Discussion:
Lenin's 'democratic dictatorship' slogan
(too old to reply)
Simon Kennedy
2004-09-11 10:19:53 UTC
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I know that this is well trodden ground for a number of people, but help me out. I would like to hear thoughts of the following.

Lenin in 1905 was trying to see how the Russian development would fit into the model of capitalism followed by the advanced capitalist countries. It was clear to him, unlike the Mensheviks, that the Russian bourgeoisie did not have the will to establish a 'modern' capitalist country. There would be no French-style bourgeois revolution in Russia. So he looked to other forces to do it for them, and came up with the proletariat and peasantry.

The bourgeoisie was so weak that the proletariat and peasantry would have to establish a dictatorship to be sure of keeping power.

Why should the workers do the bourgeoisie's dirty work for them? Firstly, Lenin believed that the Russian working class was not ready for socialism, that it needed a long experience of democracy to organise itself and build up its political awareness before it was able to move to overturn capitalism. This space to develop would be opened by establishing a democratic republic.

Secondly, he was adamant that the bourgeois stage cannot be jumped over. He says: 'we absolutely insist on the necessity of drawing a most strict line' between the two revolutions. The republic was to remain 'within the bounds of bourgeois social and economic relationships'.

So the slogan made total sense: 'democratic' to allow working-class development, a 'dictatorship' to keep it on course; and 'proletarian and peasant' to describe its leading forces. Its social and economic content being bourgeois.

Trouble was, it didn't turn out this way.

There was no long period of democratic bourgeois republic in 1917 or 1918. The regime installed in February achieved none of the tasks that are associated with the bourgeois revolution, not even the most basic. These were addressed after the Bolshevik seizure of power. Indeed the new government went out of its way to avoid any socialist measures.

Thus the Trotskyist talk of 'combining' socialist and bourgeois measures immediately after the seizure of power does not apply to this experience. The dictatorship was not a socialist one. Not at first anyway.

But Lenin's 1905 notion of a stable democratic state went out the window too. Indeed Lenin after 1917 begins to explain things very differently. The revolution was bourgeois he explains, only insofar as the working class had to keep an alliance with the whole of the peasantry. This was a tactical consideration. The block was formed in order to peel off the poor peasants from the wealthy ones. He now talks of 'a dictatorship of the proletariat and poor peasants'. Very different.

If the delay is only tactical, a device to realign short-term politics, not an unavoidable stage of historical development, then the thinking behind the 1905 slogan falls. For example, where the peasantry is already politically divided then there is no reason to delay moving to the socialist tasks. Hey ho let's go.

In fact the whole purpose of the slogan, to replace the bourgeoisie as the agent of the bourgeois revolution is pointless. The seizure of power is in order to move quickly to the socialist reconstruction.

The slogan remains the same but the content changes. The immediate aim of the dictatorship is socialism, not a republic. The block with the peasantry is just one of convenience, to win over the poorer layers. The 'democratic' component has changed too. There is no need it seems for a long period of socialist education and organisation it seems.

As soon as they thought they had sufficient support in the countryside the Bolsheviks introduced socialist changes. Now Lenin says 'to attempt to raise an artificial Chinese wall' between the socialist and bourgoeis revolutions 'means to distort Marxism dreadfully'.

It is clear from this reasoning that when Lenin used the 'democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' slogan in 1905 he had a quite different usage to the one of 1917. Unfortunately, he never admitted this, as far as I know. And it is the source of much confusion, not least, to me.






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mds
2004-09-11 11:54:57 UTC
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Simon,
Post by Simon Kennedy
Secondly, he was adamant that the bourgeois stage cannot be jumped
over. He says: 'we absolutely insist on the necessity of drawing a
most strict line' between the two revolutions. The republic was to
remain 'within the bounds of bourgeois social and economic
relationships'.
A lot of people read this 'stagist' outlook into Lenin - I'd tend to
disagree; recalling the situation in 1899, 1905, and up to the outbreak
of the first world war (and the subsequent thesis of Imperialism), it
was not so much a case of splitting the revolution into finite stages
as it was relating tasks and slogans to the goal of global revolution.
Some might argue this a purely arbitrary distinction - I think not,
however.
Post by Simon Kennedy
So the slogan made total sense: 'democratic' to allow working-class
development, a 'dictatorship' to keep it on course; and 'proletarian
and peasant' to describe its leading forces. Its social and economic
content being bourgeois.
It's social content bourgeois? Indeed, the economic mode of production
required modernisation, but under the hegemony of the p&p the idea was
very definitely not 'bourgeoisification' of Russia. The leadership of
the proletariat, in alliance with the peasantry, aimed to guide
necessary property reconstruction/relations towards socialism, working
collaboratively on an international scale. This is in sharp distinction
with the Menshevik notion of allowing a generic bourgeois revolution
(presumably of the 1789 nature) and then waiting until the time was
ripe to awaken from dormancy and allow for socialism to take centre
stage.
Post by Simon Kennedy
There was no long period of democratic bourgeois republic in 1917 or
1918.
No, indeed not. Why would Lenin, leader of the Russian
Social-Democrats, desire, or indeed advocate, bourgeois republicanism.
The idea is absurd. Still more absurd is the notion that the working
class would go along with it.
Post by Simon Kennedy
Thus the Trotskyist talk of 'combining' socialist and bourgeois
measures immediately after the seizure of power does not apply to this
experience. The dictatorship was not a socialist one. Not at first
anyway.
It would be a mistake to conflate Trotsky's permanent revolution with
the Bolshevik activity of the period, but it is clear that
'old-Bolshevism' post the April theses was not a dominant force; Lenin
was looking towards international solidarity to construct socialism
both in Russia, and throughout Europe.
Post by Simon Kennedy
But Lenin's 1905 notion of a stable democratic state went out the
window too. Indeed Lenin after 1917 begins to explain things very
differently. The revolution was bourgeois he explains, only insofar as
the working class had to keep an alliance with the whole of the
peasantry. This was a tactical consideration. The block was formed in
order to peel off the poor peasants from the wealthy ones. He now
talks of 'a dictatorship of the proletariat and poor peasants'. Very
different.
If the delay is only tactical, a device to realign short-term
politics, not an unavoidable stage of historical development, then the
thinking behind the 1905 slogan falls. For example, where the
peasantry is already politically divided then there is no reason to
delay moving to the socialist tasks. Hey ho let's go.
...?
Post by Simon Kennedy
In fact the whole purpose of the slogan, to replace the bourgeoisie as
the agent of the bourgeois revolution is pointless. The seizure of
power is in order to move quickly to the socialist reconstruction.
Oncemore, I think it's necessary to disassociate the notion of
'bourgeois revolution' less the bourgeoisie from the implications you
appear to be drawing.
Post by Simon Kennedy
The slogan remains the same but the content changes. The immediate aim
of the dictatorship is socialism, not a republic.
Republicanism doesn't preclude Socialism in the context of revolution,
nor vice-versa. Tactical considerations for forging a higher mode of
production apply.
Post by Simon Kennedy
The block with the peasantry is just one of convenience, to win over
the poorer layers. The 'democratic' component has changed too. There
is no need it seems for a long period of socialist education and
organisation it seems.
The words ultra and Leftism seem to spring to mind when reading this
analysis.
Post by Simon Kennedy
As soon as they thought they had sufficient support in the countryside
the Bolsheviks introduced socialist changes. Now Lenin says 'to
attempt to raise an artificial Chinese wall' between the socialist and
bourgoeis revolutions 'means to distort Marxism dreadfully'.
To a) deny that Lenin's thought crystallised and developed and b) to
understand Lenin - as I've already stressed - as stagist would be a
mistake. The emergent difference in 1905 was Lenin stressing the need
to undertake developments of base in the context of a full social(ist)
revolution; he didn't contradict himself in his actions of 1917, nor in
his later clarifications or elaboration.
Post by Simon Kennedy
It is clear from this reasoning that when Lenin used the 'democratic
dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' slogan in 1905 he had a
quite different usage to the one of 1917.
No, it's not.

