In Defence of Lenin's Marxist Policy of a Two-Stage, Uninterrupted Revolution
The Activist - Volume 9, Number 8, November 1999
By Doug Lorimer
"From the democratic revolution we shall at once, and precisely in accordance with the measure of our strength, the strength of the class conscious and organised proletariat, begin to pass to the socialist revolution. We stand for uninterrupted revolution. We shall not stop half way... we shall bend every effort to help the entire peasantry achieve the democratic revolution, in order thereby to make it easier for us, the party of the proletariat, to pass on as quickly as possible to the new and higher task -- the socialist revolution." (V.I. Lenin, Social-Democracy's Attitude to the Peasant Movement, September 1905)
"It was the Bolsheviks who strictly differentiated between the bourgeois-democratic revolution and the socialist revolution: by carrying the former through, they opened the door for the transition to the latter. This was the only policy that was revolutionary and Marxist." (V.I. Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, November 1918)
Phil Hearse's polemic against my pamphlet (Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution: A Leninist critique, Resistance Books, Sydney, 1998) proceeds from a fundamentally false assumption, i.e., that my pamphlet "attempts [to give] a general strategic view" of revolution in "the semi-colonial and dependent semi-industrialised countries". He 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". Nowhere in my pamphlet, however, do I make such a claim.
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 had 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"(1). However, I did not present it as a "general schema" for all semi-colonial countries today. Hearse, on the other hand, gives the impression, though he does not explicitly state this, that he thinks Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution does provide such a "general schema".
The aim of my pamphlet, contrary to Hearse's allegation, was not to set out a "general schema" for revolution in all semi-colonial countries today. It was, 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 explained in the introduction that:
The Trotskyist movement has been the main vehicle through which the legacy of Bolshevism and the early years of the Communist International has been transmitted to many revolutionary-minded workers, students and intellectuals in large parts of the world, particularly the advanced capitalist countries, in the last decades of the 20th century. Any attempt to build an international movement that is really based, as [James P.] Cannon put it more than fifty years ago, on a revival of "genuine Marxism as it was expounded and practised in the Russian revolution and the early days of the Communist International", cannot avoid dealing with the misrepresentation of Bolshevik theory and policy made by Trotsky in the 1920s and '30s. [emphasis added]
That's why I stated in the introduction to my pamphlet that "I have limited the discussion of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution to those aspects of his theory which differ from the theory and policy of Leninism" and that I would concentrate on "the innumerable distortions of Lenin's views on the question of the class dynamics of the Russian revolution made by ... Trotsky himself".
Hearse criticises my pamphlet for not "attempting to reassess Lenin's and Trotsky's theories in the light of historical and contemporary experience". This criticism is misconceived for two reasons. The first is that I do attempt to assess "Lenin's and Trotsky's theories" in the light of historical experience -- the experience of the October Revolution (which was the crucial test of both "theories", since both of them were formulated specifically as guides to action for the Russian working class). Secondly, before a scientific attempt can be made to reassess either of these "theories" in the light of contemporary experience, it is necessary that their actual content be understood. My pamphlet was a contribution to the latter task.
Unfortunately, Hearse's polemic against my pamphlet repeats every one of the distortions of Lenin's policy that Trotsky made, though often with his own particular twist. In responding to Hearse's criticisms, I am therefore forced to again take up the task of refuting these distortions.
Transformation of the democratic revolution into a socialist revolution
Before the October Revolution, neither Lenin nor Trotsky presented their views on the class dynamics of the Russian revolution, and what this meant for Marxist policy, as having applicability to any country other than Russia. It was only after the October Revolution that they argued, as Lenin put it in his 1920 essay "Left-Wing" Communism -- an infantile disorder, that certain "features of our revolution have a significance that is not local, or peculiarly national, or Russian alone, but international".(2) Thus Lenin, for example, in his November 1918 polemical work The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, made the point that "a general peasant revolution is still a bourgeois revolution, and that without a series of transitions, of transitional stages, it cannot be transformed into a socialist revolution in a backward country".(3) That is, he argued that in any "backward country" in which there exist the objective conditions for a "general peasant revolution" (a revolution which unites all the different strata within the peasantry), the aims and tasks of this general peasant revolution do not go beyond the framework of bourgeois relations of production and that, without a "series of transitional stages" it cannot be transformed into a socialist revolution.
Hearse clearly disagrees with this proposition, though he does not specifically criticise Lenin's November 1918 restatement of it, preferring instead to criticise a presentation of it made 13 years earlier in Lenin's July 1905 pamphlet Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution (the parts of this quoted by Hearse are highlighted in bold type):
"The revolution's decisive victory over tsarism" means the establishment of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Our new-Iskra group [i.e., the Menshevik faction in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party -- DL] cannot escape from this conclusion, which [the Bolshevik faction's paper] Vperyod indicated long ago. No other force is capable of gaining a decisive victory over tsarism.
And such a victory will be precisely a dictatorship, i.e., it must inevitably rely on military force, on the arming of the masses, on an insurrection, and not on institutions of one kind or another established in a "lawful" and "peaceful" way. It can only be a dictatorship, for realisation of the changes urgently and absolutely indispensable to the proletariat and the peasantry will evoke desperate resistance from the landlords, the big bourgeoisie, and tsarism. Without a dictatorship it is impossible to break down that resistance and repel counter-revolutionary attempts. But of course it will be a democratic, not a socialist dictatorship. It will be unable (without a series of intermediary stages of revolutionary development) to affect the foundations of capitalism. At best, it may bring about a radical redistribution of landed property in favour of the peasantry, establish consistent and full democracy, including the formation of a republic, eradicate all the oppressive features of Asiatic bondage, not only in rural but also in factory life, lay the foundation for a thorough improvement in the conditions of the workers and for a rise in their standard of living and -- last but not least -- carry the revolutionary conflagration into Europe. Such a victory will not yet by any means transform our bourgeois revolution into a socialist revolution; the democratic revolution will not immediately overstep the bounds of bourgeois social and economic relationships; nevertheless, the significance of such a victory for the future development of Russia and of the whole world will be immense. Nothing will raise the revolutionary energy of the world proletariat so much, nothing will shorten the path leading to its complete victory to such an extent, as this decisive victory of the revolution that has now started in Russia.(4)
The above wording is taken from the English translation of Two Tactics contained in the Moscow edition of Lenin's Collected Works. The translation that Hearse cites is taken from Trotsky's 1939 article "Three Conceptions of the Russian Revolution" and has slightly different wording, e.g., "transitional stages of revolutionary development" rather than "intermediary stages of revolutionary development". However, these differences do not alter the meaning of Lenin's argument.
The thrust of these passages is that the complete ("decisive") victory of the democratic revolution in Russia can only be achieved through replacement of the tsarist state with a revolutionary dictatorship of the workers and peasants -- a government that is based upon institutions that arise out of an armed insurrection of the workers and peasants and that uses the military force of the armed workers and peasants to suppress the counter-revolutionary resistance of the landlords, the capitalists and the commanding personnel of the tsarist army.
Lenin points out that the immediate task of this revolutionary worker-peasant state power will be to complete the democratic revolution by realising "the changes urgently and absolutely indispensable to the proletariat and the peasantry", i.e., to establish consistent and full democracy, to bring about a radical redistribution of landed property in favour of the peasantry and to lay the foundations for a thorough improvement in the working conditions of the workers and their standard of living.
The realisation of these changes, Lenin explains, will "not immediately overstep the bounds of bourgeois social and economic relationships", i.e., they will not immediately begin to replace capitalist-commodity relations in the sphere of production with the centrally planned production and distribution of producer goods. Hence, their realisation will not immediately transform the revolution from a bourgeois revolution into a socialist revolution. That task will require a "series of intermediary stages of revolutionary development". This is because, as he explained in his November 1918 polemic against the German "Marxist" reformist Karl Kautsky, "it is the alliance between the proletariat and the peasants in general that reveals the bourgeois character of the revolution, for the peasants in general are small producers who exist on the basis of commodity production" and, therefore, "a general peasant revolution is still a bourgeois revolution". It consequently "cannot be transformed into a socialist revolution in a backward country" without a series of "transitional stages".
In Two Tactics Lenin did not discuss in any great detail what would be the content of this "series of intermediary stages of revolutionary development". This is because, at that time (July 1905), the transformation of the democratic revolution into a socialist revolution was not posed by either the subjective or objective conditions of the class struggle in Russia. Nor was it the most pressing theoretical question that needed clarification within the ranks of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. This centred on the political character of the government that should replace the tsarist autocracy. As Lenin explained in Two Tactics: "Since the people have broken with the [tsarist] government and the masses realise the necessity of setting up a new order, the party which sets itself the object of overthrowing the government must necessarily consider what government should replace the old, deposed government."(5)
According to Hearse, in Two Tactics Lenin argued that the workers and peasants should strive for "the establishment of a bourgeois republic by revolutionary means, against the resistance of the bourgeoisie itself". Furthermore, "Socialist perspectives are postponed until after `a whole series of transitional stages of revolutionary development' (and it is obvious that he did not mean by this the `few months' to which he referred in Economic and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat)."
From the latter pamphlet, written in October 1919, Hearse cites the following passage (the emphasis throughout is his own):
We accomplished instantly, at one revolutionary blow, all that can, in general, be accomplished instantly; on the first day of the dictatorship of the proletariat, for instance, on October 26 (November 8), 1917 the private ownership of land was abolished without compensation for the big landowners -- the big landowners were expropriated. Within the space of a few months practically all the big capitalists, owners of factories, joint-stock companies, banks, railways, and so forth, were also expropriated without compensation.(6)
Hearse then poses the question: "How can `a few months', with Soviet power, a Bolshevik-led government and a regime of workers' control, be described as a `stage' in any but the most doctrinaire accounts?" This question is rhetorically directed against the description that I gave in my pamphlet of the course of development of the proletarian revolution in Russia.
