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[Leaflet] “Oxi” to Capitalism! Yes to Socialism!

OXIRallyThe crisis in Greece has reached its boiling point. After years of austerity and hardship, the Greek masses have had enough. The troika seeks to destroy the Syriza government and to “teach a lesson” to anyone who goes against the dictates of capital. The Greek masses have the right instincts and have fought heroically but need a clear and bold leadership. Syriza was elected with massive enthusiasm to stop these attacks. Unfortunately, Tsipras and the leadership have vacillated in the face of the enormous pressures being put on them. Nevertheless, there is still time to reverse the situation.

What is Stalinism?

Why is socialism in one country impossible?

Why did Russia degenerate into a totalitarian, Stalinist dictatorship, and how does the planned economy work to develop the productive forces without the "check" of the market?

What about Mao and the Chinese Revolution?

Is China today communist or capitalist?


Q. Why is socialism in one country impossible?

A. First of all, socialism absolutely needs to be based on a high level of productivity. The lowest stage of socialism must be the highest stage of capitalism. If so many of the problems in the world today are due to the unequal distribution of resources, then the only solution is to produce more than enough and distribute it democratically to provide a high standard of living for all. Nowhere in any of the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, or Trotsky will you find them proposing the idea of socialism in one country. The Stalinist, nationalist idea of socialism in one country has nothing to do with Marxism which has always been internationalist in perspective.

The working class has had many opportunities to carry out a socialist transformation over the last century, and has tried in many different countries. However only once, and then only temporarily did they succeed, in the Russian Revolution of 1917. This revolution in a backward country succeeded in overthrowing 1000 years of Tsarist autocracy, and the working class began to grapple with running the whole of society. However it was never the intention of Lenin to build socialism in one country. That is impossible, as socialism requires a massive increase in production to produce the needs of society. That requires the pooling of resources internationally. Also of course, capitalism cannot simply be defeated in a single country. The revolution must spread to other countries, and eventually the whole world.

As a result of its isolation, and its backwardness, civil war, and the assault of 21 armies of foreign intervention, the revolution in Russia hung by a thread. Without the assistance of revolutions in more economically advanced countries in Europe, there could not be socialism in Russia. If the revolutions in the rest of Europe had been successful, they could have all pooled their technology, natural resources, and populations as one in order to begin producing enough for all and spreading the revolution to the rest of the world. Instead, the isolated revolution degenerated into a bureaucratic dictatorship. The struggle for socialism must be international!

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Q. Why did Russia degenerate into a totalitarian, Stalinist dictatorship, and how does the planned economy work to develop the productive forces without the "check" of the market?

A. In order to be able to understand the process of the socialist transformation of society, and why it has not yet succeeded, we must be able to give a scientific answer to the question what happened to the USSR?  There is an entire book online about this question, called Russia: from Revolution to Counter-Revolution. But a brief generalization of the events is as follows.

First of all, the general historic appraisal that we make of the Russian Revolution is extremely positive. For the first time, the mass of workers and peasants proved in practice that it was possible to run society without landlords, capitalists, and bankers. The superiority of a planned economy over the anarchy of capitalist production was proved, not in the field of ideas but on the concrete arena of industrial development, raising living standards, education, and health. Russia, in a short period of time, went from being a backward, mainly agricultural, and imperialist dominated country into being one of the first industrial and economic powers on earth. And this was achieved only because of the planned economy. If you take any other backward capitalist country of that time and you see its evolution over the last 80 years, with very few exceptions, you will see that it remains backward and dominated by imperialism. You can use as examples India, Pakistan, the Philippines, most of Latin America, etc.

But at the same time we must be able to explain why the Stalinist states with their potentially very productive planned economies then entered into crisis at the end of the 1980s and eventually collapsed in the early 1990s. We think that the explanation lies in the lack of democratic control over the planning of the economy. Under capitalism, the market represents, to a certain extent, a check on the economy. If you own a shoe making factory, and the shoes you produce are of very poor quality and more expensive than others in the market, you will probably go bankrupt. If you invest in a sector of the economy where there is already overproduction you will probably go bankrupt.