I've probably not touched on some of your other important points, but
hopefully the above is an answer / rebuttal / repost / clarification of
sorts.

regards,
Marc
Josh Saxe
2004-09-11 16:41:27 UTC
Permalink
I think the truth is somewhere in between what Simon and Marc are
saying, although it has been a couple years since I studied this
question and I'm open to critique. My conception was that the notion
of the democratic dictatorship implied the proletariat and peasantry
cleaning house in the sense that the Jacobins and the sans-culottes
did in France of 1793-4. He did think this essentially bourgeois
revolution could provide the dynamite to set off the Western European
socialist revolutions and that the Russian proletariat would be in a
exponentially stronger position within a parliamentary democracy after
the period of "democratic dictatorship," but all that was unclear and
is not included in the thrust of Lenin's analysis. In fact I remember
being unable to find a really consistent statements of position by
Lenin when it came to the more broad historical role the "democratic
dictatorship" would play in the world revolution, or what the fate of
the prol. and peasants would be after this period. The basic thing to
note about his position is that it is muddled and unclear because it
essentially is attempting to transcend but not break from a tradition
of basically incorrect stagist analysis of the nature of contemporary
revolution in the dependent capitalist world.
Lenin's coming over to Trotsky's theory represented an important
shift, and if it weren't for Stalinism it would have been an historic
shift for revolutionaries throughout the third world to break from the
stagist theory.
I guess all I am saying is that I don't agree with Marc that his
position did not change in a fundamental way, there is no denying that
it did. Marc does point out some of the continuities in his thinking
though which are really important, his conception of the bourgeois
revolution was totally different and much more radical than the
Mensheviks, many of whom saw revolutionary potential and even
leadership in the Constitutional Democrats and a section of the
bourgeoisie. The continuity in Lenin's position was really his
reliance on the class force of the prol. and peasantry even though his
conception of the revolutionary tasks and the historical role of the
Russian revolution changed.
-Josh
Louis Proyect
2004-09-11 17:05:13 UTC
Permalink
Post by Josh Saxe
I think the truth is somewhere in between what Simon and Marc are
saying, although it has been a couple years since I studied this
question and I'm open to critique. My conception was that the notion
of the democratic dictatorship implied the proletariat and peasantry
cleaning house in the sense that the Jacobins and the sans-culottes
did in France of 1793-4.
Unfortunately, I never recorded the exact reference, but sometime around
1909 Lenin stated that Russia needed to have its 1789 and any attempt to
go directly to 1871 (Paris Commune) would be met with disaster. I might
try to locate it this week since there is some interest in the topic.

I think that it is obvious that Lenin reoriented after the outbreak of
WWI when it became clear that socialist revolution would be the sole
guarantee of peace, democracy and economic justice. WWI was a watershed
for Lenin across the board, including on the national question.

It is true that he never explained in any kind of detail why he decided
to publish the April Theses, which effectively overthrew past Bolshevik
wisdom (his Central Committee-stuck in the past--voted against them),
but this was not really necessary. The construction of a Communist
International indicated a break with all kinds of "stagism"--that is
until Stalin triumphed.
--
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org
dwalters
2004-09-11 17:44:39 UTC
Permalink
Interesting historical discussion. I know the Aussie DSP's bases it's whole
understanding of Leninism based on a unique "uninterupted - two stage
revolution" understanding of this.

I tend to see Lenin not as Marc suggest but as one where Lenin's views did
change, from the "Two-Tactics..." phase to the "April Thesis" one. I think
Louis is probably correct at the underlying reasons for this.

One thing is important is that I've always understood the original proposals as
more a prognostication as to 'what will happen' than a program over
what 'should happen'. Both Lenin and Trotsky (and most of them thar old social-
democrats) wrote in this somewhat 'mechanical' Marxist form.

Additionally, and more importantly, the 'stage' issue, as such, was often
talked about in broader historical, almost epoch like terms, not in micro-
chronilogical times, at least it seems to me.

Lastly, Lenin's perspectives, and Trotsky's counter-perspectives, were Russia-
oriented. They were not generalized theories of revolution in general, but
articulated as only applicable to Russia. It was only after 1917 and into the
1920s that the discussion over Lenin's ideas were transmuted to such
generalized theories as in the "Two Stage Theory" (and subsequent offspring
like "New Democratic Revolution" in Asia) and "Permanent Revolution".

David Walters
Charles Brown
2004-09-11 18:23:58 UTC
Permalink
Interesting historical discussion. I know the Aussie DSP's bases it's whole

understanding of Leninism based on a unique "uninterupted - two stage

revolution" understanding of this.

I tend to see Lenin not as Marc suggest but as one where Lenin's views did

change, from the "Two-Tactics..." phase to the "April Thesis" one. I think

Louis is probably correct at the underlying reasons for this.

One thing is important is that I've always understood the original proposals
as

more a prognostication as to 'what will happen' than a program over

what 'should happen'. Both Lenin and Trotsky (and most of them thar old
social-

democrats) wrote in this somewhat 'mechanical' Marxist form.

Additionally, and more importantly, the 'stage' issue, as such, was often

talked about in broader historical, almost epoch like terms, not in micro-

chronilogical times, at least it seems to me.



^^^^^^^^

CB: Yes, modes of production have got to be part of Marxist analysis.

^^^^






Lastly, Lenin's perspectives, and Trotsky's counter-perspectives, were
Russia-

oriented. They were not generalized theories of revolution in general, but

articulated as only applicable to Russia. It was only after 1917 and into
the

1920s that the discussion over Lenin's ideas were transmuted to such

generalized theories as in the "Two Stage Theory" (and subsequent offspring

like "New Democratic Revolution" in Asia) and "Permanent Revolution".

David Walters
Mallard Q. Duck
2004-09-12 01:11:47 UTC
Permalink
Once again, I found an entry from marxists.org's "Encyclopedia of
Marxism" which might be worth quoting. And, once again, I'm not
necessarily endorsing this or anything else on the site. For that
matter, I haven't the slightest idea which take is right. But I take
anything on this site, especially whenever it mentions why Trotsky was
so much cooler than Stalin, with a grain of salt or eight.

?Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry? is the
designation worked out by Stalin, in his struggle with the Left
Opposition, to characterise the Soviet state, and which was subsequently
accepted as their goal by the parties of the Communist International.

This designation however was a falsification by Stalin of the nature of
the Russian Revolution and the Soviet state. His argument was based on a
misrepresentation of Lenin?s policy on the relation between the
proletariat and the peasantry.

Before the War, Lenin had advocated the slogan of ?democratic
dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry?, while Trotsky had
advocated ?dictatorship of the proletariat which leads the peasant
masses behind it?. This old dispute, long since resolved by the October
revolution, was used as a means of attacking Trotsky. In this case it
was Lenin who came over to Trotsky?s position, and not vice versa, so
the history of the revolution itself had to be rewritten for the purpose
of this factional struggle.

It was this concept which was behind Mao?s slogan of ?bloc of four
classes? and the policy of ?People?s Republics? implemented in Europe
after the Second World War.
David Walters
2004-09-12 03:08:20 UTC
Permalink
While I help found the MIA and work on it (I help admin the Lenin and
Trotsky Archives there) I take no personal responsibility for this
particular definition...btw...with the Marxist Encyclopedia having
about 3,000 entries, it would be good if you could cite WHICH
definition this was for...I would argue with one aspect of this
definition, and I allude to the point I made previously, which is the
*way* the pre-1917 polemics and essays on the subject were written: as
prognostications of how the revolution would unfold. It was not
necessarily, or always, perscriptive, and, again, it was for *Russia*,
no where else.

For an interesting set essays and documents on this I would explore
these essays:

What Trotsky actually wrote both before and after on the subject:
http://marx.org/archive/trotsky/works/1931-tpv/index.htm

Lenin's side:
http://marx.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/tactics/index.htm
and the April Thesis itself:
http://marx.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/apr/04.htm and
http://marx.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/apr/12.htm

A contemporary defense of Trotsky's positions:
http://www.dsp.org.au/dsp/19990801.htm

A contemporary defense of Lenin supporting the 'two-stage' theory:
http://www.dsp.org.au/dsp/19990802.htm

Stalin's actual views on the matter and his take on it:
http://ptb.lashout.net/marx2mao/Stalin/POLtc.html

David
Mallard Q. Duck
2004-09-12 09:16:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Walters
While I help found the MIA and work on it (I help admin the Lenin and
Trotsky Archives there) I take no personal responsibility for this
particular definition...btw...with the Marxist Encyclopedia having
about 3,000 entries, it would be good if you could cite WHICH
definition this was for...I would argue with one aspect of this
definition, and I allude to the point I made previously, which is the
*way* the pre-1917 polemics and essays on the subject were written: as
prognostications of how the revolution would unfold. It was not
necessarily, or always, perscriptive, and, again, it was for *Russia*,
no where else.
Sorry if I was confusing. The quote was the MIA's definition for the
"Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry."
mds
2004-09-12 07:49:15 UTC
Permalink
Greetings oncemore,

All the points raised thus-far have been intriguing and useful; some of
the criticisms of my original reply I think are very valid, so let me
clarify a couple of points that I think are pretty important to the
whole question. For me, it comes down to a matter of how we see
stagism. There's the emergent Menshevik perspective of objectively
defined epochs, and subordinating class struggle to some sort of
greater determined logic (clearly 2nd International Marxism in one of
its most apparent forms); then there's the Bolshevik / Lenin's strand
of thought which seeks to relate the necessities of productive
development within the context of a proletarian led revolution.

Distinctions between and alliance with / support of the peasantry in
Lenin and Trotsky's sloganeering I think is less contrasting than they
let on in the period - i.e.) each held that the other differed greatly,
though these differences were on the most part of a character, rather
than strictly political, nature.