Basing myself on the assessment that Lenin gave to the Bolshevik Party's eighth congress in March 1919, I explained that the revolution had passed through two stages: a bourgeois-democratic stage (from November 1917 until June-July 1918) followed by the beginning of the stage of socialist revolution (July to November 1918). Here is what Lenin stated in the "Report on Work in the Countryside" adopted by the Bolshevik Party's eighth congress:
In October 1917 we seized power together with the peasants as a whole. This was a bourgeois revolution, in as much as the class struggle in the rural districts had not yet developed. As I have said, the real proletarian revolution in the rural districts began only in the summer of 1918. Had we not succeeded in stirring up this revolution our work would have been incomplete. The first stage was the seizure of power in the cities and the establishment of the Soviet form of government. The second stage was one which is fundamental for all socialists and without which socialists are not socialists, namely, to single out the proletarian and semi-proletarian elements in the rural districts and to ally them to the proletariat in order to wage the struggle against the bourgeoisie in the countryside. This stage is also in the main completed.(7)
Hearse evidently regards Lenin's use of the word "stage" to describe the first period of the October Revolution -- the period in which the proletariat allied itself with the peasants in general to carry to completion the bourgeois-democratic revolution -- as one of the "most doctrinaire accounts". Why? Is it because Lenin's description of the development of the October Revolution contradicts Hearse's view that "the working class, supported by the poor peasantry, seized power in a socialist revolution in October 1917, and first proceeded to solve the democratic tasks of the revolution, but combined this with tasks of the socialist revolution from the beginning" (my emphasis)?
To describe as a "stage" -- a period of development -- the "few months" in which the measures carried out by the Soviet power did not "overstep the bounds of bourgeois social and economic relationships", might call Hearse's view into question. It might even force him to acknowledge that "a general peasant revolution is still a bourgeois revolution, and that without a series of transitions, of transitional stages, it cannot be transformed into a socialist revolution in a backward country".
Recognising this did not mean, as Hearse alleges, that "socialist perspectives" in Russia were to be "postponed until after a `whole series of transitional stages of revolutionary development"' had been carried out. Rather, it meant that "socialist perspectives" could only be realised through the carrying out of a series of transitional steps. This should hardly be a novel concept for Marxists. Isn't it exactly how Marx and Engels presented the strategic line of march of the proletarian revolution in our movement's first programmatic document, written more than 150 years ago? In case Hearse has forgotten this, here is what they wrote:
We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.
The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class, and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.
Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.(8)
Lenin's "socialist perspective", i.e., his perspective for carrying out a socialist revolution in semi-feudal Russia, was nothing more than a specific application of this strategic line of march in a backward country in which the peasantry constituted the overwhelming majority of the population.
The first step of the proletarian revolution in Russia was to "raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class" by establishing consistent and full democracy, or, as Lenin put it in March 1919, "the seizure of power in the cities and the establishment of the Soviet form of government".
The Russian workers, however, could not do this without an alliance with the majority of the population -- the poor, or semi-proletarian, section of the peasantry. But the immediate aim of the poor peasants was not the "centralisation of all instruments of production in the hands ... of the proletariat organised as the ruling class". Their immediate aim, which they shared with the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements of the peasantry (the rich and middle peasants), was to abolish the private, hereditary, ownership of land by the big landowners, by the semi-feudal nobility, and to convert farm land into a commodity.
The Bolsheviks therefore sought to combine the first step of the proletarian revolution (establishing and consolidating the proletariat's political supremacy over the capitalists) with a general peasant revolution. During this first period of development of the proletarian revolution in Russia, the revolution would therefore "not immediately overstep the bounds of bourgeois social and economic relationships", i.e., it would not yet be a socialist revolution in its social content.
To transform the democratic revolution in Russia into a socialist revolution the proletariat would, in Lenin's view, have to use its political supremacy (once this was consolidated) to forge an alliance with the poor peasants to expropriate bourgeois property in the cities and villages. This transformation of the social content of the revolution could only be effected by means of a series of transitional measures, i.e., a series of measures "which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order", but which culminate in the centralisation of the decisive means of production in the hands of the proletarian state.
In his November 1918 pamphlet The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, Lenin explained how the Bolsheviks had formulated this strategic perspective in opposition to the views of the Mensheviks:
The old Menshevik "theories" about the bourgeois character of the Russian revolution, i.e., the old distortion of Marxism by the Mensheviks (rejected by Kautsky in 1905!), are now once again being rehashed by our theoretician. We must deal with this question, however boring it may be for Russian Marxists.
The Russian revolution is a bourgeois revolution, said all the Marxists of Russia before 1905. The Mensheviks, substituting liberalism for Marxism, drew the following conclusion from this: the proletariat therefore must not go beyond what is acceptable to the bourgeoisie and must pursue a policy of compromise with them. The Bolsheviks said this was a bourgeois-liberal theory. The bourgeoisie were trying to bring about the reform of the state on bourgeois, reformist, not revolutionary lines, while preserving the monarchy, the landlord system, etc., as far as possible. The proletariat must carry through the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the end, not allowing itself to be "bound" by the reformism of the bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks formulated the alignment of class forces in the bourgeois revolution as follows: the proletariat, winning over the peasants, will neutralise the liberal bourgeoisie and utterly destroy the monarchy, medievalism and the landlord system.
It is the alliance between the proletariat and the peasants in general that reveals the bourgeois character of the revolution, for the peasants in general are small producers who exist on the basis of commodity production. Further, the Bolsheviks then added, the proletariat will win over the entire semi-proletariat (all the working and exploited people), will neutralise the middle peasants and overthrow the bourgeoisie; this will be a socialist revolution, as distinct from a bourgeois-democratic revolution. (See my pamphlet Two Tactics, published in 1905 and reprinted in Twelve Years, St. Petersburg, 1907.)(9)
Bolshevik policy and Two Tactics
Writing in November 1918, Lenin explained that the Bolshevik policy of carrying out a socialist revolution in Russia involved, as a first step, forging an alliance between the proletariat and the peasants as a whole so as to "carry the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the end" (the complete destruction of the tsarist state and the semi-feudal landlord system); and that, once this task had been accomplished, the Bolsheviks would forge an alliance between the proletariat and all the semi-proletarian working people to abolish capitalism.
While Lenin points out that this Bolshevik policy can be found in his July 1905 pamphlet Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, Hearse accuses Lenin of deceiving his readers. According to Hearse, in Two Tactics Lenin limited the Bolsheviks' aims in the democratic revolution to "the establishment of a bourgeois republic by revolutionary means" and postponed any perspective of a socialist revolution in Russia until after the "development of fully capitalist relations in agriculture, i.e., bourgeois farmers and agricultural proletarians".
Hearse cites a number of passages from Two Tactics as supposed evidence of his latter claim. One of these was directed against the Socialist Revolutionaries, who believed that a general peasant revolution that destroyed the semi-feudal landlord system would, in and of itself, destroy capitalism in Russia:
Marxists are absolutely convinced of the bourgeois character of the Russian revolution. What does this mean? It means that the democratic reforms 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 [i.e., retarded], development of capitalism; they will for the first time, make it possible for the bourgeoisie to rule as a class.(10)
Lenin's argument here is simply a restatement of an elementary precept of historical materialism and Marxist economic theory, i.e., that complete elimination of the remnants of feudalism in Russia (the destruction of the tsarist autocracy and the semi-feudal landlord system) would create the optimum economic conditions for the development of capitalism, especially in the countryside, where 80% of tsarist Russia's population lived. Immediately after the quote that Hearse has selected, Lenin spelt this out:
The Socialist Revolutionaries cannot grasp this idea, for they do not and cannot know the ABC of the laws of development of commodity and capitalist production; they fail to see that even the complete success of a peasant insurrection, even the redistribution of the whole of the land in favour of the peasants and in accordance with their desires ("general redistribution" or something of the kind) will not destroy capitalism at all, but will, on the contrary, give an impetus to its development and hence the class disintegration of the peasantry itself. Failure to grasp this truth makes the Socialist-Revolutionaries unconscious ideologists of the petty bourgeoisie. Insistence on this truth is of enormous importance for Social-Democracy [i.e., the Russian Marxists -- DL] not only from the standpoint of theory but also from that of practical politics, for it follows therefrom that complete class independence of the party of the proletariat in the present "general democratic" movement is an indispensable condition.(11)
In the paragraph following this, Lenin pointed out that "it does not by any means follow that a democratic revolution (bourgeois in its social and economic essence) would not be of enormous interest to the proletariat". He went on to explain that a "bourgeois revolution is a revolution which does not depart from the framework of the bourgeois, i.e., capitalist, socio-economic system", that it "expresses the needs of capitalist development, and, far from destroying the foundations of capitalism, it effects the contrary--it broadens and deepens them" because it destroys all the pre-capitalist survivals from the past that impede the spontaneous development of capitalist-commodity relations, i.e., a market economy.
The other comment in Two Tactics that Hearse cites to support his claim that in 1905 Lenin rejected any prospect of a socialist revolution in semi-feudal Russia until after the bourgeoisie had taken power and there had been the "development of fully capitalist relations in agriculture", is that Lenin declared that "the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary".
This comment of Lenin's is also as elementary as it is correct. Furthermore, in explaining what he meant by it, Lenin also explained that while the Bolsheviks believed that a bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia would make it possible for the bourgeoisie to "rule as a class", the aim of their policy in this revolution was not to bring to power the bourgeoisie but the working class:
In countries like Russia the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. The working class is, therefore, most certainly interested in the broadest, freest, and most rapid development of capitalism. The removal of all the remnants of the old order which hamper the broad, free, and rapid development of capitalism is of absolute advantage to the working class. The bourgeois revolution is precisely an upheaval that most resolutely sweeps away survivals of the past, survivals of the serf-owning system (which include not only the autocracy but the monarchy as well), and most fully guarantees the broadest, freest, and most rapid development of capitalism.
