11/02/2018 by Ian
This comment was in an earlier thread, originally beneath the text of Socialist Fight’s leaflet to PSC conference in January. Since it veered widely away from the original topic it deserves its own space for discussion. This is part of an ongoing debate with Chris Barratt, a supporter of the Economic and Philosophic Science Review trend.
“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, which have become a necessity for Russia, do not in themselves imply the undermining of capitalism, the undermining of bourgeois rule; on the contrary, they will, for the first time, really clear the ground for a wide and rapid, European, and not Asiatic, development of capitalism; they will, for the first time, make it possible for the bourgeoisie to rule as a class. The Socialist-Revolutionaries cannot grasp this idea, for they are ignorant of the rudiments 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 for the benefit of the peasants and in accordance with their desires (“Black Redistribution” or something of that kind), will not destroy capitalism at all, but will, on the contrary, give an impetus to its development and hasten the class disintegration of the peasantry itself. The 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, not only from the theoretical standpoint but also from the standpoint of practical politics, for from it follows that the complete class independence of the party of the proletariat in the present “general democratic” movement is obligatory.”
Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, chapter 6, 1905
This was the strategic conception of the Russian Revolution held by Lenin prior to the April Theses in 1917. I don’t see how anyone who reads this can deny that Lenin’s view was that the outcome of the Russian revolution would be a prolonged period of capitalist development, after the democratic/agrarian revolution, to lay the basis for a later struggle for socialism.
The pre-1917 Bolsheviks believed that the bourgeoisie were incapable of carrying out this revolution, and that the proletariat and peasantry would be forced to carry it out against the will of the bourgeoisie through a democratic, not socialist, dictatorship.
Lenin’s concept of uninterrupted revolution was in contradiction to this strategic conception. A ‘growing over’ from such a regime to a socialist revolution has to depend on an impetus from revolution elsewhere. The concept that a revolution in Russia that set itself the kind of bourgeois objectives described above would trigger off a socialist revolution in Europe was a weak and incoherent perspective. There is as is clear above, a whole era of capitalist development between Lenin’s original democratic revolution concept and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
It was always going to take a socialist overturn in Russia to create the conditions for a working class upheaval in Europe, which is what happened in 1917.
It was always the case also, that were the proletariat to take political power for non-socialist, bourgeois democratic purposes as Lenin advocated, it would inevitably seek social reforms which the bourgeoisie would resist. It would therefore be forced to attack the bourgeoisie by expropriation, or to lose power. Trotsky pointed out this contradiction in 1906, in Results and Prospects.
Lenin did not denounce Trotsky’s work Permanent Revolution before 1917. This work was written in 1929. Trotsky’s basic work was Results and Prospects and there is no polemic by Lenin against it or even evidence that he read it. Nor did Trotsky ever call for ‘No Tsar, but a workers government’. This slogan came from Parvus, not Trotsky – it is not to be found in Trotsky’s works on this subject, the main ones being Results and Prospects and Trotsky’s book 1905.
And no, Trotskyists have never claimed Lenin learned Permanent Revolution from Trotsky. On the contrary, Lenin independently moved to the left in 1917 under the impact of the class configurations that emerged as a result of the overthrow of Tsarism. His April Theses clearly call for establishing a proletarian dictatorship as the means of resolving the agrarian question and the questions of oppressed nations, which were the key obstacles to capitalist development that were supposed to be resolved by the democratic revolution. Not to forget the war itself. Now these were to be resolved by the dictatorship of the proletariat and the world revolution. Which was the same as Trotsky fought for from 1905. A workers state where the peasant masses supported the rise of the proletariat to power to act as their emancipator.
It is simply a fact that Stalin and Kamenev, and then Zinoviev, resisted this leftward move within the party and continued to defend the previous perspective. It is well known that Zinoviev and Kamenev vocally opposed the October uprising and Stalin played no role. Trotsky, however was at the head of the Petrograd Soviet’s armed forces that won the uprising in October, just as he was at the head of the Soviet in 1905.
That was the basis of a principled bloc and fusion of Lenin and Trotsky in political terms in 1917.
Incidentally, differences on the formulation of the slogan of the United States of Europe have no necessary connection to the Russian revolution per se. Particularly in a period when Lenin himself, prior to 1917, as is well known and often quoted, did not believe he would live to see the revolution he was working for. A year later he was in power at the head of the first workers state.
A real turnaround because as the passage I quoted above makes clear, the ‘Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry’ was no workers state.
You are currently arguing Stalinist views. And you arrived at them through Roy Bull’s tendency that splintered away from Healy’s terribly deformed organisation with its Stalinist-like functioning and embraced key elements of Stalinism ideologically. That was a disastrous wrong turn.