Clearly, Lenin's views did change - or rather, mature. If I understated
this before, I didn't mean to. What I meant to suggest was that, in my
mind, there isn't some form of 'rejection' of old-Bolshevik thought
that occurs with the April Theses - nor for that matter, is there an
accommodation to 'Trotskyism'. 'Stagism' suggests to some a flawed
logic whereby one can determine precise historical epochs of productive
relations, and operate accordingly. As I've already mentioned (and I
apologise if I appear to be labouring the point) - this means different
things to different people - the B-M split being the prime example. If
one were to suggest that the Social Democrats of the age could operate
without regard for objective property relations, and see this as a
rejection of 'vulgar Marxist stagism', I'd have to disagree. The
difference is relating existing relations of production to present day
tasks - Lukacs' "actuality of [Leninist] revolution[ary]" theory.

So - did Lenin change his views? Yes and no. I think that his approach
and method remained consistent - or at least, evolved in a progressive
and natural direction. This for me is the most important facet of
Lenin[ism]. Analyses of Imperialism and the international context of
the first world war led him to draw new tactics and conclusions that
didn't necessarily reject earlier theses / platforms, but rather
supplement and update them. This is the prime example of NOT operating
within the stagist constraints of Menshevism, and is also indicative of
the truly dynamic and flexible approach of a great Marxist theoretician
and practitioner.

Re: Stalin - I think the most interesting perspective of his
sloganeering and polemic on historical epochs / stges comes from
Trotsky, where - to paraphrase - ol' Jo is described as the 'second
incarnation of Menshevism'. Quaint.

regards,
Marc



__________________________________________________
M. D. Simpson
zenporcupinegrind <at> breathe <dot> com

"Whoever worships the accomplished fact is incapable of preparing the
future."
dwalters
2004-09-12 16:42:00 UTC
Permalink
Ilyenkova, thanks for your comment. I do in fact agree with your conclusion
about L. becomeing T. and vice-a-versa. I do however want to take this space to
correct something I think is a misperception by my Leninists/Trotskyists and
non-Leninists alike: I don't believe there was anything called "Trotskyism" in
1917 (or before this date, for that matter). There simply is no set of ideas
that could define such a tendency, especially as no actual 'tendency' existed
as such in any event. Even those that came in to the Bolshies with LT in 1917
none of them defined themselves by Permanent Revolution, at least none that I'm
aware of. There was, however, IMO, such a thing as Leninism, which was clearly
on it's way to being clearly defined (and defined as much by Trotsky and others
as Lenin himself). Anyway...

Perhaps I was overstating the case about Lenin and Trotsky's opposing theories.
I think I should qualify this in light of your statements. Partly I was
reacting to the *way* in which they wrote, and in this I will concede nothing
on: they write cleary in the "The Revolution will occur in this manner...".
It's a style we don't see often anymore, and virtually disappeared from
Marxist circles after the Russian Revolution. But they wrote in this predictive
style and it runs throughout other Russian and German writers of the period
(like Kautsky for example).

I think it was mixed up in a kind of dialectical way, and you are, then,
basically correct. Also, both looked back at these early debates as pretty much
water-under-the-bridge, and didn't write 'balance sheets' and long treasties on
their differences and polemics (which were particularly vicious btw). You never
see a 'mea culpa' by Lenin or Trotsky on their differences either way. This is
very much different from modern Marxists who still define their politics
largely by earlier debates.

David
mds
2004-09-12 16:46:59 UTC
Permalink
On Sunday, September 12, 2004, at 05:42 pm, dwalters at marxists.org
... You never see a 'mea culpa' by Lenin or Trotsky on their
differences either way. This is very much different from modern
Marxists who still define their politics largely by earlier debates.
David
Nicely put!

-Marc
__________________________________________________
M. D. Simpson
zenporcupinegrind <at> breathe <dot> com

"Whoever worships the accomplished fact is incapable of preparing the
future."
Simon Kennedy
2004-09-12 16:54:55 UTC
Permalink
This is my first posting to this list. I am impressed that people are interested in this topic and took the time to post constructive comments.

1. THE REPUBLIC
I think that Marc will have to back up his claims about the republic a bit. I have just read Lenin's 'Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution' (snappy title eh?) and it is obvious that the author had a long period of capitalist development in mind. There is one section in the postscript (the penultimate paragraph in the first section) which is a little loose at first, but generally the work is full of assertions of the bourgeois nature of this republic. He even calls it 'petit bourgeois' at one point.

Yes I agree that a republic can be socialist as well as capitalist, but this is not the meaning that Lenin repeatedly describes. Marc, the description of the coming revolution as bourgeois in social content is Lenin's not mine, 'incapable of overstepping the bounds of a mere democratic revolution', as he puts it. To move to a socialist revolution he derides as anarchism.

He says little about what the working class is supposed to do after gaining political power. Can anyone point me to subsequent writing where he addresses this question? Because this is the centre of his problem--how on earth will the proletariat put up with a long capitalist period while supressing the bourgeoisie. It is indeed 'absurd', and maybe this is why he doesn't take on the issue.

2. INTERNATIONAL REVOLUTION
Marc's case is far stronger in relation to Lenin's internationalism. But even here Lenin makes no suggestion that the European revolution will make the Russian one immediately possible, just that it will greatly help things along, help 'broaden' the scope of the democratic reforms. Sure, this is a small difference of words, but I think it is indicative that Lenin saw no place for Russian socialist revolution for a long time. It certainly does't support Marc's claim.

3. BASE AND SUPERSTRUCTURE
Interesting that Marc mentions the need to make 'developments of base' (I assume he means development of the economic base of the social formation). I just mention this because Lenin stresses the importance of the democratic revolution in terms of the superstructure. He is particularly concerned with the democratic space the working class needs to politically mature.'The people', he writes, 'through the representatives of the most diverse classes and groups must now, by its own efforts, build a new superstructure for itself'. This task is a long-term one isn't it? It suggests a long period of bourgeois republicanism I think. 'Suggests' though. The vagueness is Lenin's.

4. MODES OF PRODUCTION
I agree with those who have pointed to the question of 'stagism' to explain Lenin's ambiguities. Marc's second posting refers to 'the necessities of productive development within the context of a proletarian led revolution'. This is the whole problem.

Lenin saw the revolution through the optic of historical 'necessities' that must be fulfilled. He was trying to elaborate a political strategy out of a deterministic philosophy, where stages inevitably follow one another with an iron necessity and the actors in these events can be read off from the immutable economic categories. No wonder it was such a muddle.

It should be noted that Lenin had the ability to break out of the unworkable consequences of this mix, and fashion a revolution on the hoof. Or, as Marc puts it, 'indicative of the truly dynamic and flexible approach of a great Marxist theoretician and practitioner'. Well, let's agree on this.

5. THE DEBATE IN THE AUSTRALIAN DSP
I read through the exchange in the theoretical journal Dave points to. Twice. It was hard going. For the DSP Lorrimer puts a very well-supported and coherent case. Not disimilar to what Marc is arguing. Phil Hearse, (with whom I was in the same far left group for some time) puts forward quite a jumble of arguments that fit poorly together and lack logic. Outright contradictions abound. He also resorts to some really petty rhetorical tricks. Funny, 'cos it is Phil I agree with on this matter, albeit with a number of important caveats.

The DSP was part of a split in the USFI (the largest of the fourth internationals, based in Paris) around these issues. It was lead from New York by the US SWP. I would quite like to get my hands on some of the exchanges--are they online anywhere?

6. A MODEL OF REVOLUTION?
Sure Lenin was not trying to make a generalized theory of revolution (although Trotsky was later). It is inevitable though that revolutionaries will try to find what is generally applicable from the experience though. There were plenty of countries with peasant majorities in the twentieth century.

I think that this is terribly important. No one has taken up my comments on the tactical consequences of Lenin's change of heart; I am particularly interested in the implications of his switch of definitions over the 'bourgeois' character of the revolution from a historical stage of development to a description of a political alliance. Perhaps this should be the topic of a new thread.

I dont agree David when you suggest that Lenin was describing 'what will happen' over what 'should happen'. These were political strategies for the orientation of a political party.

Lastly, Josh, would you dig out that reference? I have a nice sunny study for a week here in Nantes and I am in the mood to keep going with this stuff.

Thanks to all who have contributed so far. I am learning.



