First Published: S. Tagore, Permanent
Revolution (Calcutta : Samar Bose, 1944).
Digital Version: Provided by the Revolutionary Communist Party of India, April 2020.
In the first Address of the Central Committee of the Communist League to its members in Germany in March, 1850, Marx wrote:
“While the democratic petty-bourgeoisie wishes to bring the revolution to as swift a conclusion as possible through the carrying out at the most the above-mentioned demands, it is in our interest and it is our task to make the revolution permanent until all propertied classes are more or less dispossessed, the governmental power acquired by the proletariat and the association of proletarians, achieved not only in one country but in all important countries of the world, thus ending the competition of the proletariat in these countries and at least until the most important productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletariat … But they (German workers—S.T.) will accomplish the greatest part of their final victory for themselves through self-enlightenment as to their class-interests, by taking their own independent party attitude as early as possible, and by not permitting themselves to be fooled as to the necessity for the independent organisation of the party of the proletariat by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty-bourgeoisie. Their battle-cry must always be: The Permanent Revolution.”
These are the memorable words with which Marx clearly enunciated the permanent character of the world proletarian revolution till the final victory of socialism could be achieved. The salient points of Marx’s arguments in favour of the permanent revolution are:
First, the democratic petty-bourgeoisie will soon cry a halt to the revolution as soon as its interests are fulfilled.
Secondly, it is to the interest of the working class not to bring the revolution to a swift end, but to make it permanent till (a) all the propertied classes are more or less dispossessed.
(b) the governmental power acquired by the proletariat and the association of proletarians, is achieved not only in one country but in all important countries of the world.
(c) by acquiring government power in all important countries the competition between the proletariat in these countries is ended and at least the most important productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletariat.
Thirdly, till these ends are achieved the battle-cry of the proletariat of every land must be that of the permanent revolution.
Thus, it is clear that according to Marx, for the victory of socialism, the proletarian revolution cannot limit its task to the expropriation of the propertied classes of one particular country only and to the seizure of the governmental power in one country only; for the victory of socialism the proletariat must dispossess the propertied classes in more than one country just as it must seize the state power “in all important countries of the world.” (Marx)
This step is necessary because only thereby will the powerful forces of capitalist competition from these important capitalist lands be eliminated. By “all the important countries of the world”, Marx undoubtedly meant the most highly developed capitalist countries.
Unless these powerful competitions are eliminated and the “most important productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletariat” (Marx) not only in one country but in all the most advanced capitalist countries, socialism is impossible.
Therefore the battle-cry of the proletariat must be the “Permanent Revolution”. The successful proletarian revolution in one country is the ideological and material yeast for the proletarian revolutions in other lands. It is the starting point of the permanent revolution: the world revolution. The proletarian revolution will defeat its own purpose—the establishment of a socialist society—if the powerful forces of capitalist competition are not eliminated. And the elimination of these forces can be achieved only by a series of proletarian revolutions in the principal capitalist countries. Surrounded by the raging ocean of capitalist states, a small island of a proletarian state—the proletarian dictatorship—may manage to survive but it can never reach a state when the victory of socialism will make the proletarian dictatorship itself a superfluity.
These are the fundamental economic and political reasons which led Marx to propound the theory of the permanent revolution as early as 1850.
Without the permanent revolution, there is no socialism. By emphasising again and again the necessity of world-revolution for the victory of socialism in Russia, Lenin had only his intellectual conviction and faith in the theory of the permanent revolution.
Both Marx and Lenin had emphasised the absolute necessity of world-revolution, of a continuous wave of revolutions in the principal capitalist countries of the world on the crest of which socialism will triumphantly emerge.
Obviously, continuous revolution has reference to the recognition of the absolute necessity of world-revolution for the establishment of socialism even in one country, to the continuous shaping and sharpening of the ideological, strategic and tactical weapons of a victorious proletarian revolution and proletarian state for nurturing and helping revolutions in other lands. Its continuity has reference to an epoch, not to days and months or years.
Lenin had rightly remarked in the ‘State and Revolution’ that between the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the victory of socialism, there is an epoch.
That epoch is the epoch of the permanent revolution; the epoch of a series of proletarian revolutions; in one word, it is the period of world revolution in continuous flow.
But in the meantime the dark age of the Stalin regime emerged. The world revolution or the permanent revolution was declared to be an ideology, deserving permanent inquisitorial punishment. This was also the period when the loud rigmarole about the victory of socialism in one country came into vogue.
In justification of this theory, shameless distortions and falsifications of viewpoints of Marx and Lenin were brought about.
Attempts were made to prove that, according to Marx there was a difference between socialism and communism, and that by the victory of socialism was meant the fulfilment of those conditions on which the lower stage of communism depended. It was no doubt a clever dodge, but remained a travesty of Marxism.
In the “Critique of the Gotha Programme”, Marx wrote about “a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but on the contrary, as it emerges from capitalist society, which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.” Further Marx wrote that “in a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of individuals under division of labour, and therewith anti-thesis between mental and physical labour has vanished …— only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois rights be fully left behind.”
Thus, Marx only wrote about a communist society just emerging from the womb of capitalist society and of a “higher phase of communist society”.
Not even once did Marx describe socialism as the lower phase of communism. Even in the preface to the Communist Manifesto, in which Engels dealt with the reasons for not calling their brochure the “Socialist Manifesto”, he never suggested that socialism was something fundamentally different from communism or was its lower phase.
It was Lenin, who in the “State and Revolution”, described the communist society just emerging from the womb of capitalist society as the socialist stage of society, and the higher stage of society which grew out of this first stage as the communist society. This was surely an unwarranted narrowing down of the implication of the word “socialism” by Lenin, done undoubtedly with the purpose of simplifying the problem for the uninitiated in Marxism. But then how could Lenin even dream that his usage of the word ‘socialism’ for the first phase of communist society should be later on so shamelessly distorted by Stalin and taken advantage of, for decrying the permanent revolution of Marxism and for advancing the absurd theory of “Socialism in One Country” ! And, moreover, is it really the view of Lenin?
