Sunday, 6 February 2011

Egypt - What Is To Be Done - Part 2

The Revolutions of 1848, Permanent Revolution & The Democratic Dictatorship of The Proletariat And Peasantry

In contrast to the Third Campists, some “orthodox” Trotskyists have responded to the situation by parroting the conclusions of Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution, arguing essentially that it has to be Proletarian Revolution or nothing.
The problem with this approach is that it is misapplying that theory to the current situation. Moreover, it is even a mechanical interpretation of that theory that fails to take account of the specific conditions. A theory should be a tool to assist the understanding, not a straitjacket for the mind.

The Theory of Permanent Revolution applies to specific circumstances. It is a solution to the problem that Marx and Engels faced in the Revolutions of 1848.
What was that problem? They faced a situation in Germany where a rising bourgeoisie confronted a Feudal ruling class, and where the tasks of the Bourgeois Revolution, including national unification, remained to be completed. In Britain, those tasks were completed over a long period. In stages, the Bourgeoisie were able to gain increasing political power, and by the end of the 19th Century the Landlord Class had largely become incorporated into the bourgeoisie, its interests largely the same, and so the bourgeoisie had been able to remove the last vestiges of the Landlord's political power, by a peaceful removal of the old property restrictions on the suffrage, and the introduction of Universal Male Suffrage, by which the bourgeoisie was able to draw in behind it the votes of the workers.

In Germany, and other countries, however, the delay in this process, meant that long before the bourgeoisie was in a position to carry through a Bourgeois revolution against the old Landlord class, a sizeable working-class had already arisen, and being able to learn from the developments in Britain, and France, was skipping over a number of stages in its own organisation and ideological development.
The division of interests between the bourgeoisie and proletariat is already established before the bourgeois revolution occurs. The consequence of that was witnessed in the Revolution in Germany in 1848. As the masses organised to overthrow the Absolutist regime based on the Landlords, the separate interests of the workers and bourgeois began to manifest themselves. The bourgeoisie is itself a small class compared to the workers and the poor peasants. It cannot defeat the class power of the Landlords without the support of the workers and poor peasants. However, if those workers are well organised, and press their own demands, then the bourgeoisie could find itself in a position where it has overthrown the Landlords, only to hand power to the workers. That was the conclusion that the German bourgeoisie came to in 1848, and so it decided that it was better to accommodate the interests of another exploiting class – the Landlords – in order to retain its own ability to continue to exploit the workers.
So, the bourgeoisie pulled back from the revolution, and the Absolutist regime extracted the price for its defiance in blood. Marx and Engels concluded that for these reasons the bourgeoisie could no longer be relied on to carry through the Bourgeois Revolution. The task would now have to be the responsibility of the workers incorporated in its own Proletarian Revolution. However, this posed a further problem.

From 1850 onwards, Marx returned to his economic studies. His ideas changed very quickly, largely on the basis of those studies.
In his Introduction to the Civil War in France, Engels says that they fairly quickly realised that their hopes for Proletarian Revolution following on quickly after the Bourgeois Revolution in 1848, were wildly optimistic. Only in Britain, did a sizeable working-class exist. Had the workers in Germany attempted to seize power in 1848, they concluded, it would have been a disaster. Not only would it likely have resulted in a bloodbath, but even had the workers succeeded in seizing State Power, it would have been impossible for them to proceed forwards towards the building of Socialism. Not only were the productive forces not developed sufficiently, but the working-class itself was not developed sufficiently either. That was not just a matter of its development in terms of size and organisation, but they began to realise the working-class had to go through a huge transformation before it was fit to become the ruling-class itself. That transformation involved the raising of the workers culturally, educationally, and ideologically, and as Historical Materialists they believed that this transformation could only go hand in hand with a transformation of the material condition of the working class, the productive and social relations upon which those ideas were based.
The workers cannot simply suck a socialist class consciousness out of its thumb. Marx argued that this class struggle whereby Workers Co-operative property confronted Capitalist property, where Workers Democracy confronted Bourgeois Democracy, and where a developing Workers' State confronted the Capitalist State would have to continue for decades until the working-class had been transformed to the stage where it was capable of becoming the ruling class. That is why in much of his writing after this date he concentrates on precisely those things, on developing the working class as a totally independent force separate from the bourgeoisie.
It is why, in the Programme he writes for the First International, he stresses the role of the Workers Co-operatives, it is why in relation to Tax he insists on the need for a taxation system which minimises the tax raising power of the Capitalist State, because a large Capitalist State, he says, undermines the development of “self-government” by the workers, it is why he insists on the Capitalist State keeping its hands off the Workers Welfare provision through the Friendly Societies, where he vilifies the idea of the State involving itself in the provision of the Workers education and so on.