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Ilyenkova
2004-09-13 00:18:27 UTC
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<Lenin saw the revolution through the optic of historical 'necessities' that
must be fulfilled. He was trying to elaborate a political strategy out of a
deterministic philosophy, where stages inevitably follow one another with an
iron necessity and the actors in these events can be read off from the immutable
economic categories. No wonder it was such a muddle.
It should be noted that Lenin had the ability to break out of the unworkable
consequences of this mix, and fashion a revolution on the hoof. Or, as Marc
puts it, 'indicative of the truly dynamic and flexible approach of a great
Marxist theoretician and practitioner'. Well, let's agree on this.>

Yes, yes, yes! Lenin had to wage his own struggle from within the theoretical
framework he received from the mechanistic Marxism of the gods of the 2nd
International esp. Plekanov, *the father of Russian Marxism.*
He struggled against the determinism of necessary stages from the beginning;
but it was more complicated than a
mere matter of thinking "on the hoof." There was a vigorous debate across
national borders, at least since 1905
on the character of the Russian revolution. Trotsky, with help from Parvus,
proposed an entirely novel course, arguing that the coming democratic
revolution must be led by the proletariat with the support of the peasantry. Rosa
Luxemburg had essentially the same position. When he wrote *Materialism and
Empirio-Criticism* Lenin was
writing from within a Plekanovian framework that privileged the mechanistic
materialism of Enlightenment figures
like La Mettrie ("Man the Machine"). After the inter-imperialist war began
Lenin took up a study of Hegel's Logic and wrote the "Notebooks." It was only
after his study of Hegel that he penned "Imperialism: The Highest Stage
of Capitalism." From this point onwards, Lenin thought from the dialectical
principle of what Lukacs termed the
"totality." Trotsky had the benefit, being younger and less tied to those who
waged the struggle against Narodnik populism, of learning his Marxism from
the Italian Hegelian-Marxist, Antonio Labriola. He was able to generalize
rom the experience of the 1905 revolution and the emergence of organs of
proletarian rule to the thesis that the democratic revolution would, of necessity,
be led by the proletariat. Trotsky was able to demonstrate, far earlier
than Lenin, that the conditions under which capitalism arose in Russia were
qualitatively different than how capitalism emerged in western Europe (i.e.)
Russian towns weren't progressive centers of petty bourgeois and artisanal
development, but were merely administrative centers mediating between central
authority and the peasantry. The
urban cities developed full blown with infusions of Western (mostly French)
capital, concentrated industry and a proportionately large proletariat. It's
to Lenin's credit that he was able, in the crucible of the February revolution,
to jettison the "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the
peasantry," in favor of the "dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the
peasantry." It was this thinking, in the midst of revolutionary chaos, that allowed
Lenin and Trotsky to unite around Bolshevism and the proletarian dictatorship.
To see how revolutionary this break with the Marxism of the 2nd International
really was just consider the absolute shock of Plekhanov and Kautsky-- both of
whom opposed the revolution. On the other hand, consider Rosa Luxemburg's
response: Despite some initial reservations rooted in the numerical weight of the
Russian proletariat and that of the peasantry, she recognized the
international importance of
this "first shot" fired in the world revolution of the proletariat against
the rule of capital.
Ilyenkova
Michael Karadjis
2004-09-13 12:53:11 UTC
Permalink
THE 'DEMOCRATIC DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT AND PEASANTRY', VIETNAM AND
VENEZUALA

I think much of the Trotskyist movement has perpetuated a great historical
fiction with the assertion that Lenin "came over" to Trotsky on the
permanent revolution in the April Thesis. Both the April Thesis and the
actual course of the Russian revolution were far more in conformity with
Lenin's views since 1905.

Simon Kennedy gives a reasonable account of Lenin's views in 1905:

"It was clear to him, unlike the Mensheviks, that the Russian bourgeoisie
did not have the will to establish a 'modern' capitalist country. There
would be no French-style bourgeois revolution in Russia. So he looked to
other forces to do it for them, and came up with the proletariat and
peasantry. The bourgeoisie was so weak that the proletariat and peasantry
would have to establish a dictatorship to be sure of keeping power."

He then notes that Lenin believed that while the workers would lead the
revolution it would be limited to a bourgeois democratic revolution, because
workers would need the experience of democracy to organise themselves and
because the bourgeois stage cannot be skipped over.

He then claims "Trouble was, it didn't turn out this way," because "there
was no long period of democratic bourgeois republic in 1917 or 1918."

Not there wasn't a long period, which in fact was most unfortunate, and
nothing to do with Lenin's plans, but rather to do with the intervention of
14 imperialist armies and the sabotage within that situation by the
bourgeoisie, forcing Lenin to temporarily (until 1921) proceed much more
quickly in Autumn 1918 with the onset of 'stage 2'. But first let's clear up
a possible point of confusion:

"The regime installed in February achieved none of the tasks that are
associated with the bourgeois revolution, not even the most basic."

Absolutely, that was a bourgeois republic, the type Lenin had been arguing
against, and polemicising with the Mensheviks against, since 1905.

"These were addressed after the Bolshevik seizure of power. Indeed the new
government went out of its way to avoid any socialist measures."

Absolutely, the new government after October 1917 was the "revolutionary
democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry" that Lenin had
long advocated to complete these tasks, and so Simon is very correct to
point out that it "went out of its way to avoid any socialist measures."

For example, in April 1918, when about 3 percent of Russian industry had
been nationalised, Lenin called for halt to expropriation of capital. "We
have only just started the transition to socialism, we have not yet done the
decisive thing in this respect ... (which) is the organization of the
strictest and countrywide accounting and control of production and
distribution of goods ... we have not yet introduced accounting and control
in those enterprises and in those branches and fields of the economy that we
have taken away from the bourgeoisie ... if we continue to expropriate
capital at the rate at which we have been doing it, we should certainly
suffer defeat." He criticised the 'Left Communists' who advocated
'determined' expropriation, as "the difference between socialisation and
simple confiscations is that confiscation can be carried out by
'determination' alone, without the ability to calculate and distribute
properly, whereas socialisation cannot be brought about without this
ability" ('Left-Wing Childishness and the Petty-Bourgeois Mentality',
Collected Works, Volume 27)

Thus Simon points out that the Trotskyist talk of 'combining' socialist and
bourgeois measures immediately after the seizure of power does not apply to
this experience, but claims also that "Lenin's 1905 notion of a stable
democratic state went out the window too."

"Stable." Is that Lenin of 1905? He may have accidentally dropped that word,
but it is surely contradicted by the rest of what he wrote in 1905.
Following what Simon says on the peasantry in 1918 (I'll get to that later),
he adds: "Now Lenin says 'to attempt to raise an artificial Chinese wall'
between the socialist and bourgeois revolutions 'means to distort Marxism
dreadfully'."

However, it was in * 1905 * that Lenin had already, long ago, claimed that
there is "no Chinese wall" between the first, democratic, and second,
socialist, stage of the revolution. He did not invent that in 1917 or 1918.
Moreover, at that time, 1905, he asserted that the Bolsheviks stand for
"uninterrupted revolution", that the two "stages" of the revolution, while
distinct, are connected by ongoing revolutionary development by which the
first stage at some point grows over into the second stage. It does not
sound very "stable" and it sounds very much like Lenin in the April Thesis
or in Autumn 1918. I haven't got it all in front of me to quote from but
anyone reading Lenin in 1905 will find it all.

I must confess that in the old days, before we reassessed these things, I
had great trouble trying to figure out what the difference between Lenin's
"uninterrupted revolution" and Trotsky's "permanent revolution" was, and why
the latter was so superior. I now understand the difference was that Lenin's
theory was far superior.

"It is clear from this reasoning that when Lenin used the 'democratic
dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' slogan in 1905 he had a quite
different usage to the one of 1917. Unfortunately, he never admitted this,
as far as I know."

There was nothing to admit, that's why he never admitted it. It is even more
far-fetched for Trotskyists to assert (which Simon is not doing) that Lenin
came over to Trotsky in the April Thesis but never admitted it. He rightly
never believed there was any reason to "admit" any such thing.

Simon further claims:

"Indeed Lenin after 1917 begins to explain things very differently. The
revolution was bourgeois he explains, only insofar as the working class had
to keep an alliance with the whole of the peasantry. This was a tactical
consideration. The block was formed in order to peel off the poor peasants
from the wealthy ones. He now talks of 'a dictatorship of the proletariat
and poor peasants'. Very different."

"If the delay is only tactical, a device to realign short-term politics, not
an unavoidable stage of historical development, then the thinking behind the
1905 slogan falls. In fact the whole purpose of the slogan, to replace the
bourgeoisie as the agent of the bourgeois revolution is pointless. The
seizure of power is in order to move quickly to the socialist
reconstruction."

"The immediate aim of the dictatorship is socialism, not a republic. The
block with the peasantry is just one of convenience, to win over the poorer
layers. As soon as they thought they had sufficient support in the
countryside the Bolsheviks introduced socialist changes."

Yes the Bolsheviks did move quicker than they had planned to both to carry
out far-reaching nationalisations and to set up "poor peasants' committees"
to fight the "kulaks" and begin the "socialist transformation" in the
countryside. But does any body really doubt that these measures were forced
on the Bolsheviks by the civil war and foreign intervention? Was "war
communism" simply the next stage of the revolution, or was it not a near
disastrous short-cut forced on them against their better judgement, which
had to be partially reversed in 1921? Yes the 'stage' was shorter than
envisaged, * but that is a bad thing,* the longer it could have been, the
better, and the NEP really needs to be brought back into this equation.

The crucial question here is that of the peasantry, as it would be in any
country with a big majority peasant population (ie Russia then, China and
Vietnam later, Nicaragua in the 1980s, but not so much Cuba 1959-60). What
happened to the 'kombedy' (poor peasants' committees)?