So the market, although in an anarchic way and through devastating cyclical crises, represents a certain check on the productive forces (although this has been diminished by the concentration of the economy in the hands of a few multinational corporations). That does not exist under a planned economy. The only possible control is that of the democratic participation of working people (consumers and producers themselves) in the planning of the economy. Who knows better than the workers themselves the needs that there are in their neighborhoods? Who better than them knows how the factories should be organized? The problem in the Soviet Union was that these democratic controls did not exist at all. A handful of bureaucrats at the top of the "Communist Party" and the state apparatus dictated everything. .

It is clear that an economy which produced one million different commodities every year could not be controlled without real genuine workers' democracy. So, why was there no workers' democracy in the USSR? The bourgeois critics will tell us that this was the inevitable consequence of the struggle for socialism. "Communism is anti-democratic and means dictatorship." We reply: these are all lies and slanders.

If you read Lenin's State and Revolution, you can see how Lenin establishes a series of conditions for the functioning of workers' democracy, which he draws mainly from the experience of the 1871 Paris Commune, the first workers' government in history. There are four main conditions:

1) All public officials to be elected and with the right to recall (that is that they can be changed immediately when they longer represent the interests of those who elected them).

2) No public official to receive a wage higher than that of a skilled worker. Marx said that "social being determines consciousness," in other words the way you live determine the way you think. One of the main causes for reformism amongst labor movement leaders is precisely the inflated salaries they receive as members of the government, or even trade union top officials.  They therefore think that capitalism is "not so bad" after all.

3) No standing army, but general arming of the people.

4) Over a period of time everyone would participate in the tasks of running the economy and the state. In the words of Lenin "if everyone is a bureaucrat, no one is a bureaucrat."

Even a superficial analysis of these conditions will immediately lead us to the conclusion that none of them applied in the old Soviet Union. But why? In the first years of the revolution, Lenin and the other leaders of the revolution struggled to establish what was probably the most democratic regime which has ever existed. The soviets (workers' and peasants' councils) were running the state and the economy and everyone was allowed to participate in them. All political parties were allowed to participate in soviet elections and debates and put forward their ideas. It is a little known fact that the first Soviet government was in fact a coalition between the Bolshevik Party and the left wing Social Revolutionaries. The only parties not allowed were those which had taken up arms against Soviet power.

Within the Communist Party (as the Bolsheviks were later called) there was the widest of democracies. During the discussion of the Brest-Litovsk peace agreement with Germany there were at least three different fractions within the CP with different opinions. One of them, the Left Communists, headed by Bukharin, even published for a while a daily paper, The Communist, opposing Lenin's position on the issue! So, how could such a democratic regime become a dictatorship?

Lenin, in State and Revolution also deals with the questions of the economic preconditions for the establishment of socialism. The democratic planning of the economy can only be established if you have the economic and material basis to produce plenty for all. As soon as there is scarcity of the basic goods, inevitably, there must be someone to control in an authoritarian way, the distribution of these scarce goods. In short, in Russia in 1917 the material conditions for socialism did not exist.

So why did the Bolsheviks organize the revolution in Russia? Their perspective was never building socialism in Russia in isolation. They saw the Russian Revolution as the beginning of the European revolution. They thought that the taking of power by the workers in Russia would lead to a wave of revolutionary struggle all over Europe. Workers' power in Europe would provide the material means for a fast development of backward Russia. And in fact, the Russian Revolution opened the way for a massive revolutionary wave in Europe. There was the 1918–19 German revolution, the Hungarian Soviet Republic, the Spanish revolutionary general strike, factory occupations in Italy, and in general mass movements of the working class all over the continent. But unfortunately, all these revolutions were defeated.

The were various reasons for these defeats, but to summarize it, the labor movement was still very much under the influence of the social democratic reformist leaders, and the Communists had not had time to organize properly and made a number of fatal mistakes in this period. So, in this way, the Russian Revolution became isolated in a backward, mainly peasant country, ruined by the First World War. If that was not enough, immediately they were sucked into a vicious civil war, in which the counterrevolution with the support of 21 foreign armies of intervention tried to overthrow the young soviet republic (and they nearly succeeded).

