George Novack’s Understanding History

Uneven And Combined Development In History

2. Combined Development And Its Consequences

We must now examine the second aspect of the law of uneven and combined development. This law bears in its name indications of the more general law of which it is a special expression, viz., the law of dialectical logic called the law of interpenetration of opposites. The two processes—unevenness and combination—which are united in this formulation, themselves represent two different and opposing, yet integrally connected and interpenetrating aspects or stages of reality.

The law of combined development starts from the recognition of unevenness of the rates of development of various phenomena of historical change. The disparities in technical and social development and the fortuitous combination of elements, tendencies and movements belonging to different stages of social organisation provide the basis for the emergence of something of a new and higher quality.

This law enables us to observe how the new qualities arise. If society did not develop in a differential way, that is, through the emergence of differences which are sometimes so acute as to be contradictory to each other, the possibility for combination and integration of contradictory phenomena would not present itself. Therefore, the first phase of the evolutionary process—i.e. unevenness—is the indispensable precondition for the second phase—the combination of features belonging to different stages of social life into distinctive social formations, deviating from abstractly deduced standards or “normal” types.

Since combination comes about as the necessary outcome of pre-existent unevenness, we can see why both are always found together and coupled in the single law of combined and uneven development. Starting with the fact of disparate levels of development which result from the uneven progression of the various aspects of society, we will now analyse the next stage and necessary consequence of this state of affairs—their coming together.

Fusion Of Different Historical Factors

We must ask, first of all, what is combined ? We can often see in the world how features which are appropriate to one stage of evolution become merged with those essentially belonging to another and higher stage. The Catholic Church, with its seat at the Vatican, is a characteristically feudal institution. Today the Pope uses radio and television—inventions of the 20th century—to disseminate Church doctrines.

This leads to the second question: how are the different features combined? Here metal alloys provide a useful analogy. Bronze, which played so great a part in the development of early tool-making that its name has been given to an entire stage of historical development—the Bronze Age—is composed of two elementary metals, copper and tin, mixed together in specific proportions. Their fusion produces an alloy with important properties different from either of its constituents.

Something similar happens in history when elements belonging to different stages of social evolution are fused. This fusion gives rise to new phenomena, a new formation with its own special characteristics. The colonial period of American history, when European civilisation, changing over from feudalism to capitalism, met and merged with savagery and barbarism, provided a lush breeding ground for combined formations and furnishes a most instructive field for their study. Almost every kind of social relationship then known to mankind, from savagery to the shareholding company, was to be found in the New World during colonial times. Several colonies, such as Virginia and North and South Carolina, were originally settled by capitalist shareholding enterprises which had been granted charters by the Crown. This highest form of capitalist undertaking, the shareholding firm, came into contact with Indians still living under primitive tribal conditions.

One of the prime peculiarities of American development was the fact that every one of the precapitalist forms of life which grew up here were combined to one degree or another with fundamental features of bourgeois civilisation. Indian tribes, for example, were annexed to the world market through the fur trade and it is true that the Indians thereby became somewhat civilised. On the other hand, the white European colonists, hunters, trappers and pioneer farmers, became partially barbarised by having to survive in the wilds of the plains and hills of the “virgin” lands. Yet the European woodsman who penetrated the wilds of America with his rifle and iron axe, and also with the outlook and habits of civilisation, was very different from the Red Indian tribesman, however many of the activities of barbaric society the woodsman had to indulge in.

In his pioneer work on Social Forces in America History , A.M. Simons, an early socialist historian, wrote: “The course of evolution pursued in each colony bears a striking resemblance to the line of development that the race has followed” (pp. 30-31). In the beginning, he points out, there was primitive communism. Then came small individual production and so right through to capitalism.