Despite superficial appearances, not much changed in reality after 1918 in
the peasant world, except war-necessitated requisitioning. According to
Siegelbaum, (Soviet State and Society between Revolutions, Cambridge Uni
Press, 1992, p43-44), the 'poor peasant committees' had been a failure;
there had been no second stage of the revolution in the countryside. I think
this is probably correct, judging both by what happened next and what has
happened elsewhere in the world. Peasant society actually has a great deal
of resilience. It was highly unlikely that, just following the land reform
of late 1917, that capitalism had been unable to take hold, develop
productive forces, create social differentiation and provoke rural worker
class consciousness for struggle against an agricultural bourgeoisie all in
eight months. Whatever grievances poor peasants still had with their rich
neighbours, according to Sieglebaum, "they viewed as a family affair
(sometimes literally) to be sorted out in the village." He may be
exaggerating, but it also rings true of many peasant societies.

Lenin had already given up on these poor peasant committees long before the
NEP, instead encouraging peasants to join 'artels' (agricultural
associations) and 'communy'. In 1919 he said of the earlier policies that
"we had to hurry ... to make the most desperate efforts ... nothing is more
stupid than the very idea of applying coercion in economic relations with
the middle peasant." The "middle peasant became more the core of his
economic and political strategy in the countryside, once again, correctly.

And of course in 1921, the NEP fully legalised the peasant market. Of course
the Bolsheviks did not reverse the decisive nationalisation of late 1918,
even if they had preferred them to have taken place more slowly originally.
But what did he say about rural capitalism under the NEP?

Lenin viewed the development of rural and generally petty capitalism under
the NEP as positive in Russia's backward conditions: "This capitalism is
essential for the broad masses of the peasantry and for private capital ...
We must organise things in such a way as to make possible the customary
operation of capitalist economy and capitalist exchange, because it is
essential for the people" (Political Report to the 11th Party Congress,
Collected Works, vol. 33, p279). This formulation regarding peasant and
petty capitalism in the transition era is strikingly similar to what he
wrote in 1905.

However, he was aware of the danger of its further development into
full-blown capitalism, noting that "small production engenders capitalism
and the bourgeoisie continuously" (Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile
Disorder, Chapter II). The task was "to find the correct methods of
directing the development of capitalism into the channels of state
capitalism, and to determine how we are to hedge it about with restrictions
to ensure its transformation into socialism". One way of doing this was to
encourage voluntary cooperatives. However, he had no illusions that this was
going to be a rapid process, he believed "a whole historical epoch" of NEP
was necessary to organise the basis for socialism (On Cooperatives, 1923).

Thus when we take into account the fact that the Bolsheviks were forced to
go faster than planned in 1918, with near disastrous consequences, and we
also take into account the NEP (not simply some unique kind of retreat in
some unique circumstances as many believe), we understand that the Lenin of
1905, of the April Thesis, of Autumn 1918 and of 1921 were not so different,
except that concrete circumstances obviously change.

It is interesting that we have often quoted Lenin in 1918 (in The
proletarian Revolution and the Rengade Kautsky) as claiming that things
"have turned out exactly as we had predicted", going on to explain the two
stages of the revolution, first with "the whole of the peasantry" against
the landlords, and at a later stage with the poor peasants against the
agricultural bourgeoisie. This surely shows that Lenin did not think he had
'gone over' to permanent revolution in April 1917. However, Lenin is not
exactly right in saying "exactly", as Simon points out, because it was
quicker than expected. In my opinion, Lenin got a little carried away with
the forced changes of late 1918, and later, even by 1919, had admitted as
much. The reintroduction of rural petty capitalism in 1921 is more
appropriately the point at which Lenin could have said "exactly as we had
predicted."

What then of Lenin's formulations in 1905 "a long period of capitalist
development" that Simon points to? This does seem unclear at first, or
rather abundantly clear that Lenin advocates years of capitalism. Of course,
firstly, we need to read Lenin as a whole, and work out how these statements
go together with his other statements from the same period, from the same
book, about "uninterrupted revolution", of "stages of revolutionary
development", of the "growing over" of the first into the second revolution
and of there being "no Chinese Wall" between them, in 1905.

I think again the key here is understanding Lenin's deep concern about the
role of the peasant majority, where his writings are far superior to
Trotsky's, and understanding his description of rural capitalism from the
time of his Development of Capitalism in Russia. Where he says the
'democratic dictatorship' will open the way for the rapid development of
capitalism, he says this capitalism will take the "European" rather than
"Asiatic" form. It is unclear what this means, but I think "Asiatic" refers
to what was happening in Russia with the consolidation of large holdings as
former feudal lords turn bourgeois, and "European" refers to some idealised
western development from the petty production of peasants following a land
reform. This is very imprecise to say the least. But to give a clue,
elsewhere he writes:

"The pivot of the struggle is the feudal latifundia which are the most
conspicuous embodiment and the strongest mainstay of the survivals of
serfdom in Russia. The development of commodity production and capitalism
will certainly and inevitably put an end to those survivals. In that respect
Russia has only one path before her, that of bourgeois development" (thus
firstly note that Lenin is referring to Russia's "bourgeois development" in
relation to the countryside).

"But there may be two forms of that development. The survivals of serfdom
may fall away either as a result of the transformation of landlord economy
or as a result of the abolition of the landlord latifundia, i. e., either by
re form or by revolution. Bourgeois development may proceed by having big
landlord economies at the head, which will gradually become more and more
bourgeois and gradually substitute bourgeois for feudal methods of
exploitation. It may also proceed by having small peasant economies at the
head, which in a revolutionary way, will remove the "excrescence" of the
feudal latifundia from the social organism and then freely develop without
them along the path of capitalist economy.

"Those two paths of objectively possible bourgeois development we would call
the Prussian path and the American path, respectively."

If we change "European" in 1905 to "American" and "Asiatic" in 1905 to
"Prussian" I think we can understand what Lenin is talking about when
referring to the 'democratic dictatorship' opening the way to the rapid
development of 'capitalism' in the countryside, ie where the overwhelming
majority of the Russian population lived.

Incidentally, what did Lenin say in the April Thesis that has convinced a
century of Trotskyists that he had adopted the permanent revolution but
simply never admitted it out of vanity? For example, John Saxe asserts that
"Lenin's coming over to Trotsky's theory represented an important shift, and
if it weren't for Stalinism it would have been an historic shift for
revolutionaries throughout the third world to break from the
stagist theory." Really? Stalin's Menshevik stagism of course has nothing to
do with Lenin's stagism, but I'm tempted to say "lucky there was no such
historic shift" to sectarian "anti-stagism".

Lenin in April 1917 said the "democratic dictatorship of workers and
peasants" had come into being in the form of the Soviets of workers,
soldiers and peasants, but that their reformist leaderships were voluntarily
ceding power to a bourgeois dictatorship. He therefore called on these
Soviets, ie the democratic dictatorship, to take power, ie to establish the
"democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants."

Louis also claims that Lenin "never explained in any kind of detail why he
decided
to publish the April Theses, which effectively overthrew past Bolshevik
wisdom (his Central Committee-stuck in the past--voted against them),
but this was not really necessary." The fact that a wing of 'Old Bolsheviks'
in early 1917 interpreted Lenin's theory in an obviously anti-Leninist way
(ie giving support to a * bourgeois * govt, not a workers and peasants
dictatorship), says nothing necessarily about the theory. Stalinists claim
the entire corpus of Marxism and Leninism, so logically you would have to
say all this Marxism and Leninism needs to be thrown out the window based on
the logic of these conclusions about what the Old Bolsheviks in early 1917.
As Trotsky outlines in his History of the Russian Revolution, much of the
'worker-Bolshevik' membership had a very different view from some of these
removed leaders.

Ilyenkova claimed that "Trotsky had the benefit, being younger and less tied
to those who waged the struggle against Narodnik populism. He was able to
generalize
from the experience of the 1905 revolution and the emergence of organs of
proletarian rule to the thesis that the democratic revolution would, of
necessity,
be led by the proletariat."

No, Lenin had made abundantly clear in 1905 that the democratic revolution
would be led by the proletariat, the difference was whether they would form
a government with 'the whole of the peasantry' or just with 'poor peasants'
or 'agricultural proletariat' as Trotsky thought, and whether there would of
necessity be an extended period of peasant petty capitalism, or whether the
proletariat had to immediately begin trying to institute rural "socialism",
a highly idealist notion.

Ilyenkova also states that "we've got Bukharin, Trotsky, Preobrazhensky and
by extension Parvus and Luxemburg all lining up in support of a general
theory of the developmental trajectory of the colonial and semi-colonial
sector of the world economy. As the old timers used to say, "With the April
Theses Lenin became a Trotskyist and Trotsky became a Leninist."

Lenin certainly did not "become a Trotskyist" but Ilyenkova's point is that
these leaders understood the international nature of the world economy and
hence the socialist nature of the world revolution, if I can summarise like
that. But surely so did Lenin. He always insisted that there could be no
fully developed socialism in backward Russia without socialist revolution in
a number of advanced capitalist countries. He figured that Russia's
democratic revolution would help provoke socialist revolution in the west,
and the more successful it was in the west, the greater would be the
possibilities for Russia's revolution to "grow over" into the second stage.
But you cannot force the west to have socialist revolutions; if they do not,
to what extent can one backward country proceed to socialist revolution?
Even if it could be argued that Russia was, yes, backward, but also highly
industrialised in parts, so had some potential to do it alone, as a general
theory for the developing world, 'permanent revolution' advocates this
disastrous ultraleft course for any poor backward country regardless of
socialist revolution in the west.