Finally, the Red Army won the civil war but at a very high cost. Not only the economy was completely destroyed and the masses were starving, but also the cream of the cream of revolutionary communist cadres had been killed over these difficult years. One of the preconditions for workers' democracy is precisely a general shortening of the working week, in order to allow all working people time enough to raise their level of education and to participate in politics and the running of society. In Russia we actually had a longer working week and very bad conditions in general. Participation in the soviets slowly dropped and a layer of officials started to emerge which slowly started to push the normal workers out of politics and discourage participation.

One of the first to warn against the danger of bureaucratization was actually Lenin in his last writings, which were suppressed by Stalin for many years. But even under these extremely difficult conditions it was not easy for the Stalinist bureaucracy to firmly establish a grip on power. There was a very big opposition in the ranks and the leadership of the Communist Party. In fact, the bureaucracy had to physically eliminate most of the party in order to succeed. If you take the Central Committee of the party in 1917, the revolutionary leaders who carried out the October Revolution, by 1940 there was only one survivor apart from Stalin. Most of the others had been shot dead by Stalin, died in prisons and labor camps, some were missing and a few had died of old age. Thousands of honest and loyal Communists were killed or died in the concentration camps. The person who waged the most comprehensive opposition against the rise of bureaucracy was Trotsky, who with Lenin had led the October Revolution and later organized the Red army.

The figure of Trotsky has been obscured for many years in the Communist movement, precisely by those who defended unconditionally the Stalinist bureaucracy. That is why it is to be welcomed for example that the documents of the last Congress of the South African Communist Party (ex-Stalinists) recommend the reading of his writings. Communists can only learn from an open and frank debate about the reasons for the rise of Stalinism.  See also Lenin and Trotsky: What They Really Stood For.

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Q. What about Mao and the Chinese Revolution?

A. From time to time it is necessary to draw a balance sheet of our ideas and theoretical positions. How did they work out in practice over the past fifty years? If there is a major contribution of our tendency to Marxism, this is our analysis of the colonial revolution and the development of proletarian bonapartism, beginning with our analysis of the Chinese revolution after 1945. It was precisely the impasse of capitalism in these countries and the pressing need of the masses for a way forward which gave rise to the phenomena of proletarian bonapartism. This was due to a number of different factors. In the first place, the complete impasse of society in the backward countries and the inability of the colonial bourgeoisie to show a way forward. Secondly, the inability of imperialism to maintain its control by the old means of direct military-bureaucratic rule. Thirdly, the delay of the proletarian revolution in the advanced capitalist countries and the weakness of the subjective factor. And lastly, the existence of a powerful regime of proletarian bonapartism in the Soviet Union.

The victory of the USSR in the Second World War, and the strengthening of Stalinism after the war with its extension to Eastern Europe and the victory of the Chinese Revolution were all factors that combined to condition the development of proletarian bonapartism as a peculiar variant of the permanent revolution which was only understood by our tendency. This was an entirely unprecedented and unexpected phenomenon. Nowhere in the classics of Marxism was it even considered as a theoretical possibility that a peasant war could lead to the establishment of even a deformed workers' state. Yet this is precisely what occurred in China, and later in Cuba and Vietnam.

We characterized the Chinese revolution as the second greatest event in world history, after the Russian revolution of 1917. It had an enormous effect in the subsequent development of the colonial revolution. But this revolution did not take place on the classical lines of the Russian Revolution in 1917 or the Chinese Revolution of 1925–27. The working class played no important role. Mao came to power on the basis of a mighty peasant war, in the traditions of China. The only way Mao was able to win the civil war of 1944–49 was by offering a program of social liberation to the peasant armies of Chiang Kai-shek, who was armed and backed by American imperialism. But the Stalinist leaders of the peasant Red Army had no perspective of leading the workers to power as did Lenin and Trotsky in 1917. When Mao's peasant armies arrived at the cities, and the workers spontaneously occupied the factories and greeted Mao's armies with red flags, Mao gave the order that these demonstrations should be suppressed and the workers were shot.

