Permanent Revolution and the War of Position: the theory of revolution in Gramsci and Trotsky
June 08, 2009
’It is a well known fact that, in November 1917, as soon as Lenin and the majority of the party had switched to Trotsky’s conception, and sought to remove, not only the political administration, but also the industrial government, Zinoviev and Kamenev stuck to the party’s traditional stance; they wanted a revolutionary coalition government with the Mensheviks and SRites, and that was the reason why they walked out of the Central Committee, issuing statements and articles in non-Bolshevik newspapers, and they stopped short of breaking away altogether’. If we should take this statement by Gramsci -or other similar ones - on the debate opened up in the Soviet Union around 1924, we might jump to the conclusion that his views were in tune with the postulates of the Theory of Permanent Revolution. But the truth is that he retreated from that view concerning the developments on the Russian arena, and he went on the record on a number of occasions voicing dissent with Trotsky’s view.
’The political concept of the so-called ’permanent revolution’, which came to life before 1848 as a scientific reflection of the Jacobin experience of 1789 up to the Thermidor, belongs to a historical period in which the big mass parties and trade unions did not exist yet; the society was, as it were, in a state of bigger fluidity in many respects. The countryside was more backward and a handful of cities had a virtual monopoly over politics and the life of the state; in some cases a single city would prevail (Paris in the case of France); a relatively rudimentary state apparatus existed, and a bigger autonomy of civil society with regards to the activity of the state was in place; a specific system of military forces and armed services nationwide; the national economies enjoyed more autonomy vis-Ã -vis the economic links with the world market, etc. In the period that followed 1870, with Europe’s colonial expansion, things were turned over. The organizational relationships of the state, both locally and abroad, became more complex and solid, and the 1848 formula of ’permanent revolution’ is developed and overcome in political science by the formula of a ’civil hegemony’. (...) This issue arouse in all the modern countries, but not in those backward countries and the colonies, where forms long disappeared and superseded elsewhere still prevail.’
Gramsci is commenting here on the first versions of the theory of permanent revolution, which arouse in a specifically Russian and European context, not its definite formulation of 1929. Gramsci had been in jail for three years already then, and we assume that he never got acquainted with it. The theory of permanent revolution, as it was codified after the Chinese revolution, laid a special emphasis in ’those backward countries and the colonies, where forms long disappeared and superseded elsewhere still prevail.’
At any rate, if Gramsci’s critique could be restricted to the nature of the European revolution itself, we can say that Trotsky clearly developed his views along the same lines, openly declaring that the nature of the epoch had changed since Marx’s times. ’...all the liberation movements of modern history, starting, for instance, with Holland’s struggle for its independence, took on a national and democratic character. The awakening of those oppressed and carved-up nations, their fight for internal unification and to finish off foreign yoke, would have been impossible without a fight for political freedom. The French nation was consolidated amid the stormy unfolding of the democratic revolution in the late eighteenth century. The Italian and German nations were founded in the nineteenth century in the wake of a whole series of wars and revolutions. The powerful growth of the American nation, which fought for its freedom already in the insurrection of the eighteenth century, was eventually guaranteed by the victory of the North over the South in the Civil War. Neither Mussolini nor Hitler invented nationhood. Patriotism, in the modern sense of the word -o more precisely, in a bourgeois sense- is a product of the nineteenth century. (...) Hitler did not fight as a rank and file soldier in 1914-18 to unify the German nation, but in the name of a supra-national program, an imperialist one, which was codified in the notorious formula ’Organize Europe!’ unified under the rule of German militarism. (...) It is true that war, like all the great commotions shaking history, brought to light a number of problems and also furthered national revolutions in those backward quarters of Europe, tsarist Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire among them. But these were only the delayed echoes of an epoch long gone’.