This in fact is a key contradiction of Trotskyism - the contradiction
between carrying out 'permanent revolution' even in one country, even in a
backward one, and recognition that socialism can only be achieved
internationally. It is precisely recognition of the latter that should
restrict the former, unless there is socialist revolution in a number of
advanced countries that may be able to help.

But is that fair on Trotsky? Surely he has been maligned enough by ignorant
criticism, surely he was not an ultraleftist who did not understand the
necessity of proceeding cautiously and in relation to the actual class
forces? Surely he did simply advocate nationalise everything the first day
after the democratic and socialist revolution rolled into one? No, of course
not, Trotsky was an outstanding revolutionary, which is why he went along
with all the actual developments of 1917-18, did not advocate forcing the
pace earlier than Lenin was forced to, did not oppose NEP etc.

However, it is not Trotsky the revolutionary that is the problem, but
"Trotskyism" as interpreted by Trotskyists from some of Trotsky's less
fortunate writings. It may sound ironic, but Trotsky was fantastic, just not
very good on permanent revolution.

In Results and Prospects in 1906, he claimed that from the time of taking
power, the workers would have to begin provoking rural class war among the
peasantry, setting poor against "rich" peasants etc. For anyone familiar
with peasant economies in industrially backward countries, this was way off.
Such differentiation takes a long time and needs to take its own pace. In
many cases, some peasants work for others part of the year while keeping
their own land, because they also want the cash. Those they work for may
still be miserably poor. Often they may be their relatives. He claimed the
mass of peasants would rapidly turn against the workers state and form a
counterrevolutionary army. The tiny minority of workers would have to rule
in a state of siege, more or less, and if help did not arrive from socialist
revolutions abroad, they would be crushed. It was a sure strategy for
defeat. I'm not going to pull out quotes, reread 'Results and Prospects' and
you'll find these formulations. Fortunately he forgot about that at least
from 1917 to 1927. In the Joint Opposition statement of 1926 there is no
mention of such 'permanent revolution' while opposing Stalin's Menshevik
policy on China.

Unfortunately, he later claimed that imaginary Chinese "poor peasants" would
have to simultaneously fight imaginary "kulaks" (whoever they may be in
practice, however one could analyse that from so far away) at the same time
as fighting the landlords, foreign imperialists, local capitalists etc,
reverting to his worst formulations in Results and Prospects. This
ultraleftism led him to initially believe there was something good about the
catastrophic Canton workers' uprising as Stalinist Menshevism began evolving
into Third Period ultraleftism.

He saw the error of this, but then proceed to give similar bad advice to the
Vietnamese Trotskyists. In his 'On the Declaration by the Indochinese
Oppositionists' in 1930, Trotsky starts out correctly criticising an
ultraleft error they are making, as they seemed to be downplaying the
national, agrarian and democratic questions in their pursuit of socialist
revolution. He correctly says their statement that "every theory of class
collaboration is camouflage for the rule of the capitalist class" provides
grounds for misunderstanding, as "there is a certain kind of class
collaboration that we seek after with all our strength: that is the
collaboration between the proletariat and the * poor peasantry *, as well as
the most oppressed and exploited lower layers of the urban petty
bourgeoisie."

Thus to Trotsky, only the "poor peasants" and "most exploited" lower layers
of the urban petty bourgeoisie could be allies of the proletariat * in the
democratic revolution * in a country as poor, backward and overwhelmingly
peasant in social composition as Vietnam. I hope all Trotskyists on the list
are able to see this fundamental error Trotsky was making here, whatever
their views on the April Thesis.

But is this just an academic difference, between alliance with "poor
peasants" and alliance with "the whole of the peasantry"? Not at all. The
tragic reality is that not the Trotskyists, but the more Mao-oriented
faction of the Vietnamese Communist Party, tried to implement "permanent
revolution", this alliance with only the "poor peasants", in the mid-1950s
land reform with near catastrophic consequences before the Ho-Giap wing of
the Party were able to end the chaos.

General-Secretary Truong Trinh, backed by Chinese advisors in Vietnam,
attempted a power play on the back of the energies unleashed by the land
reform. Much of the ultraleft chaos was no doubt due to the real energy of
the poorest peasants faced for the first time in their lives with power in
their hands. However, the role of the revolutionary party was to channel
this and avoid as far as possible Bela Kun or Pol Pot outcomes.

The VCP leadership drew up clear outlines. Only the property of landlords
was to be distributed, a temporary alliance was to be made with rich
peasants who however would have to give up some of their land, the land of
middle peasants would not be touched and a firm alliance would be made with
them. While landlords' land would be redistributed, only those who had
collaborated with the French would be punished; those who had helped the
revolution would not be. Landlords and rich peasants, following
redistribution, would still be entitled to an equal plot with everyone else.

This accorded with the realities on the land. It is difficult enough in a
situation where everyone is poor to distinguish 'poor', 'middle' and 'rich'
peasants, even if it may seem easy to some revolutionaries in New York or
Paris. The categories cut across families. Often young couples have little
land but older people have more as they accumulate through life. People
often work for each other. Without either "a long period of capitalist
development" or a successful gradual, voluntary rural cooperatisation
movement, "permanent revolution" in these circumstances is fiction.

However, for ambitious bureaucrats aiming for quick power, or for the
Chinese advisors aiming to exert control over their independent-minded
Vietnamese Communist neighbours, falsely harnessing the energies of the
"most exploited and oppressed" against their fellow exploited and oppressed
was a useful strategy. It was precisely the "most oppressed" in rural areas
with no possibility of background in revolutionary strategy that were
potentially useable. Every single one of the VCP's regulations were actively
violated, ripping rural society apart. In particular, the brutal attack on
the middle peasantry (ie, defined as those with enough of their own land to
not have to work for others, but also not employing others) caused deep
wounds, and in particular struck at the class from which much of the VCP
revolutionary leadership had derived from, in particular many were village
teachers and other skilled people who were essential to the revolution.

Ho, Giap and others in the leadership continually called for the excesses to
end, but it took a year and a half to reassert power. In the meantime, some
areas had erupted in uprising against the 'land reform' excesses, and
protesting peasants even made their way to the National Assembly. Eventually
it was brought under control, Truong Trinh was removed from his post, and a
'rectification campaign' attempted to restore what could be restored, which
unfortunately could not include several thousand lives. Of course it may be
said that Ho, Giap and others were after all from better off rural classes
and rural intellectuals anyway, so perhaps they were merely defending their
"class interests" against the "really oppressed"? Perhaps, but it would be
an incredibly short-sighted and stupid argument.

Following the 1975 victory in the south, the VCP initially, like the
Bolsheviks in 1917-18, attempted to stem a too rapid nationalisation of
everything, as they realised they would lose a whole layer of petty
bourgeois experts as well as provoke massive capital flight and the workers
would need time to understand how to manage their firms. Like Lenin in April
1918, the VCP even often had to argue against workers who were spontaneously
'nationalising' outside the government plan. I know Trotskyists will see
this as proof positive of the VCP "Stalinists" "betraying" the workers, but
Lenin did exactly the same in early 1918 and consistency is a virtue. Again,
however, like the Bolsheviks, actual events forced the pace. The owners of
some 70 percent of capitalist industry had fled in 1975, so the
poverty-stricken, shambolic state apparatus emerging out of decades of war
was forced to take them all over immediately.

The things got worse as the US, China and Pol Pot's reactionary clique
stepped up pressure on Vietnam. The inability of the poverty-stricken state
to pay decent prices for peasant produce allowed the big private traders to
monopolise peasant grain surpluses. The VCP launched into a major
ultraleftist error, if forced by circumstances, when it 'nationalised'
domestic trade in the south in 1978, expropriating thousands of large,
medium and small private trading concerns. The result was complete chaos,
with catastrophic drops in peasant grain deliveries to the state in 1978-79,
leading to famine. The problem is, you can't just 'confiscate'. You need
something to replace it with. The state at that time was in no position to
provide an efficient means of paying peasants or getting deliveries from
them, or getting manufactured goods back to the peasants (especially in the
context of the arch-treacherous cut-off of Chinese aid, mostly of needed
consumer goods, in 1978). The peasants simply stopped either producing or
selling to the state at miserable prices; the legal private traders simply
transformed themselves into black market private traders and got on with the
necessary work. Within a couple of years the VCP saw its error, reopened
avenues for private traders while also greatly increasing the state price,
and the first half the 1980s saw an agricultural boom.

The changed policies led to the Vietnamese NEP, known as Doi Moi, and since
then we have seen in rural areas what Lenin called "this capitalism (which)
is essential for the broad masses of the peasantry and for private capital
... We must organise things in such a way as to make possible the customary
operation of capitalist economy and capitalist exchange, because it is
essential for the people."

