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1986. Ernest Mandel: What is the theory of permanent revolution?

27 March 2023
The Trotskyist League of Vietnam in Saigon, 21 August 1945.

For eighty years, the theory of permanent revolution has been the object of a permanent debate inside the international labour and revolutionary movement.i A great number of articles and books have been devoted to the discussion. A significant number of revolutions and counter-revolutions have. occurred in the less developed countries of the world in which this theory could be tested in the light of real historical development. But, as has happened so many times in the history of Marxist theory and politics, the initially clear terms of the theory became increasingly obscured by side issues, if not outright deformations, produced by the political needs, confusions or prejudices of polemicists. (One historical precedent which immediately leaps to mind is Marx and Engels’ theory of the state.)

Given the new debateii which is at present unfolding around the theory of permanent revolution, in which the theory is accused of having legitimised essentially ultra-left strategies and tactics, it therefore appears useful to restate in as clear and concise a manner as possible the basic themes of the theory as progressively developed by Leon Trotsky in his main writings on the subject, to wit: Results and Prospects (1906); The Proletariat and the Russian Revolution (1907); 1905 (1909); From the October Revolution to the Peace ofBrest Litovsk (1918); Preface to Results and Prospects (1919); Preface to 1905(1922); Problems of (Everyday) Life (1923); The Third International After Lenin (1928); Permanent Revolution (1930); The History of the Russian Revolution (1931-32); Introduction to Harold Isaacs’ The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution (1938); The Transitional Programme (1938); Three Concepts of the Russian Revolution (1940).

We extend these theses to some new historical problems which have arisen since Trotsky’s death, above all the question of nuclear weapons. We do not quote from the successive writings of Trotsky, whose positions on permanent revolution obviously evolved through time, even if his main thesis was essentially already stated as early as 1906. We take the theory in its totality as it emerged in its final shape in the 1933-40 period.

1) In the imperialist epoch, a full realisation of the historic tasks of the national-democratic revolution in the less developed countries is impossible without the conquest of political power by the working class supported by the poor peasantry, i.e. without the destruction of the bourgeois state (or the old state of the ruling class) and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This thesis is based on the following propositions:

1. 1) In the less developed countries the unfulfilled tasks of the nationaldemocratic revolution are not only political: overthrow of absolutist, semifeudal or other dictatorships; full conquest of political democracy; national independence from imperialism; national liberation of oppressed nationalities; constitution of the united nation; national appropriation of natural resources and big firms owned by foreign capital, etc. They are also social and economic: agrarian revolution; creation of a united national market; elimination of all major obstacles on the road to industrialisation and overall modernisation of the country. In that sense, in no way can one say that the February 1917 revolution realised, through the overthrow of tsarism, the main unfulfilled tasks of the national-democratic revolution in Russia. These were only realised through the October revolution.

1.2) Bourgeois state power is an obstacle to the full realisation of the unfulfilled tasks of the national-democratic revolution in less developed countries, not only for functional reasons, such as the inability or fear of the bourgeoisie to sufficiently mobilise the masses, for example, but for reasons of social and economic antagonism of interests with those of the great mass of the people. It results in the final analysis from the operation of the law of uneven and combined development, that is from the objective social-economic structure of these countries which increasingly combines, albeit in a ‘conflictual’ way, landed property, industrial property and banking property, ‘nationalist’ capitalist property and foreign imperialist property.

1 .3) In less developed countries there can exist no ‘intermediate’ or ‘combined’ state power between that of the bourgeoisie (or of the old ruling classes) on the one hand, and proletarian state power supported by the poor peasantry on the other. More precisely, the peasantry cannot play an in dependent role in the field of government and state power on a national scale, although it can certainly represent the majority of participants in the revolutionary process in a number of less developed countries. It is historically condemned either to follow the bourgeoisie or to follow the proletariat. In all less developed countries, the establishment of the worker-peasant alliance is an indispensable precondition for the victory of the revolution. But this alliance can only lead to victory if the hegemony of the proletariat over the peasantry is firmly established, i.e. if the revolution leads to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

1.4) The theory of permanent revolution represents both an explanation of what actually occurs during revolutions in less developed countries, and what is necessary for the triumph of these revolutions. In essence therefore the theory of permanent revolution corresponds both to a real historic process of revolution and to a strategy necessary for bringing that process to a successful conclusion. While the revolution generally starts with a struggle for national and democratic tasks (although it can also start with the issue of peace), as the main (but not necessarily the only) demands of the exploited and the oppressed; it can only triumph through the destruction of bourgeois state power and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