In the new epoch, the problematic relationship of the anti-colonial revolution and imperialism is anything but a trifle. The theory of permanent revolution, as a theory of socialist revolution worldwide, established a link between the colonies and the imperialist heartlands, which Gramsci tended to gloss over. Still worse, in a clear reversal of the legacy of the Comintern, which draw a sharp line between the oppressed and oppressive nations, Gramsci introduced a rather blurry division between ’the East and the West’, which downplays those categories that Lenin had insisted upon so emphatically. Trotsky’s approach to the links between the advanced democracies of the Western world and the backward forms of the East reads as follows: ’While wiping out democracy in the old capitalist metropolises, imperialism prevents at the same time the growth of democracy in the backward countries. The fact that in the new epoch, not a single one of the colonies and semi-colonies accomplished a democratic revolution, above all in the realm of an agrarian revolution in the countryside, should be completely attributed to imperialism, which has become the main hindrance for both political and economic progress. Siphoning off the natural riches of the backward countries, and deliberately thwarting its industrial development along independent lines, the monopolistic tycoons and their governments give their financial, political and military support to the most reactionary and parasitic semi-feudal sections of the native exploiters. The agrarian barbarism artificially maintained nowadays is one of the most afflicting plagues of the contemporary world economy. The struggle of the colonial peoples for their liberation, skipping all in-between phases, has been transformed into a necessary fight against imperialism altogether. In this way, that struggle gets in tune with that of the proletariat in the metropolis. The colonial uprisings and wars shatter, in turn, the foundations of the capitalist world move than ever before, preventing at the same time its unlikely regeneration.’
Having said that, we should also bear in mind that even the early version of the theory of permanent revolution was never a mere continuation of Marx’s ’1848 formula’. Why is it that Gramsci makes a caricature out of Trotsky’s theory? The permanent dynamics of the revolution in Marx is predicated upon an independent intervention of the proletariat, organized in its own party, one that should lead to raise permanent demands transcending petty bourgeois radical democracy -the proletariat should under no circumstance confine itself to a bourgeois program, not even so in the phase of democratic bourgeois revolutions of the nineteenth century. Trotsky would have agreed wholeheartedly with Gramsci’s statement that ’Indeed, it is in 1870-71 at the abortive Commune alone that all the vestiges from 1789 die out. This means that the new class fighting for power inflicts a defeat to all the representatives of the old society who refuse to consider it as a relic of the past, and also to all those recently formed groups who consider the new structure nurtured by 1789 as something that has been overcome already. Besides, 1870-71 is a turn-about in the sense that all the principles presiding over the tactics and strategy inherited from 1789 are no longer efficacious -which were developed in an ideological fashion around 1848 and that came to be encompassed in the formula of ’permanent revolution’.
Contrariwise, Trotsky’s theory, which was codified in the context of the imperialist epoch, starts from a matter-of-fact assumption that the productive forces in the early twentieth century had reached their maturity worldwide. These, in turn, were unevenly combined with Russia’s old relationship of ownership, its ancient political forms and those still existent in all the backward countries. Hence, his theory did not anticipate a re-run of the same mechanic of the old bourgeois democratic revolutions in the style of those of 1848. It would be the proletariat now, not the liberal bourgeoisie, which had become reactionary through and through, the one poised to play a leading role and to abolish the relics from the feudal past. And by force of this very fact, given the new class dynamics in relation to Marx’s time, they would go beyond the limits of bourgeois right, ushering in the phase of socialism. Such strategic perspective, outlined by Trotsky already in 1905, materialized in the Russian Revolution in 1917 -as Gramsci duly acknowledged in the letter quoted above. And it was Trotsky the only one to anticipate this for ’a backward Russia’, precisely because unlike most of the Marxists of his day, who reasoned still ’according to Marx’, the Russian revolutionary dialectically superseded the old formula -contrary to what Gramsci claims.