However, the conception that the American colonies, or any one of them, substantially repeated the sequence of stages through which advanced societies had travelled before them, is entirely too schematic and misses the main point about their development and structure. The most significant peculiarity in the evolution of the British colonies in America came from the fact that all the organisational forms and driving forces belonging to earlier stages of social development, from savagery to feudalism, were incorporated into, conditioned by, and in the case of chattel slavery, even produced by the expanding system of international capitalism.

There was no mechanical serial reproduction on American soil of outmoded historical stages. Instead, colonial life witnessed a dialectical admixture of all these varied elements, which resulted in the emergence of combined social formations of new and special types. The chattel slavery of the American colonies was very different from the chattel slavery of classical Greece and Rome. American slavery was a bourgeoisified slavery which was not only a subordinate branch of the capitalist world market but became impregnated with capitalist features. One of the most freakish offshoots of this fusion of slavery and capitalism was the appearance of commercial slaveholders among the Creek Indians in the South. Could anything be more anomalous and self-contradictory than communistic Indians, now slaveholders, selling their products in a bourgeois market?

The Dialectics Of Combination

What results from this coming together, this fusion of different stages or elements of the historical process, then, is a peculiar blend or alloy of things. In the joining of such different, and even opposing, elements, the dialectical nature of history asserts itself most forcefully and prominently. Here contradiction, flat, obvious, flagrant contradiction holds sway. History plays pranks with all rigid forms and fixed routines. All kinds of paradoxical developments ensue which perplex and confuse those with narrow, formalised minds.

As a further important example of this let us consider the nature of Stalinism. In Russia the most advanced form of property, nationalised property, and the most efficient mode of industrial organisation, planned economy, both brought about through the proletarian revolution of 1917, were fused into a single mass with the most brutal tyranny, which was itself created by the political counter revolution of the Soviet bureaucracy. The economic foundation of the Stalinist regime historically belongs to the socialist era of the future. Yet this economic foundation became yoked to a political superstructure showing the most malignant traits of the class dictatorships of the past. No wonder this exceptionally contradictory phenomenon has puzzled so many people and led them astray!

Uneven and combined development presents us with a peculiar mixture of backward elements with the most modern factors. Many pious Catholics affix to their automobiles medals of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers who is supposed to protect them against accidents. This custom combines the fetish of the credulous savage with the products of the motor industry, one of the most technically advanced and automated industries of the modern world.

These anomalies are, nowadays, especially pronounced in the most backward countries. Such curiosities exist as air-conditioned harems!

“The development of historically backward nations leads necessarily to a peculiar combination of different stages in the historical process”, wrote Trotsky in History of the Russian Revolution .[4]

Carlton S. Coone writes: “—there still are marginal regions where cultural diffusion has been uneven, where simple Stone Age hunters are suddenly confronted by strangers carrying rifles, where Neolithic garden-cultivators are trading their stone axes for steel ones and their pottery water jugs for discarded oil tins, and where proud citizens of ancient empires, accustomed to getting news some weeks later from camel caravans, find themselves listening to propaganda broadcasts over public radios. In the blue and white tiled city square the clear call of the muezzin, bidding the faithful to prayer, is replaced one day by a tinny summons issuing not from the lips of a bearded man, but from a shiny metal cone hanging from the minaret. Out at the airport, pilgrims to the holy places climb directly from the backs of camels to seats in a DC-4. These changes in technology lead to the births of new institutions in these places as elsewhere, but what is born from such travail is often an unfamiliar child, resembling neither the laggard nor the advanced parent, and hard for both to cope with.” (The Story of Man , pp. 413-414.)

In Africa today, among the Kikuyu in Kenya, as well as among the peoples of the Gold Coast, ancient tribal ties and customs lend strength to their solidarity in the struggles for social advance and national independence against the English imperialists. In Premier Nkrumah’s movement [in Ghana] a national parliamentary party is linked with trade unions and tribalism—all three of which belong to different stages of social history.