1.5) The fact that a full and complete realisation of the unfulfilled task of the national-democratic revolution in less developed countries is impossible does not mean either that a partial realisation of some of these task (formal independence or partial agrarian reform, for example) is impossible without the dictatorship of the proletariat or that in all countries the dictatorship of the proletariat is possible. In some less developed countries where the proletariat is too weak or hardly exists there can obviously be no question of establishing its ‘dictatorship’. This implies simply that in these countries there will be no possibility at this time for fully realising the historical tasks of the national democratic revolution and that even under the best of circumstances their realisation will remain fragmentary haphazard and distorted. Of course this is not a reason for abandoning the revolutionary struggle against imperialism, neo-colonialism and oppression even in the most backward countries.

2) The conquest of political power by the working class in less developed countries is impossible without the proletariat (and its party or parties gaining national hegemony through becoming the recognised political leader of the nation, i.e. without carrying out the ‘reconstruction of the nation under the leadership of the proletariat’ (Trotsky).

This thesis is based on the following propositions:

2. 1) The national and democratic tasks of the revolution—as specified above—represent a real central priority during the first stages of the revolutionary process. All the exploited and the oppressed generally recognise this priority and act accordingly. This does not mean that all of these task have the same weight in determining mass mobilisations, or that all sector of the mass movement adopt the same central preoccupations. Nor does it imply that no tasks other than the national-democratic ones can come to the fore during the mass struggle in that first stage of the revolutionary process. Nevertheless, the centrality of the national democratic tasks corresponds to such political realities as the struggle to overthrow reactionary or repressive dictatorships, the fight to realise national independence where this banner is broadly raised, or the agrarian revolution when an important sector of the peasantry is already rising to conquer the land.

2.2) The proletariat is not the only social class engaged in mass struggles, and certainly not the only class politically supporting the central national-democratic goals in the first stages of the revolutionary process. Essentially the peasantry, the urban poor (semi-proletariat) and urban petty bourgeoisie will be its natural allies in the struggle. This process can and should find its expression in political united fronts or other alliances in which the proletariat and its party (or parties) fight for political hegemony. This is the concrete way in which the reconstruction of the nation under the leadership of the proletariat’ develops, as these social classes represent the overwhelming majority of the popular masses of any country.

2.3) The concrete process of the formation of such alliances and fronts — above all that of the worker-peasant alliance — cannot be predetermined by purely objective criteria. It depends on the concrete political alignments in each country, themselves a function of its past history, of the varying levels of consciousness of the working class and other social forces engaged in the liberation struggle, of the weight of the revolutionary vanguard party of the working class and its ability to organise and lead broad masses, including the peasantry. But while many variants of such alliances have occurred, there is no example in history of the ‘national’ or ‘liberal’ bourgeoisie accepting the political leadership of the proletariat and its party (or parties). Therefore a successful struggle for the full implementation of the national-democratic revolution implies a systematic education of the workers, peasants and urban poor in opposition to the bourgeoisie and its political parties, a systematic education of the masses in the spirit that the bourgeoisie is both unwilling and unable to realise a complete break with imperialism, a radical agrarian reform and complete political democratisation of the country.

2.4) Wherever strong bourgeois-national or petty-bourgeois nationalist parties have broad popular support, a successful struggle for proletarian hegemony in the revolutionary process is impossible unless this systematic education and denunciation is combined with a united front approach. This policy should include critical support to all proposals and practical steps which these parties might take in the direction of realising popular national-democratic demands. There is nothing opportunist or class collaborationist in such a united front approach, provided:

• the proletariat keeps its organisational and political class independence;

• is not mis-educated by propaganda which presents these bourgeois or middle class political forces as ‘socialist’ or ‘anti-capitalist’;

• is not called upon to put a systematic brake upon mass mobilisations and self organisation, whenever these correspond to the real mood and aspirations of the toiling masses;

• is not led to subordinate the realisation and consolidation of the worker peasant alliance to the aim of avoiding a conflict with the ‘national’ bourgeoisie or the petty-bourgeois nationalists:

• does not envisage any participation in a coalition government, or any external support to such a government or in any other way maintains or props up the bourgeois state and bourgeois class rule.