Initially, Mao did not intend to expropriate the Chinese capitalists. His perspectives for the Chinese revolution were outlined in a pamphlet called New Democracy in which he wrote that the socialist revolution was not on the order of the day in China, and that the only development that could take place was a mixed economy, i.e., capitalism. This was the classical "two stage" Menshevik theory which had been adopted by the Stalinist bureaucracy and had led to the defeat of the Chinese revolution in 1925–27. But our tendency understood that under the concrete conditions that had developed that Mao would be forced to expropriate capitalism.

Not only that but we also predicted in advance the fact that Mao would be forced to break with Stalin. Already in early 1949 we wrote:

"The fact that Mao has a genuine mass base independent of the Russian Red Army, will in all likelihood provide for the first time an independent base for Chinese Stalinism which will no longer rest directly on Moscow. As with Tito, so with Mao, despite the role of the Red Army in Manchuria, Chinese Stalinism is developing an independent base. Because of the national aspirations of the Chinese masses, the traditional struggle against foreign domination, the economic needs of the country and above all, the powerful base in an independent state apparatus, the danger of a new and really formidable Tito in China is a factor which is causing anxiety in Moscow."

However, the subordination of the Chinese economy to the benefit of the Russian bureaucracy, with the attempts to place puppets in control who will be completely subordinate to Moscow—in other words, the national oppression of the Chinese—will create the basis for a clash with the Kremlin of great magnitude and significance. Mao, with an independent and powerful state apparatus, with the possibility of maneuvering with the imperialists of the West (who will seek to negotiate with China for trade and try and drive a wedge between Peking and Moscow) and with the support of the Chinese masses as the victorious leader against the Kuomintang, will have powerful points of support against Moscow.

Stalin's very efforts to try and forestall this development will tend to accelerate and intensify the resentment and the conflict. ("Reply to David James", reprinted in, The Unbroken Thread, 304.)

These lines were written more than a decade before the outbreak of the Sino-Soviet conflict, when the Chinese and Russian bureaucracies seemed to be inseparable allies.

The victory of Mao's peasant armies in China was due to a number of factors: the complete and utter impasse of Chinese capitalism and landlordism, the inability of imperialism to intervene because of the war-weariness of the imperialist troops after the Second World War, and also because of the colossal power of attraction of the nationalized planned economy in Stalinist Russia which demonstrated its superiority during the war with Hitler's Germany.

The fact that the peasantry was used to carry through a social revolution was a completely new development in the history of China. China was the classical country of peasant wars, which took place at regular intervals. But even when these wars were victorious this merely resulted in the fusion of the leading elements of the peasant armies with the elite in the towns, resulting in the formation of a new dynasty. It was a vicious circle which characterized Chinese history for over 2,000 years. But here we had a fundamental departure. The peasant army under Mao was able to smash capitalism and create a society on the image of Stalin's Moscow. Of course, there could be no question of a healthy workers' state as in Russia in November 1917 being established by such means. For that, the active participation and leadership of the working class would be required. But a peasant army, without the leadership of the working class, is the classical instrument of Bonapartism, not workers' power. The Chinese Revolution of 1949 began where the Russian Revolution had ended. There was no question of soviets or workers' democracy. From the very beginning it was a monstrously deformed workers' state. Our tendency underlined that on the world scale the only class which can bring about the triumph of socialism is the proletariat.

Once Mao had taken power and created a state apparatus on the basis of the hierarchy of the Red Army he did not have any need to ally himself with the bourgeoisie. In a typical bonapartist fashion, Mao balanced between the different classes. He leaned on the peasantry and to a certain extent on the working class to expropriate the capitalists, but once these had been defeated he then proceeded to eliminate any elements of workers democracy that might have existed. This phenomena was possible precisely because of the delay of the world revolution and the impasse of society. He had the powerful example of Stalinism in Russia, where a strong bureaucracy was parasiting the planned economy and benefiting from it, so he decided to follow the same model. Despite its monstrously deformed character, the Chinese Revolution nevertheless represented a gigantic step forward for hundreds of millions of people who had been the beasts of burden of imperialism.