The blending of backward elements with the most modern factors can also be seen when we compare modern China and the United States of America. Today many Chinese peasants in tiny hamlets have pictures of Marx and Lenin on their walls and are inspired by their ideas. The average American worker, living in the most modern cities, has, by contrast, paintings of Christ or photographs of the president on his prefabricated walls. However, the Chinese peasants have no running water, paved roads, cars or television sets which the American workers have.

Thus, although the United States and its working class in its basic industrial development and its living and cultural standards have progressed far beyond China, in certain respects the Chinese peasant has outstripped the American worker. “The historical dialectic knows neither naked backwardness nor chemically pure progressiveness”, as Trotsky put it.

Britain’S Social Structure

If we analyse the social structure of contemporary Britain we can see how it has features belonging to three different social-historical periods, inextricably interwoven. On top of its political system is a monarchy and an established church, both inherited from feudalism. This is connected with and serves a capitalist-monopolist property structure belonging to the highest stage of capitalism. Alongside these capitalist-owned industries exist socialised industries, mighty trade unions, and a Labour Party—all precursors of socialism.

It is significant that this particular contradictory combination in Britain sorely perplexes the American. The liberal American cannot understand why the English retain a monarchy and an established church; the capitalist-minded American is puzzled by the British ruling class’s toleration of the Labour Party.

At the same time, Britain is being shaken by the most formidable of all the combined movements of social forces on a world scale in our time, viz., the combination of the anticapitalist movement of the working class with the anticolonial revolution of the coloured peoples. These two very different movements, both of them flowing out of opposition to imperialist rule, reinforce one another.

These two movements, however, do not have the same effects in all imperialist countries. They are felt, for example, more directly and forcefully in Britain and France than in the United States. Even in the United States, however, the struggles of the colonial peoples for independence and of the Negro minority for equality reciprocally influence one another.

Forward Leaps In History

The most important outcome of the interaction of uneven and combined development is the occurrence of “leaps” in the flow of history. The biggest leaps are rendered possible by the coexistence of peoples on different levels of social organisation. In today’s world, these social organisations stretch all the way from savagery to the very threshold of socialism. In North America, while the Eskimos in the Arctic and the Seri Indians of Lower California are still in the stage of savagery, the bankers of New York and the workers of Detroit operate in the highest stage of monopoly capitalism. Historical “leaps” become inevitable because retarded sections of society are brought face to face with tasks which can be solved only by the most up-to-date methods. Under the spur of external conditions, they are obliged to skip over, or rush through, stages of evolution which originally required an entire historical epoch to unfold their potentialities.

The wider the range of differences in development and the greater the number of stages present at any one time, the more dramatic are the possible combinations of conditions and forces and the more startling is the nature of the leaps. Some combinations produce extraordinary sudden eruptions and twists in history. Transportation has evolved, step by step, through the ages from human to animal locomotion, through wheeled vehicles on to railways, cars and airplanes. In recent years, however, peoples in South America and Siberia have passed directly and at one bound from the pack animal to the use of planes for transport.

Tribes, nations and classes are able to compress stages, or skip over them entirely, by assimilating the achievements of more advanced peoples. They use these, like a polejumper, to soar upward, clear intermediate stages, and surmount obstacles in one mighty leap. They cannot do this until pioneer countries in the vanguard of mankind have previously paved the way for them by prefabricating the material conditions. Other peoples prepare the means and models which, when the time is ripe, they then adapt to their own peculiar needs.

Soviet industry, for example, was able to make such rapid progress because, among other reasons, it could import techniques and machinery from the West. Now China can march ahead at an even faster pace in its industrialisation by relying not only upon the technical achievements of the advanced capitalist countries but also upon the planning methods of Soviet economy.