While Lenin has used the word socialism for the first phase of the communist society, he has not failed to point out that it is only the notion of the man in the street. Lenin writes of “the first phase of communist society (generally called socialism).” Here Lenin by the use of the words “generally called socialism” has made it clear that such a usage of the word “socialism” is not scientific, but is only a common usage amongst the uninitiated general public.
For, in his “State and Revolution” we find Lenin writing as follows, “The transition from capitalism to communism will certainly bring a great variety and abundance of political forms, but the substance will inevitably be the dictatorship of the proletariat”.
Further—“Hence we see that interesting phenomenon of the first phase of communism retaining ‘the narrow horizon of bourgeois law’...Consequently, for a certain time not only bourgeois law, but even the capitalist state may remain under communism without the capitalist class.” (Lenin—“State and Revolution”)
From both these quotations, it is more than clear that Lenin never called the “first phase of communism, socialism. For, in both these passages he is dealing precisely with the first phase of communism and on both the occasions he has used the word, communism and not once the term, socialism.
“Capitalist state may remain under communism” and the first phase of communism retaining the narrow horizon of bourgeois law” and the dictatorship of the proletariat during “the transition from capitalism to communism” all these passages refer to the first phase of communism called socialism by that uninitiated ignoramus Stalin.
Now let us see what Marx and Engels have to say on this subject. Says Marx—“Between capitalist and communist societies there lies a period of revolutionary transformation from the former to the latter. A stage of political transition corresponds to this period, and the state during this period can be no other than the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”.
It is obvious that Marx here talks about the first phase of communist society which Stalin calls socialism. Marx also writes about the “future state in communist society”. It is more than obvious that this also refers to the first phase of communist society, (socialism of Stalin) as state surely will not exist in the “highest phase of communist society.” (Marx)
In his letter to Bebel, Engels writes “The anarchists have too long been able to throw into our teeth this people’s state, although already in Marx’s work against Proudhon, and then in the ‘Communist Manifesto’, it was stated quite plainly that with the introduction of the socialist order of society the state will dissolve itself and will disappear”.
It is obvious that by “the socialist order of society” Engels means “the highest phase of communist society” of Marx, for the state can only disappear and dissolve itself in the highest stage of communist society.
Thus, we are driven to the conclusion that Lenin, Marx and Engels never used the word socialism for the first phase of communist society and to Marx and Engels there was no difference between socialism and the “highest phase of communist society”.
The difference between socialism and communism has been wilfully manufactured by Stalin to substantiate his monstrous theory of “socialism in one country”.
Writes Stalin -“There are two peculiar features of the October Revolution ... What are these peculiar features? First, the fact that the dictatorship of the proletariat was born etc., etc. Second, the fact that the dictatorship of the proletariat became established in our country as a result of the victory of socialism in one country—a country with capitalism still little developed—while capitalism was preserved in other countries more highly developed in the capitalist sense”.
This is the very first time that one hears of such an amazing thing as the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat “as a result of the victory of socialism in one country”. (Stalin)
It is common knowledge that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the result of a victorious proletarian revolution in one country.
Of course, the victorious proletarian revolution can in loose sense be described as the victory of socialism but not in the Stalinist sense of “the victory of socialism in one country”. The victory of socialism can only follow after the victory of a proletarian revolution has established the dictatorship of the proletariat in one country, and after the dictatorship of the proletariat has initiated and carried out under its guidance a series of victorious revolutions in the principal capitalist lands. Till these lands have come under the banner of victorious proletarian revolution and competitions between the lands of victorious revolutions and the principal capitalist countries have been, thus, eliminated, socialism is impossible of realisation. Lenin says - “The dictatorship of the proletariat is a special form of class alliance between the proletariat, the vanguard of the toilers and the numerous non-proletarian strata of the toilers, etc. ... an alliance aiming at the final establishment and consolidation of socialism”.
The victory of proletarian revolution is possible in “a country with capitalism little developed” (Stalin) because of the law of the uneven development of capitalism but that is not the victory of socialism in one country in the sense Stalin means it.
From the correct theoretical stand that “uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism” (Lenin), Stalin has drawn the completely wrong conclusion that “in view of this the victory of socialism in one country, even in this country which is less developed in the capitalist sense—while capitalism is preserved in other countries, even, if these countries are more highly developed in the capitalist sense—is quite possible and probable.” (Stalin)
He concludes this faulty reasoning with the remarks that “such, in a nutshell are the foundations of Lenin’s theory of the proletarian revolution.” Quite right. What Stalin had inadvertently let slip is true. The uneven economic and political development of Capitalism is sure to lead to the proletarian revolution a weakest link of the imperialist chum, and that surely nutshell Lenin’s theory of a proletarian revolution. But Stalin’s sly substitution of “the victory of socialism in one country” for ‘the victory of a proletarian revolution in one country’ is an absolute vulgarisation of Lenin’s theory of a proletarian revolution.
Stalin has quoted two passages from Lenin’s writings in support of his “Socialism in One Country” theory. As quoted by Stalin, Lenin said: “Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence, victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country, taken singly. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and organised its own socialist production, would stand up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world, attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, raising revolts in those countries against the capitalists and coming out in the event of necessity, even with armed force against the exploiting classes and their states.”
In the second quotation, quoted by Stalin, Lenin said: “As a matter of fact, the power of state over all large-scale means of production, the power of state in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of small and very small peasants, the assured leadership of the peasantry by the proletariat, etc.—is not this all that is necessary in order to build a complete socialist society from the co-operatives alone, which we formerly treated as huckstering and which from a certain aspect we have the right to treat as such now, under NEP? Is this not all that is necessary for the purpose of building a complete Socialist State? This is not yet the building of Socialist Society, but it is all that is necessary and sufficient for the buildings.”