Marx had spoken openly against the idea of the Capitalist State involving itself in economic affairs, and condemned strongly those like Lassalle who misled the workers into believing it could perform a progressive role.
In response to this kind of “top-down” statist Socialism, Marx branded Lassalle, the “model of the future Workers' Dictator”. And Engels had himself spelled out clearly the dangers of a premature seizure of State power prior to the workers being sufficiently mature to exercise political power in their own name. He wrote, in his “The Peasant War in Germany”,

“The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government in an epoch when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class which he represents and for the realisation of the measures which that domination would imply.
What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the sharpness of the clash of interests between the various classes, and upon the degree of development of the material means of existence, the relations of production and means of communication upon which the clash of interests of the classes is based every time. What he ought to do, what his party demands of him, again depends not upon him, or upon the degree of development of the class struggle and its conditions. He is bound to his doctrines and the demands hitherto propounded which do not emanate from the interrelations of the social classes at a given moment, or from the more or less accidental level of relations of production and means of communication, but from his more or less penetrating insight into the general result of the social and political movement. Thus he necessarily finds himself in a dilemma. What he can do is in contrast to all his actions as hitherto practised, to all his principles and to the present interests of his party; what he ought to do cannot be achieved. In a word, he is compelled to represent not his party or his class, but the class for whom conditions are ripe for domination. In the interests of the movement itself, he is compelled to defend the interests of an alien class, and to feed his own class with phrases and promises, with the assertion that the interests of that alien class are their own interests. Whoever puts himself in this awkward position is irrevocably lost. We have seen examples of this in recent times. We need only be reminded of the position taken in the last French provisional government by the representatives of the proletariat, though they represented only a very low level of proletarian development. Whoever can still look forward to official positions after having become familiar with the experiences of the February government — not to speak of our own noble German provisional governments and imperial regencies — is either foolish beyond measure, or at best pays only lip service to the extreme revolutionary party.”

But, herein lay the problem. If the workers were not yet ready to carry through their own Revolution, and yet the Bourgeoisie could not be relied upon to carry through the Bourgeois Revolution, how were the conditions to be created under, which Capitalist development could occur, and the conditions for Socialism be created. Moreover, in all those instances where the Bourgeoisie did undertake such a revolution, what should be the attitude of the workers towards it? In part, history had already provided part of the answer to that conundrum. Capitalist development had occurred even under the domination of Feudal Absolutism. And, as the Communist Manifesto had noted once Capitalism had been established in Britain, its dynamic was to spread itself across the whole globe. Its low prices were the battering rams with which it broke down all Chinese walls, they wrote, referring not actually to China, but the role of Capital in breaking into all of those Central European countries that had tried to isolate themselves from events in Europe. Unless, every country, Germany included, adopted the Capitalist method of production, then they would find themselves falling further and further behind the countries like Britain, which had.

In other words, with or without a bourgeois revolution in Germany, the Capitalist Mode of Production would continue to develop there, and alongside it would develop the working-class.
The main thing they concluded then was to continue to emphasise the need for that working-class to develop its own interests separate from those of the bourgeoisie. Of course, this did not answer the question about what the attitude of the workers should be when bourgeois revolutions did break out, especially as one aspect of those revolutions was to create the kinds of bourgeois democratic freedoms that the workers themselves needed if they were to progress and transform themselves into a class capable of ruling. This question was addressed by Lenin in his Two Tactics Of Social Democracy In The Democratic Revolution.
In this work, Lenin (still using the description of himself as a Social Democrat) argues against the Mensheviks. He develops the idea of the “Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry” as the solution to the problem that Marx and Engels had identified.

Lenin arrived at a number of conclusions. Firstly, as with Marx and Engels he insisted that the working-class independence had to be maintained. Even if an insurrection occurred, and revolutionary communes, or Provisional Governments were established, the Socialists he argued could not participate in them alongside the representatives of the bourgeoisie, and petit-bourgeoisie. And given the nature of a Democratic Revolution it was inevitable that such Governments WOULD contain such representatives of those classes.