In their efforts to come abreast of Western Europe, the colonists of the North Atlantic coast quickly passed through “wilderness barbarism”, virtually skipped over feudalism, implanted and then extirpated chattel slavery and built large towns and cities on a capitalist basis. They did all this at an accelerated rate. It took the European peoples 3000 years to climb from the upper barbarism of Homeric Greece to the England of the triumphant bourgeois English revolution of 1649. North America covered this same transformation in 300 years. This was a tenfold speed-up in the rate of development. It was, however, only made possible by the fact that America was able to profit from the previous achievements of Europe combined with the impetuous expansion of the capitalist market to all quarters of the globe.

Alongside of this acceleration and compression of social development came an acceleration of the tempo of revolutionary events. The British people took eight centuries to progress from the beginnings of feudalism in the ninth century to their victorious bourgeois revolution in the 17th century. The North American colonists took only one and three quarter centuries to pass from their first settlements in the 17th century to their victorious revolution in the last quarter of the 18th century.

In these historical leaps, stages of development are sometimes compressed and sometimes omitted altogether, depending upon the particular conditions and forces. In the North American colonies, for example, feudalism, which flowered in Europe and Asia over many centuries, hardly obtained a foothold. Feudalism’s characteristic institutions—landed estates, serfs, the monarchy, the established church and the medieval guilds—could find no suitable environment and were squeezed out between commercial chattel slavery on the one hand and the budding bourgeois society on the other. Paradoxically, at the very time that feudalism was being stunted and strangled in the North American colonies, it was undergoing vigorous expansion on the other side of the world in Russia.

On the other hand, slavery in the Southern colonies of North America sank deep roots, enjoyed such an extensive growth and proved so tough and durable that it required a separate revolution to eradicate it. There are, indeed, still, to this day, significant anachronistic survivals in the South of chattel slavery.

Historical Reversions

History has its reversions as well as its forward marches; its periods of reaction no less than its periods of revolution. Under conditions of reaction, infantile forms and obsolete features appropriate to bygone ages and periods of development can be fused with advanced structures to generate extremely retrogressive formations and hinder social advance. A prime example of such a regressive combination was chattel slavery in America, where an obsolete mode of property and form of production belonging to the infancy of class society sprang up in a bourgeois environment belonging to the maturity of class society.

Recent political history has made us familiar with the examples of fascism and Stalinism, which are symmetrical, but by no means identical, historical phenomena of the 20th century. Both represented reversions from pre-existing democratic forms of government which had entirely different social foundations. Fascism was the destroyer and supplanter of bourgeois democracy in the final period of imperialist domination and decay. Stalinism was the destroyer and supplanter of the workers’ democracy of revolutionary Russia in the initial period of the international socialist revolution.

Thus far we have singled out two stages in the dialectical movement of society. First, some parts of mankind, and certain elements of society, move ahead faster and develop farther than others. Later, under the shock of external forces, laggards are prodded along, catching up with and even outstripping their forerunners on the path of progress by combining the latest innovations with their old modes of existence.

The Disintegration Of Combinations

But history does not halt at this point. Each unique synthesis, which arises from uneven and combined development, itself undergoes further growth and change which can lead on to the eventual disintegration and destruction of the synthesis. A combined formation amalgamates elements derived from different levels of social development. Its inner structure is therefore highly contradictory. The opposition of its constituent poles not only imparts instability to the formation but directs its further development. More clearly than any other formation a struggle of opposites marks the life course of a combined formation.

There are two main types of combination. In one case, the product of an advanced culture may be absorbed into the framework of an archaic social organisation. In the other, aspects of a primitive order are incorporated into a more highly developed social organism.

What effects will follow from the assimilation of higher elements into a primitive structure depends upon many circumstances. For example, the Indians could replace the stone axe with the iron axe without fundamental dislocations of their social order because this change involved only slight dependence upon the white civilisation from which the iron axe was taken. The introduction of the horse considerably changed the lives of the Indians of the prairies by extending the range of their hunting grounds and of their war-making abilities, yet the horse did not transform their basic tribal relations. However, participation in the growing fur trade and the penetration of money had revolutionary consequences upon the Indians by disrupting their tribal ways, setting up private interests against communal customs, pitting one tribe against another and subordinating the new Indian traders and trappers to the world market.