Coming to the Vietnamese NEP perhaps opens a whole new though closely
related issue, but I just want to explain why I dwelt on the 1978 fiasco.
The US SWP, who we were closely following at that time, believed that after
1975, "South Vietnam" was not yet a workers' state even though it fused with
North Vietnam. This reminds me of East Germany still being a workers' state
15 years after being fused with imperialist West Germany. Never mind that,
their point was that after 1975, not everything was yet nationalised. Fair
enough. They called this the "workers and peasants government", which more
or less means the "democratic dictatorship of proletariat and peasantry."
Fair enough (if we exclude the strange circumstances of it being in the same
country as the north Vietnamese workers' state). But the problem is, then
you have to look for the crucial "turning point" of when this state turns
into a workers state. In Russia it had been Autumn 1917, in China 1952-3,
North Vietnam 1958-9, in Cuba August 1960 etc. Fair enough. But therefore
they chose the ultraleft decision to nationalise * trading * capital in 1978
as the point at which a workers' state was created, even though most
capitalist * industry * had already been taken over in 1975. On the other
hand, those other Trots who disagreed with the SWP on this, and who believed
a workers' state had been created in 1975 (of course "despite" every
possible attempt of the "Stalinists" to allegedly avoid this), while they
did not see the same significance of 1978, nevertheless they agreed that
these ultraleft measures were a step forward (probably should have happened
earlier).

The point here is that even for those who were moving away from 'permanent
revolution' or at least emphasising a transitional stage (workers and
peasants govt), the idea was that it had to be exceedingly short. This was
based on the fairly rapid transition in Russia 1917-18, as if this had been
the Bolshevik plan and not an unfortunate fact forced on them. Thus when
"Stalinist" regimes in China, Vietnam or elsewhere did not immediately set
up workers' states, for 'permanent revolution' Trotskyists this was evidence
of attempted 'betrayal', but then they were forced both by the class
struggle on one side and imperialist provocation on the other to come to
their senses and institute workers' states. The idea that the transitional
periods (China 1949-52/3, Vietnam 1954-58/9, south Vietnam 1975-78) were a
good and necessary thing was out of the question (though I don't know a lot
about China, it has been claimed that the Chinese CP in this period
suppressed workers' strikes etc - if so, this obviously was evidence of
anti-working class tendencies, but that should be distinguished from a
transitional stage in general; I'm not aware of such suppression by the
Vietnamese CP).

On the other, for those who recognised these as 'workers' and peasants'
governments', it had to be over with quick. The model, apart from Russia,
was Cuba, where a rather quick transition took place between January 1959
and August 1960. However, Cuba was largely proletarian at that time; Che
points out (I'm paraphrasing from Tablada) that the Cuban economy had been
far more 'socialised' by monopoly capital than had Russia, which had been
dominated by 'petty production' when Lenin introduced the NEP, which Che
thought was right for Russian conditions but not for Cuban.

This Cuban situation could not be applied to Vietnam, could not be applied
to Nicaragua in the 1980s. While we can criticise the Sandinistas for many
things, I don't think a very useful criticism is that they should have
proceeded faster to 'socialism'. It has been pointed out that they did not
fully carry out the bourgeois-democratic task of redistributing land to all
peasants, which may have been a serious error. In a recent post, Jose Perez
in fact claimed they were herding peasants into 'cooperatives' too quickly,
which actually sounds more an ultraleft error than an error of not going
fast enough.

I'm not sure of the balance between proletariat and peasantry in Venezuela
today, but I think some of the calls on Chavez to hurry up and nationalise
everything really are based on this misunderstanding of how important is the
building of really solid strategic support in rural areas, which Chavez has
been engaged in, without antagonising the local bourgeoisie to a greater
extent than necessary too early when you don't have the real political
resources to fight them, and such political resources surely involve a solid
support base in rural areas - even more so in countries where peasants are
the vast majority.

Michael Karadjis
Louis Proyect
2004-09-13 13:35:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Michael Karadjis
THE 'DEMOCRATIC DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT AND PEASANTRY', VIETNAM AND
VENEZUALA
I think much of the Trotskyist movement has perpetuated a great historical
fiction with the assertion that Lenin "came over" to Trotsky on the
permanent revolution in the April Thesis. Both the April Thesis and the
actual course of the Russian revolution were far more in conformity with
Lenin's views since 1905.
I am not going to comment on the substance of Michael's post for the
time being.

However, I do want to make an observation on the affinity for the DSP's
rejection of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution and a parallel
development in the American SWP, which once had the same relationship to
the Australian group that the British SWP had to its satellite, the ISO
in the USA--until they split, just as the DSP and the American SWP split.

Basically, this attempt to revivify Lenin's contradictory and inadequate
"theory" of democratic dictatorship (it was really not much of a theory,
but a strategy for toppling Czarism) in both parties strikes me as a bid
to make one acceptable to what was seen as an incipient new
international grouped around the Cuban Communist Party. It included the
New Jewel Movement, the FSLN, the FMLN, et al. All these formations had
sprung up outside the framework of Trotskyism, to their credit.

In order to make one acceptable to this milieu, it was necessary to shed
one's Trotskyist garb. This meant discovering that Trotsky
"underestimated the peasantry", etc. It is really too bad that in going
through this metamorphosis, the comrades failed to dump the very worst
of the Trotskyist baggage they inherited from the SWP, namely James P.
Cannon's party-building methodology.
--
The Marxism list: www.marxmail.org
Simon Kennedy
2004-09-13 13:50:19 UTC
Permalink
Well Louis, you might be right about the DSP/US SWP reasons for changing their position. Or you might be wrong. In this textual discussion, however, I am not sure that it is too helpful to impute motives as a counter argument. It is a method oft used, and most frequently as a diversion tactic. Let's keep it nice and abstract eh!

Simon Kennedy


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Ed George
2004-09-13 19:38:48 UTC
Permalink
I take Simon's point (hi Simon) regarding imputing motives to people in
political debate, which indeed can be a diversionary tactic; but, again,
I do think it is necessary to ground this kind of discussion in concrete
and present reality. Historical debates of the
Lenin-said-Trotsky-said-Lenin-said-Trotsky-said type are all rather
pointless unless one has it clear why these questions matter. Our
approach needs to be what can we get out of these experiences, and the
interpretations of their participants, so that we can learn in the
present. This is what makes this all important, for, as Domhnall quite
rightly points out, what we really need to do is take account of people
like Ch?vez, or Sinn F?in - i.e. make exactly the kind of 'concrete
analysis of concrete circumstances' that he talks about - here and now
in the present. The lessons of historical experiences are crucial in
this respect, and the Russian revolutionary experience is an
extraordinarily important episode - but of course not the only one - in
the pantheon of revolutionary historical experience. But the context
must be what can we learn now in order - as Marxists - to know what to
in the present. Otherwise the debate never breaks out of scholasticism
(which is what it degenerated to in the USFI, especially as reflected
down into the British state section(s)). So it is not the case for me
that we have to regard the interpretations of Lenin and Trotsky as some
kind of gospel - Domhnal's points are well made here; but neither is it
the case that these experiences can have nothing to teach us in the
present either, for that would obviate the necessity of theory in the
first place. Call that dialectical if you will.

With this in mind it occurs to me that what lay behind the political
shifts of the US SWP and the then Australian SWP (now DSP) was not the
desire to junk Trotskyist baggage in order to make themselves more
acceptable to some imagined new political current, but that, once
correctly recognising the significance of the political forces to whom
they wanted to orientate, they *completely* misunderstood the
revolutionary experiences which had made them what they were. In this
sense it is no surprise that the 'Trotskyist' baggage they should have
dropped overboard but didn't (and Louis is absolutely right on this,
both in his recent post and repeatedly), since it is precisely the
'Trotskyist' failure to understand Trotsky (not to mention Lenin) with
regard to these matters that led them to abandon an orthodoxy that never
really was orthodox in the spirit of the theoretical outlook of Marx and
Engels in the first place.

With this in mind then - I would like to comment more substantively on
some of the points raised but it is simply not possible for me at the
moment - here is a link to some notes I sent to the list two years ago,
on these questions. (Regarding what I wrote, I would now cavil at my use
of the term 'Stalinism' - for reasons I have made clear here before -
but other than that I stand by what I said.) Below also is a link to a
thoughtful reply to what I wrote by Richard Fidler (hi Richard) to whom
I will one day make good my promise of replying.