Let us now examine both these passages of Lenin one by one. In the first passage, we are told that the “uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism”, it is an unassailable fact. Then Lenin says: “Hence, victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country, taken singly”.
The obvious meaning of this passage is that because of the uneven development of capitalism, the revolution that will bring the victory of socialism (the socialist revolution), will be possible in several or even in one capitalist country, taken singly. In other words, because of the law of the uneven development of capitalism, the weakest links of capitalism may give way in one country or in a number of countries. Therefore, the weakest link may be broken in several countries or maybe broken even in one country.
By “victory of socialism” Lenin has meant nothing else but the victory of the proletarian revolution. The following lines make clear Lenin’s intention. “The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and organised its own socialist productions would stand up against the rest of the world etc.” The expropriation of the propertied classes followed by the organisation of socialist production, simply means that the proletariat after concentrating the social means of productions in its own hand by expropriating the bourgeoisie would begin the organisation of a mode of production which would not be based on the economic exploitation of one class by another for profit motive, in other words, the proletariat would begin the organisation of socialist production. Lenin has only emphasised the immediate tasks that are to follow in the wake of the victory of a proletarian revolution in one country. The tasks are: the expropriation of the propertied classes, the organisation of the socialist production in the national sector, and fomenting permanent revolution (world revolution) in the international sector. That is what he meant when speaking about the proletariat of the country of victorious revolution. He said: “It would stand up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world, attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, organising revolts in those countries against the capitalists, and coming out in the event of necessity, even with armed force against the exploiting classes and their states.”
It is such a hopelessly futile attempt on the part of Stalin to dress up the incorrigibly internationalist Lenin in the tattered chauvinistic rags of “socialism in one country”.
The second quotation from Lenin, as it is quite clear from the text, deals with the question of the economic and political wherewithal at the disposal of the victorious proletarian revolution in one country for building up a complete socialist society. The problem of building up socialism has two aspects — the national aspect, and the international aspect. Here, Lenin deals primarily with the national aspect of the problem. To those who got panicky at the introduction of NEP, Lenin pointed out that in the national sector the victorious proletariat had the power of state in its hands, control over all large-scale means of production and alliance with small and very small peasants. Obviously, in this passage, Lenin deals only with the pre-requisites that are necessary within a country for building a socialist society; but thereby he did not mean to suggest that these factors alone were capable of building up socialism. Here, he intentionally ignored the international factor in order to lay emphasis on one aspect of the problem. It goes without saying that only international factors are not enough for building a socialist structure in a particular country; certain pre-requisites are necessary within that country for the international factors to act upon. Lenin in this passage lays stress on those national factors only. Little did he imagine then that his utterances meant for emphasising one particular aspect of a problem would be distorted and mutilated to appear as the total aspect of the problem.
In “The Problems of Leninism”, while dealing with the question of the victory of socialism in one country, Stalin writes: “But the pamphlet ‘The Foundations of Leninism’ contains a second formulation, which says: ‘By overthrowing the power of the bourgeoisie and establishing the power of the proletariat in one country one does not yet ensure the complete victory of socialism. The principal task of socialism—the organisation of socialist production—has still to be fulfilled. Can this task be fulfilled, can the final victory of socialism be achieved in one country, without the joint efforts of the proletarians in several advanced countries? No, it cannot. To overthrow the bourgeoisie the efforts of one country are sufficient, this is proved by the history of our revolution. For the final victory of socialism, for organisation of socialist production, the efforts of one country, particularly of a peasant country like Russia, are insufficient; for that, the efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries are necessary’. This second-formulation was directed against the critics of Leninism and against the Trotskyites, who declared that the dictatorship of the proletariat in one country, in the absence of victory in other lands, could not hold out against conservative Europe. To that extent—but only to that extent—this formulation was then (April, 1924) adequate and undoubtedly it served a certain purpose. Subsequently, however, when the criticism of Leninism in this sphere had already been overcome in the Party, and when a new question had come to the forefront, the question of the possibility of building a complete socialist society by the efforts of one country, without help from outside — the formulation became obviously inadequate, and, therefore, incorrect.”
Thus, we see that in April, 1924, in “The Foundations of Leninism”, Stalin considered that the victory of a proletarian revolution though possible in one country, the victory of socialism in one country, especially in a backward peasant country like Russia, was impossible. But in 1926 when he wrote “The Problems of Leninism”, the victory of socialism in one country had become possible in the meantime. But why? What fundamental changes in the national as well as in the international sectors have taken place to make the impossibility of 1924 a possibility in 1926? According to Stalin, his 1924 formulation was made only with one purpose in view; it was directed against the Trotskyites who declared that the dictatorship of the proletariat in one country, in the absence of victory in other countries, “could not hold out against conservative Europe.” But then in 1926 such a formulation was no longer necessary as “the criticism of Leninism (it would have been honest if Stalin had said ‘criticism of Stalinism’ instead—S.T.) in this sphere had already been overcome in the Party.” So victory of socialism in one country was not possible in 1924, not because it was theoretically wrong but because it was necessary to express such an opinion in 1924 when the Leninist tradition in the Bolshevik Party was yet too strong to be ridden roughshod over by Stalin.
Lenin had only passed away then and Trotsky’s influence in the Party was still too formidable to be trifled with. But in 1926 Bolshevik Party and the Third International had toppled with remarkable speed from the revolutionary summit of Leninism into the marsh of Stalinism. That explains Stalin’s change of attitude in 1926. His own words were sufficient proof of this. Only tactical considerations made him speak against “socialism in one country” in 1924; when the tactical considerations were served, he propagated “socialism in one country” since 1926. This clearly proves that Stalin never was really an opponent of the utterly chauvinistic and utopian theory of “socialism in one country” at any stage of his political career. Only when Lenin was alive he did not dare to blurt out such reactionary nonsense and had to wait for two years after Lenin’s death for such a venture. Such is the essence of Stalin’s “theoretical” endeavours! They are all tactical moves undertaken to crush one or the other group in the Bolshevik Party and the Comintern. It had no other basis and it had no other interest to serve than that of the clique.