That is why a bourgeois revolution is in the highest degree advantageous to the proletariat. A bourgeois revolution is absolutely necessary in the interests of the proletariat. The more complete, determined, and consistent the bourgeois revolution, the more assured will the proletariat's struggle be against the bourgeoisie and for socialism. Only those who are ignorant of the ABC of scientific socialism can regard this conclusion as new, strange, or paradoxical. And from this conclusion, among other things, follows the thesis that in a certain sense a bourgeois revolution is more advantageous to the proletariat than to the bourgeoisie. This thesis is unquestionably correct in the following sense: it is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie to rely on certain remnants of the past, as against the proletariat, for instance, on the monarchy, the standing army, etc. It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie for the bourgeois revolution not to sweep away all remnants of the past too resolutely, but keep some of them, i.e., for this revolution not to be fully consistent, not complete, and not to be determined and relentless. Social-Democrats often express this idea somewhat differently by saying that the bourgeoisie betrays its own self, that the bourgeoisie betrays the cause of liberty, that the bourgeoisie is incapable of being consistently democratic. It is of greater advantage to the bourgeoisie for the necessary changes in the direction of bourgeois democracy to take place more slowly, more gradually, more cautiously, less resolutely, by means of reforms and not by means of revolution; for these changes to spare the "venerable" institutions of the serf-owning system (such as the monarchy) as much as possible; for these changes to develop as little as possible the independent revolutionary activity, initiative, and energy of the common people, i.e., the peasantry and especially the workers, for otherwise it will be easier for the workers, as the French say, "to change the rifle from one shoulder to the other", i.e., to turn against the bourgeoisie the weapon the bourgeois revolution will supply them with, the liberty the revolution will bring, and the democratic institutions that will spring up on ground cleared of the serf-owning system.(12)
Lenin's meaning could not be any clearer: the Russian working class should strive to carry to completion, and in the most consistent manner possible, the bourgeois-democratic revolution in order to create the best conditions to pursue its struggle against the bourgeoisie and for socialism.
Far from arguing that the working class should limit its struggle to what was compatible with the establishment of bourgeois rule, Lenin argued that the workers should seek to carry through the struggle for democracy in precisely such a way as would maximise the prospects for creating a proletarian democracy and the overthrow of capitalism in Russia. In Two Tactics, Lenin wrote:
The complete victory of the present revolution will mark the end of the democratic revolution and the beginning of a determined struggle for a socialist revolution. Satisfaction of the present-day demands of the peasantry, the utter rout of reaction and the achievement of a democratic republic will mark the utter limit of the revolutionism of the [peasant] bourgeoisie, and even that of the petty bourgeoisie, and the beginning of the proletariat's real struggle for socialism. The more complete the democratic revolution, the sooner, the more widespread, the cleaner, and the more determined will the development of this new struggle be. The slogan of a "democratic" dictatorship [of the workers and peasants -- DL] expresses the historically limited nature of the present [democratic] revolution and the necessity of a new struggle on the basis of the new order for the complete emancipation of the working class from all oppression and all exploitation. In other words, when the democratic bourgeoisie or petty bourgeoisie ascends another step, when not only the revolution but the complete victory of the revolution becomes an accomplished fact, we shall "change" (perhaps amid the horrified cries of new and future Martynovs) the slogan of the democratic dictatorship to the slogan of a socialist dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the full socialist revolution.(13)
After citing his supposed evidence from Two Tactics that Lenin's perspective was limited to completing the bourgeois revolution so as to enable the bourgeoisie to rule as a class, Hearse poses the following question to me: "Is this what happened in 1917? That the revolution for the first time made it possible for the bourgeoisie to rule as a class?" My answer to this question is very simple: while this was not the aim of Lenin's policy, it is what actually happened in 1917. Or does Hearse deny that the initial phase of the workers' and peasants' democratic revolution in Russia in 1917 -- the February Revolution -- enabled a transfer of state power from the semi-feudal autocracy to the political representatives of the big bourgeoisie, organised in the Provisional Government?
What is the socialist revolution?
According to Hearse: "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 led by the workers and peasants -- against the resistance of the bourgeoisie".
This particular formulation immediately poses the question: who was it that was to be "led by the workers and peasants"?
Hearse's claim that it was the Bolsheviks' policy for the democratic revolution to be led by both the workers and the peasants is not an accidental "slip of the pen". Trotskyists have a peculiar phobia about acknowledging that it was the Bolshevik view that the democratic revolution would be led by the workers; that the workers would politically lead the peasant masses in carrying the democratic revolution to victory. To do so would undermine their claim that the chief merit of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution over Lenin's policy of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution is that Trotsky was clear in affirming the need for proletarian leadership in the democratic revolution, while Lenin was allegedly unsure about what the relationship would be between the proletariat and the peasantry in the revolutionary alliance that carried out the democratic revolution. Hence, whenever supporters of Lenin's policy explain that it was always the Bolsheviks' view that the democratic revolution in Russia could only be carried to completion under proletarian political leadership, Trotskyists interpret this as a "concession" to the permanent revolution theory and a repudiation of the Leninist policy of carrying out the socialist revolution in Russia through two stages.
In Phil Hearse's case this peculiar affliction has its source in his reduction of the socialist revolution to the act of conquering state power by the proletariat. He writes: "From the beginning [of the October Revolution], according to Trotsky's conception, the working class held the power (which is, logically, the very definition of a socialist revolution, according to this conception)".
However, Hearse is unable to stick consistently to this conception. This is because he knows that the conception he has just attributed to Trotsky (the seizure of state power by the working class is "the very definition of a socialist revolution") is not the Marxist conception of the socialist revolution. As we have already seen, the socialist revolution in Marx's view is the centralisation of all instruments of production in the hands of the proletarian state.
Hearse later acknowledges that for there to be a socialist revolution there must be socialisation of the ownership of the means of production. However, once he makes this concession to the Marxist conception of the socialist revolution he is driven -- by his desperate need to defend Permanent Revolution against the dreaded "two-stage theory" -- to go the opposite extreme, i.e., to separate "socialisation" of the ownership of means of production from the necessary first step in the proletarian revolution -- the conquest of state power.
Under a section of his article subheaded "Lessons of Spain", he tells us that:
When army general Franco led a fascist-military putsch in June 1936, the workers and peasants of Spain rose up in a revolution, successful in many important areas, and especially in Catalonia and its capital Barcelona. Catalonia was a stronghold both of the anarchists and the POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification). Spontaneously the workers socialised just about everything, even organising into collectives the barber's shops and shoeshine boys. In the countryside land was collectivised; peasant collectives sprang up in many areas.
Hearse tells us that, against the Stalinists (who justified their brutal suppression of the factory occupations and peasants' land seizures in the "name of a rigid two-stage theory: first win the national and democratic struggle against the fascists, and only then begin the struggle for socialism"), Trotsky "counterposed permanent revolution":
Despite the fact that Spain was a weak imperialist country like Russia, Trotsky insisted on the centrality of the national, democratic and land questions. Spain had a "belated" bourgeois development, and these questions centrally concerned the building of an alliance including the poor peasants and agricultural labourers, under the leadership of the working class, capable of defeating fascist reaction. But fighting for the solution of these issues under the leadership of the proletariat had to go-hand-in-hand with the measures of socialisation taken immediately and spontaneously by the working class itself.
Any "two-stage" theory, any attempt to delay, prevent or obstruct, the spontaneous socialisation measures of the workers, meant repressing the revolution -- which is exactly what the Stalinists did of course.
Like most Trotskyists when arguing against the Leninist policy of a two-stage, uninterrupted revolution, Hearse implies that adherents of this policy will somehow inexorably be drawn to advocate the implementation of the neo-Menshevik class-collaborationist counterfeit of this policy put forward by the Stalinists in the late 1920s. Hence we are told by him that:
The experience of Spain is incapable of being explained by Doug Lorimer's theory. If the national and democratic revolution has to be achieved first, before measures of socialisation can be taken, if combining socialist measures with fighting to solve the national and democratic tasks simultaneously is a priori incorrect, then the actions of the working class in Barcelona and in many other centres, were ultra-left. Which is exactly what the Stalinists said (blaming the anarchists and the POUM).
Contrary to what Hearse implies here, I do not think these actions were "ultra-left". But nor do I agree with him when he claims they amounted to the "socialisation'' of the ownership of the means of production.
For the working class in Catalonia in 1936-37 to have even begun the socialisation of the ownership of means of production, they would have had to have first done what the Russian workers did on October 25 (November 7), 1917, i.e., raise themselves to the position of ruling class by effecting a revolutionary transfer of political power from the bourgeois republican government to a workers and peasants' government. As the American Trotskyist Felix Morrow observed in his November 1937 pamphlet Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain:
Under contemporary capitalism, finance capital dominates manufacturing and transportation. This law of economics was not abrogated because the workers had seized the factories and railroads. All that the workers had done in seizing these enterprises was to transform them into producers' co-operatives, still subject to the laws of capitalist economics. Before they could be freed from these laws, all industry and land, together with bank capital and gold and silver reserves, would have to become the property of a workers' state. But this required overthrowing the bourgeois state.(14)
Without the expropriation of factories, mines, banks, railways, etc., by a proletarian state power, the seizure of the factories by individual groups of workers amounted, not to socialisation, but rather, as Morrow put it, to "syndicalist capitalism" -- "a form of producers' co-operatives, in which the workers divided the profits" and in which "real planning was impossible".(15)
The identification of the factory takeovers in Catalonia as the "socialisation" of industry was how the anarchists conceived of the socialist revolution.