As far as the Italian revolution in the wake of Fascism’s rise to power is concerned, Trotsky does not narrow his view to the alternative ’either socialism or Fascism’. He did not preclude the emergence of transitional periods. But, as he points out in his letter to the Italian Left Opposition, they should elucidate the nature of the transition itself. His theory is precisely a theory of the transition to proletarian revolution. However, from the perspective of the permanent revolution, ’...does it mean that Italy cannot become once again, for some time, a parliamentarian state or a ’democratic republic’? I believe -and I think we agree completely on this- that such perspective should not be ruled out. But it will not come about as the result of a bourgeois revolution; quite otherwise, it will be the abortion of an insufficiently ripe and premature proletarian revolution. Should a profound revolutionary crisis burst out and mass struggles ensue in the course of which the proletarian vanguard fails to seize power, the bourgeoisie will be likely to restore its rule on a ’democratic’ basis.’
A second clarification following from this is that Gramsci holds a perspective that partakes a permanent view of the developments on Italian soil at least. The main thrust of his approach to a revolutionary strategy for Italy, with all its peculiar structural features, and beyond the Fascist regime itself, goes in the direction of a scrutiny of the history of the nation. Such appraisal tries to fathom out the tasks the bourgeoisie had left undone, or had else worked out as it saw fit, in an incomplete and exclusive manner, especially those concerning the issue of the backward south and the peasant question -hence the description of the Risorgimento as a ’passive revolution’. He thus proceeds along the lines of a permanent view, as it was codified by Trotsky’s theory, i.e., the bourgeois democratic tasks the bourgeoisie failed to accomplish in its heyday will only be completed by the proletariat dragging the peasant masses behind it, once the former has entered in its phase of decay and reaction. As we can clearly see in Gramsci’s own concern, such issue was not only a question cutting across the colonial countries, but it also encompassed those countries of a backward bourgeois development. Therefore, Trotsky’s theory comprises that of Gramsci.
However, the contrary is not true -Gramsci’ theory does not encompass Trotsky’s. Gramsci reckoned with one of the permanent features of the revolution in his insights on Italy, i.e., the fact that a democratic revolution grew into a socialist revolution by means of a class alliance of the proletariat leading the peasantry. However, that is not enough to claim solidarity with the permanent revolution. And this is the case because the theory of permanent revolution is a theory of socialist revolution worldwide, especially in its mature formulation of 1929, thus being the only theoretical outlook challenging the pseudo-theory of ’socialism in one country’ in a coherent manner. As Trotsky said in this regard: ’The program of the Communist International drafted by Bukharin, is eclectic to the bone. Such program represents a helpless attempt at conciliating the theory of socialism in one country with Marxist internationalism, which in turn, is inseparable from the permanent nature of international revolution (...).’
Gramsci, for its part, stood by the program of the Comintern when such outlook prevailed. We are not saying that Gramsci stood for the right-wing orientation put forward by the Stalin-Bukharin bloc for the USSR in 1924-28 -which was codified in slogans such as the ’peasants should get richer’, or else ’the peaceful assimilation of the kulak into socialism’, etc. What we do claim is that his stance was predominantly reliant on the perspective of the Italian national revolution, and one of centrist conciliation with the Comintern’s policies. In this sense, he addressed a letter to Palmiro Togliatti in which he criticized Amadeo Bordiga because he had rallied with the ’international minority’ siding with the Left Opposition, at a time when, according to Gramsci, he should have stood by ’the national majority’ within the Italian party. And he expressed this, not out of a conviction that a victorious proletarian revolution in Italy could have changed the political map of Europe, and thus the balance of forces within the Comintern. Far from that, Gramsci falls prey of a fatalistic view by giving a decisive weight to the partial retreat of the revolutionary forces, transforming what was an ’unstable equilibrium’ of capitalism in the 1930s into something deeper than that, a delay in ’the disposition of the subjective forces’. This, in turn, underpins his methodological criterion that led him to analyze the period along the lines of the likely survival of capitalism, without any need for war, thus overcoming the ’catastrophic phase’ and ushering in a period of ’passive revolutions’.