Under certain historical conditions the introduction of new things can, for a time, even lengthen the life of the most archaic institutions. The entrance of the great capitalist oil concerns into the Middle East has temporarily strengthened the sheikdoms by showering wealth upon them. But in the long run the invasion of up-to-date techniques and ideas cannot help but undermine the old tribal regimes because they break up the conditions upon which the old regimes rest and create new forces to oppose and replace them.

A primitive power can fasten itself upon a higher one, gain renewed vitality, and even appear for a time superior to its host. But the less developed power leads an essentially parasitic existence and cannot indefinitely sustain itself at the expense of the higher. It lacks suitable soil and atmosphere for its growth while the more developed institutions are not only inherently superior but can count upon a favourable environment for expansion.

Slavery And Capitalism

The development of chattel slavery in North America provides an excellent illustration of this dialectic. From the world-historical standpoint, slavery on this continent was an anachronism from its birth. As a mode of production, it belonged to the infancy of class society; it had already virtually vanished from Western Europe. Yet the very demands of Western Europe for staple raw materials, like sugar, indigo, and tobacco, combined with the scarcity of labour for carrying on large-scale agricultural operations, implanted slavery in North America. Colonial slavery grew up as a branch of commercial capitalism. Thus a mode of production and a form of property which had long passed away emerged afresh out of the demands of a higher economic system and became part of it.

This contradiction became more accentuated when the rise of capitalist factory industry in England and the United States lifted the cotton-producing states of the deep South to top place in American economic and political life. For decades the two opposing systems functioned as a team. They then split apart at the time of the American Civil War. The capitalist system, which at one stage of its development fostered slavery’s growth, at another stage created a new combination of forces which overthrew it.

The combined formation of the old and the new, the lower and the higher, chattel slavery and capitalism turned out to be neither permanent nor indissoluble; it was conditional, temporary, relative. The enforced association of the two tended toward dissociation and growing conflict. If a society marches forward, the preponderant advantage, in the long run, goes to the superior structure which thrives at the expense of the inferior features, eventually outstripping and dislodging them.

The Substitution Of Classes

One of the most important and paradoxical consequences of uneven and combined development is the solution of the problems of one class through the agency of another. Each stage of social development inherits, poses, and solves its own specific complex of historical tasks. Barbarism, for example, developed the productive techniques of plant cultivation and animal breeding and husbandry as branches of its economic activity. These activities were also prerequisites for the supplanting of barbarism by civilisation.

In the bourgeois epoch, the unification of separate provinces into centralised, national states and the industrialisation of these national states were historical tasks posed to the rising bourgeoisie. But, in a number of countries, the underdevelopment of capitalist economy and the consequent weakness of the bourgeoisie made them unable to fulfil these historically bourgeois tasks. Right in the heart of Europe, for example, the unity of the German people was effected, from 1866 to 1869, not by the bourgeoisie and not by the working class, but by an outmoded social caste, the Prussian Junker landlords, headed by the Hohenzollern monarchy and directed by Bismarck. In this case, the historical task of a capitalist class was carried through by precapitalist forces.

In the present century, China presents another, reversed example—on a higher historical level. Under the double yoke of its old feudal relationships and of imperialist subordination, China could neither be unified nor industrialised. It required nothing less than a proletarian revolution (however deformed this revolution may have been from the start) backed up by a mighty peasant insurrection to clear the way for the solution of these long-postponed bourgeois tasks. Today China has been unified for the first time and is rapidly becoming industrialised. However, these jobs are not being carried out by capitalist or precapitalist forces but by the working class and under the leadership of the working class. In this case, the unfinished tasks of the aborted capitalist era of development have been shouldered by a post-capitalist class.