But then why did his formulation of 1924 become incorrect in 1926? Stalin realises that only the tactical reason of fighting Trotskyism would be a bit thin even for his yes-men in Russia and his hirelings in other countries. Therefore, he strives hard to theorise and here is the result. Stalin writes: “What is the defect in this formulation? (meaning thereby the formulation that socialism is impossible in one country without the joint efforts of the proletariat of several countries—S.T.). The defect is that it joins two different questions into one; it joins the question of the possibility of building socialism by the efforts of one country—which must be answered in the affirmative—with the question as to whether a country in which the dictatorship of the proletariat has been established can consider itself fully guaranteed against intervention, and consequently against the restoration of the old order, without a victorious revolution in a number of other countries—which must be answered in the negative. This is apart from the fact that this second formulation may give occasion for thinking that the organisation of socialist society by the efforts of one country is impossible—which, of course, is incorrect.” (The Problems of Leninism)
It is clear that Stalin thinks that the impediment to the victory of socialism in one country is only military intervention. Otherwise, if non-intervention from that quarter can be guaranteed, then the proletarian state in one country can achieve the complete victory of socialism in one country even in a backward country, such as Russia. Has Stalin advanced any argument in support of such a contention? No, only such stupid assertions—“the possibility of building socialism by the effort of one country—which must be answered in the affirmative”, and “that the organisation of socialist society by the efforts of one country is impossible—which of course, is incorrect.”
Stalin is absolutely wrong. Even if the proletarian state’s immunity from military intervention remains guaranteed, the “peaceful” intervention of world capitalism in the economic field is sufficient to prevent the complete victory of socialism in one country. The proletarian state will have to depend upon capitalist sources for the raw materials which almost all are controlled by the principal capitalist powers. In order to get that, the proletarian state will have to produce goods for foreign trade.
These goods will come under the operation of the laws of the capitalist market. In order to be able to sell its goods to capitalist countries, the proletarian state-industry will have to reckon with competition from capitalist industries, and that is bound to affect the norms of socialist production also. The piece-wage system has to be resorted to in order to be able to stand capitalist competition—Stakhanovism in Soviet Russia is a proof of that—and that must result in the accentuation of economic inequality amongst the various sections of the people of the proletarian state. Thus, as a result of the constant “peaceful” barrage of capitalist economic fire, both the productive and the distributive life of the proletarian state will continuously be in a state of disturbance.
That is the reason why Marx, as early as in 1850, advised the world proletariat to make the revolution permanent till it should seize governmental power “not only in one country, but in all important countries of the world, thus ending the competition of the proletariat in these countries and at least until the most important productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletariat.” It is clear from the above quotation that Marx considered it absolutely necessary that the revolution should be continuous till the economic competition of the proletariat of the principal capitalist countries with the proletarian state came to an end and the most important productive forces were concentrated in the hands of the world proletariat.
For Marx, the victory of socialism was impossible till these economic problems were solved on an international scale. But for Stalin the victory of socialism in one country, even in a backward peasant country like Russia, can be achieved without the solution of the two economic tasks mentioned by Marx, solely by its own economic strength, provided there is no military intervention by the capitalist states.
Such is the quixotic logic of Stalin’s chauvinistic and petty-bourgeois utopian theory of the victory of socialism in one country.
It is as far from the revolutionary teachings of Marx and Lenin as the screeching of the ape is from the speech of a human being. And even Stalin has been forced to admit that “it goes without saying that for the complete victory of socialism, for complete security against the restoration of the old order, the united efforts of the proletarians of several countries are necessary.” But here the old and sly trick already referred to is again in evidence.
A la Stalin, “for the COMPLETE (My emphasis—S.T.) victory of socialism” united efforts of the proletariat of several countries will be necessary but not for the victory of socialism in one country. So the victory of socialism in one country is not the same as the complete victory of socialism! Stalin has spoken the truth, however unwittingly. And our concern is with the complete victory of socialism and not with a partial or fractional triumph of the same. It is mischievous and dishonest to try to show that the “victory of socialism in one country” is different from “the complete victory of socialism in one country.” We have already seen how Stalin had made unscrupulous use of the unwarranted distinction which Lenin had made between socialism and communism, solely for the purpose of simplifying the problem for the uninitiated.
Further, Stalin says: “While it is true that the final victory of socialism in the first country to emancipate itself is impossible without the combined efforts of the proletarians of several countries, it is equally true that the development of the world revolution will be the more rapid and thorough, the more effective the assistance rendered by the first socialist country to the workers and labouring masses of all other countries.”
This is one of the rare occasions when Stalin, talks truthfully about what is known to all students of revolutionary Marxism and Leninism. Nobody with any common sense ever doubted that the victory of the proletarian revolution in one country would not be helpful for the world revolution. On the contrary only the victory of socialist revolution in one country (not to be confounded with the victory of socialism in one country) can be the starting point of the permanent revolution, in other words, of the world-revolution.
The country of the victorious proletarian revolution can be called the socialist country, and as a matter of fact we all say that in reference to Soviet Russia, provided we remember that here the word, socialist, is used in the sense of a country that has made the first beginning for the achievement of the ideal of socialism, just as when we call someone a Communist, we do not suggest thereby that he has achieved communism, but that he is working for the realisation of the same. This extra cautiousness on our part about the commonplace would not have been necessary, if Stalin had not made such dishonest use of the word, ‘socialist’, to mean all sorts of things.