In stark contrast with this, Trotsky, relying on a political prognosis envisaging a new catastrophic phase, was getting ready to fight to change the policies of the Comintern, not only to build a ’minority’ -although that was the outcome of the struggle. Gramsci, under pressure of the years spent in prison and isolation, seems to reason starting from the need to preserve the victory achieved in the Soviet Union out of his fear that the alliance between the working class and the peasantry, and the unity of the Russian party itself, might go down there. He thus gave in to the theory and the politics of ’socialism in one country’. Did he do it out of considering the preservation of this new ’position’ conquered by the international proletariat was top priority -regardless of Stalinism- as long as no new positions were conquered? We cannot say for sure, but this leads us to the programmatic stance taken by each of these two revolutionaries.
The position, the maneuver and the transitional program
Gramsci’s point of departure is the following: ’the 1848 formula of permanent revolution is developed and overcome in the realm of political science by the formula of ’civil hegemony’. And building upon this insight, he claims that, ’In the art of politics there occurs the same transformation than in the realm of military art; the war of maneuver is transformed into a war of position, and it could it be said that a state will result victorious in a war insofar as it gets ready for that in times of peace very carefully. The solid structure of modern democracy, both considered as state organizations and as a network of associations of civil society, is for the art of politics what the Â´trenches’ and the fortresses of the frontline are for a war of positions. They turn the element of movement, which used to be ’everything’ in classical warfare, into a merely ’auxiliary’ element.
The question with this statement is that all the ambiguities enshrined within this ’position-oriented’ view of Gramsci, have been seized upon by reformism, be it of a Stalinist or Socialdemocratic strand, and turned into a brazen justification for a Kautskian-styled strategy of a ’war of attrition’, taking over the ’trenches’ in utter disregard for any movements of maneuver. The main thrust of this politics is to gain spaces within the interstices of the bourgeois regime with no insurrection or assault on the strongholds of power, which is a monstrous caricature of the legacy of the Italian communist.
In a similar way, there have been attempts at making a caricature out of Trotsky, and is still done today in relation to Trotskyism (or at least the strands within it that still raise the need for a revolution), regarding them as advocates of a permanently ongoing offensive.
The truth is that, neither the discussion on the peace treaty between the recently-born Soviet Union and Germany -whatever the objections put by Lenin against the Brest-Litovsk negotiations-, nor the Second Congress of the Comintern where he, along with Lenin proclaimed themselves as the ’right-wing’ against the ultraleftism of the German section, saw Trotsky adopt a voluntaristic approach predicated along the lines of a permanent offensive. Let us take a look at other important examples.
In his writings on Latin America, he displays a clever use of both the ’trenches’ and the ’positions’ when he proposes the defense of the oil nationalizations in Mexico decreed by the bourgeois nationalistic government of LÃ¡zaro CÃ¡rdenas. From that position conquered, he poses the need to reach new ones, such as the workers’ management of the latter. On that occasion, he even gives the example of what the revolutionaries would do if they won the control of a local county hall. Of course, his line is a far cry from that of those former Trotskyists, now ’transformed’ inside the Brazilian PT, controlling municipalities such as Porto Alegre and states like Rio Grande do Sul. He suggests they could be used as an operational platform to show the irrevocable need of achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat across the nation. Trotsky was not alien to the idea that ’the war will be won insofar as we get ready for that in times of peace very carefully’. With a view to that, he defined the Latin American governments of the 1930s as the outcome of a contradictory balance of forces between a young proletariat standing on one side, and foreign capital on the other, as the fundamental classes of the conflict. The feeble native bourgeoisie presided over the contenders through an ’unstable balance’ (one of a relative peace); a political phenomenon he branded sui generis Bonapartism.
He also displayed, in the field of war itself, during the Russian Civil War in which he was the main politico-military leader, the ability to combine position and maneuver. On the other hand, during the Spanish Civil War, he opposed the Republican leadership’s gradualist agenda, holding that new land should be expropriated and handed over to the peasants. Likewise, he advocated the nationalization of the factories and their management under workers’ control, all socio-economic positions that should uphold the military advance of the Republican army on the territory -the maneuver. In turn, those new positions (’milestones of socialism’) should not be left in wait for the victory of the civil war, as the Stalinists, the Socialdemocrats and the Anarchists held all alike.