Me:
<http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2002w30/msg00151.htm>

Richard:
<http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2002w31/msg00008.htm>
mds
2004-09-14 08:39:31 UTC
Permalink
Hi Simon,

A very interesting post indeed; I shall attempt to clarify a couple of
the points you raise below.
Post by Simon Kennedy
1. THE REPUBLIC
... I have just read Lenin's 'Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the
Democratic Revolution' ... and it is obvious that the author had a
long period of capitalist development in mind. ... generally the work
is full of assertions of the bourgeois nature of this republic. He
even calls it 'petit bourgeois' at one point.
Distinction one: petit bourgeois and bourgeois are not the same thing.
Whilst I don't think this is applicable to the question at hand, it is
an important distinction all the same. Peasant interests are often
characterised as being p-b; that is not to say they share interests
with industrial capital.
Post by Simon Kennedy
Yes I agree that a republic can be socialist as well as capitalist,
but this is not the meaning that Lenin repeatedly describes. Marc, the
description of the coming revolution as bourgeois in social content is
Lenin's not mine, 'incapable of overstepping the bounds of a mere
democratic revolution', as he puts it. To move to a socialist
revolution he derides as anarchism.
Indeed. I think it's also important to clarify democratic revolution
from bourgeois revolution. Just as Lenin would criticise the bourgeois
notion of democracy, so his employ of the term democracy either
implicitly or explicitly references a more genuine form of
representation, namely, for the proletariat.
Post by Simon Kennedy
He says little about what the working class is supposed to do after
gaining political power.
Louis' post is interesting in this respect; no one seems to have
extracted this quote from it which I thought quite interesting, amidst
the ambiguities:

"The complete revolution means seizure of power by the proletariat and
the poor peasantry. These classes, once in power, cannot but strive for
the socialist revolution. Ergo, seizure of power, from being at first a
step in the democratic revolution, will, by force of circumstances, and
against the will (and sometimes without the awareness) of its
participants, pass into the socialist revolution."

Discussion of T's theory of permanent revolution and second
international stagism for now, let's briefly reflect on what is being
stated here. Not: employ bourgeois democracy under proletarian
hegemony, then wait. Then, when conditions ripen, work for socialism.
No, far from it. Rather, Lenin is - to my mind - suggesting a
dialectical process, the progressive movement from the present environ
of tsarist autocracy in an unbroken fluid motion through to socialism.
Far from crude Menshevik stagist theories, and also, I would argue,
distinct from crude mechanistic formulations of the 2nd Int. There is
no doubt that Mat & Emperio Crit contains mechanistic formulations, but
I don't think we can rely on Lenin trying to polemically - and
politically - oust Machist and other tendencies in the
philosophical/scientific realm with his viewpoint on historical
processes and economic evolution.
Post by Simon Kennedy
2. INTERNATIONAL REVOLUTION
... But even here Lenin makes no suggestion that the European
revolution will make the Russian one immediately possible ...
Where?
Post by Simon Kennedy
3. BASE AND SUPERSTRUCTURE
Interesting that Marc mentions the need to make 'developments of base'
(I assume he means development of the economic base of the social
formation). I just mention this because Lenin stresses the importance
of the democratic revolution in terms of the superstructure. He is
particularly concerned with the democratic space the working class
needs to politically mature.'The people', he writes, 'through the
representatives of the most diverse classes and groups must now, by
its own efforts, build a new superstructure for itself'. This task is
a long-term one isn't it? It suggests a long period of bourgeois
republicanism I think. 'Suggests' though. The vagueness is Lenin's.
I personally wouldn't read a discussion of superstructure by ignoring
the implied base. Totality, after all.
Post by Simon Kennedy
4. MODES OF PRODUCTION
Lenin saw the revolution through the optic of historical 'necessities'
that must be fulfilled.
It seems to me that a commonality in the (correct) criticism of 2nd
International vulgarism is the (incorrect) tendency to over-do the
dissolution of historical conditions. That is, there seems to be a
school of thought which almost entirely dissolves economic conditions
and social relations from political tasks. I think this goes to far. If
Lenin over-emphasised necessities, this wasn't a fundamental error, but
perhaps more of an exaggeration in the context of the 2nd Int.
Post by Simon Kennedy
It should be noted that Lenin had the ability to break out of the
unworkable consequences of this mix, and fashion a revolution on the
hoof.
Unworkable? To me, the event of 1905 certainly led to a reworking of
some formulations, namely around the organs of the Soviets etc. I think
your assertion that there was an unworkable mix is pretty baseless.
Post by Simon Kennedy
6. A MODEL OF REVOLUTION?
Sure Lenin was not trying to make a generalized theory of revolution
(although Trotsky was later). It is inevitable though that
revolutionaries will try to find what is generally applicable from the
experience though. There were plenty of countries with peasant
majorities in the twentieth century.
Lenin repeatedly stated, especially after 1917/8, that Russian
conditions were not to be mimicked. He does this in his message to Kun
("It is altogether beyond doubt that it would be a mistake merely to
imitate our Russian tactics in all details in the specific conditions
of the Hungarian revolution.", 1919; CW v29), in LWC, etc.
Post by Simon Kennedy
I think that this is terribly important. No one has taken up my
comments on the tactical consequences of Lenin's change of heart; I am
particularly interested in the implications of his switch of
definitions over the 'bourgeois' character of the revolution from a
historical stage of development to a description of a political
alliance. Perhaps this should be the topic of a new thread.
Here are a couple of interesting sections from Two Tactics:

"Marxism teaches the proletarian not to keep aloof from the bourgeois
revolution, not to be indifferent to it, not to allow the leadership of
the revolution to be assumed by the bourgeoisie but, on the contrary,
to take a most energetic part in it, to fight most resolutely for
consistent proletarian democracy, for carrying the revolution to its
conclusion.
[...]
Our new-Iskraists are just such clever fellows flaunting their
shortsightedness. They confine themselves to disquisitions on the
bourgeois character of the revolution just when and where it is
necessary to be able to draw a distinction between
republican-revolutionary and monarchist-liberal bourgeois democracy, to
say nothing of the distinction between inconsistent bourgeois
democratism and consistent proletarian democratism."

Note the distinction between bourg democratism and prol. -
fundamentally important, and has a huge bearing on the prevailing
claims of a stagist doctrine.

regards,
M
__________________________________________________
M. D. Simpson
zenporcupinegrind <at> breathe <dot> com

"Whoever worships the accomplished fact is incapable of preparing the
future."
glparramatta
2004-09-12 00:36:42 UTC
Permalink
Comrades,

Visit http://www.dsp.org.au/dsp/permrev.htm for the DSP's take on this.

Norm.
Post by Simon Kennedy
I know that this is well trodden ground for a number of people, but help me out. I would like to hear thoughts of the following.
Lenin in 1905 was trying to see how the Russian development would fit into the model of capitalism followed by the advanced capitalist countries. It was clear to him, unlike the Mensheviks, that the Russian bourgeoisie did not have the will to establish a 'modern' capitalist country. There would be no French-style bourgeois revolution in Russia. So he looked to other forces to do it for them, and came up with the proletariat and peasantry.
The bourgeoisie was so weak that the proletariat and peasantry would have to establish a dictatorship to be sure of keeping power.
Why should the workers do the bourgeoisie's dirty work for them? Firstly, Lenin believed that the Russian working class was not ready for socialism, that it needed a long experience of democracy to organise itself and build up its political awareness before it was able to move to overturn capitalism. This space to develop would be opened by establishing a democratic republic.
Secondly, he was adamant that the bourgeois stage cannot be jumped over. He says: 'we absolutely insist on the necessity of drawing a most strict line' between the two revolutions. The republic was to remain 'within the bounds of bourgeois social and economic relationships'.
So the slogan made total sense: 'democratic' to allow working-class development, a 'dictatorship' to keep it on course; and 'proletarian and peasant' to describe its leading forces. Its social and economic content being bourgeois.
Trouble was, it didn't turn out this way.
There was no long period of democratic bourgeois republic in 1917 or 1918. The regime installed in February achieved none of the tasks that are associated with the bourgeois revolution, not even the most basic. These were addressed after the Bolshevik seizure of power. Indeed the new government went out of its way to avoid any socialist measures.
Thus the Trotskyist talk of 'combining' socialist and bourgeois measures immediately after the seizure of power does not apply to this experience. The dictatorship was not a socialist one. Not at first anyway.
But Lenin's 1905 notion of a stable democratic state went out the window too. Indeed Lenin after 1917 begins to explain things very differently. The revolution was bourgeois he explains, only insofar as the working class had to keep an alliance with the whole of the peasantry. This was a tactical consideration. The block was formed in order to peel off the poor peasants from the wealthy ones. He now talks of 'a dictatorship of the proletariat and poor peasants'. Very different.
If the delay is only tactical, a device to realign short-term politics, not an unavoidable stage of historical development, then the thinking behind the 1905 slogan falls. For example, where the peasantry is already politically divided then there is no reason to delay moving to the socialist tasks. Hey ho let's go.
In fact the whole purpose of the slogan, to replace the bourgeoisie as the agent of the bourgeois revolution is pointless. The seizure of power is in order to move quickly to the socialist reconstruction.
The slogan remains the same but the content changes. The immediate aim of the dictatorship is socialism, not a republic. The block with the peasantry is just one of convenience, to win over the poorer layers. The 'democratic' component has changed too. There is no need it seems for a long period of socialist education and organisation it seems.
As soon as they thought they had sufficient support in the countryside the Bolsheviks introduced socialist changes. Now Lenin says 'to attempt to raise an artificial Chinese wall' between the socialist and bourgoeis revolutions 'means to distort Marxism dreadfully'.
It is clear from this reasoning that when Lenin used the 'democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' slogan in 1905 he had a quite different usage to the one of 1917. Unfortunately, he never admitted this, as far as I know. And it is the source of much confusion, not least, to me.
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