How the Trotskyites Permanently fought against the
revolution -2 - Basmanov
The essence of any political trend that claims to open the ways of
social development and social progress is more clearly apparent as
soon as the question of revolution, its motive forces and ultimate
aims, is raised. Whatever sort of "Left" phrases are used by
pseudo-revolutionaries, it is enough to look at the way they resolve
the question of revolution to know whose interests are served by
The latter-day Trotskyites zealously advertise the so-called "theory
of permanent revolution", announcing that it is "the most
revolutionary teaching of our time". They affirm that this "theory"
does not differ essentially from Lenin's views on revolution,
although in actual fact they are substituting Trotskyism for
Marxism-Leninism. Moreover, they have the audacity to claim that
their "theory" supposedly had a "decisive significance" for the
development of the world revolutionary process.
By crude falsification of this kind the Trotskyites hope to kill
several birds with one stone. First, they give Trotsky the halo of a
revolutionary, in order to stimulate interest in his views and
pronouncements of a frankly anti-Soviet and anti-communist nature.
Second, they claim they are "the heirs of the revolutionary
traditions of the past". 1 Third, they give the impression that they
have some sort of "revolutionary programme" of their own, which
allegedly has stood the test of time.
Since Trotskyites loudly proclaim that all their activity is founded
on the so-called "theory of permanent revolution", it is as well to
remind readers what this theory amounts to.
Trotsky launched this "theory" in 1905-06, and frequently returned
to it to deepen its anti-Leninist content.
In a book published in Paris in 1969 Pierre Frank, one of the
leaders of present-day Trotskyism, claims that the "Fourth
International" is "the successor to revolutionary Marxism", and has
constantly "enriched Marxism" (Pierre Frank, La Quatrieme
Internationale. Contribu- tion a Vhistoire du mouvement trotskyste,
Paris, 1969, p. 8).
With the help of his "theory of permanent revolution" Trotsky tried
to give the impression that he had some over- all conception of the
ways, motive forces and ultimate aims of the development of
revolutionary struggle. In fact, he longed for one thing — to oust
Marxism-Leninism by a petty-bourgeois system of concepts presented
in the trappings of pseudo-Marxism. "The theory of permanent
revolution" speculates both on Marxism and on the desire of the
participants in the revolutionary movement to understand it and put
it into practice.
If the rhetoric and declarations of adherence to Marxism (which
confused and still confuse some people) are removed from the books,
articles and speeches of Trotsky, and the remaining skeleton of the
"theory of permanent revolution" is closely examined, it turns out
to be made up of a few propositions, some of them frankly defeatist,
some, as Lenin said, masking defeatism with absurdly Leftist
These propositions include: a tendency to jump over the various
stages of revolution, and to denounce general democratic movements;
disbelief in the ability of the working class to have and to rally
allies in the revolutionary struggle; disbelief in the victory of
revolution in one coun- try; orientation on "revolutionary wars";
denial of the possibility of building socialism in one country. In
the twenties and thirties the "theory" acquired another essential
element — crude anti-sovietism.
"The theory of permanent revolution" itself, like the whole past of
Trotskyism, serves as a bill of indictment against those who give
themselves out to be the heirs of Trotsky and seek in his "theories"
the justification for anti- communist pronouncements.
Ignoring the Laws of Revolution
Trotsky and his present-day followers claim that "the theory of
permanent revolution" is the development of the ideas of Marx and
Engels. Thus the English Trotskyites state in their Newsletter (now
called Worker s Press) that when Trotsky was developing his theory
he based it completely on the thesis promulgated by the founders of
March 1850 in the address of the Central Committee to the Communist
In this address Marx and Engels wrote: "While the democratic petty
bourgeois wish to bring the revolution to a conclusion as quickly as
possible ... it is our interest, and our task to make the revolution
permanent, until all more or less possessing classes have been
forced out of their position of dominance, until the proletariat has
conquered state power. . . . "
As far as Trotsky's "theory of permanent revolution" is concerned,
it has nothing in common with this, apart from the word "permanent"
used by Marx and Engels. In any case Trotsky himself admitted in his
book, My Life, that when he was developing the "theory", he relied
not on Marx, but on the German Social-Democrat Parvus, most of whose
ideas he was trying to "develop". This is the same Parvus who later
on lauded German imperialism and slandered Soviet Russia.
In 1964 in West Germany, a certain Winfried Scharlau published his
doctoral thesis, "Parvus as the Theoretician of German
Social-Democracy and His Role in the First Russian Revolution".
Scharlau refers to the components of the now forgotten theory of
Parvus and compares them with Trotsky's views on revolution, and
proves rather convinc- ingly that, after long discussions with
Parvus in 1905, Trotsky became for a time a convinced "parvusite".
