Contemporary Trotskyism: Its Anti-Revolutionary Nature

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On Trotskyism

Contemporary Trotskyism: Its Anti-Revolutionary Nature

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 their views.

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 phrases.

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 Marxism in March 1850 in the address of the Central Committee to the Communist League. 1
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 victory.'"

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 capitalism.

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' government".

Trotsky never took into account the actual political situa- tion or the balance of class forces, and would not see who might join the proletariat.
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 content.
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 socialist revolution".

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 nation.' "
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 workers' government.'"

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 "theory".

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 dialectics.

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 has gained.
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 blindly.
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 liberation."
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.