3) The proletariat cannot conquer state power, even in the less developed countries, without defending its own class interests. This means that after having conquered state power, fighting first of all for national and democratic demands, it will, from the start, implement at least some socialist, anti-capitalist measures, for which it will have generally start to fight before the victory of the revolution. From these initial measures to the full scale realisation of the socialist tasks there will be some delay but not an indefinite one. The length of that delay depends on objective and subjective circumstances (the rhythm and concrete forms of the class struggle and its practical needs being the most important of these constraints). The permanent character of the revolution is expressed by the fact that there is no ‘stage’ in which the proletariat will not fight or should not fight for its own specific anti-capitalist demands. There is likewise no ‘stage’ in which the dictatorship of the proletariat can or will abstain from implementing at least some of its demands. The revolution ‘grows over ‘from the fight for national and democratic demands into a socialist revolution, without any interruption of continuity.

This thesis is based on the following propositions:

3.1) The struggle of the workers for their own class demands, including anti-capitalist ones, is an aspect of the real class struggle, unfolding in the developed countries during the revolutionary crisis. It is not a ‘dogmatic prejudice’ of ‘Trotskyists’. The option is not whether to ‘prematurely unleash’ that struggle or not. The option is whether to lead and consciously support the real emancipatory movement of the working class during the revolution or to actively oppose it, including by repression. Thereby the theory and strategy of permanent revolution are indissolubly intertwined with the Marxist theory of self emancipation and self-organisation of the working class. Revolutionists can and should try to lead the proletariat along the correct road to the conquest of state power by developing all the necessary tactics and alliances for achieving this goal. But they should never subordinate the defence of the class interests of the proletariat and the support of its independent mobilisations to alleged ‘political priorities’ or ‘historical necessities’. This has been the practical behaviour of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg in all revolutions in which they participated or which they witnessed. A different attitude, as displayed by social democrats first and the proto-Stalinists, Stalinists and post-Stalinist later, is one of the key aspects of a break with proletarian class politics expressing the particular interests of labour bureaucracies.

3.2) There can be no break in continuity of state power, and therefore of the class nature of the government between the implementation of so-called ‘democratic’ and so-called ‘socialist’ tasks (of course this does not mean of the actual composition of the government!). It is the same state-power which implements both. The idea that a bourgeois state could implement even initial measures of socialist revolution is a monstrous caricature of Marxism, unsubstantiated by any historical fact. Like the idea that one could pass from a bourgeois to a proletarian state, from class power of the bourgeoisie to class power of the proletariat, without a real social and political revolution, it represents the quintessence of reformist revisionism. What is possible is the coexistence in a given country, for a certain time, of organs of power of two antagonistic classes, i.e. a situation of dual power under different forms. But dual power always concerns different organs of different classes, not a single 'combined' worker-bourgeois army or a single 'combined' bourgeois-worker state apparatus. 

3. 3) The growing over of the revolution from fulfilling national and democratic tasks to fulfilling socialist tasks is a concrete historical process (the process of permanent revolution in its first aspect). It is impossible to determine the rhythm and scope of the combination of tasks of the revolution in advance in each country by 'objective criteria' alone, such as the percentage of the proletariat in the active population, the degree of differentiation of the peasantry, the relative weight of the city vis-a-vis the countryside, etc. Among the main actual determinants are the realities of the class struggle, which are both objective and subjective, and involve, among other elements, the internal logic of mass mobilisation-the need to maintain and increase a high level of mass participation, mass self-activity and class consciousness of the toilers and oppressed. 

3.4) The strategy of permanent revolution also expresses the fact that a proletarian state power cannot pursue the road of building a capitalist economy, nor can it realise the utopia of a 'non-capitalist and simultaneously non-socialised' road or economy. This is impossible in practice. It is also irreconcilable with a consistent defence of the day-to-day interests of the working class. While it is possible to have rather a large private sector in a socialised economy, as it is possible to have a rather large nationalised sector in a capitalist economy, in the final analysis either the proletarian state commands (including by despotic means against the bourgeoisie, which does not necessarily presuppose democracy for the working class) or the law of value commands. In the first case there is a break with capitalism. In the second case there is (re)integration in the capitalist world market. Some time can pass before the struggle between the two trends has come to fruition, but certainly not an unlimited period, or even decades. 