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Is China today communist or capitalist?

The Chinese bureaucracy, having seen the collapse of Stalinism in the USSR and Eastern Europe, sought a way to invigorate their economy and maintain their privileged positions. Beginning in 1978, Deng Xiao Ping introduced a series of measures to invigorate the economy to stimulate the economy. Since this time it has taken on a life of it's own. Throughout the 1980s "free market zones" were established, allowing foreign-owned companies to operate with Chinese labor. Along with this process was a decline in the conditions of the Chinese working class. This is what lead to the massive Tianenmen Square movement which threatened to overthrow the bureaucracy. During the 1990s the bureaucracy excelorated the process, with more state enterprises being reorganized to be geared towards private sector, if not completely nationalized. In 2001 China joined the World Trade Organization.

While it is impossible to say where the nationalized, planned economy passed qualitatively into capitalism, it is undeniable that what exists in China today is the worst features of capitalist exploitation, along with a monstrous Bonapartist state that visciously represses the working class.

The task of the Chinese working class, is not merely a political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy—as was advocated by Marxists in regard to the Soviet Union—but a social revolution to overthrow the current regime and to take over the private industries, nationalize them, and put them under democratic, workers control.

For more on this process, please read our document China's Long March to Capitalism

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Marxist Theory


Why is it only the working class which can develop a collective, socialist consciousness?

What is Trotsky's Theory of the Permanent Revolution?

What are the elements required for workers' democracy?

What do Marxists think about terrorism?

What do Marxists think about guerrillaism?

What is the basic role of the state and police in society?


Q. Why is it only the working class which can develop a collective, socialist consciousness?

A. It is precisely the social and collective nature of capitalist production that brings workers together in common struggle. The working class, unlike the petty bourgeoisie (small business people, small land holders, intellectuals isolated form the masses), develops a collective consciousness and that is precisely why Marxists base themselves on the working class. It is the only class that can develop such a consciousness, precisely because of its position in production. Of course, without organization, as Marx explains, the working class is only raw material for exploitation. That is why the bourgeois constantly attack the trade unions and labor organizations, hoping to reduce the proletariat to an atomized state. But the whole experience of the class struggle invariably compels the workers to get organized. By contrast, the individualism of the petty bourgeoisie is the result of its role as a class of small producers, small business people, professionals and the like, who are indeed isolated from each other and compete against each other. While the working class must certainly draw broad layers of the petty bourgeoisie behind it by linking their troubles with the fight against capitalism, the petty bourgeoisie simply cannot play an independent role in the struggle for socialism.

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Q. What is Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution?

Excerpt from Marxism and the Struggle Against Imperialism

A. The theory of the permanent revolution was first developed by Trotsky as early as 1904. The permanent revolution, while accepting that the objective tasks facing the Russian workers were those of the bourgeois democratic revolution, nevertheless explained how in a backward country in the epoch of imperialism, the "national bourgeoisie" was inseparably linked to the remains of feudalism on the one hand and to imperialist capital on the other and was therefore completely unable to carry through any of its historical tasks. The rottenness of the bourgeois liberals, and their counterrevolutionary role in the bourgeois-democratic revolution, was already observed by Marx and Engels. In his article The Bourgeoisie and the Counterrevolution (1848), Marx writes:

"The German bourgeoisie has developed so slothfully, cravenly, and slowly that at the moment when it menacingly faced feudalism and absolutism it saw itself menacingly faced by the proletariat and all factions of the burgers whose interests and ideas were akin to those of the proletariat. And it saw inimically arrayed not only a class behind it but all Europe before it. The Prussian bourgeoisie was not, as the French of 1789 had been, the class which represented the whole of modern society vis-a-vis the representatives of the old society, the monarchy and the nobility. It had sunk to the level of a kind of social estate, as distinctly opposed to the crown as to the people, eager to be in the opposition to both, irresolute against each of its opponents , taken severally, because it always saw both of them before or behind it; inclined to betray the people and compromise with the crowned representative of the old society because it itself already belonged to the old society." (Marx, The Bourgeoisie and the Counterrevolution, in MESW, vol. 1, 140–41.)