The spontaneous working-class revolt in Catalonia went down to defeat in large part because the workers' anarchist and POUMist leaders in practice rejected the Marxist perspective on how to achieve working-class power in favour of carrying out a Menshevik, i.e., class-collaborationist, policy in relation to the bourgeois republican government. As Trotsky correctly observed in January 1937: "The present policy of the POUM leadership is that of Martov, not of Lenin. And for victory, the policy of Lenin is needed."(16)
Hearse complains that in my pamphlet I make "just one reference to Spain". In fact, I did not make even one reference to Spain-- I cited a comment about Russia made by Trotsky in an article he wrote on Spain. Perhaps I should have commented on the Spanish Civil War. It might have spared us from being given a lecture by Hearse on the "Lessons of Spain" in which he attempts to teach us that the Marxist conception of the socialist revolution is identical with the anarchist conception!
Hearse's attempt to use the experience of the Spanish revolution to show that it "wrecks" my "`two-stage' schema" and demonstrates the superiority of Trotsky's permanent revolution theory, fails entirely. That's because he proceeded to examine this experience with a false theoretical framework, i.e., the idea that the socialist revolution ("measures of socialisation") can be carried out simultaneously with the tasks of the democratic revolution.
In attempting to justify this conception, Hearse also claimed that "according to Trotsky's conception", the seizure of power by the working class is "logically, the very definition of a socialist revolution". If he had bothered to read the article of Trotsky's on Spain which I quoted from in my pamphlet he would have discovered that this was not Trotsky's conception of the socialist revolution. Two paragraphs below the one that I quoted in my pamphlet, Trotsky wrote:
The fact is that the dictatorship of the proletariat does not at all coincide mechanically with the inception of the socialist revolution. The seizure of power by the working class occurs in definite national surroundings, in a definite period, for the solution of definite tasks. In backward nations, such immediate tasks have a democratic character: the national liberation from imperialist subjugation and the agrarian revolution, as in China; the agrarian revolution and the liberation of the oppressed nationalities as in Russia. We see the same thing at present in Spain, even though in a different combination. Lenin even said that the proletariat in Russia came to power in October 1917 primarily as an agent of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The victorious proletariat began with the solution of the democratic tasks, and only gradually, by the logic of its rule, did it take up the socialist tasks... This is precisely what Lenin called the growing over of the democratic revolution into the socialist.(17)
`Logical contradiction' and Lenin's conception
Lenin presented a basically similar assessment of the October Revolution in his 1918 pamphlet The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, writing:
The Bolsheviks remained loyal to Marxism and never tried (in spite of Kautsky, who without a scrap of evidence, accuses us of doing so) to "skip" the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The Bolsheviks, first of all, helped the most radical, most revolutionary of the bourgeois-democratic ideologists of the peasants, those who stood closest to the proletariat, namely the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, to carry out what was in effect nationalisation of the land. On October 26, 1917, i.e., on the very first day of the proletarian, socialist revolution, private ownership of land was abolished in Russia.
This laid the foundation, the most perfect from the point of view of the development of capitalism (Kautsky cannot deny this without breaking with Marx), and at the same time created an agrarian system which is the most flexible from the point of view of the transition to socialism. From the bourgeois-democratic point of view, the revolutionary peasants in Russia could go no further: there can be nothing "more ideal" from this point of view, nothing "more radical" (from this same point of view) than nationalisation of the land and equal land tenure. It was the Bolsheviks, and only the Bolsheviks, who, thanks only to the victory of the proletarian revolution, helped the peasants to carry the bourgeois-democratic revolution really to its conclusion. And only in this way did they do the utmost to facilitate and accelerate the transition to the socialist revolution.(18)
In July 1905 in Two Tactics, Lenin argued that the workers' and peasants' revolution in Russia would have a bourgeois character, i.e., far from "the undermining of capitalism" it would, on the contrary, "for the first time, really clear the ground for a wide and rapid, European, and not Asiatic, development of capitalism". Hearse cites this comment by Lenin and claims it proves that there was a "logical contradiction" in Lenin's conception of the revolution. "How could the workers and peasants be put in power and then merely preside over the `European' development of capitalism?", Hearse asks.
Writing in November 1918, i.e., a year after the coming to power of a workers' and peasants' government in Russia, Lenin explained that the proletarian revolution created the foundation for the "most perfect" development of capitalism precisely because it helped the peasants"to carry the bourgeois-democratic revolution really to its conclusion" by nationalising the land and thus turning it into a commodity, i.e., making it available to be rented from the state. Clearly, Hearse did not read The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautskybefore he dashed off his polemic. Otherwise, he might have recognised that there is an "identity to Lenin's positions over the years 1905-17".
What is the source of Hearse's inability to recognise that there wasn't a logical contradiction in the argument made by Lenin in Two Tactics that the coming to power of a worker-peasant alliance (led by the proletarian vanguard) would not immediately undermine capitalist socio-economic relations, but actually widen them? It is his failure to understand that it is "the alliance between the proletariat and the peasants in general that reveals the bourgeois character of the revolution", and therefore a "general peasant revolution is still a bourgeois revolution, and that without a series of transitions, of transitional stages, it cannot be transformed into a socialist revolution".
But, Hearse might respond, doesn't Lenin say in the passage quoted above, that October 26, 1917 was "the very first day of the proletarian, socialist revolution"? True enough, he does. But he also says that it was only thanks to the "victory of the proletarian revolution" that the Bolsheviks "did the utmost to facilitate and accelerate the transition to the socialist revolution". How can the victory of the proletarian, socialist revolution facilitate and accelerate a transition to the socialist revolution? Isn't there a logical contradiction here?
There undoubtedly is for those who can see nothing but the antithesis between bourgeois revolution and proletarian revolution and who interpret even this antithesis in an utterly lifeless way, or who do not understand that the proletarian, socialist revolution is not a single event (i.e., the seizure of state power by the proletariat) but a process -- a series of class battles that begin with the struggle for state power by the working class and culminate in the abolition of classes and class society.
In a semi-feudal country like Russia, as Lenin explained, the proletariat had to begin the socialist revolution by first carrying to completion the tasks of the uncompleted bourgeois-democratic revolution. Only by doing so could the proletariat create the socio-political conditions for rallying the majority of Russia's population -- the semi-proletarian section of the peasantry -- to support the implementation of socialist measures, i.e., the centralisation of all large-scale production in the hands of the proletariat organised as the ruling class.
The democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry: bourgeois republic or special form of proletarian dictatorship?
In my pamphlet I argued that Lenin's formula of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry expressed the idea of a special form of proletarian dictatorship, of proletarian state power:
For orthodox Marxists, the term "dictatorship of the proletariat", as Lenin explained in his 1917 work The State and Revolution, signifies a revolutionary state power that organises the working class to suppress the resistance of the bourgeoisie during the transition period between capitalism and the classless, socialist society of the future.
A state power which organises the working class, in alliance with the peasantry as a whole, to suppress the resistance of the big landowners and industrialists in order to carry to completion a democratic revolution would also be a form of proletarian dictatorship, of working-class state power. But it would not yet be a socialist dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., a state power that organises the working class and the semi-proletarian elements to suppress the resistance of the capitalists to the "abolition of bourgeois property in city and village". It would be a special form of proletarian state power in a bourgeois-democratic revolution, a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.(19)
Elsewhere in the pamphlet I made the following argument:
A revolutionary worker-peasant dictatorship, or state power, could only come into being if the workers in the cities overthrew and replaced the state institutions of the tsarist landlord-capitalist state with their own organs of state power. The workers would use the state power they had conquered to rally the peasantry as a whole to consummate the bourgeois-democratic revolution and then, once the poor peasants came into conflict with the peasant bourgeoisie, to rally the poor peasants in the struggle for the transition to socialism. The proletarian-peasant dictatorship would therefore be the first stage of the proletarian dictatorship, or, as Trotsky himself had described it in Results and Prospects, "a special form of proletarian dictatorship in the bourgeois revolution".(20)
Hearse cites these two passages, claiming that they are attempts on my part to "guard" my "back" because I know "very well that the Bolsheviks routinely described their regime from the first day of the revolution as the `dictatorship of the proletariat"'. He adds: "But in accepting that it was, in essence, the dictatorship of the proletariat, Lorimer is despite himself forced to veer towards permanentist perspectives".
As supposed proof of this Hearse cites the following passage (which I also cited in my pamphlet) from the 1929 article "What is the Permanent Revolution? Basic Postulates" that Trotsky appended to his 1928 book The Permanent Revolution:
No matter what the first episodic stages of the revolution might be in the individual countries, the realisation of the revolutionary alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is conceivable only under the leadership of the proletarian vanguard... This in turn means that 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.(21)
Hearse follows this quote with the observation, which I would not dispute, that "there is a difference in emphasis between this quote and what Doug Lorimer says. But the similarity of positions -- a worker-peasant alliance to create the proletarian dictatorship and solve the democratic tasks -- will be obvious to anyone but the most doctrinaire". But then he makes the claim that what "is equally obvious is that neither of these two positions is anything like that defended by Lenin in 1905 or 1908". Really? What else does Lenin's formula of "a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry" mean other than the conquest of state power by the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry to solve first of all the tasks of the democratic revolution? Indeed, isn't that precisely how Trotsky -- in 1929 -- interpreted Lenin's formula? Immediately after he stated that "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", Trotsky made the following 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].(22)
Hearse, however, asserts that for Lenin the democratic worker-peasant dictatorship signified a "bourgeois republic". The only evidence Hearse provides to support this assertion is that Lenin argued that the immediate task of this revolutionary state power would be to complete the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and therefore this state power would be, as Lenin explained in Two Tactics, "a democratic and not a socialist dictatorship".
Within the framework of Hearse's false conception of the proletarian dictatorship as mechanically coinciding with the socialist revolution, a revolutionary state power that does not immediately carry out socialist measures but, instead, completes the bourgeois-democratic revolution, must "logically" be a form of bourgeois state power. However, it is rather presumptuous of him to suppose, without any corroborating evidence, that Lenin shared this conception.