“But what,” asks Stalin, “if the world revolution is fated to arrive with some delay? Is there any ray of hope for our revolution? Trotsky sees no ray of hope, for ‘the contradictions in the position of a workers’ government ... can be solved only ... in their arena of the world proletarian revolution’. According to this plan, there is but one prospect left for our revolution: to vegetate in its own contradictions and rot away while waiting for the world revolution.”
What extraordinarily bad logic and what profound distrust of the forces working for the world revolution! If the world revolution is delayed for decades, it will be delayed not because of the revolutionary situation not being ripe in principal capitalist countries but because of the worthlessness of the present leadership of the world revolution, the worthlessness of the Stalinist leadership of the now defunct Third International. The world revolution has been delayed because of anti-revolutionary Stalinism and for no other reason. Trotsky’s words as quoted by Stalin are perfectly valid. The final solution of the contradictions of the workers’ state must be in the world arena; because two contradictory world-systems cannot exist side by side ad infinitum. Stalin’s notion of “socialism in one country” is nothing but the twentieth-century caricature of the utopian socialists’ idea of little socialist settlements amidst the snarling jungle of capitalist competition.
The vastness of a country is no argument at all in favour of socialism in one country. What we should take into consideration in this connection is the relative strength of the world forces of capitalism and the dictatorship of the proletariat of a single country. It is not a question of geographical dimension, but that of the productive forces. The dictatorship of the proletariat of a single country, even if that country was the highest in capitalist development, could never measure its strength against the combination of economic forces of the rest of the capitalist world. It will be hampered in its task of collectivisation of agriculture; Stalin’s retracing the step in collectivisation is a proof of this, and its relation with capitalist countries through foreign trade will keep its economy under constant pressure of capitalist exchange relations. Its goods will always have to be manufactured with an eye to the demand not only of the home market but also of the world capitalist market. Self-sufficient economy is an impossibility even for the most highly developed capitalist country. Autarchy is more a slogan of political stunt than one of economic reality. Thus, the proletarian state will be constantly hampered in its work towards a socialist economy by the existence of a capitalist economy at its elbow, just as a capitalist economy will always be in a state of crisis, minor and major, by the existence of a socialist economy by its side. But what is a mere crisis for a long established and enormously powerful system, we mean world capitalism, will be a disaster for a newly-born system of socialist production of a particular country in the face of the constant opposition of world capitalism. This disaster can be averted and socialism become a reality, only when the proletariat achieves governmental power “not only in one country but in all important countries of the world, thus ending the competition of the proletariat in these countries and at least until the most important productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletariat.” (Marx)
As we see, Marx has specially laid stress on “ending the competition of the proletariat . . . in all important countries of the world . . . until the most important productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletariat.”
Thus, much as we fear to court the displeasure of Stalin, we cannot but point out to him that without a world revolution, there is no hope for the dictatorship of the proletariat in one country to blossom forth into socialism.
If the world revolution does not come to its help, then the proletarian dictatorship in one country will surely “vegetate in its own contradictions and rot away” as Stalin has rightly said though he meant it as a condemnation of those who uphold the doctrine of permanent revolution and world revolution. The dictatorship of the proletariat of one country if it cuts itself away from the stream of world revolution, if it stews in its own juice for long, believing that to be a step forward, hugging it as the ‘complete victory of socialism’ (Stalin), then the proletarian state is sure to rot away. As sure as anything, the bureaucratisation of the sections enjoying the fruits of the state power must result from that and separation between this stratum and the broad masses of the people is inevitable. And what can be a better example of this rotting away than Stalin’s Russia!
The extreme bureaucratisation of the state officials, the growing economic disparity amongst the various sections of the Soviet people, the reintroduction of titles such as Marshall, etc., abolished by the proletarian revolution, the introduction of monetary rewards, the unheard-of terror directed against the members of the Communist Party who condemn the misdeeds of the bureaucratic regime—all these go to show to what extent the degeneration the proletarian state has undergone under Stalin and his clique.
We know that in the first stage of communist society “to each according to his need” cannot be worked out. Bourgeois inequality will persist for a long time to come till communist inequality ushers in true equality. But it does not at all follow from this that the bourgeois inequality shall not be in the process of being slowly levelled out even in the first stage of communism, but on the contrary will be more and more accentuated, and the economic and its resultant social differences between the various strata of the people of the proletarian state will be growing wider. And what would be more grotesque than this, that while the differences between the various sections of the population of the Soviet Union are on the increase, Stalin should become increasingly vociferous about the “complete victory of socialism in one country”!
Only a world revolution, that is, the victory of the proletarian revolution in the principal countries of Europe can bring about the victory of socialism. And the ideology of world revolution is not the ideology of passivity and of pessimism as Stalin thinks or tries to make out. It is the most dynamic challenge to world capitalism, the most virile summons to arms to the proletariat of all capitalist lands for smashing capitalism and establishing the socialist society. It is a solemn warning to the proletariat of the country of the victorious socialist revolution not to rest on oars but to work for the deliverance of the world proletariat. It is a call of immeasurable depth and width. Its revolutionary appeal is irresistible and its imaginative appeal touches the deepest depth of the human heart.
Stalin is wholly in the wrong, when dwelling on the permanent revolution he says: “It does not stimulate an active onslaught on capital in individual countries, but encourages passive waiting for the moment of the “universal climax”, for it cultivates among the proletarians of the different countries not the spirit of revolutionary determination but the mood of Hamlet-like doubt over the question as to what, if the others fail, to back us up?”