The bourgeoisie, Marx explains, did not come to power as a result of its own revolutionary exertions, but as a result of the movement of the masses in which it played no role: "The Prussian bourgeoisie was hurled to the height of state power, however not in the manner it had desired, by a peaceful bargain with the crown but by a revolution." (Marx, The Bourgeoisie and the Counterrevolution, MESW, vol. 1, 138.)

Even in the epoch of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Europe, Marx and Engels mercilessly unmasked the cowardly, counterrevolutionary role of the bourgeoisie, and emphasized the need for the workers to maintain a policy of complete class independence, not only from the bourgeois liberals, but also from the vacillating petty-bourgeois democrats:

"The proletarian, or really revolutionary party," wrote Engels, "succeeded only very gradually in withdrawing the mass of the working people from the influence of the democrats whose tail they formed in the beginning of the revolution. But in due time the indecision weakness and cowardice of the democratic leaders did the rest, and it may now be said to be one of the principal results of the last years' convulsions, that wherever the working class is concentrated in anything like considerable masses, they are entirely freed from that democratic influence which led them into an endless series of blunders and misfortunes during 1848 and 1849." (Engels, Revolution and Counterrevolution in Germany, MESW, vol. 1, 332.)

The situation is clearer still today. The national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries entered into the scene of history too late, when the world had already been divided up between a few imperialist powers. It was not able to play any progressive role and was born completely subordinated to its former colonial masters. The weak and degenerate bourgeoisie in Asia, Latin America, and Africa is too dependent on foreign capital and imperialism, to carry society forward. It is tied with a thousand threads, not only to foreign capital, but with the class of landowners, with which it forms a reactionary bloc that represents a bulwark against progress. Whatever differences may exist between these elements are insignificant in comparison with the fear that unites them against the masses. Only the proletariat, allied with the poor peasants and urban poor, can solve the problems of society by taking power into its own hands, expropriating the imperialists and the bourgeoisie, and beginning the task of transforming society on socialist lines.

By setting itself at the head of the nation, leading the oppressed layers of society (urban and rural petty bourgeoisie), the proletariat could take power and then carry through the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution (mainly the land reform and the unification and liberation of the country from foreign domination). However, once having come to power, the proletariat would not stop there but would start to implement socialist measures of expropriation of the capitalists. And as these tasks cannot be solved in one country alone, especially not in a backward country, this would be the beginning of the world revolution. Thus the revolution is "permanent" in two senses: because it starts with the bourgeois tasks and continues with the socialist ones, and because it starts in one country and continues at an international level.

The theory of the permanent revolution was the most complete answer to the reformist and class collaborationist position of the right wing of the Russian workers' movement, the Mensheviks. The two stage theory was developed by the Mensheviks as their perspective for the Russian revolution. It basically states that, since the tasks of the revolution are those of the national democratic bourgeois revolution, the leadership of the revolution must be taken by the national democratic bourgeoisie. For his part, Lenin agreed with Trotsky that the Russian Liberals could not carry out the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and that this task could only be carried out by the proletariat in alliance with the poor peasantry. Following in the footsteps of Marx, who had described the bourgeois "democratic party" as "far more dangerous to the workers than the previous liberals," Lenin explained that the Russian bourgeoisie, far from being an ally of the workers, would inevitably side with the counterrevolution.

"The bourgeoisie in the mass," he wrote in 1905, "will inevitably turn towards the counterrevolution, and against the people as soon as its narrow, selfish interests are met, as soon as it 'recoils' from consistent democracy (and it is already recoiling from it!)." (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 9, 98.)

What class, in Lenin's view, could lead the bourgeois-democratic revolution? "There remains 'the people,' that is, the proletariat and the peasantry. The proletariat alone can be relied on to march on to the end, for it goes far beyond the democratic revolution. That is why the proletariat fights in the forefront for a republic and contemptuously rejects stupid and unworthy advice to take into account the possibility of the bourgeoisie recoiling." (Ibid.)