The Commune state and the democratic dictatorship
Hearse claims that it was in April 1917 that Lenin came over to the conception that the proletarian dictatorship mechanically coincides with the socialist revolution. According to Hearse, in April 1917 Lenin began to argue for "the Commune state (i.e., socialist revolution)". Hearse thus demonstrates that he shares the same misconception about Lenin's April Theses that Lev Kamenev did in April 1917, i.e., because Lenin described the soviets of workers' and soldiers' deputies as being political institutions of the same type as the 1871 Paris Commune and advocated the Bolsheviks propagandise for the replacement of the landlord-bourgeois Provisional Government with a Soviet government, Lenin advocated the transformation of the democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.
In opposition to Lenin, Kamenev argued that the bourgeois-democratic revolution had not been completed and that the Bolsheviks should continue to advocate the creation of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Lenin replied that the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry had "already become a reality (In a certain form and to a certain extent)" because "this `formula' envisages only a relation of classes, and not a concrete political institution implementing this relation, this co-operation" and the soviets of workers' and (peasant) soldiers' deputies were institutions embodying precisely this co-operation. In his "Letters on Tactics", Lenin went on to explain:
To deal with the question of "completion" of the bourgeois revolution in the old way is to sacrifice living Marxism to the dead letter.
According to the old way of thinking, the rule of the bourgeoisie could and should be followed by the rule of the proletariat and the peasantry, by their dictatorship.
In real life, however, things have already turned out differently; there has been an extremely original, novel and unprecedented interlacing of the one with the other. We have side by side, existing together, simultaneously,both the rule of the bourgeoisie (the government of Lvov and Guchkov) and a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, which is voluntarily ceding power to the bourgeoisie, voluntarily making itself an appendage of the bourgeoisie.
For it must not be forgotten that actually, in Petrograd, the power is in the hands of the workers and soldiers; the new government is not using and cannot use violence against them, because there is no police, no army standing apart from the people, no officialdom standing all-powerful above the people. This is a fact, the kind of fact that is characteristic of a state of the Paris Commune type. This fact does not fit into the old schemes. One must know how to adapt schemes to facts, instead of reiterating the now meaningless words about a "dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry" in general.(23)
Further on in his "Letters on Tactics", Lenin replied directly to Kamenev's argument that adopting a perspective of "All Power to the Soviets" meant setting a perspective of transforming the bourgeois-democratic revolution into a socialist revolution as soon as the soviets took all power. Lenin wrote:
This is incorrect. I not only do not "build" on the "immediate transformation" of our revolution into a socialist one, but I actually warn against it, when in Thesis No. 8, I state: "It is not our immediate task to `introduce' socialism...".
Is it not clear that no person who builds on the immediate transformation of our revolution into a socialist revolution could be opposed to the immediate task of introducing socialism?...
Comrade Kamenev has somewhat overreached himself in his eagerness, and has repeated the bourgeois prejudice about the Paris Commune having wanted to introduce socialism "immediately".(24)
Please note Phil: Lenin says that those, like Kamenev, who talk in general terms about the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry are behind the times because, in a certain form and to a certain extent, this dictatorship already existed -- the soviets of workers' and soldiers' deputies were precisely such a dictatorship. Moreover, they represented a dictatorship (state power) of the same type as the Paris Commune. Lenin also pointed out that Kamenev shared the same prejudice as the bourgeoisie about the Paris Commune, i.e., that it was a socialist dictatorship of the proletariat. Driving these points home, Lenin went on to explain:
The real essence of the Commune is not where the bourgeois usually looks for it, but in the creation of a state of a special type. Such a state has already arisen in Russia, it is the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies!
Comrade Kamenev has not pondered on the fact, the significance, of the existing Soviets, their identity, in point of type and socio-political character, with the commune state, and instead of studying the fact, he began to talk about something I was supposed to be "building" on for the "immediate" future. The result is, unfortunately, a repetition of the method used by many bourgeois: from the question as to what are Soviets, whether they are of a higher type than a parliamentary republic, whether they are more useful for the people, more democratic, more convenient for the struggle, for combating, for instance, the grain shortage, etc. -- from this real, urgent, vital issue, attention is diverted to the empty, would-be scientific, but actually hollow, professorially dead question of "building on an immediate transformation".
An idle question falsely presented. I "build" only on this, exclusively on this -- that the workers, soldiers and peasants will deal better than the officials, better than the police, with the difficult practical, problems of producing more grain, distributing it better and keeping the soldiers better supplied, etc., etc.
I am deeply convinced that the Soviets will make the independent activity of the masses a reality more quickly and effectively than will a parliamentary republic (I shall compare the two types of state in greater detail in another letter). They will more effectively, more practically and more correctly decide what steps can be taken towards socialism and how these steps should be taken. Control over a bank, the merging of all banks into one, is not yet socialism, but it is a step towards socialism. Today such steps are being taken in Germany by the Junkers and the bourgeoisie against the people. Tomorrow the Soviet will be able to take these steps more effectively for the benefit of the people if the whole state power is in its hands.
What compels such steps?
Famine. Economic disorganisation. Imminent collapse. The horrors of war. The horrors of the wounds inflicted on mankind by the war.(25)
Are you beginning to understand what Lenin is saying here Phil? He calls attention to the socio-political character of the soviets as representing a more democratic type of state than a bourgeois parliamentary republic, as being a state of the Paris Commune type. He argues that if the soviets take all power into their hands they can implement the same sort of measures to deal with the threat of famine and economic disorganisation resulting from the imperialist war that the German imperialist state is implementing, but they will do it more effectively" for the benefit of the people" than a parliamentary republic.
In an article entitled "The Dual Power", published in the April 9 (April 22), 1917 issue of Pravda, Lenin explained that the Paris Commune was, like the soviets in Russia, a "revolutionary dictatorship, i.e., a power directly based upon revolutionary seizure, on the direct initiative of the people from below". It was "an entirely different kind of power from the one that generally exists in the parliamentary bourgeois-democratic republics of the usual type still prevailing in the advanced countries of Europe and America".
The fundamental characteristics of this type of state power, Lenin explained, are "(1) the source of power is not a law previously discussed and enacted by parliament, but the direct initiative of the people from below in their local areas -- direct `seizure', to use a current expression; (2) the replacement of the police and army, which are institutions divorced from the people and set against the people, by the direct arming of the whole people; order in the state under such a power is maintained by the armed workers and peasants themselves, by the armed people themselves; (3) officialdom, the bureaucracy, are similarly replaced by the direct rule of the people themselves or at least placed under special control; they not only become elected officials, but are also subject to recall at the people's first demand; they are reduced to the position of simple agents; from a privileged group holding `jobs' remunerated on a high, bourgeois scale, they become workers of a special `arm of the service', whose remuneration does not exceed the ordinary pay of a competent worker". This, "and this alone", Lenin insisted, "constitutes the essence of the Paris Commune as a special type of state".(26)
Hearse evidently assumed that because, in his April Theses, Lenin outlined a perspective which aimed at the replacement of the landlord-capitalist Provisional Government with a Commune state, Lenin shared the bourgeois prejudice about the Paris Commune being a socialist dictatorship of the proletariat.
This prejudice is also widely held by many Marxists because Marx, in his 1871 pamphlet The Civil War In France, described the Paris Commune as "essentially a working-class government". By this, however, Marx meant (as he wrote in the same sentence) that it was "the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour"(27), not that it did or could do this. In a letter written in 1881, Marx observed that the Paris Commune "was merely the rising of a city under exceptional circumstances, the majority of the Commune was by no means socialist, nor could it be", adding: "With a modicum of common sense, however, it could have reached a compromise with [the bourgeois government in] Versailles useful to the mass of the people -- the only thing that was possible to reach at the time."(28)
Lenin's identification of the soviets in April 1917 as a Commune-type state was regarded by Kamenev as a rejection by Lenin of the strategic perspective that the Bolsheviks had had since 1905 of fighting for a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Hearse concurs with this view. However, Kamenev was wrong -- and so is Hearse. Lenin had never held the view that the socialist revolution mechanically coincides with the proletarian dictatorship and therefore had never argued that the Paris Commune was a socialist dictatorship.
But if it wasn't a socialist dictatorship, then what sort of proletarian dictatorship was it? Lenin had given a scientifically correct, i.e., Marxist, answer to this question many years before 1917.
In July 1905 the Bolshevik paper Proletary, which Lenin edited, carried an article entitled "The Paris Commune and the Tasks of the Democratic Dictatorship". The article reviewed the experience of the Paris Commune. The last paragraph of the article was written by Lenin himself, and it drew the following conclusions:
This article teaches us, first and foremost, that for representatives of the socialist proletariat to take part in a revolutionary government with the petty bourgeoisie is fully permissible in principle, and, in certain conditions even obligatory. It shows us further 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". Finally, the article reminds us that when we study the lessons of the Paris Commune, we should imitate not the mistakes it made (the failure to seize the Bank of France and to launch an offensive against Versailles, the lack of a clear programme, etc.), but its successful practical steps, which indicate the correct road. It is not the word "Commune" that we must adopt from the great fighters of 1871; we should not blindly repeat each of their slogans; what we must do is to single out those programmatic and practical slogans that bear upon the state of affairs in Russia and can be formulated in the words "revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry". [my emphasis -- DL](29)
This was written in the same month that Two Tactics appeared -- a pamphlet in which, according to Hearse, Lenin conceived of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry as a bourgeois republic!
In his April Theses Lenin simply applied his July 1905 arguments to the concrete socio-political conditions existing in Russia in 1917, i.e., to complete the democratic revolution and to combat economic disorganisation caused by World War I we need a Commune state; the soviets (which are institutions that embody the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry) represent a state of the same type; therefore, we should fight for a transfer of all power to the soviets by carrying out propaganda around the slogan "All Power to the Soviets!", instead of talking in general terms about the need for a "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry".
Not very difficult to understand, is it? Or at least it's not if you examine Lenin's arguments through the framework of the Marxist theory of the state and the proletarian revolution, rather than through a fog of Trotskyist mystifications.