On the other hand, his idea of a ’political revolution’ is a novel combination of the defense of the position conquered so far by the international proletariat, i.e. nationalized property in the USSR, with the perspective of a ’revolutionary overthrowing of the Thermidorian bureaucracy’. In this way, a new ’trench’ would be conquered to further the combat for socialist revolution worldwide. Trotsky always stood apart from those who adopted and anti-defensist position with regards to the USSR: ’those who are not able to defend the positions conquered, will be unable to conquer new ones.’
On the eve of World War II, when its outbreak cannot be checked by ’revolutions from below’ (after the defeats in France and Spain), Trotsky hammered its most audacious idea ever -the ’proletarian military policy’. This provided a guideline for intervening in the war, the most reactionary bourgeois ’institution’ of all, but one that at the end of the day could be seized upon by revolutionaries as much as the parliament. The ’proletarian military policy’ dictated that while revolutionaries should fight to enlighten the international proletariat as to the imperialist nature of the war, they would in turn implement specific tactics for the American worker who was anxious to fight against Hitler, and also for the Polish or French worker who was ready to seize arms against the national oppression of the Nazis in their occupied countries. The war, in Trotsky’s view, was a cataclysmic event that ’put the objective and the subjective factors in tune’; he thus codified a policy that encompassed the so-called three ’moments’ of the ’balance of forces’ pointed out by Gramsci. The ’moment of the split’ of the proletariat vis-Ã -vis their ’own’ bourgeoisie, with a policy aimed at separating the ’worker in arms’ from the routine draft into the imperialist armies. The ’political moment’, in which the war and the ’national’ aims do not entail an abating of the class struggle, thus bringing forth a new ’October’ like the Russian one in the wake of the 1914-1418 conflict. The ’military moment’ in which he poses a policy that builds upon that of Lenin for World War I, i.e. ’transform the imperialist war in a civil war’ -taking on board also the new features, such as the defense of the Soviet Union or else the combat against national oppression in all the occupied countries.
Gramsci’ ’moments’ have often been regarded as separate phases, as a static structure (Gramsci’s own formulations contribute to this), whereas Trotsky combines the different phases, tempos, the moments and the dynamic definitions as well. He follows Lenin, who in his definition of phases and situations, incorporates the tempo in the realm of revolutionary politics. The logic of the combination of the uneven features presides over the theory of permanent revolution, and also the method underpinning the transitional program.
That program was submitted for discussion in America, with all the complexities enshrined in the situation back then, in the conditions of Americanism and the new deal. Its logic opened new inroads, such as the audacious demand-exposÃ© put to the Roosevelt administration around a genuine scheme of public works aimed at finishing off mass unemployment.
Perry Anderson states that, whereas Trotsky knew better the political regimes on European soil, and developed precise tactics accordingly -the radical democratic demand of a Constituent Assembly in France and Spain, for example-, it would be left to Gramsci to formulate the most distressing questions on how to overcome the most stable bourgeois democracies from the left. This would take on a new significance vis-Ã -vis the newly stabilized democracies in postwar Europe, whereas it was not a burning question in the pre-war period, when all the democratic regimes succumbed before Fascism and Bonapartism, or else extreme regimes such as the Popular Front were in place. But the Transitional Program contains demands such as the workers’ control of production, which can be used as a lever by the proletariat to conquest new positions challenging private property altogether and laying the basis for sharper struggles -never mind that workers power is not a feasible perspective in the short term.
From the discussions with the American SWP prior to its adoption, this picture emerges with regards to the Transitional Program: the reformists considered it to be a ’maximum’ program (they think in terms of positions alone), whereas the ultraleftist regarded it as a ’minimum’ program (they think in terms of maneuver alone). As a matter of fact, the Transitional Program and its method, contains minimum demands, as long as the keep ’their vital force’ (as long as they are old positions worth defending), and it puts forward the conquest of new positions (sliding wage scale and working hours, workers’ control over industry, up to soviets) that should be instrumental in the ’war of movement’, i.e., the seizure of power by the proletariat. In achieving this, the proletariat is conquering, in turn, a new position, and a new trench on the national field for the socialist revolution worldwide.