Even a bourgeois philistine would not have made such a vulgar caricature of Marx’s theory of permanent revolution as Stalin has done. Moreover, he has shown his characteristic peasant outlook on life. The peasant always looks at the world from the angle of his village. To him, every talk of the national interest seems to be against his interest. He does not understand and cannot grasp that the welfare of his village is wholly dependent on the welfare of the Nation. His peasant outlook on life makes him argue in the following fashion—if one talks of the dependence and conditionality of socialism on a series of revolutions in the principal capitalist countries, it means that he has no faith in the revolutionary potentiality of one particular country. This argument is not materially different from the argument that if one asserts that world peace depends on the combined efforts of the masses of the principal capitalist countries, he thereby betrays lack of faith in the power of the proletariat of a single country to exert itself for peace.
Such is in a nutshell Stalin’s argument, when he raves against the permanent revolution and wilfully vulgarises it to serve his purpose. Simultaneous revolutions in principal capitalist countries do not mean that one revolution will be followed by another in the next twenty four hours. It only means that the victory of the proletarian revolution in one country becomes the starting point of a series of proletarian revolutions in other countries. The process once started will not stop till this task is fulfilled. The first country to make this revolution must consider the tasks of its own revolution unfulfilled till revolutions have succeeded in principal capitalist lands. This consideration is, moreover, based on facts, not on wishful thinking.
This is not the gospel of pessimism or of despair either. This is just the process of making the proletariat realise the enormity and sublimity of the task that lies before it. It is to free it from the downward pull of rural-mindedness and to make it world-minded. And all this is not tinged even with a drop of sentimentalism based on unreality but on a sure foundation of revolutionary reality and socialism. But Stalin is nothing if he is not wily, and his only contribution to Marxism consist of quoting (misquoting) Lenin in place and out of place.
The theory of permanent revolution has two aspects. One relating to the revolution of a particular country, the immediate passing over from the bourgeois-democratic phase of the revolution to the socialist revolution. To be more precise, it is the task of the socialist revolution which “in passing solves the problem” (Lenin) of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. In the words of Lenin “We stand for an uninterrupted revolution.” All these refer to the problem of revolution of a particular country.
The second aspect of the theory of permanent revolution is related to the international task of the revolution. It deals with the causes which make it imperative for the first victorious proletarian revolution to operate as the yeast of revolution in the world arena realising fully well that the victory of socialism can only be the outcome of the successful revolutions in principal capitalist countries.
These are the two aspects of the theory of permanent revolution as formulated by Marx. We have so far dealt with the second aspect of the theory, namely its world-revolutionary aspect, and have shown how Stalin has taken undue and dishonest advantage of Lenin’s words and has vulgarised and distorted them to suit his ‘socialism in one country’ balderdash. We have shown how the theory (!) of ‘socialism in one country’ is a complete refutation of Marx’s theory of permanent revolution as the indispensable premise for the victory of socialism. We have also shown how Stalin’s vaunted victory of socialism in one country has been belied by the extreme bureaucratisation of the Soviet state-apparatus, the opening of the flood-gate of the most diabolical terror against the Communist revolutionaries and the masses by Stalin and by the growing economic and social differences among the various sections of the Soviet people. Stalin’s attack on the theory of permanent revolution always came from this angle, from the angle of the victory of socialism in one country. In other words, the more Stalin drew himself away from world revolution the more hysterically shrill became his attack against Marx’s theory of permanent revolution. Trotsky became the target of Stalin’s vengeance only so far as he drew the attention of the Communists throughout the world to the betrayal of world revolution (permanent revolution) by Stalin.
Failing to convince anybody but himself and his hirelings all over the world, with his absurd theory of victory of socialism in one country, Stalin cleverly shifts the ground and says, “Lenin fought the adherents of permanent revolution not over the question of ‘uninterruptedness’ for he himself maintained the point of view of uninterrupted revolution, but because they underestimated the role of the peasantry which is an enormous reserve force for the proletariat”. Stalin is absolutely correct in this point; only it would have made his case stronger and his honesty more evident if he had pointed out along with it how Lenin scorned and scoffed at the idea of the possibility of the victory of socialism in one country and was an incorrigible believer in an uninterrupted series of revolutions in the world arena. But then that would have frustrated Stalin’s purpose to reduce the victory of socialism from an international phenomenon to the national one. Hence, the chicanery.
Trotsky was undoubtedly wrong when he had launched the slogan of “No Tsar but the Workers’ Government” during the 1905 revolution in Russia. This was surely an under-estimation of the role of the peasantry in the bourgeois-democratic phase of the revolution. While pointing it out we must also recognise the other fact that it was Trotsky more than anybody else who had since 1905 drawn the attention of the Marxists to the permanent revolution theory of Marx. These two are undisputed facts. But may we ask Stalin, what is the logical connection between Trotsky’s wrong slogan of ‘No Tsar but Worker’s Government’ of 1905 and Trotsky’s propagation of the permanent revolution theory of Marx? Is the under-estimation of the role of the peasantry in the revolution inherent in the theory of permanent revolution itself? Can it be said that Trotsky under-estimated the role of the peasantry in the 1905 revolution as is clear from the slogan of “No Tsar but Worker’s Government” because he championed the Marxian theory of permanent revolution?
No, it cannot be said so. Trotsky’s ultra-leftist mistake in the period of 1905 revolution had nothing to do with his championing the theory of permanent revolution. There is absolutely no logical connection between the two, just as Lenin’s admittedly mistaken policy of invading Poland has nothing to do with Lenin’s championing of the world revolution.
Trotsky, as quoted by Stalin, says: “This abstruse term (meaning thereby permanent revolution—S.T.) represented the idea that the Russian revolution whose immediate objectives were bourgeois in nature would not however stop when these objectives have been achieved. The revolution would not be able to solve its immediate bourgeois problems except by placing the proletariat in power. And the latter, upon assuming power, would not be able to confine itself to the bourgeois limits of the revolution. On the contrary, precisely in order to ensure its victory, the proletarian vanguard would be forced in the very early stage of its rule to make deep inroads not only into feudal property but into bourgeois property as well. In this it would come into hostile collision not only with all the bourgeois groupings which supported the proletariat during the first stages of its revolutionary struggle, but also with the broad masses of the peasants who had been instrumental in bringing it into power. The contradictions in the position of a workers’ government in a backward country with an overwhelming majority of peasants can be solved only on an international scale, in the arena of the world proletarian revolution.”