The April Theses debate
Hearse claims that the account which he gives of the April Theses -- that Lenin abandoned his perspective of fighting for a "bourgeois republic" in favour of fighting for a "Commune state" -- is "the one accepted by nearly all non-Stalinist historians of the revolution". All that proves is that there are not many historians who have a Marxist understanding of the essence of the Paris Commune and/or of Lenin's policy.
Hearse also claims that I have "to explain why there was such a huge and controversial debate inside the Bolshevik Party over Lenin's position". According to Hearse, the explanation is that "much of the party leadership, including the St Petersburg leadership in which Stalin played a central role, adopted an opportunist attitude to the Provisional Government and/or the opportunist leadership of the Soviet, because they saw them as the living embodiment of the `democratic dictatorship' for which the Bolsheviks had always fought".
This explanation fails on two counts. Firstly, neither Stalin nor Kamenev nor any other Bolshevik leader argued that the Provisional Government embodied the "democratic dictatorship", as is proven by their remarks at the March 31 (April 12) session of Bolshevik delegates to the All-Russian Conference of Soviets, the minutes of which are appended to Trotsky's book The Stalin School of Falsification. Kamenev, for example, described the Provisional Government as an "imperialist government". Secondly, if Stalin and Kamenev had believed that the soviets embodied the "democratic dictatorship", why would Lenin have had to point this very fact out to them (e.g., "The bourgeois revolution in Russia is completed insofar as power has come into the hands of the bourgeoisie. Here the `old Bolsheviks' argue: `It is not completed -- for there is no dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.' But the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies is that very dictatorship."(30))?
There is a further problem with Hearse's explanation. Lenin first formulated the political line contained in the April Theses while he was in exile in Switzerland in a series of letters written between March 7 (March 20) and March 26 (April 8), 1917, which were only published for the first time in 1924. And yet before Stalin and Kamenev arrived back in Petrograd on March 13 (March 26), 1917, the Bolshevik leadership inside Russia, basing itself on the perspectives that they had always fought for (the "democratic dictatorship"), had set out a political line which was fundamentally identical to the one which Lenin presented in his April Theses. The proof of this is the following comment by Lenin, written on March 15-16 (March 28-29) for a lecture which he gave to Swiss workers in Zurich:
The papers have published an extract from the Manifesto of our Central Committee, issued in St. Petersburg on March 18 [March 5 Old Style -- DL]. It demands a democratic republic, the eight-hour day, confiscation of the landed estates and their transfer to the peasants, confiscation of grain stocks, immediate peace negotiations, conducted not by the government of Guchkov and Milyukov, but by the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. This Soviet, in the view of the Manifesto, is the real revolutionary government (Lenin added that The Times correspondent, too, speaks of two governments in Russia). Peace negotiations are to be conducted not with the bourgeois governments, but with the proletariat of all the warring countries. The Manifesto calls upon all workers, peasants, and soldiers to elect delegates to the Soviet of Workers' Deputies.
These are the only really socialist, really revolutionary tactics.(31)
What then is the explanation for the "huge" debate in the Bolshevik Party over Lenin's April Theses? (In actual fact, it was not so "huge"; it lasted for less than four weeks and Lenin only wrote two short polemical articles during the whole debate -- his two "Letters on Tactics".) The only credible Marxist explanation is the one I gave in my pamphlet, i.e., Lenin's own explanation. He pointed out that a "gigantic petty-bourgeois wave has swept over everything and overwhelmed the class-conscious proletariat, not only by force of numbers but also ideologically; that is, it has infected and imbued very wide circles of workers with the petty-bourgeois political outlook"(32) and that a section of the Bolshevik leadership, represented by Stalin and Kamenev, were opportunistically accommodating to this ideological pressure. As he pointed out in the report he gave on his April Theses to the April 4 (April 17) meeting of Bolshevik delegates to the first All-Russia Conference of Soviets: "Even our Bolsheviks show some trust in the government. This can be explained only by the intoxication of the revolution."(33)
The April Theses and the RSDLP program
According to Hearse, my account of the April Theses debate is "positively evasive":
Lenin's description of the slogan of the democratic dictatorship as behind the times, his sharp attack on the Bolshevik leaders who clung to it, and his call for the transfer of power to the workers supported by the poor peasants -- these things amounted to an admission of the failure of the "democratic dictatorship" in reality and as a policy. And this failure resulted in a change in the programme of the Bolshevik Party and a change of name of the party to "Communist Party". It was much more than Doug Lorimer pretends, i.e., a change of tactics.
Hearse clearly considers Lenin's proposal in his April Theses to make changes in the Bolsheviks' program to be decisive proof that Lenin was arguing for much more than a change in tactical orientation. Elsewhere in his article Hearse claims that: "Events in 1917 forced him [i.e., Lenin] to change his perspectives, and hence the programme of the Bolshevik Party." Curiously, though, Hearse never tells us what changes Lenin actually proposed to make to the Bolsheviks' program.
Up until March 1919, when they adopted a new program, the Bolsheviks formally adhered to the program adopted by the second congress of the RSDLP in 1903. This set as the party's "immediate task" the "overthrow of the tsarist autocracy" and its replacement with a "democratic republic" based on the "sovereignty of the people, i.e., concentration of supreme state power entirely in the hands of a legislative assembly, consisting of the representatives of the people and constituting a single chamber" and the replacement of the "standing army by the universally armed people".
In the April Theses Lenin proposed a change in the program, "On our attitude towards the state and our demand for a `commune' state (i.e., a state of which the Paris Commune was the prototype)."(34)
As we have seen, Hearse has interpreted this to mean that Lenin was calling for the abandonment of the strategic perspective of a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry in favour of an immediate socialist dictatorship of the proletariat and poor peasants. Hearse's interpretation of the April Theses, however, is completely refuted by Lenin's proposed change to the Bolsheviks' program.
At the April 24-29 (May 7-12), 1917 conference of the Bolshevik Party, where the perspectives outlined in the April Theses were endorsed by the big majority of the 133 voting delegates and 18 outgoing members of the Central Committee, Lenin put forward the following proposed change to the party program in his "Resolution on the Question of Revising the Party Programme":
Amending the theses and clauses dealing with the state; such amendment is to be in the nature of a demand for a democratic proletarian-peasant republic (i.e., a type of state functioning without police, without a standing army, and without a privileged bureaucracy), and not for a bourgeois parliamentary republic.(35)
Lenin's resolution simply proposed changing the program to specify exactly what sort of "democratic republic", what "type of state", the Bolsheviks should fight for, i.e., a state of the Paris Commune type. At the conference Lenin pointed out that such a state "is a dictatorship, i.e., it rests not on law, not on the formal will of the majority, but on direct, open force",(36) the force of the armed proletariat and the peasantry. In speaking to the above-cited resolution, Lenin explained that "the point is not what an institution is called, but what its political character and structure is. By saying `proletarian-peasant republic', we indicate its social content and political character", (37), i.e., it would be a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.
Far from calling for the "dumping" of the strategic perspective of the "democratic dictatorship", as Hearse claims, in his April Theses Lenin actually called for its insertion into the program!
1917 and the `old Bolshevik concept'
Hearse makes the claim that "in the April 1917 polemical exchanges with Kamenev, Lenin, while calling for the dumping of the `democratic dictatorship' attempted to outflank his opponent by denying that the call for a Commune State was a call for socialist revolution". Here, it is Hearse who is trying to "guard his back", because he knows that at the April conference Lenin put forward a "Resolution on the Current Situation" which stated:
Operating as it does in one of the most backward countries of Europe amidst a vast population of small peasants, the proletariat of Russia cannot aim at immediately putting into effect socialist changes.(38)
Instead of such changes, Lenin advocated that upon coming to power the soviets should carry to completion the bourgeois revolution (e.g., nationalisation of the land) and introduce a series of measures transitional to the socialisation of the ownership of large-scale production (e.g., nationalisation of the banks and capitalist marketing cartels). According to Hearse, Lenin did not openly describe such a perspective as directly effecting socialist changes because he was seeking to "outflank" Kamenev, but later, "after the faction [sic] fight was over, Lenin had no such qualms".
Let's then look at how Lenin presented his perspectives in a pamphlet written well after the debate with Kamenev had been resolved, i.e., in his September 1917 pamphlet The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It. In this pamphlet Lenin observed that:
All the belligerent countries, suffering as they are from the extreme burdens and hardships of the war, suffering -- in one degree or another -- from economic chaos and famine, have long ago outlined, determined, applied and tested a whole series of control measures, which consist almost invariably in uniting the population and in setting up or encouraging unions of various kinds, in which state representatives participate, which are under the supervision of the state, etc...
These principal measures are:
(1) Amalgamation of all banks into a single bank, and state control over its operations, or nationalisation of the banks.
(2) Nationalisation of the syndicates, i.e., the largest, monopolistic capitalist associations (sugar, oil, coal, iron and steel, and other syndicates).
(3) Abolition of commercial secrecy.
(4) Compulsory syndication (i.e., compulsory amalgamation into associations) of industrialists, merchants and employers generally.
(5) Compulsory organisation of the population into consumers' societies, or encouragement of such organisation, and the exercise of control over it.(39)
After noting how these measures were being carried out during the war in other imperialist countries (Germany, France, Britain) in a reactionary-bureaucratic manner, Lenin argued that the rampant war-profiteering of the rich could only be combatted through the imposition of such control measures by "the organisation of the oppressed classes, the workers and peasants, the masses, into unions"(40), adding: "This requires a revolutionary dictatorship of the democracy, headed by the revolutionary proletariat"(41). He observed that:
What has been said so far may easily arouse the following objection on the part of a reader who has been brought up on the current opportunist ideas of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. Most measures described here, he may say, are already in effect socialist and not democratic measures!
Answering such an objection, Lenin wrote:
Everybody talks about imperialism. But imperialism is merely monopoly capitalism.
That capitalism in Russia has also become monopoly capitalism is sufficiently attested by the examples of the Produgol, Prodamet, the Sugar Syndicate, etc. This Sugar Syndicate is an object-lesson in the way monopoly capitalism develops into state-monopoly capitalism.