“Further, the seizure of power (even if partial, episodic, etc.) obviously presupposes the participation not only of Social-Democrats and not only of the proletariat. This follows from the fact that it is not only the proletariat that is interested and takes an active part in a democratic revolution.
This follows from the fact that the insurrection is a “popular” one, as is stated in the beginning of the resolution we are discussing, that “non-proletarian groups” (the words used in the Conference resolution on the uprising), i.e., the bourgeoisie, also take part in it. Hence, the principle that any participation of Socialists in a provisional revolutionary government jointly with the petty bourgeoisie is treachery to the working class was thrown overboard by the Conference, which is what the Vperyod [Lenin’s articles “Social-Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government”, and “The Revolutionary-Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Peasantry” ] sought to achieve. “Treachery” does not cease to be treachery because the action which constitutes it is partial, episodic, local, etc. Hence, the parallel drawn between the participation in a provisional revolutionary government and vulgar Jaurèsism was thrown overboard by the Conference, which is what the Vperyod sought to achieve.[4] A government does not cease to be a government because its power does not extend to many cities but is confined to a single city, does not extend to many districts but is confined to a single district; nor because of the name that is given to it. Thus, the formulation of the principles of this question which the new Iskra tried to give was discarded by the Conference.”

Lenin, also remained on the same ground as Marx and Engels as opposed to the Blanquists, in arguing against an attempt by the Social Democrats to seize power without having won the majority of the working-class, “winning the battle of democracy” as Marx put it.
But, unlike the Mensheviks, he argued that the Social Democrats should not be afraid of actually winning that battle of the workers and peasants actually coming to power. This would not mean the same thing as a Socialist Revolution, the conditions for which did not exist in Russia, but would mean the Workers and Peasants carrying through the Democratic Revolution over the heads of the Bourgeoisie. But, such a Democratic Dictatorship would necessarily have to also carry through measures that were in the interests of the Workers and Peasants. Those measures would not be “Socialist” measures, but would be the kinds of reforms that a Workers Government might be expected to carry through still within the confines of Capitalism. He writes,

“This government will have to enact an eight-hour working day, establish workers’ inspection of factories, institute free universal education, introduce the election of judges, set up peasant committees, etc.; in a word, it will certainly have to carry out a number of reforms. To designate these reforms as “helping to spread the insurrection” would be playing with words and deliberately causing greater confusion in a matter which requires absolute clarity.

The concluding part of the new Iskra-ists’ resolution does not provide any new material for a criticism of the trends of principles of “Economism” which has revived in our Party, but it illustrates from a somewhat different angle, what has been said above.

Here is that part:

'Only in one event should Social-Democracy, on its own initiative, direct its efforts towards seizing power and holding it as long as possible—namely, in the event of the revolution spreading to the advanced countries of Western Europe, where conditions for the achievement of Socialism have already reached a certain”(?) “degree of maturity. In that event the limited historical scope of the Russian revolution can be considerably widened and the possibility of entering the path of socialist reforms will arise.

“By framing its tactics in accordance with the view that, during the whole period of the revolution, the Social-Democratic Party will retain the position of extreme revolutionary opposition to all the governments that may succeed one another in the course of the revolution, Social-Democracy will best be able to prepare itself to utilise governmental power if it falls (??) “into its hands."'

The basic idea here is the one that the Vperyod has repeatedly formulated, stating that we must not be afraid (as is Martynov) of a complete victory for Social-Democracy in a democratic revolution, i.e., of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, for such a victory will enable us to rouse Europe, and the socialist proletariat of Europe, after throwing off the yoke of the bourgeoisie, will in its turn help us to accomplish the socialist revolution.
But see how this idea is worsened in the new Iskra-ists’ rendering of it. We shall not dwell on details—on the absurd assumption that power could “fall” into the hands of a class-conscious party which considers seizure of power harmful tactics; on the fact that in Europe the conditions for Socialism have reached not a certain degree of maturity, but are already mature; on the fact that our Party program does not speak of socialist changes at all, but only of a socialist revolution. Let us take the principal and basic difference between the idea presented by the Vperyod and that presented in the resolution. The Vperyod set the revolutionary proletariat of Russia an active aim: to win the battle for democracy and to use this victory for carrying the revolution into Europe. The resolution fails to grasp this connection between our “decisive victory” (not in the new Iskra sense) and the revolution in Europe, and therefore it speaks not about the tasks of the proletariat, not about the prospects of its victory, but about one of the possibilities in general: “in the event of the revolution spreading....” The Vperyod pointedly and definitely indicated—and this was incorporated in the resolution of the Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party—how “governmental power” can and must “be utilised” in the interests of the proletariat, bearing in mind what can be achieved immediately, at the given stage of social development, and what must first be achieved as a democratic prerequisite of the struggle for Socialism.”

