feudal landed property (there aren't any!), but a national-democratic revolution against imperialist domination.

 

Conclusion: what's wrong with `permanent revolution'?

At the end of his rejoinder, Phil Hearse states "it doesn't matter much if Lorimer and the DSP adopt the words `permanent revolution'." Furthermore, "it doesn't much matter if they stick to their idiosyncratic interpretation of the Russian revolution" (i.e., the interpretation that Lenin and the whole Bolshevik Party leadership, including Trotsky, presented in 1918-19!).

"The important thing", he says, "is what strategy is going to be advocated in `Third World' countries, in other words what policy revolutionary Marxists are going to take toward revolutions in the 21st century". That is true. And it is precisely why we in the DSP think it is important to reject the words "permanent revolution"; because these words have come to designate a strategy, a policy, that is (as I put it at the end of my pamphlet) "an inferior guide to revolutionary action compared to the Leninist theory and policy of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution".

Now, isn't there a contradiction between saying this and acknowledging, as I did above, that the main difference between Trotsky's permanent revolution theory and the Leninist theory and policy of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution is that "Trotsky tended to telescope the democratic and socialist revolutions together, i.e., before October 1928 he quite often argued that the proletarian state power would have to implement the tasks of the socialist revolution before the tasks of democratic revolution had been completed". A case could be made that "permanent revolution", as Trotsky presented it in The Permanent Revolution, is free of this problem and is practically in- distinguishable from Lenin's conception of the relation of the democratic and socialist stages of the proletarian revolution in the capitalistically underdeveloped countries.

Even if this were true, and it isn't, there would still be a problem with the use of the words "permanent revolution" to describe this strategic policy, namely, the fact that Trotsky affirmed a continuity between his pre-1917 ultraleft-sectarian, workerist conception of "permanent revolution" and his post-1928 "Bolshevised" conception.

Furthermore, he also never repudiated the pre-1917 conception that he revived, briefly it is true, in his June 1928 criticism of Bukharin's draft program of the Communist International (published in French in 1929 under the title L'Internationale Communiste apres Lenine and in English in 1936 under the title The Third International After Lenin), wherein he wrote:

If in our country the poor peasants committees appeared on the scene only during the second stage of the October revolution, in the middle of 1918, in China, on the contrary, they will, in one form or another, appear on the scene as soon as the agrarian movement revives. The drive on the rich peasant will be the first and not the second stage of the Chinese October.

The agrarian revolution, however, is not the sole content of the present historical struggle in China. The most extreme agrarian revolution, the general division of land (which will naturally be supported by the communist party to the very end), will not by itself provide a way out of the economic blind alley. China requires just as urgently national unity and economic sovereignty, that is, customs autonomy, or more correctly, a monopoly of foreign trade. And this means emancipation from world imperialism...

The enormous role of foreign capital in Chinese industry and its way of relying directly in defense of its plunder on its own "national" bayonets, render the program of workers' control in China even less realizable than it was in our country. The direct expropriation first of the foreign capitalist and then of the Chinese capitalist enterprises will most likely be made imperative by the course of the struggle on the day after [!] the victorious revolution...

These fundamental and, at the same time, incontrovertible social and political prerequisites of the third Chinese revolution demonstrate not only that the formula of the democratic dictatorship has hopelessly outlived its usefulness, but also that the third Chinese revolution, despite the great backwardness of China, or even more correctly, because of this great backwardness as compared with Russia, will not have a "democratic" period, not even such a six month period as the October Revolution had (November 1917 to July 1918); but it will be compelled from the very outset to effect the most decisive shake-up and abolition of bourgeois property in city and village.(75)

In his rejoinder Hearse quotes the second paragraph in the above-cited passage but avoids informing readers what policy Trotsky advanced in his criticism of the draft Comintern program to solve the task of emancipation of China from imperialist domination. Did Hearse perhaps find the social-revolutionary fatalism and absurdly leftist policy that Trotsky set forth in the subsequent paragraphs too embarrassing to cite? They certainly wouldn't have helped him to make a case that "permanent revolution" has nothing in common with the view that there has to be "an instantaneous nationalisation of the means of production, or all the means of production", and that it fully accords with the "basic postulate of Marxism that the working class will seize power, and then `by degrees' socialise the means of production, the tempo depending on a series of circumstances, including the level of the productive forces, the cultural level of the labouring masses and other factors".

The fact that Trotsky never repudiated the interpretation of "permanent revolution" he presented in his criticism of the draft program of the Comintern, and even authorised its publication in French and English without any qualifying comments, demonstrates what's wrong with "permanent revolution": it is open to being interpreted (and in fact was by its originator, as well as many of its present-day adherents) as sanctioning a policy that departs from Marxism toward the sort of absurdly leftist adventurism that the Hungarian Communists applied in 1919.

By contrast, only a year earlier (in April 1927) Trotsky had presented a much more sober view of the possibilities for the revolution in China at the end of the 1920s. He had written:

How can and must the question of the capitalist and socialist paths of China's development be posed in reality?

Above all it must be made clear to the vanguard of the Chinese proletariat that China has no prerequisites whatever economically for an independent transition to socialism; that the revolution now unfolding under the leadership of the Kuomintang is a bourgeois-national revolution, that it can have as its consequence, even in the event of complete victory, only the further development of productive forces on the basis of capitalism. But it is necessary to develop no less forcefully before the Chinese proletariat the converse side of the question as well: The belated bourgeois-national revolution is unfolding in China in conditions of the imperialist decay of capitalism. As Russian experience has shown -- in contrast, say, to the English -- politics does not at all develop in parity with economics. China's further development must be taken in an international perspective. Despite the backwardness of the Chinese economy, and in part precisely due to this backwardness, the Chinese revolution is wholly capable of bringing to political power an alliance of the workers and peasants, under the leadership of the proletariat. This regime will be China's link with the world revolution.