The extremely uneven development of society makes necessary these exchanges of historical roles between classes; the telescoping of historical stages makes the substitution possible. As Hegel pointed out, history often resorts to the most indirect and cunning mechanisms to achieve its ends.

One of the major problems left unsolved by the bourgeois democratic revolution in the United States was the abolition of the old stigmas of slavery and the extension of equality to the Negroes. This task was only partially solved by the industrial bourgeoisie of the North during the American Civil War. This failure of the bourgeoisie has ever since been a great source of embarrassment and difficulty for its representatives. The question now posed is whether the present ultra-reactionary capitalist rulers of the USA can now carry through to fulfilment a national task which it failed to complete in its revolutionary heyday.

The spokesmen for the Democrats and Republicans find it necessary to say that they can in fact do this job; the reformists of all kinds claim that the bourgeois government can be made to do it. It is our opinion, however, that only the joint struggle of the Negro people and the working masses against the capitalist rulers will be able to carry through the struggle against the hangovers of slavery to its victorious conclusion. In this way, the socialist revolution will complete what the bourgeois-democratic revolution failed to realise.

The Penalties Of Progressiveness And The Privileges Of Backwardness

Those who make a cult of pure progress believe that high attainments in a number of fields presuppose equivalent perfection in other respects. Many Americans automatically assume that the United States surpasses the rest of the world in all spheres of human activity just because it does so in technology, material productivity, and standard of living. Yet in politics and philosophy, to mention no others, the general development of the United States has not yet passed beyond the 19th century, whereas countries in Europe and Asia, far less favoured economically, are far ahead of the USA in these fields.

In the last few years of his rule, Stalin sought to impose the notion that only “rootless cosmopolitans” could maintain that the West had outdistanced the USSR in any branch of endeavour from mechanical invention to the science of genetics. This expression of Great Russian nationalism was no less stupid than the Westerners’ conceit that nothing superior can come out of the alleged Asiatic barbarism of the Soviet Union.

The truth is that each stage of social development, each type of social organisation, each nationality, has its essential virtues and defects, advantages and disadvantages. Progress exacts its penalties; it has to be paid for. Advances in certain fields can institute relapses in others. For example, civilisation developed the powers of production and the wealth of mankind by sacrificing the equality and fraternity of the primitive societies it supplanted. On the other hand, under certain conditions, backwardness has its benefits. Moreover, what is progressive at one stage of development can become a precondition for the establishment of backwardness at a subsequent stage or in an affiliated field. And what is backward can become the basis for a forward leap.

It seems presumptuous to tell those peoples who are oppressed by backwardness and are yearning to cast it off, that their archaic state has any advantages. To them backwardness appears as an unmixed evil. But the consciousness of this “evil” emerges in the first place only after these peoples have come into contact with superior forms of social development. It is the contact of the two forms, backward and advanced, which exposes the deficiencies of the backward culture. So long as civilisation is unknown, the primitive savage remains content. It is only the juxtaposition of the two that introduces the vision of something better and feeds the yeast of dissatisfaction. In this way the presence and knowledge of a superior state becomes a motor force of progress.

The resulting criticism and condemnation of the old state of affairs generate the urge to overcome the disparity in development and drive laggards forward by arousing in them the desire to draw abreast of the more advanced. Every individual who has become involved in the learning process has felt this personally.

When new and imperative demands are made upon backward peoples, the absence of accumulated, intermediate institutions can be of positive value, because then fewer obstacles are present to obstruct the advance and the assimilation of what is new. If the social forces exist and exert themselves effectively, intelligently and in time, what had been a penalty can be turned to advantage.

The Twisted Course Of The Russian Revolution

The recent history of Russia provides the most striking example of this conversion of historical penalties into advantages. At the start of the 20th century, Russia was the most retarded great power in Europe. This backwardness embraced all strata from the peasantry at the bottom to the absolutist Romanov dynasty at the top. The Russian people and its oppressed nationalities suffered both from the heaped up miseries of their decayed feudalism and from the backwardness of bourgeois development in Russia.