Therefore, the Transitional Program, regarded from this standpoint, is a bridge, the passage from the position to the maneuver.
The class and the party
Finally, we would like to outline some issues to be developed in further works: the complex links between spontaneity and consciousness, between a genuinely revolutionary movement and the party, between the Marxist intelligentsia and the working class vanguard.
There are clearly two periods in Gramsci’s evolution, in which he ponders the relationship between the working class actions and the revolutionary party. The first one is the period of the publication of the Ordine Nuovo. Under sway of the ’Red biennium’ in Italy in 1919-21 and the factory occupations in Turin, he regards the factory councils as ’the concrete form of a political development of new type that cannot be assimilated back through political maneuvers or political shifts engineered by the bourgeois state, due to the fact that they spring up from production itself.’ This appraisal, which underestimates the conscious action of a revolutionary party, will be given the lie in Italy as well as Germany, where reformism proposed to go for a ’combined state’ encompassing both a parliamentarian republic and the workers’ councils. This showed that, without a centralized revolutionary Marxist leadership, there is a fertile soil for all kinds of ’political maneuvers and partial shifts engineered by the state’ aimed at undoing the self-organization drive of the masses.
Since the year 1926, at the Lyon Congress, Gramsci will adopt, in contrast with the ’Ordine Nuovo’ period, an orientation clearly steered to party building. By and large, his shift meant a non-dialectical turn that will overrun many of his previous insights on the role of the workers’ councils. His thesis of the time are notoriously influenced by the Zinovievite orientation of extolling the Communist Party ’cells’ as the foundations for the organization of the working class. However, Gramsci’s view on the party will take on a new twist in his writings from prison, along different lines from those ’substitutionist’ views nourished by Stalinism that might have influenced him back then.
To the sole effect that we can sketch a schema of general notions and place Gramsci within them, we might say that there are three types of party, considering this issue from the standpoint of the relationship of Marxism with the revolutionary movement of the working class. First, there is the Kautskian party, that of Socialdemocratic reformism, which extols the moment of the tactic -i.e. the ’movement is everything’. Second, there is the Leninist party, which targets and separates the allies from the adversaries in line with strategic views -in 1917, Lenin said Trotsky had been the best Bolshevik once he had given up on unifying the party with the Mensheviks. Gramsci, in turn, in line with his insights on the role played by the ideologies in the rule of the modern state, will dwell on those aspects concerning the struggle on the ’third front’ of party intervention, i.e. the ideological struggle -as Engels had already pointed out, the other two being the economic and political struggle. But in his notion of the party as a ’collective intellectual’ one can see a hypertrophy of the ideological struggle, in which the role of the party as an educator of the mass movement of the working class is clearly over-rated. The predominant position of the intellectuals within a party would be instrumental in creating a new ’common sense’ within the heart of the working class movement -Marxism. Paradoxically, Gramsci, who made significant contributions to political science by pointing to the ’working class consciousness’ flowing from the workers’ councils, later on switched to a view placing the cultural and ideological struggle above politics. Besides this, he glossed over the active intertwining between the party and the soviets, in which ’the educator needs to be educated’. The Italian CP in the postwar will seize upon this slip, distorting it along completely reformist lines, to promote the culture and the ideological debates with the reformists, while they became a mainstay propping bourgeois democracy at the same time.
Trotsky will be the continuation of Bolshevism’s coming of age. In the wake of the experience of the first workers’ soviets back in 1905, the latter will correct the thesis of Lenin’s What is to be done?, which held that class consciousness could only be infused to the working class movement from ’the outside’. As to the question revolving around the soviets and the party, he claimed, relying on the experience of the Russian revolution: ’It would be a gross blunder to put an equal sign between the strength of the Bolshevik party and that flowing from the soviets themselves: the latter represented an infinitely more powerful force, but lacking the party, they would become completely helpless.’ From then on, Trotsky will become a firm advocate of the Leninist party of combat.