In the course of the transitional period, the Chinese revolution will have a genuinely democratic, worker-peasant character. In its economic life, commodity-capitalist relations will inevitably predominate. The political regime will be primarily directed to secure the masses as great a share as possible in the fruits of the development of the productive forces and, at the same time, in the political and cultural utilization of the resources of the state. The further development of this perspective -- the possibility of the democratic revolution growing over into the socialist revolution -- depends completely and exclusively on the course of the world revolution, and on the economic and political successes of the Soviet Union, as an integral part of this world revolution.(76)

The contrast between the revolutionary realism of this perspective and the farcical, ultraleft line Trotsky formulated in June 1928 could not be starker. The source of the difference was that in April 1927 Trotsky was defending the Leninist theory and policy of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution while in June 1928 he was arguing for the application of "permanent revolution".

 

Notes

1. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964), Vol. 23, p. 59.

2. ibid., p. 76.

3. ibid., p. 74.

4. see "Permanent Revolution -- A Reply to Doug Lorimer", by Phil Hearse [The Activist, Vol. 9, No. 8, November 1999].

5. Doug Lorimer, Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution: A Leninist Critique (Resistance Books, Sydney, 1998), p. 6.

6. ibid., p. 20.

7. ibid., p. 75.

8. ibid., p. 6-7.

9. Doug Lorimer, "The 12th World Congress of the Fourth International and the future of the Socialist Workers Party's international relations", in Jim Percy and Doug Lorimer, The Socialist Workers Party and the Fourth International (Sydney, 1985), pp. 40-42.

10. Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution & Results and Prospects, p. 277.

11. Lenin, CW Vol. 9, p. 48.

12. cited in Trotsky, "Three Conceptions of the Russian Revolution", Writings of Leon Trotsky (1939-40) (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1973), p. 59. The emphasis in this passage has been added by Hearse.

13. Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution & Results and Prospects, p. 36.

14. ibid., pp. 126-27.

15. Lenin, CW, Vol. 24, p. 61.

16. ibid., p. 44.

17. Lenin, CW, Vol. 9, p. 134.

18. Lenin, CW, Vol. 28, p. 305.

19. ibid., p. 305.

20. Norman Geras, The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg (New Left Books, London, 1976), p. 49.

21. ibid., p. 81.

22. ibid., p. 74-75.

23. Ernest Mandel, Trotsky: A Study in the Dynamics of His Thought (New Left Books, London, 1979), pp. 17-18.

24. Lenin, CW, Vol. 9, p. 25.

25. Lenin, CW, Vol. 24, p. 38.

26. Lenin, CW, Vol. 9, p. 52.

27. Lenin, CW, Vol. 24, p. 68.

28. Lenin, CW, Vol. 9, p. 31

29. Trotsky, "Three Conceptions of the Russian Revolution", Writings of Leon Trotsky (1939-40), pp. 56.

30. ibid., p. 57.

31. ibid., p. 58.

32. ibid., p. 59.

33. Lenin, CW, Vol. 25, p. 361.

34. Lenin, CW, Vol. 31, pp. 340-42.

35. Geras, The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg, pp. 73-75.

36. Lenin, CW, Vol. 15, p. 369.

37. Michael L”wy, The Politics of Combined and Uneven Development: The Theory of Permanent Revolution (Verso, London, 1981), p. 35.

38. Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution & Results and Prospects, p. 128.

39. Lenin, CW, Vol. 1, pp. 299-300.

40. Paul Le Blanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party (Humanities Press, New Jersey, 1993). p. 20.

41. Lenin, CW, Vol. 13, p. 442.

42. Lenin, CW, Vol. 8, p. 368.

43. Lenin, CW, Vol. 9, p. 432.

44. Lenin, CW, Vol. 10. pp. 21-26.

45. Trotsky, My Life (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1970), p. 181.

46. Trotsky, 1905 (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1971), p. 133.

47. ibid., p. 134-135.

48. ibid., p. 141.

49. Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed (OUP, London, 1970), p. 130.

50. Trotsky, 1905, pp. 189-93.

51. ibid., p. 266.

52. ibid., p. 268.

53. ibid., p. 270.

54. ibid., p. 274.

55. Lenin, CW, Vol. 21, p. 419.

56. Trotsky, "To the Army Committees and Soldiers' Soviets", Leon Trotsky Speaks (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1972), p. 74.

57. Trotsky, 1905, p. 8-9.

58. Lenin, CW, Vol. 28, p. 138.

59. ibid., pp. 139-40.

60. Mandel, Marxist Economic Theory (Merlin Press, London, 1968), p. 549.

61. Frederick Engels, "Principles of Communism", in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1971), p. 79.

62. John Riddell (ed.), Founding the Communist International: Proceedings and Documents of the First Congress, March 1919 (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1987), p. 246.

63. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977), Vol. 2, p. 17.

64. ibid., p. 81-82.

65. cited in Felix Morrow, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1974), p. 115.

66. ibid., p. 116.

67. ibid., p. 144.

68. Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (Harper & Bros., New York, 1961), pp. 453-54.

69. Leon Trotsky, The Spanish Revolution (1931-39 (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1973), pp. 343-46.

70. Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution & Results and Prospects, pp. 276-77.

71. Trotsky, The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1926-27), p. 369.

72. Lenin, The State and Revolution (Resistance Books, Sydney, 1999), p. 85.

73. ibid., p. 63.

74. Lenin, CW, Vol. 23, p. 26.

75. Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1970), pp. 183-84.

76. Leon Trotsky on China (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1978), p. 142.

 

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