He then reproaches Trotsky for not learning his lessons, showing too
much "temperament", and being more precipitate in his conclusions
than his teacher.
During the years of the first Russian revolution Trotsky, to whom
"only the European models of opportunism" appealed, opposed Lenin's
views on revolution with his own "theory".
' The Newsletter, June 4, 1968. Lenin developed Marx's thesis on the
need to combine proletarian risings with the peasant movement, and
analysed the difference between bourgeois democratic revolutions in
the imperialist epoch and bourgeois revolutions in the pre- monopoly
period. He came to the conclusion that the proletariat could and
should be the leader of the bourgeois- democratic revolution, for it
was the only class capable of uniting around itself broad
non-proletarian masses in the struggle for the fullest and boldest
development of the revolution.
Lenin showed that if it took on the role of leader of the
bourgeois-democratic revolution, the proletariat would extend the
limits of democratic revolution, and, by defending its own class
interests, would be preparing the transition to the next, socialist
stage of the revolution. "We cannot get out of the
bourgeois-democratic boundaries of the Russian revolution," wrote
Lenin, "but we can vastly extend these boundaries, and within these
boundaries we can and must fight for the interests of the
proletariat, for its immediate needs and for conditions that will
make it possible to prepare its forces for the future complete
It was the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat
and the peasants that had to create objective conditions for such a
transition in Russia. It was not socialist but democratic by its
very nature and, as such, could fulfil the immediate political and
socio-economic demands of the workers without yet destroying
At the same time the bourgeois-democratic revolution was not
separated by a wall from the socialist revolution. The transition
from one revolution to the other depended on the organisation and
consciousness of the working class, and on its ability to lead the
working masses. Lenin wrote: "... 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".
Guided by Lenin's theory of revolution, the Bolshevik party put
forward concrete slogans which stirred up revolu- tionary energy
among the masses and brought them to an understanding of the
necessity of defeating capitalism.
Trotsky denied the need for the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and
believed that there should immediately be a socialist revolution in
Russia. During the period of the first Russian revolution this idea
of Trotsky's was reflected in the slogan "No Tsar, but a workers'
Trotsky never took into account the actual political situa- tion
or the balance of class forces, and would not see who might join
In 1907, he published a pamphlet Our Revolution, in which he
asserted that revolution must immediately bring about the
transfer of power to the proletariat, which would embark on a
socialist policy without delay. Two years later, in the article
"1905", in discussing the idea that it was essential for a
"workers' government" to be established in the very first days
of the revolution, Trotsky attempted to prove that in itself
revolution could only be of benefit to the proletariat, and met
only its class interests.
One of the most fundamentally fallacious aspects of the "theory
of permanent revolution" (in the book The Permanent Revolution
Trotsky admitted: "My treatment of this question certainly
differed from Lenin's") lay in the fact that it com- pletely
ignored the proposition on the development of the revolution in
stages which had been worked out in general terms by Marx and
Engels. Trotsky's "theory" lacked precise- ly what he claimed
for it — i.e., an understanding of the rev- olutionary process
as developing uninterruptedly and in stages and having a class
The most politically harmful thing about Trotsky's views was
that he ignored the actual prerequisites for rallying broad
masses of working people round the working class. Rash slogans
about an imminent socialist revolution could have alienated
other strata of the population opposed to tsarism from the
working class and its party. Had not the working class adopted a
differentiated policy of alliance with some and neutralisation
of others, it would have found itself in the position of a
lonely champion, deprived of supporters, and the party would
have been cut off from the masses.
In insisting on leaping over the stages, Trotsky was, there-
fore, not just "hurrying". He advocated a course which would
have condemned the working class to isolation and
the revolution to defeat.
Exposing the anti-Marxist, opportunist character of "the theory
of permanent revolution", in his article "Historical Meaning of
Inner-Party Struggle in Russia", Lenin pointed out: "Trotsky . .
. has never been able to form any definite views on the role of
the proletariat in the Russian bourgeois revolution.'" He also
noted that "Trotsky's major mistake was that he ignored the
bourgeois character of the revolu- tion and had no clear
conception of the transition from this revolution to the
Trotsky put forward the idea that the imperialist epoch totally
excluded any sort of generally democratic revolu- tionary action
in the interests of the majority of the nation. Criticising this
view and emphasising the fact that Trotsky refused to consider
the reasons why life had passed by this theory for a whole ten
years, Lenin wrote in 1915: "From the Bolsheviks Trotsky's
original theory has borrowed their call for a decisive
proletarian revolutionary struggle and for the conquest of
political power by the proletariat, while from the Mensheviks it
has borrowed 'repudiation' of the pea- santry's role. The
peasantry, he asserts, are divided into strata, have become
differentiated; their potential revolu- tionary role has
dwindled more and more; in Russia a 'national' revolution is
impossible; 'we are living in the era of imperialism,' says
Trotsky, and 'imperialism does not contrapose the bourgeois
nation to the old regime, but the proletariat to the bourgeois
Even after the 1917 February Revolution in Russia Trotsky still
clung to his "theory of permanent revolution", scoffed at a
general democratic struggle and the task of winning over working
peasants to the side of the working class.