The thoughts expressed by Trotsky in the above-quoted passage are hundred percent correct. Here, Trotsky had, in a masterly fashion, woven the operation of the theory of permanent revolution in its national and international aspects into one monolithic scheme of revolution. The revolution of 1905, though its immediate tasks would be bourgeois-democratic, would not be able to solve them without putting the Russian proletariat in power. And the Russian proletariat after it has seized power will certainly not content itself with destroying feudalism but also shall make deep inroads into bourgeois interests. This will ultimately make the large masses of the peasantry hostile; and in a backward peasant country like Russia, this contradiction can only be solved with the aid of the victorious proletariat of other lands. There is not a single thought here which has not been expressed by Lenin over and over again while writing about proletarian revolution and world revolution. That the 1905 revolution can fulfil its bourgeois-democratic tasks only by placing the Russian proletariat in power, has been repeated scores of time by Lenin. That the proletariat coming into power cannot stop at the threshold of bourgeois interests, is proved by the history of the October Revolution. The successful revolution by a decree forbade the sale and mortgage of land.
Then followed the Sovkhoz and the Kolkhoz and ultimately the collectivisation scheme. Were all these not a continuous chain of inroads into bourgeois interests started by the victorious proletariat of Russia as soon as it came to power? And did it not bring the dictatorship of the proletariat into conflict with the broad masses of peasants, its erstwhile supporters, which necessitated the deportation of millions of peasants and shooting of thousands by Stalin? And did it not ultimately lead to the sudden stoppage of collectivisation by Stalin? Has it not proved beyond doubt that in a backward peasant country, the contradiction between the town and the country cannot be solved without the powerful help of the proletariat of the principal capitalist countries? And is it not more than clear that powerful help is neither the ‘moral sympathy’ of the petty-bourgeois variety, nor ‘the sympathy of European workers for our revolution’ of variety? They are good so far as they go, but they are certainly not sufficient for solving the contradictions between the victorious proletariat and the peasantry in a backward country. The help capable of solving these contradictions cannot be anything but the help given by victorious proletarian revolution of principal capitalist lands. And Lenin points that out not once but hundreds of times. In March 1919, at the Party Congress, Lenin said, “We have a practical experience in taking the first steps in the destruction of capitalism in a country with a special relation between the proletariat and the peasantry. Nothing more. If we swell ourselves out like frog, and puff and blow, this will be utterly laughable to the whole world. We shall be mere braggarts.” On May 19, 1921, Lenin again voiced: “Did any one of the Bolsheviks at any time ever deny that the revolution can conquer in a final form only when it comprises all or at least several of the more advanced countries?” He again in November 1920, reminded that the Bolsheviks never could dream of “making over the whole world with the forces of Russia alone ... Such madness we never reached, but we always said that our revolution will conquer when the workers of all countries support it.”
“We have not” wrote Lenin in 1922, “completed even the foundation of a socialist economy. This can still be taken back by the hostile forces of a dying capitalism. We must be clearly aware of this, and openly acknowledge it. For there is nothing more dangerous than illusions and turned heads, especially in high places. And there is absolutely nothing ‘terrible’, nothing offering a legitimate cause for the slightest discouragement, in recognising this bitter truth; for we always have taught and repeated this ABC truth of Marxism, that for the victory of socialism the combined efforts of the workers of several advanced countries are necessary”. (Italics mine—S.T.)
So Lenin asserts, “The (European) revolution is growing ... and we must hold the Soviet power until it begins. Our mistakes must serve as a lesson to the Western proletariat. And our task now is ... to hold fast ... this torch of socialism, so that it may continue to scatter as many sparks as possible to the increasing conflagration of the social revolution. The Russian Revolution was, in essence, a dress rehearsal ... of the world-wide proletarian revolution. (Lenin at the Congress of the Party, March 1919)
Thus, between Trotsky and Lenin there is no difference on the score of permanent revolution. Moreover, we have already pointed out that Trotsky’s under-estimation of the role of the peasantry in the 1905 revolution cannot by the widest stretch of imagination be linked up with Trotsky’s advocacy of permanent revolution. At least, the passage quoted by Stalin does not lend itself to that interpretation.
We have not taken upon ourselves the task of defending Trotsky. Trotsky himself was more than a match for Stalin and for his international horde, as is evidenced by the fact that failing to spar with him in the intellectual arena, they had to take recourse to the gangster’s job of murdering Trotsky. We are forced to bring in Trotsky in the discussion of the permanent revolution, only because Stalin, who, can never discuss an ideology in the abstract, but always brings in personalities to cloud the real issue, has over and over again denounced the permanent revolution theory of Marx under the pretext of fighting Trotsky and Trotskyism.
The theory of permanent revolution is not Trotskyism nor has it anything to do with certain ultra-leftist mistakes of Trotsky. Lenin was just as much a champion of permanent revolution as Trotsky was and with a much more surer grasp of the revolutionary reality. But Trotsky certainly had done a great service to revolutionary communism by drawing out attention over and over again to the theory of permanent revolution since Lenin died in 1924 and the sinister anti-revolutionary regime of Stalin started. In the face of the most diabolical machinery of vilification and terror of Stalinocracy, he kept the banner of revolutionary communism flying in the best traditions of Marx and Lenin.
Therein lies Trotsky’s invaluable service to the theory of permanent revolution. So far as the theory itself is concerned, it is pure and simple revolutionary Marxism.