So here is Lenin's basic idea. As the popular revolution unfolds if Revolutionary Provisional Governments are established by the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoisie, the Socialists should refuse to be a part of them.
In Lenin's words, they should maintain the principal of “extreme revolutionary opposition”. Participation in such Governments – a tactic later proposed by the Stalinists under the name Popular Front - amounted to treachery to the working class. The Socialists by revolutionary opposition to these Governments, and by concentrating on building the independent organisation of the workers, would thereby be best placed to win the battle for democracy within the working-class, and would make no secret of the fact that it sought power in order to carry through those basic Democratic and Social reforms consistent with the bourgeois revolution, and which were no more than comprised the Minimum Demands of the Social Democratic parties in Western Europe.

“One of the objections raised to the slogan of “the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” is that dictatorship presupposes a “single will” (Iskra, No. 95), and that there can be no single will of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie. This objection is unsound, for it is based on an abstract, “metaphysical” interpretation of the term “single will.” There can be a single will in one respect and not a single will in another. The absence of unity on questions of Socialism and in the struggle for Socialism does not preclude singleness of will on questions of democracy and in the struggle for a republic. To forget this would be tantamount to forgetting the logical and historical difference between a democratic and a socialist revolution. To forget this would be tantamount to forgetting the character of the democratic revolution as a revolution of the whole people: if it is “of the whole people” it means that there is “singleness of will” precisely in so far as this revolution satisfies the common needs and requirements of the whole people.
Beyond the bounds of democracy there can be no question of the proletariat and the peasant bourgeoisie having a single will. Class struggle between them is inevitable; but it is in a democratic republic that this struggle will be the most thoroughgoing and widespread struggle of the people for Socialism. Like everything else in the world, the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry has a past and a future. Its past is autocracy, serfdom, monarchy and privilege. In the struggle against this past, in the struggle against counterrevolution, a “single will” of the proletariat and the peasantry is possible, for here there is unity of interests.

Its future is the struggle against private property the struggle of the wage worker against the employer the struggle for Socialism. Here singleness of will is impossible.[2] Here our path lies not from autocracy to a republic but from a petty-bourgeois democratic republic to Socialism...

A Social-Democrat must never for a moment forget that the proletariat will inevitably have to wage the class struggle for Socialism even against the most democratic and republican bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. This is beyond doubt. Hence the absolute necessity of a separate, independent, strictly class party of Social-Democracy. Hence the temporary nature of our tactics of “striking jointly” with the bourgeoisie and the duty of keeping a strict watch “over our ally, as over an enemy,” etc. All this is also beyond the slightest doubt. But it would be ridiculous and reactionary to deduce from this that we must forget, ignore or neglect these tasks which, although transient and temporary, are vital at the present time. The fight against the autocracy is a temporary and transient task of the Socialists, but to ignore or neglect this task in any way would be tantamount to betraying Socialism and rendering a service to reaction. The revolutionary-Democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry is unquestionably only a transient, temporary aim of the Socialists, but to ignore this aim in the period of a democratic revolution would be downright reactionary...

The time will come when the struggle against the Russian autocracy will end and the period of democratic revolution will be over in Russia; then it will be ridiculous to talk about “singleness of will” of the proletariat and the peasantry, about a democratic dictatorship, etc. When that time comes we shall attend directly to the question of the socialist dictatorship of the proletariat and deal with it at greater length. But at present the party of the advanced class cannot but strive most energetically for a decisive victory of the democratic revolution over tsarism. And a decisive victory means nothing else than the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.”

In 1917, Lenin was to argue that the Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry already existed as a result of the February Revolution. But, Lenin argued on the basis of his assessment – and that of many other Marxists at the time – that the Socialist Revolution was at hand throughout Europe, and the obvious fact that the bourgeoisie was collaborating with the forces of reaction, whilst its political representatives including the Mensheviks, were acting to attack the workers and peasants, even the gains of the Democratic Revolution could only be maintained, if the workers and peasants moved beyond the bourgeois revolution, if it seized State Power, and began to undertake the tasks of the Socialist Revolution. In other words Lenin had adopted the ideas set out by Trotsky in his Theory of Permanent Revolution. In 1917, Lenin was forced to recognise what Trotsky had realised back in 1905, which is that those very opposing class interests, which Lenin mentioned above would prove incapable of being reconciled, even in the short term. If the workers and peasants seized State Power, and began to introduce even limited reforms, the bourgeoisie would seek to undermine it, and the workers would be forced to put down their revolt, and the only way that could be done would be by carrying through the Socialist Revolution.

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