In his "Letters on Tactics" Lenin stated clearly that his theses
were directed against the views of Trotsky, who was still
ignoring the process by which the bourgeois democratic
revolution would grow into a socialist revolution. "But are we
not in danger of falling into subjectivism, of wanting to arrive
at the socialist revolution by 'skipping' the bourgeois-
democratic revolution — which is not yet completed and has not
yet exhausted the peasant movement?
"I might be incurring this danger if I said: 'No Tsar, but a
And although the experience of the February and October
revolutions of 1917 showed beyond any shadow of doubt that
Trotsky's views were invalid, Trotsky continued to cling to his
He attempted to give it philosophical backing. In his book The
Permanent Revolution, published in 1930, he categor- ically
stated: "It is nonsense to say that it is impossible in general
to leap over stages. A living historical process always leaps."
These views of Trotsky's had nothing in common with materialist
Marxists-Leninists consider that in definite conditions certain
stages of social development can be skipped. In an epoch in
which mighty socialist forces exist not all countries and
nations need to go through the historic stages of social
development known to man. Lenin foresaw the possibility that the
colonial peoples, having freed themselves from the imperialist
yoke, would be able to set forth on a non- capitalist road of
development, without going through the capitalist melting pot.
In our time Lenin's proposition has become one of the strategic
slogans of the international communist movement which takes
strictly scientific account of the real needs of the internal
political development of the countries of the Third World, as
well as the nature of our epoch and the whole complex of
contemporary historic conditions, whose chief and most
distinctive feature is the revolutionising influence of the
socialist system on world events.
To put it in another way, Marxists-Leninists are in favour of
shortcuts in revolution, when conditions allow. However, they
energetically oppose every sort of adventurous attempts to
"cheat" history and leap over definite stages of develop- ment
when the necessary conditions for this are absent. As the rich
experience of the revolutionary struggle teaches, such
"experiments" can only do enormous damage to the revolutionary
cause, and hurl the working class far back from the positions it
Trotsky actually advocated "cheating" history, and took a
voluntaristic approach to these leaps. According to his
subjectivist thinking they are not prepared by the whole complex
of social development, but are planned by "individ- uals active
in revolution". This logically led him to the conclusion that
these leaps were a mere mechanical jumping over certain stages.
Light-heartedly proclaiming that life always moved in leaps, he
never burdened himself with an analysis of the cause and
conditions of development in leaps.
Lenin taught the party of the proletariat to take a strictly
scientific approach to such a complex and many-sided phe-
nomenon as revolution. He taught that "a revolution cannot be
'made', that revolutions develop from objectively (i.e.,
independently of the will of parties and classes) mature crises
and turns in history".
According to Trotsky these revolutionary leaps were the result
of the activity of some sort of select group, who could
concentrate the will of the proletariat for the revolutionary
transformation of society. "On the political market," he wrote,
"the party can offer for consideration not the objective
interests of the proletariat, theoretically sifted, but the
consciously organised will of the proletariat." Trotsky imagined
that the revolutionary transformation of society was not the
conscious constructive work of the broadest masses, but the
study of the situation on the "political market" by the same
elite whom the mass of the people would apparently follow
It should be noted that in his book The Permanent Revolu- tion,
Trotsky attempted to patch up the holes in his badly battered
conception, and even to juggle with facts. He asserted that his
"theory" did not in principle reject the democtratic stage of
revolution. At the same time, he not only contradicted what he
had himself said in this connection, but even his own statements
in this very book. Having admitted on several pages the
possibility of bourgeois- democratic revolutions, he then goes
on to say that they can only succeed by means of the
establishment of a proletarian dictatorship. This is the road,
he predicted, that must be taken even by the economically and
politically backward countries, in particular the colonies and
semi-colonies. With them especially in mind, Trotsky wrote:
"According to the theory of permanent revolution, the
dictatorship of the proletariat is the only final solution of
their democratic problems and the problems of national
These conclusions of Trotsky's are confused. But his fundamental
idea is clear. He continued to advocate leaping over the
revolutionary stages. And the defeatist substance of his views
became particularly manifest in the prospects he outlined for
colonial and semi-colonial, countries. Here the traditional
Trotsky formula "everything or nothing" became a prophecy of
defeat for the national liberation movement unless the
dictatorship of the proletariat was established.