And what is the state? It is an organisation of the ruling class -- in Germany, for instance, of the Junkers and capitalists. And therefore what the German Plekhanovs (Scheidemann, Lensch, and others) call "war-time socialism" is in fact war-time state-monopoly capitalism, or, to put it more simply and clearly, war-time penal servitude for the workers and war-time protection for capitalist profits.
Now try to substitute for the Junker-capitalist state, for the landowner-capitalist state, a revolutionary-democratic state, i.e., a state which in a revolutionary way abolishes all privileges and does not fear to introduce the fullest democracy in a revolutionary way. You will find that, given a really revolutionary-democratic state, state-monopoly capitalism inevitably and unavoidably implies a step, and more than one step, towards socialism!
For if a huge capitalist undertaking becomes a monopoly, it means that it serves the whole nation. If it has become a state monopoly, it means that the state (i.e., the armed organisation of the population, the workers and peasants above all, provided there is revolutionary democracy) directs the whole undertaking. In whose interest?
Either in the interest of the landowners and capitalists, in which case we have not a revolutionary-democratic, but a reactionary-bureaucratic state, an imperialist republic.
Or in the interest of revolutionary democracy -- and then it is a step towards socialism.(42)
Do you get it now Phil? The coming to power in Russia of a revolutionary-democratic state, a revolutionary dictatorship of the armed organisation of the workers and peasants "headed by the revolutionary proletariat", i.e., a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, will be a step toward the socialist revolution!
In 1917 Lenin did not junk the "old Bolshevik" strategic perspective of carrying out the socialist revolution in Russia by first achieving a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship based upon an alliance of the workers and peasants. His September 1917 pamphlet The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It clearly demonstrates this. Indeed, in the pamphlet itself, Lenin says that events in 1917 have confirmed the correctness of this strategic perspective:
Owing to a number of historical causes -- the greater backwardness of Russia, the unusual hardships brought upon her by the war, the utter rottenness of tsarism and the extreme tenacity of the traditions of 1905 -- the revolution broke out in Russia earlier than in other countries. The revolution has resulted in Russia catching up with the advanced countries in a few months, as far as her political system is concerned.
But that is not enough. The war is inexorable: it puts the alternative with ruthless severity: either perish or overtake and outstrip the advanced countries economically as well.
That is possible, for we have before us the experience of a large number of advanced countries, the fruits of their technology and culture. We are receiving moral support from the war protest that is growing in Europe, from the atmosphere of the mounting world-wide workers' revolution. We are being inspired and encouraged by a revolutionary-democratic freedom which is extremely rare in time of imperialist war.
Perish or forge full steam ahead. That is the alternative put by history.
And the attitude of the proletariat to the peasants in such a situation confirms the old Bolshevik concept, correspondingly modifying it, that the peasants must be wrested from the influence of the bourgeoisie. That is the sole guarantee of salvation for the revolution.(43)
`On Slogans' and the October Revolution
Hearse poses the following question to me: "isn't the call in Lenin's `On Slogans' (July 1917) for a proletarian government supported by the poor peasantry and semi-proletarians in contradiction to the idea of the `democratic dictatorship'?". There's certainly no evidence that by this call Lenin meant that such a proletarian government should immediately carry out a socialist revolution. Indeed, in an article written at the end of July 1917 -- "Lessons of the Revolution" -- Lenin made the following, similar, argument about the need for a revolutionary government of the workers and poor peasants, but linked this to the completion of the democratic revolution:
Only the revolutionary workers, if supported by the peasant poor, are capable of smashing the resistance of the capitalists and leading the people in gaining land without compensation, complete liberty, victory over famine and the war, and a just and lasting peace.(44)
So what Lenin argued in "On Slogans" didn't contradict the strategic line of the policy of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants. But it did contradict the actual course of events that led immediately up to and followed the Bolshevik insurrection on October 25 (November 7), 1917.
In "On Slogans" Lenin argued that after "the experience of July" the Bolsheviks should dump the slogan "All Power to the Soviets!". After noting that "the Soviets were organs of the movement of the workers and peasants, a ready-made form of their dictatorship"(45), he argued that in the wake of the July 4 crackdown by the Kerensky government against the Bolshevik workers the existing soviets were dead as "revolutionary organs of struggle against the bourgeoisie" and had become organs of collaboration between the capitalists and the petty-bourgeois peasant soldiers.
However, in the face of an attempted direct bourgeois counter-revolutionary assault on the soviets in August 1917 -- the Kornilov coup attempt -- the soldiers swung rapidly to the left (and soon gave the Bolsheviks majorities in the Petrograd and Moscow city soviets). At that point Lenin argued for reviving the slogan "All Power to the Soviets!". Furthermore, in the weeks leading up to the second congress of soviets of workers' and soldiers' deputies (convened in Petrograd on October 26, 1917) a general peasant revolt began to develop in the countryside. Lenin cited this to support his argument for the necessity for the Petrograd soviet to organise the seizure of power from Kerensky's government. And as Lenin later noted in The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, the Soviet government came into being on the basis of rural soviets that united the peasants in general. He went on to point out that before June-July 1918:
The class divisions among the peasants had not yet matured, had not yet come into the open.
That process took place in the summer and autumn of 1918. The Czech counter-revolutionary mutiny roused the kulaks. A wave of kulak revolts swept over Russia. The poor peasants learned, not from books or newspapers, but from life itself, that their interests were irreconcilably antagonistic to those of the kulaks, the rich, the rural bourgeoisie. Like every other petty-bourgeois party, the "Left Socialist-Revolutionaries" reflected the vacillation of the people, and in the summer of 1918 they split: one section joined forces with the Czechs ... while the other section ... remained with the Bolsheviks...
Having completed the bourgeois-democratic revolution in alliance with the peasants as a whole, the Russian proletariat finally passed on to the socialist revolution when it succeeded in splitting the rural population, in winning over the rural proletarians and semi-proletarians, and in uniting them against the kulaks and the bourgeoisie, including the peasant bourgeoisie.(46)
Hearse bases his claim that in 1917 Lenin abandoned his previous strategic perspective of a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasants upon the tactical conclusions that Lenin drew in his July 1917 article "On Slogans". In doing so, Hearse failed to follow his own advise about understanding Leninism, i.e., "The essence of Lenin and Leninism is not at all his conjunctural assessments on tactical questions".
One final point on events in 1917: Hearse claims that in my pamphlet I "never" explain "why the `democratic dictatorship' was incapable of doing anything in Russia except putting the bourgeoisie in power".
If Hearse means by this that I "never" explain why the soviets failed to take full power into their hands before October, then he is mistaken: he can find a full explanation of this on page 35 of my pamphlet. Perhaps he was in so much of a rush to write his polemic against my "rigid, two-stage theory" that he failed to read that page.
If, however, by this question he means that the "democratic dictatorship" was only ever realised in Russia in the form of the compromist-dominated soviets of February to early October 1917, then he is also mistaken. As he himself notes: "According to Lorimer, October 1917 saw the advent of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, which proceeded to complete the bourgeois revolution, and only after that in the summer of 1918 proceeded to the socialist revolution".
We have seen that Hearse disputes this. He tells us that: "According to Trotsky (and -ist) explanations, the working class, supported by the poor peasantry, seized power in a socialist revolution in October 1917, and first proceeded to solve the democratic tasks of the revolution, but combined this with tasks of the socialist revolution from the beginning."
We have seen that this account is at odds with the assessment given by Lenin in 1918-19, including in reports presented by the Bolshevik Party's Central Committee and adopted by the party's eighth congress.
Hearse's account is also at odds with the one Trotsky gave in his 1928 pamphlet The Permanent Revolution:
The proletariat took power together with the peasantry in October, says Lenin. By that alone, the revolution was a bourgeois revolution. Is that right? In a certain sense, yes. But this means that the true democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, that is, the one which actually destroyed the regime of autocracy and serfdom and snatched the land from the feudalists, was accomplished not before October but only after October; it was accomplished, to use Marx's words, in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the peasant war -- and then, a few months later, began growing into a socialist dictatorship.(47)
My answer to Hearse's question is the same as the one given here by Trotsky: the true, i.e., full, democratic dictatorship was realised, not before the Bolshevik seizure of power on October 25 (November 7), 1917, but after it, and in June-July 1918 began to grow over into a socialist dictatorship.
Having answered Hearse's question, let me now pose a question for him: How do you explain the fact that Trotsky's 1928 account of the development of the October Revolution -- i.e., that it began as a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry and then, a few months later, grew over into a socialist dictatorship -- has far more in common with the "rigid two-stage", i.e., Leninist, account I gave in my pamphlet than it does with your "Trotskyist" conception? (If you want to know what my explanation is, Phil, you can find it set out in Part IV of my pamphlet.)
Conclusion: Phil Hearse's `DSP theory'
While criticising my pamphlet for confining the discussion of Lenin's and Trotsky's views to the "experience of pre-revolutionary Russia", Hearse simultaneously accuses me of being guilty of "abstracting from the Russian experience and transferring it, without any mediation of any kind, to contemporary conditions". As I have explained at the beginning of this article, this is an accusation without any foundation. It is, in fact, Hearse himself who mechanically transfers my assessment of "the Russian experience" to contemporary conditions -- and then labels this the "DSP theory" for all Third World countries today.
Thus Hearse claims that, "Since the DSP theory considers it necessary to forge an alliance on the basis of national and democratic demands with the rural and urban poor, it follows that it considers that these forces will be under the political leadership of non-proletarian forces, and specifically not under the revolutionary party".
Why does the second proposition "follow" from the first in the "DSP theory"? Because, "In Russia the Lorimer theory considers that the peasants were under the leadership of a peasant party, the Socialist Revolutionaries, and that the Bolshevik alliance with the Left SRs was key to cementing a worker-peasant alliance".