1 Another statement agreeing to Trotsky’s theory can be seen in this letter written on February 9, 1924 addressed to Togliatti: ’In the polemic that took place in Russia recently, it is clear to see that Trotsky and the opposition, given the protracted leave of Lenin from the leadership of the party, are seriously concerned with a comeback of the old mentality, which would be deleterious for the revolution. In demanding an enhanced intervention of the working class quarters in the life of the party and a cut in the powers of the bureaucracy, they are ultimately striving to uphold the socialist and working class nature of the revolution, impeding the piecemeal advent of that democratic dictatorship, a wrapping for an inchoate capitalism, that was the program raised by Zinoviev and others back in 1917. This seems to me to be situation of the Russian party, which is much more complicated and substantial than Urbani would be ready to admit; the only new element here is that Bukharin went over to the group of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin.’
2 Gramsci, Letters from Prison.
3 Leon Trotsky, Nationalism and the Economy, November 1933.
4 Leon Trotsky, Marxism and Our Epoch.
5 Gramsci, Notes on Machiavelli, on Politics and the Modern State.
6 ’With regards to the ’anti-fascist revolution’, the Italian question is inextricably linked to the fundamental problems cutting across world communism, i.e. the so-called theory of permanent revolution. From what we considered before, we are confronted now with the question revolving around the ’transitional’ period in Italy. In the first place, we have to state clearly: a transition from what to what? A period of transition from a bourgeois (or else popular) revolution to a proletarian revolution is one thing. A period of transition of the Fascist dictatorship to the proletarian dictatorship, is a different kettle of fish. If we adopt the first outlook, we are confronted with the issue of bourgeois revolution, and we are only left with appraising the role of the proletariat in it. The question of the transitional period to the proletarian revolution will be posed later on. If we adopt the second outlook, we are then confronted with the question of a whole series of battles, upheavals, changing situations, abrupt changes, which as a whole make up the different phases of the proletarian revolution. There can be many phases. But under no circumstance are we confronted with a bourgeois revolution, or else that mysterious hybrid, a ’popular’ revolution....’ Leon Trotsky, ’Questions of the Italian Revolution’, Writings 1930.
7 ’With regards to those countries of a backward bourgeois development, particularly the colonies and semicolonies, the permanent revolution means that a complete and thoroughgoing achievement of their democratic purposes and their national emancipation can only be accomplished by means of the dictatorship of the proletariat, when the latter seizes power at the head of all the oppressed layers in society, the peasant masses first and foremost.’ ’The agrarian question (...) puts the peasants, which make up the overwhelming majority of the population in the backward countries, in an exceptional position (...) Without the alliance of the proletariat with the peasants, the aims of the democratic revolution cannot be achieved, let alone be posed seriously’. Leon Trotsky, Thesis 3, Theory of Permanent Revolution.
8 ’The theory of Stalin-Bukharin not only opposes in a mechanical fashion, in spite of the whole experience of the Russian revolutions, the socialist and the proletarian revolutions, but it also separates the national revolution from the international revolution. Those revolutions in the backward countries are assigned the only purpose of bringing forth a utopian regime of a democratic dictatorship, as opposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat. In doing so, they sow illusions and nourish fairy tales in the realm of politics, paralyzing the struggle of the proletariat for power in the East and holding back the victory of colonial revolutions elsewhere. From the standpoint of the theory raised by the epigones, the fact that the proletariat should seize power entails the victory of revolution (in a 90 per cent, according to Stalin’s notorious dictum) and the onset of an epoch of national reforms. The theory of the evolution of the ’kulak’ to socialism and that of the ’neutralization’ of the world bourgeoisie are, for this reason, inseparable from the theory of socialism in one country...’ Leon Trotsky, ibidem
9 Thesis 14, ibidem
10 Cf Roberto Massari, Trotsky and Gramsci
11 Gramsci, Letters from Prison
12 This was the case with the Italian communist Amadeo Bordiga
13 Notes on Machiavelli, on Politics and the Modern State.
14 History of the Russian Revolution