3.5) The question of the gradual socialisation of the economy either consciously led by proletarian self-activity or by proletarian state power (even a bureaucratised one), or by various combinations of the two as history has shown us, is completely distinct from that of a full scale achievement of a socialist classless society. The first is a necessary but insufficient condition of the second. Likewise, as understood by all classical Marxists, the complete disappearance of private property, especially of the small peasants, handicraft workers, repair shops, small service businesses and so on, can take decades if the proletariat is to avoid unnecessary social and political tension, conflicts and internal divisions. This is provided that all the conditions for developing the socialised sector of the economy and for satisfying the basic material and moral needs of the toiling masses have been met. In and of itself the disappearance of private property does not automatically imply that a classless society already exists. 

4) The process of revolution in the twentieth century begins on the national level, it unfolds in the international arena, and can only be completed by the world victory of the socialist revolution, or at least its victory in all the main countries of the world ('main' in both the sense of population and of concrete economic, military and political weight).

This thesis is based upon the following propositions:

4.1) The world character of the economy in the epoch of imperialism, the weight of the world market, the influence of that market on all countries, including those which have overthrown the national class power of the bourgeoisie. Workers' states can free themselves from the domination of the law of value and of the world market; they cannot free themselves from its influence except through establishing a qualitatively higher level of productivity of labour and of consumer needs satisfaction than the most advanced capitalist countries. It is absolutely utopian to believe that this could be achieved in one or a restricted number of countries, especially if these do not include the most developed ones from the point of view of industry, technology, skill and culture of the toilers, and the advantages these countries enjoy from the international division of labour. 

4.2) The internationalisation of the class struggle and of politics in the epoch of imperialism is nothing but the concentrated expression of the world character of the economy. This manifests itself both through the regular recurrence of international wars (two world wars and innumerable 'local' wars) and through the tendency of all civil wars since 1917 to become international civil wars, with systematic intervention by foreign capitalist powers against the attempts of the proletariat to conquer, to consolidate and to maintain its state power. The internationalisation of the class struggle has an increasing tendency to assert itself even in 'peaceful' times, including in 'essentially' economic struggles, although this is not a mechanical tendency evident -in all countries, in all moments and in all struggles to the same degree. In fact, the delay of the international proletariat to answer efficiently the high degree of internationalisation of the capitalists• operations, designs and projects is a growing obstacle on the road of successful workers' struggles even on a day-to-day trade union basis, let alone for historical tasks of the proletarian revolution. 

4.3) It follows that it is impossible to achieve completely the building of a socialist classless society with the withering away of the state (the first stage of communism) in a single country or in a restricted number of countries, inasmuch as these do not include the most industrialised ones. The pressure of the world market (including the pressure of new consumer demands and of ‘consumerism’ in general) as well as the survival of the military-political threats and pressures from imperialism, imply that it is impossible to achieve a withering away of scarcity in one or a restricted number of countries, without which the withering away of social classes and of the state are unrealisable. Stalin’s revisionist theory of the possibility of achieving the full building of socialism in one country is not only in opposition to the classical concept of Marx and Lenin of the need for an international development of the proletarian revolution; it is above all opposed to their classical concept of a socialist society. It is an attempt to legitimise a society with growing social inequality and social tensions, a constantly strengthened state apparatus, a monopoly of the exercise of power and control over the means of production and the social surplus by a privileged social layer (the bureaucracy) combined with a complete exclusion of the workers and the toiling peasants from the actual exercise of state power. This society is presented to the world working class as ‘socialist’ or ‘really existing socialism’. In fact it is a rationalisation of the dictatorship of the bureaucracy.

4.4) The impossibility of fully achieving the building of a socialist society in one country, or in a restricted number of countries, does not mean that once the proletariat has conquered state power it and other workers’ states will have to wait for new victorious revolutions before new advances can be made towards socialism. A process of permanent revolution continues after the victory of the socialist revolution. It continues inside the workers’ states as well as on the international arena. If the exercise of state power has been usurped by a privileged bureaucracy, this process passes of necessity through the phase of a new political anti-bureaucratic revolution. If such a usurpation has not occurred — if the working class can extend its actual exercise of state power and its power to dispose of the social surplus pro duct and the decisive means of production by way of reforms — then this specific stage of the permanent revolution will take essentially peaceful forms. There will be a gradual restriction of the market and money economy, a gradual decline of petty commodity production and ownership, a passage to successively higher stages of a planned democratically centralised workers’ management and a gradual reduction of the state apparatus in favour of the direct exercise of power by democratic self-administering bodies. The concrete steps towards realisation of these goals depend on a series of objective and subjective conditions, among which the relative weight of the proletariat, its level of culture and class consciousness and the correct policies of the vanguard party, are of key importance. 