Nowhere in his polemic, however, does Hearse cite a single document by the DSP or by any DSP member that actually argues that because in Russia the Bolshevik alliance with the Left SRs was key to cementing a worker-peasant alliance, the DSP holds the view that the urban and rural poor in semi-colonial capitalist countries today cannot be brought under the leadership of a revolutionary Marxist party. Nor does he cite a single DSP document in which it is argued that an alliance between the workers and the petty-bourgeois and semi-proletarian sections of the urban and rural poor in any semi-colonial country can be forged on the basis simply of "national and democratic" demands. The "DSP theory" that Hearse criticises is entirely his own invention.
In opposition to this "DSP theory", Hearse counterposes his own, the key propositions of which are:
- 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 of -- or at least the state control and supervision of -- the assets of transnational corporations.
- 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.
Compared with the "DSP theory" Hearse has concocted, his own sounds far more realistic. It is therefore much easier for him to score theoretical and political points against the "DSP theory" that he saddles us with. There is, however, a DSP theory of revolutionary strategy in the colonial and semi-colonial countries that has actually been adopted by the DSP. It's contained in the program of the DSP. This is what it says:
In the imperialist epoch, the national liberation movement of the oppressed peoples of the colonial and semi-colonial countries is an integral part of the international movement for socialism. While the objective tasks of the national liberation struggle (political and economic independence and agrarian reform) reflect the needs of capitalist development in these countries, such development is blocked by imperialist domination.
Socialists support the right of oppressed, colonised nations to national self-determination, that is, to choose whatever political relations with the colonial power they believe are necessary to end their national oppression, including the formation of an independent nation-state. However, the mere winning of formal political independence by the oppressed nations cannot end their national oppression since this stems from imperialist control of their economic life.
The indigenous capitalist class, while favoring steps to improve its position in relation to imperialism, is unwilling to lead a consistent struggle against imperialist domination because of its dependence on foreign capital. The economic measures required to promote rounded capitalist development in the Third World (expansion of the domestic market and effective protection of local industry) also conflict with the interests of the semi-colonial capitalist class:
- Expansion of the domestic market requires an end to the burden of excessive debts and taxes on the peasantry and an end to hoarding and squandering by the landlord-usurers of the social surplus product created by the peasantry. This can only be achieved through a radical agrarian reform that abolishes landlordism and hands over land to the tillers. However, due to its close connections with the big landowners (often they are one and the same) the semi-colonial capitalist class is hostile to such agrarian reform.
- Effective protection of domestic industry from the competition of cheaper commodities produced in the imperialist countries requires the creation of a state monopoly of foreign trade. But the nationalisation of foreign trade is not in the interests of those sectors of the indigenous capitalist class that derive their profits from the import-export trade.
Given the failure of the indigenous capitalists to consistently carry through the tasks of the national-democratic revolution, it is not uncommon for elements drawn from the petty bourgeoisie to seize political power in Third World countries. Often this takes the form of a military coup by lower-ranking military officers. Such governments (e.g., Peron in Argentina, Nasser in Egypt, Ne Win in Burma, the Baathist regimes in Syria and Iraq, etc.) sometimes challenge imperialism quite boldly and carry out some radical reforms (e.g., nationalisation of industry and banking). However, while claiming to represent the masses such regimes fear the independent mobilisation of the workers and peasants, exclude them from any real power, and often suppress their independent class organisations.
These petty-bourgeois nationalist regimes do not dismantle the capitalist state machine, but simply restaff it with new personnel. The management of the nationalised enterprises is placed in the hands of the officers, their relatives and friends, who use their bureaucratic posts to enrich themselves through corruption and to establish private businesses. As a result, the way is paved for the emergence of a new layer of capitalists which, while stronger than the one it suppresses, remains in a semi-colonial relationship to imperialism.
The complete and lasting attainment of the goals of national liberation in the Third World can only be carried out by an anti-imperialist movement based on an alliance of the working class and the peasantry, that transfers power to a revolutionary-democratic government and destroys the capitalist state apparatus.
While bourgeois nationalist forces may be part of such a movement, historical experience has shown that the national liberation movement will not succeed if these forces enjoy political hegemony within it, or if the revolutionary-democratic forces subordinate the mobilisation of the worker-peasant masses to the goal of maintaining bourgeois nationalists within the anti-imperialist alliance.
The creation of a revolutionary-democratic government resting on the mobilised power of the worker-peasant masses can open the possibility of bypassing the "normal" process of capitalist development through the growing over of the national-democratic revolution into a socialist revolution. The possibility of pursuing a non-capitalist path of development in a Third World country, and the pace of transition from purely national-democratic tasks to the tasks of socialist construction, is dependent upon a number of factors, in particular:
- The level of consciousness, mobilisation and organisation of the working people, particularly the working class and the poor, semi-proletarian majority of the peasantry.
- The level of socio-economic development already attained in the country prior to the coming to power of the workers and peasants' government. The more backward the socio-economic structure, the longer will be the national-democratic stage, the greater will the need be to employ capitalist economic measures (free market for small commodity producers, concessions to foreign capitalist investors, etc.) while developing a state-capitalist sector (private capital operating on state contracts, joint ventures between the workers' state and foreign capital, etc.), and a strictly socialised sector (enterprises owned and operated by the workers' state).
- The amount of technical assistance, economic aid and trade that can be obtained from industrially advanced socialist states.
While imperialism continues to dominate the most developed sectors of the world economy the task of constructing socialism in any underdeveloped country will be extremely difficult, being subject to the constant threat (or actuality) of imperialist military intervention, economic blockade, and counter-revolutionary pressure. The ability of a workers' state in an underdeveloped country to advance along the road of constructing socialism therefore depends on advances in the world revolutionary process, above all on victorious socialist revolutions in the more industrially developed countries. On the other hand, revolutionary victories in the underdeveloped countries can provide a powerful impetus to the development of mass anti-capitalist movements and consciously revolutionary forces in the imperialist heartlands.(48)
If Phil Hearse wants to have a serious discussion about the DSP's approach to the revolutionary struggle in the imperialist-dominated countries, he should direct his comments to this exposition of it rather than polemicising against a "DSP theory" that is the product of his own fanciful conjectures.
One final point: the claim Hearse makes at the end of his article, that the DSP's rejection of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution "is a hangover from when the DSP was in an alliance with the US Socialist Workers Party, and under the pressure of Jack Barnes' repudiation of permanent revolution in the 1980s" (1982-83, to be exact), has no basis in fact.
Our party's alliance with the US SWP was terminated by Jack Barnes in early 1981 when our leadership produced a lengthy criticism of the sectarian arguments that Barnes used to steamroller through an August 1980 US SWP Political Committee meeting the dumping of the position our two parties had taken in common in early 1980 on the civil war in Afghanistan. The DSP (at that time named the Socialist Workers Party) decided to reject Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution at a National Committee plenum held in October 1984 (see "Trotskyism and the Socialist Workers Party" by Jim Percy, in The Socialist Workers Party and the Fourth International, Sydney, 1985). This was almost four years after our alliance with the US SWP had ended, and a year after we had broken off all relations with the US SWP and expelled all of the members of Barnes' international sect from our party (after they characterised our party in August 1983 as "finished" as a revolutionary organisation).
Our rejection of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution was therefore in no way "a hangover" from our alliance with the US SWP or a result of our adapting to the "pressure of Jack Barnes' repudiation of permanent revolution". It was the result of a long process of rethinking on the part of our leadership which led us to cease regarding ourselves as Trotskyists and to disaffiliate from the Fourth International in 1985.
1. Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution & Results and Prospects, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1970, p. 276.
2. Lenin, "Left-Wing" Communism -- an infantile disorder, Resistance Books, Sydney, 1999, p. 27.
3. Lenin, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1962-77, Vol. 28, p. 305.
4. Lenin, CW, Vol. 9, pp. 56-57.
5. Lenin, CW, Vol. 9, p. 23
6. Lenin, CW, Vol. 30, p. 109.
7. Lenin, CW, Vol. 29, p. 203.
8. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto and its relevance today, Resistance Books, Sydney, 1998, p. 62.
9. Lenin, CW, Vol. 28, p. 295.
10. Lenin, CW, Vol. 9, p. 48.
11. ibid., p. 48.
12. ibid., pp. 49-51.
13. ibid., p. 130.
14. Morrow, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1974, pp. 101-02.
15. ibid., p. 117.
16. Trotsky, The Spanish Revolution (1931-39), Pathfinder Press, New York, 1973, p. 245.
17. ibid., p. 123.
18. Lenin, CW, Vol. 28, pp. 313-14.
19. Lorimer, Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution: A Leninist critique, Resistance Books, Sydney, 1998, p. 59.
20. ibid., p. 41.
21. Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution & Results and Prospects, p. 277.
22. ibid., p. 277.
23. Lenin, CW, Vol. 24, pp. 45-46.
24. ibid., pp. 52-53.
25. ibid., pp. 53-54.
26. ibid., pp. 38-39.
27. Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977, Vol. 2, 223.
28. Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, p. 318.
29. Lenin, CW, Vol. 9, p. 141.
30. Lenin, CW, Vol. 24, p. 142-43.
31. Lenin, CW, Vol. 23, p. 357.
32. Lenin, CW, vol. 24, p. 62.
33. Lenin, CW, Vol. 36, p. 437.
34. Lenin, CW, Vol. 24, p. 24.
35. ibid., p. 278.
36. ibid., p. 239.
37. ibid., p. 278.
38. ibid., p. 306.
39. Lenin, CW, Vol. 25, p. 332-33.
40. ibid., p. 358.
41. ibid., p. 359.
42. ibid., pp. 360-62.
43. ibid., p. 368.
44. Lenin, CW, Vol. 25, p. 243.
45. ibid., p. 191.
46. Lenin, CW, Vol. 28, pp. 301-04.
47. Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution & Results and Prospects, p. 230-31.
48. Program of the Democratic Socialist Party, New Course Publications, Sydney, 1994, pp. 19-22.