However, when the time came for a revolutionary settlement of these accumulated problems, this backwardness disclosed its advantages in many ways. Firstly, tsarism was totally alienated from the masses. Secondly, the bourgeoisie was too weak to take power in its own name and hold it. Thirdly, the peasantry, having received no satisfaction from the bourgeoisie, was compelled to rely upon the working class for leadership. Fourthly, the working class also did not have any petrified modes of activity or entrenched trade union and political bureaucracies to hold it back. It was easier for this energetic young class, which had so little to unlearn and so much to learn so quickly, to adopt the most advanced theory, the boldest and clearest program of action and the highest type of party organisation. The peasant revolt against medievalism, a movement which in Western Europe had been characteristic of the dawn of the bourgeois democratic revolutions, intermeshed with the proletarian revolution against capitalism, which belonged to the 20th century. As Trotsky explained in The History of the Russian Revolution , it was the conjunction of these two different revolutions which gave an expansive power to the upheaval of the Russian people and accounted for the extraordinary sweep and momentum of its achievements.

But the privileges of backwardness are not inexhaustible; they are limited by historical and material conditions. Accordingly, in the next stage of its development, the backwardness inherited from the Russia of the tsars reasserted itself under new historical conditions and on an entirely new social basis. The previous privileges had to be paid for in the next decades by the bitter suffering, the economic privations and the loss of liberties which the Russian people endured under the Stalinist dictatorship. The very backwardness which had previously strengthened the revolution and which had propelled the Russian masses far ahead of the rest of the world, now became the starting point of the political reaction and bureaucratic counterrevolution, a consequence of the fact that the international revolution failed to conquer in the industrially more advanced countries. The economic and cultural backwardness of Russia, combined with the retarded development of the international revolution, were the basic conditions which enabled the Stalinist clique to choke the Bolshevik Party and permitted the bureaucracy to usurp political power.

For these reasons, the Stalinist regime became the most self-contradictory in modern history, a coagulation of the most advanced property forms and social conquests emanating from the revolution with a resurrection of the most repulsive features of class rule. Giant factories with the most up-to-date machinery were operated by workers who, serf-like, were not permitted to leave their places of employment; airplanes sped above impassable dirt tracks; planned economy functioned side by side with “slave labour” camps; tremendous industrial advances went hand in hand with political retrogression; the prodigious growth of Russia as a world power was accompanied by an inner decay of the regime.

However, the dialectical development of the Russian Revolution did not stop at this point. The extension of the revolution to Eastern Europe and Asia after the Second World War, the expansion of Soviet industry, and the rise in the numbers and cultural level of the Soviet workers, prepared conditions for a modified reversal of the old trends, the revival of the revolution on a higher stage, and the undermining and partial overcoming of the scourge of Stalinism. The first manifestations of this forward movement of the masses in Russia and in its satellites, with the working class in the lead, have already been announced to the world.

From the Khrushchev speech to the Hungarian Revolution there has been a continuous series of events demonstrating the dialectics of revolutionary development. At every stage of the Russian Revolution since 1905, we can see the interaction of its backwardness and progressiveness with their conversion one into the other according to the concrete circumstances of national and international development. Only an understanding of the dialectics of these changes can provide an accurate picture of the extremely complex and contradictory development of the USSR throughout the 40 years of its existence. The dozens of oversimplified characterisations of the nature of modern Russian society, which serve only to confuse the revolutionary movement, derive directly from a lack of understanding of the laws of dialectics and the use of metaphysical methods in analysing historical processes.

The law of uneven and combined development is an indispensable tool for analysing the Russian Revolution and for charting its growth and decay through all its complex phases, its triumphs, its degeneration and its prospective regeneration as the process of de-Stalinisation is carried through to the end by the Soviet people.


[4] Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution page 229.