4.5) The strategy of permanent revolution implies that under no circumstances should possible extensions of the proletarian revolution to new countries be subordinated to the priority of ‘defending existing bastion(s) of socialism’. On the contrary, each new victorious revolution should be seen as the most efficient way to defend the existing workers’ state(s). No contradictions can be construed between the interests of the proletariat (or of the proletarian state) of any country and that of other countries. Such a contradiction has no material foundation. What does have a material foundation is the contradiction between the interests of the labour bureaucracies (including those of workers’ states) and the interests of the working class both those of their own country and the world proletariat. 

4.6) Counter-posed to the dogma of ‘socialism in one country’ is not the absurd concept of ‘exporting the revolution’ through ‘revolutionary wars or artificially ‘provoking’ revolutionary uprisings which do not enjoy the support of the majority of the toilers in other countries. Counter-posed to it is a course of preparing the working class and its revolutionary vanguard in other countries for the struggle for power under those favourable conditions when deep crises of bourgeois society coincide with rising explosion: of mass action, which make a conquest of power by the working class objectively possible. 

5) The victory of the socialist revolution, not only in a single country or in a restricted number of countries, but even on a world scale, is only the beginning and not the end of the social revolution. While the conquest of power by the proletariat and the abolition of private property are necessary prerequisites for the building of a classless society, they are in and of themselves insufficient for assuring the establishment of social relations devoid of exploitation, oppression and violence. The revolution remains permanent after its political victory. A continuous revolutionary transformation of the basic relations of production and of all basic superstructural relations (family, culture, ideology/religion, science, arts, ethics, modes of behaviour, etc.) is indispensable for the final victory of socialism. 

This thesis is based on the following propositions: 

5.1) A socialist society presupposes a high level of development of the productive forces and a qualitative leap forward in the satisfaction of all rational needs for material goods (a saturation of these goods, which is the Marxist as opposed to idealist definition of plenty). But there is no mechanical correspondence between a development by leaps and bounds of basic consumer needs satisfaction and the creation of basically socialist relations in all fields of social life. The second are not the automatic product of the first. They need specific revolutionary transformations in each field of social life; sometimes simultaneously, sometimes in contradiction with each other, sometimes complementary to each other. It is in that sense also that the process of permanent revolution must continue, will continue and actually already has continued after each victorious socialist revolution. 

5.2) The de-synchronisation between the conquest of power by the proletariat and the disappearance of private property on the one hand, and the establishment of really socialist relations of production and of distribution on the other, is the most important source of the necessity of a permanent revolution in social life in the transition period between capitalism and socialism. It creates the material basis of all other contradictions. One of the main reasons for this de-synchronisation, even in rich developed countries, is the delay of consciousness in relation to actual existence — the fact that the level of consciousness is to a certain extent the product of the past. A deep psychological revolution is necessary for work to be performed as the expression of individual needs, as the self-realisation of the individual, as the rich unfolding of each personality, rather than in expectation of reward or fear of penalties. Likewise, a deep psychological revolution is needed for the individual to understand that it is a waste of time and an actual threat to the health and physical survival of humankind, to remain obsessed with the continual accumulation of material goods, once a threshold of saturation of basic needs has been passed. Pure indoctrination will not achieve any lasting result in these fields. Material preconditions — a high level of self-management in production and a high degree of consumer satisfaction — are indispensable, as well as radical transformations of technology subordinating machinery to the needs of the producers. But real revolutionary experimentation, practice, debate, as well as deep conflicts, will occur before these psychological revolutions can be thoroughly realised. 

5.3) Real exercise of power by the mass of the toilers (increasingly the mass of citizens) in the economy and the state presupposes high levels of socialist democracy, real power for democratically elected workers, and popular councils and political pluralism. But in order for these freedoms and these powers to become substantial and not purely formal, the mass of the toilers (citizens) must enjoy material and social conditions for the actual exercise of power. This implies a withering away of the social division of labour between producers and administrators, which in turn hinges on two preconditions above all; a radical shortening of the working day and a revolutionary breaking down of all barriers to culture and information. In that sense, a continuous cultural revolution, the abolition of all monopolies of culture and communication, not only in the field of consumption but also in the field of production, is a necessary prerequisite for socialism. A radical revolution of the forms and content of education is closely interrelated with the cultural revolution. 