In all of Lenin's speeches and writings, the counterrevolutionary role of the bourgeois-democratic liberals is stressed time and time again. However, up until 1917, he did not believe that the Russian workers would come to power before the socialist revolution in the West—a perspective that only Trotsky defended before 1917, when it was fully adopted by Lenin in his April Theses. The correctness of the permanent revolution was triumphantly demonstrated by the October Revolution itself. The Russian working class—as Trotsky had predicted in 1904—came to power before the workers of Western Europe. They carried out all the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and immediately set about nationalizing industry and passing over to the tasks of the socialist revolution. The bourgeoisie played an openly counterrevolutionary role, but was defeated by the workers in alliance with the poor peasants. The Bolsheviks then made a revolutionary appeal to the workers of the world to follow their example. Lenin knew very well that without the victory of the revolution in the advanced capitalist countries, especially Germany, the revolution could not survive isolated, especially in a backward country like Russia. What happened subsequently showed that this was absolutely correct. The setting up of the Third (Communist) International, the world party of socialist revolution, was the concrete manifestation of this perspective.

Had the Communist International remained firm on the positions of Lenin and Trotsky, the victory of the world revolution would have been ensured. Unfortunately, the Comintern's formative years coincided with the Stalinist counterrevolution in Russia, which had a disastrous effect on the Communist Parties of the entire world. The Stalinist bureaucracy, having acquired control in the Soviet Union developed a very conservative outlook. The theory that socialism can be built in one country—an abomination from the standpoint of Marx and Lenin—really reflected the mentality of the bureaucracy which had had enough of the storm and stress of revolution and sought to get on with the task of "building socialism in Russia." That is to say, they wanted to protect and expand their privileges and not "waste" the resources of the country in pursuing world revolution. On the other hand they feared that revolution in other countries could develop on healthy lines and pose a threat to their own domination in Russia, and therefore, at a certain stage, sought actively to prevent revolution elsewhere.

Instead of pursuing a revolutionary policy based on class independence, as Lenin had always advocated, they proposed an alliance of the Communist Parties with the "national progressive bourgeoisie" (and if there was not one easily at hand, they were quite prepared to invent it) to carry through the democratic revolution, and afterwards, later on, in the far distant future, when the country had developed a fully-fledged capitalist economy, fight for socialism. This policy represented a complete break with Leninism and a return to the old discredited position of Menshevism—the theory of the "two stages."

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Q.  What are the elements required for workers' democracy?

A. Socialism is democratic or it is nothing. From the very first day of the socialist revolution, there must be the most democratic regime, a regime that will mean that, for the first time, all the tasks of running industry, society and the state will be in the hands of the majority of society, the working class. Through their democratically-elected committees (the soviets), directly elected at the workplace and subject to recall at any moment, the workers will be the masters of society not just in name but in fact. This was the position in Russia after the October revolution. Let us recall that Lenin laid down four basic conditions for a workers’ state—that is, for the transitional period between capitalism and socialism:

  1. Free and democratic elections with right of recall of all officials.
  2. No official to receive a higher wage than that of a skilled worker.
  3. No standing army but the armed people.
  4. Gradually, all the tasks of running the state should be carried out by the masses on a rotating basis. When everybody is a bureaucrat in turn, nobody is a bureaucrat. Or, as Lenin put it, "any cook should be able to be prime minister."

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Q. What do Marxists think about terrorism?

A.  Marxism has always waged a struggle against the methods of individual terrorism (hijackings, bombings) as well as against state terrorism (the imperialist bombing of Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.). Acts of individual terror do little but alienate the mass of the people from the cause you are supposed to be promoting. Bombing a market place where women and children are killed does not play a role in increasing the class consciousness and confidence of the working class. Our power and strength are in our numbers, not in individual acts.

Terrorist methods have nothing in common with Marxism, and have historically proven to be impotent at bringing about any serious change. Take for example the terrorist acts of Hamas in Israel/Palestine in the last decades. These attacks did nothing for promoting working class unity between Jews and Arabs against their common oppressor—the ruling class which keeps them divided in order to continue to oppress them. The ruling classes in the Middle East does not want real peace, in fact, to a certain degree, the instability of terrorist acts serves their needs. If there were actual "peace" then the workers of all ethnicities and religions would unite against the ruling class. It was only with the Intifadah (uprising) of the masses of Palestinians that the Israeli ruling class feared the movement and began to give concessions. This is why we need to condemn individual terrorism.