The theory of permanent revolution, as we have already discussed, has two aspects, one national and the other international. In the national sector, the proletariat is asked not to stop along with the bourgeois-democrats on the frontier of bourgeois revolution but to push the revolution forward to its logical conclusion—the proletarian revolution. In the national sector the revolution has to be permanent till the proletarian revolution is successfully carried through; and in the international sector the successful proletarian revolution of one country has to serve as the detonator of the proletarian revolutions of other countries. But just now we are concerned with the national aspect of the theory. Permanent revolution in the national sphere unerringly points its finger to the proletarian revolution; it gives warning to the proletariat not to stop at the wayside inn of bourgeois-democracy and constantly reminds it of its historical task. It serves no other purpose. Moreover, in the imperialist epoch, in the countries such as India and China, the bourgeoisie being closely linked up with the landed aristocracy, the democratic revolution can no longer be the historical task of the bourgeoisie, but of the proletariat. The proletariat alone can fulfil the democratic tasks by consolidating the state power exclusively, in its own hands. The agrarian problem can therefore be effectively solved only by the proletariat lifted up by the revolution to the position of the owner of the state power. There is absolutely no other way for the fulfilment of the democratic tasks. If the proletariat does not seize power, the democratic tasks remain unfulfilled as is clearly demonstrated by the February Revolution in Russia, the National Revolution in China, and the ‘independent’ India ruled by the Indian bourgeoisie. “... [T]he road to democracy passed through the dictatorship of the proletariat” (Trotsky). This means that the democratic revolution can be carried out only by the proletariat which does not stop with the destruction of the feudal property only, but with the seizure of power forthwith starts its assault on capitalist property relations. Herein lies the permanency of the national revolution in the backward countries. This is what Lenin means to convey when he writes about the bourgeois revolution “growing into” a socialist revolution, and that is why the theoretical bulkhead created by the doctrinaires, between the democratic and socialist revolutions, is so thoroughly mechanistic. Thus the permanent revolution can have no other special tactics and special slogans than those of the proletarian revolution which in some cases will have to fulfil in passing the unaccomplished tasks of the bourgeois revolution. Some people calling themselves the advocates of permanent revolution maintain that the slogan of the proletarian revolution is—The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. This is wholly incorrect. The dictatorship of the proletariat could never be the slogan of the proletarian revolution in the most advanced capitalist countries where the bourgeois-democratic revolution had long ago been accomplished. It cannot be the slogan because the question of the middle strata is as important in the proletarian revolution as it is in the bourgeois revolution. The success of the proletarian revolution will depend upon its successful handling of this problem. The urban petty-bourgeoisie—the shopkeepers, clerks, students, small independent practitioners, doctors, engineers, school teachers, professors etc., and the rural petty-bourgeoisie—the peasants, the small farmers of the advanced capitalist countries, the village gentry— all these elements constitute the most important reserve of the revolution. If the bourgeoisie manages to win over the middle strata to its side then it becomes the auxiliary force of the counterrevolution; if the proletariat wins it over to its side, it becomes then the powerful reserve force of revolution.
The failure of the revolutions of 1848 and 1871 in France and the failure of the 1848 revolution in Germany, were all due to the failure of the revolutionary forces to keep the peasantry and the urban petty-bourgeoisie on their side till the revolutions were completed. The victory of the Russian Revolution was assured by the Russian peasantry’s support of the proletarian lead. Lenin’s masterly tactics consisted in driving the revolutionary wedge between the peasantry and the bourgeoisie and in winning the peasantry over to the side of the proletariat. The period between February and October 1917, was taken up by the Russian proletariat led by the Bolshevik Party in wresting the peasantry from the clutches of the bourgeoisie. It was only when the peasantry had definitely swung over from the side of the bourgeoisie to the side of the proletariat that the moment of the uprising was decided upon by Lenin. In order to achieve this task the slogan ‘Land to the Peasant’ was advanced. This slogan as we know is the slogan of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. Yet the Russian proletariat raised this slogan in the course of the proletarian revolution and raised it correctly. Had it not done so, had it raised the slogan of the ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’, the peasantry would have then clung closer to the bourgeoisie and followed the bourgeois lead in suppressing the revolution. It is the class-content of the state-power of the victorious proletarian revolution. But the slogan of the proletarian revolution must be “Democratic Republic.” “All Power to the Soviets of Workers and Peasants”—which is also a democratic slogan, and not the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, was the slogan of the Russian revolution. Trotsky writes: “For a long number of years, the Russian Bolsheviks mobilized the workers and the peasants around the slogan of democracy. The slogans of democracy also played a big role in 1917. Only after the already existing Soviet power had arrived at an irreconcilable political antagonism to the Constituent Assembly before the eyes of the entire people, did our Party liquidate the institutions and slogans of formal democracy, that is of bourgeois democracy, in favour of real Soviet democracy, that is of proletarian democracy.” (Italics mine—S.T.)
Of course, it goes without saying that whatever may be the state-form of the victorious proletarian revolution— and it cannot be anything but the democratic republican form—its inner class-content must only be the dictatorship of the proletariat and the proletariat alone. Multi-class dictatorship is as much a political myth as the multi-class political party.
Castigating Stalin and Bukharin for the opportunist muddle these two had cooked in China, Trotsky adds: “The Sixth Congress of the Comintern, under the direction of Stalin and Bukharin, turned all this on its head. While on the one hand, it prescribed “democratic” and not “proletarian” dictatorship for the party, it simultaneously forbade it to use the democratic slogans in preparing for this dictatorship. The Chinese Communist Party was not only disarmed, but stripped naked.” (Italic mine—S.T.)
Our babies lisping Marxism, but understanding neither its theory nor its tactics and strategy, should take note.
The dictatorship of the proletariat is the consummation of the permanent revolution in the national sector, and the dictatorship of the proletariat in principal capitalist countries with the help of the first victorious proletarian revolution is the culmination of the permanent revolution in the international sector, ultimately resulting in the establishment of a socialist society the final aim of permanent revolution.