5.4) In the same way as the full achievement of a socialist classless society is impossible in one or a small number of countries, so is the withering away of the state — the complete disappearance of all bureaucratic apparatuses. But this does not imply that under conditions of isolation of the victorious revolution — especially under relatively underdeveloped economic, social and cultural conditions — that it is impossible to avoid a growing bureaucratisation or bureaucratic degeneration of the workers’ state and of society in its totality. While underdevelopment undoubtedly favours bureaucratisation, growing bureaucratisation is not predestined, especially once a certain threshold of industrialisation and education of the toilers has been passed. Much depends on subjective factors, the experience and reality of self-organisation of the workers and the poor peasants, the conscious understanding of the nature and dangers of bureaucracy by the revolutionary vanguard (especially its party) and its deep commitment to socialist democracy and workers’ self-organisation. 

5.5) In no other field is the de-synchronisation between the victorious socialist revolution and the establishment of real socialist relations more obvious than in the relation between nations, incipient nationalities and ethnic and racial groups. National prejudices, chauvinism and racism in all its forms, will survive long after the bourgeoisie has lost power and property. As a result, forms of national inequality and thus of oppression, as well as the inevitable nationalist reactions they provoke among the oppressed will survive too. Without a revolution in inter-nation relations, a constant radical struggle against chauvinism, racism, national inequality, a constant endeavour to demonstrate international solidarity and cooperation, especially to the oppressed and the poorer nationalities, these obstacles on the roar to world socialism cannot be overcome. The need to free humankind from the threat of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction through the total and definitive banning of their production, means also a necessary restriction of national sovereignty, especially of the richest and most developed nations, in the interests of all humanity. 

5.6) The oppression of women is the oldest form of social oppression, anterior to the establishment of class society. It will also unfortunately survive a long time after the abolition of capitalism, in the transition period between capitalism and socialism. Its radical disappearance is a necessary precondition for the victory of really socialist relations. This disappearance demands both the conscious development of ‘affirmative action’ by the workers’ states, i.e. measures which make it easier to overcome in practice the consequences of thousands of years of sexist discrimination, violence and inequality suffered by women, and the vigorous activity of an independent women’s movement. Without a growing self-activity, self-realisation and exercise of power by women themselves, it is impossible to actually achieve equality between the sexes. 

6) The theory and strategy of permanent revolution are also characterised by what they do not claim. 

That theory does not include any idea that: 

6.1) the socialist revolution can only triumph simultaneously in all or many countries; 
6.2) the proletariat (and the toiling masses) should not fight for power in backward countries when that conquest of power is possible, lest it becomes trapped in an impasse, is inevitably crushed by world imperialism, or becomes inevitably oppressed by a totalitarian bureaucracy; 
6.3) the victorious workers’ state has the duty to extend world revolution through revolutionary wars; 
6.4) progress of any kind, especially advances in industrialisation, is impossible in a less developed country without the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat; 
6.5) in the epoch of imperialism under no circumstances and in no country could the ‘national’ bourgeoisie move in any way against imperialism; 
6.6) even if the ‘national’ bourgeoisie does make such moves, however hesitantly and temporarily against imperialism, the working class should give no support to these moves, lest it thereby automatically lose its class independence; 
6.7) the working class of any country should subordinate its class interests to the alleged needs of defending or extending the revolution in other countries; 
6.8) the impossibility of fully achieving the building of a socialist society in a single country (or a restricted number of countries) implies that before the victory of world revolution, no important progress can be made in the direction of the withering away of scarcity, of market economy, of social inequality, of restriction of bureaucracy and of internal repression, in dependently of the level of development of the productive forces, the relative weight of the proletariat, its level of class consciousness and the quality of the revolutionary leadership already achieved; 
6.9) the inevitable survival of the state during the period of transition between capitalism and fully achieved socialism implies severe restrictions of political democracy (socialist democracy) in the field of freedom of organisation, of freedom of expression, of free access to the mass media for opposition or dissenting tendencies, or the need for a single party system. All these ideas are thoroughly mistaken, have never been formulated by Trotsky or serious adherents to his theory of permanent revolution, and in no way form any part of that theory. 


i Originally published in International Marxist Review, Vol 2, No. 1, 1986.

ii See, for example: the exchange between Doug Jenness and Ernest Mandel in International Viewpoint, Special Supplement, no 32 1983; the article by Jack Barnes ‘Their Trotsky and Ours: Communist Continuity Today’ in New International, Volume I, no 1, Fall 1983; and the document ‘The Present Stage of Building the Fourth International’ in Resolutions of the Twelrh World Congress of the Fourth international, International Viewpoint, Special Issue, 1985.

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