The following quote from Leon Trotsky from the article Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism puts it very eloquently:

"In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission. The anarchist prophets of the ‘propaganda of the deed’ can argue all they want about the elevating and stimulating influence of terrorist acts on the masses. Theoretical considerations and political experience prove otherwise. The more ‘effective’ the terrorist acts, the greater their impact, the more they reduce the interest of the masses in self-organisation and self-education. But the smoke from the confusion clears away, the panic disappears, the successor of the murdered minister makes his appearance, life again settles into the old rut, the wheel of capitalist exploitation turns as before; only the police repression grows more savage and brazen. And as a result, in place of the kindled hopes and artificially aroused excitement comes disillusionment and apathy."

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Q. What do Marxists think about guerrillaism?

A. It is not in the tradition of Marxism to support a movement of peasant war separate and apart from the movement of the working class, which is decisive. The efforts and work of Marxists should be largely concentrated in the cities and among the proletariat. Of course, under all conditions, the struggle of other oppressed classes must be supported by Marxists.

Guerrillaism, as Lenin explained, is the method of the lumpen proletariat and of the peasants. While it is somewhat understandable for the guerrilla movements to develop in countries where there is virtually no proletariat, there can be no justification whatsoever for urban guerrillaism! In most countries in the world today the proletariat makes up the vast majority of the population. India for example has more industry than her former colonial master Britain. Peasant wars, even if victorious can only lead to the victory of bourgeois Bonapartism (Dictatorship) or proletarian Bonapartism (Stalinism). They can never result in the victory of a socialist revolution in the classical form which requires a conscious movement by the proletariat. Urban guerrillaism tries to replace the movement of the proletariat by students, lumpens, and even some de-classed workers and is absolutely against all the teachings of Marxism. Invariably it has ended in disaster. That has been the experience in Latin America and in other continents.

The task of Marxists is not merely to overthrow the capitalist regime, but to prepare the way for the socialist future of mankind. The destruction of capitalism and landlordism in the colonial countries is an immense step forward which raises the level of all mankind. But precisely because of the helplessness of the peasantry as a class to rise to the future socialist tasks, it nevertheless can only succeed in raising new obstacles in its path. The victory of the peasant war, given the relationship of forces in the world and the crisis of capitalism and imperialism in the underdeveloped countries can result in a form of deformed workers' state (Stalinism). It cannot result in the conscious control by the workers and peasants of industry, agriculture, and the state.

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Q. What is the basic role of the state and the police in society?

A. The state apparatus, armed bodies of men, the police, the army, and their appendages, the courts, and so on, are tools for the oppression of one layer of society by another, usually of one class over another (for example the capitalist class oppresses the working class). At a certain stage in the social evolution of humanity, the state came into being as a result of the division of society into classes. Once it became possible to produce a surplus above the needs of the producers then it became possible for a minority to free itself from the need to labor, living instead off the surplus produced by the majority. Inevitably however such a small minority required a special force to keep the majority in order, and thus the earliest forms of state apparatus were born out of the division of society into classes. This earliest class division between slave owners and slaves, has been replaced by other forms of class division (feudal lords and serfs under feudalism, capitalists and workers under capitalism). But even to the present day under capitalism it was always only a minority who could live off the surplus produced by the majority. Capitalism has played a progressive role in building up the economy through investment to a point where it would be possible for the first time to do away with this archaic class division. Since the task of socialism is precisely to abolish that division, the state itself should increasingly whither away, passing from the government of people to the administration of things before disappearing altogether.

In his masterpiece on Stalinism, The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky explained that wherever there are shortages there is want. Wherever there is want there are lines, wherever there are lines you need police to keep order, and the police will find themselves at the front of the line. The police, as instruments of state repression, inevitably abuse their privileged position. Under socialism, there will be no separate police force or standing army, but rather the armed people—if everyone is a policeman, then no one is really a policeman.

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