Socialist Appeal - British section of the International Marxist Tendency: the Marxist voice of labour and youth.
nasser.jpg The initial trigger for the writing of this document was the Sino-Soviet split, its importance for the world Communist movement at the time, and its significance for the forces of genuine Marxism, the Trotskyists. In the first place Ted declares that the split confirms Trotsky’s brilliant prediction, “That the theory of ‘socialism in one country’ would lead inevitably to the degeneration on nationalist lines of the parties of the Communist International.”

The initial trigger for the writing of this document was the Sino-Soviet split, its importance for the world Communist movement at the time, and its significance for the forces of genuine Marxism, the Trotskyists. In the first place Ted declares that the split confirms Trotsky’s brilliant prediction, “That the theory of ‘socialism in one country’ would lead inevitably to the degeneration on nationalist lines of the parties of the Communist International.”

Secondly the split was important for the course of the colonial revolution, a huge movement shaking the world at the time. This was a movement whose course Marxists had to analyse and understand. It produced an entirely new world situation, not predicted by Trotsky. Here are the new features identified by Ted.

“The failure of the revolution in the West, the degeneration of Stalinism, the failure of successive waves of the social revolution in Western Europe, the thwarting of the social revolution in the West and the expansion and consolidation of Stalinism in the East, have been the world background on which the revolutionary awakening of the colonial peoples has been taking place.”

Ted naturally looked at the colonial revolution in terms of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. The core of the theory of permanent revolution is the recognition that the bourgeoisie in the colonial and ex-colonial countries are incapable of taking society forward and establishing genuine independence from imperialist domination. Yet this was the central task posed by the colonial revolution. These tasks, Trotsky predicted, fell to the working class to carry out. Unfortunately the working class was under the influence of reformists and Stalinists, who urged them not to take the power but mobilise behind the non-existent ‘revolutionary national bourgeoisie.’

The impasse in society produced by this paralysis allowed the state to apparently rise above the classes and assume a certain independence. Marxists call this bonapartism. Nevertheless in the last analysis the state always defends a certain form of property relations. So we can have bourgeois bonapartism defending capitalism or proletarian bonapartism – regimes in the image of Stalinism.

  Gamal Abdel Nasser

In the document Ted speculates as to whether Nasser would embark on the path of proletarian bonapartism. It is now known that Nasser wanted Egypt to go down that road, but was dissuaded by Brezhnev, who feared that the appearance of Egypt in the Stalinist camp would upset the global balance of forces with the USA and the West.

In Algeria, Ben Bella was also very close to the Russians. This called the class nature of Algerian society into question. In 1964 he was made a Hero of the Soviet Union. But in 1965 Ben Bella was overthrown by Boumedienne. Though the significance of this was not immediately apparent, over time Boumedienne was able to lead Algeria firmly into the capitalist camp.

The collapse of the Soviet Union led inevitably to the collapse of its satellite countries in what is called the ‘third world.’ On August 12th we published an article by Matt Wells, which analysed precisely the distorted development of the colonial revolution in the case of Ethiopia (Ethiopia: which way forward?). Today we publish a short article on the case of Benin. Ted Grant identified Benin as a case of proletarian bonapartism in another document, ‘The Colonial Revolution and the Deformed Workers’ States’ 1987.

In Benin, Kerekou certainly seems to have had a fine instinct for the art of self-advancement and self-preservation. From a not very radical background in 1972 he suddenly embraced Stalinism in 1974. Just as smoothly, he foresaw the breakup of his mentor country and led the way back to capitalism in 1989. Finally he took over as President of Benin again from 1996 to 2006, this time as ‘capitalist statesman’..

The two countries we have carried articles on serve as examples of the distorted development of the colonial revolution addressed in theoretical terms by Ted Grant in this 1964 document.

The Colonial Revolution and the Sino-Soviet Dispute

By Ted Grant, 1964 

The Second World War ended with a revolutionary wave in Western Europe which, thanks to the aid of Stalinism and social democracy, capitalism survived. Stalinism in the Soviet Union, temporarily for a whole historical period, emerged strengthened.

In the history of society there have been many methods of class rule. This is especially true of capitalist society, with many peculiar and variegated forms: republic, monarchy, fascism, democracy, Bonapartist, centralised and federal, to give some examples.

In a period where the revolution (apart from Czechoslovakia) has taken place in backward or undeveloped countries, distortions, even monstrous distortions in the nature of the state created by the revolution are inevitable, so long as the most vital industrialised areas of the world remain under the control of capital.

A decisive cause of the developments is the Bonapartist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union. The malignant power of the state and the uncontrolled rule of the privileged layers in the Soviet Union have served as a model for “socialism” in these countries. Bourgeois Bonapartism reflects a society in a state of crisis, where the state raises itself above society and the classes and obtains a relatively independent role, only in the last analysis directly reflecting the propertied classes, because of the defence of private property on which it is based.

The proletariat is not a “sacred cow” to which analogous processes cannot take place. Proletarian Bonapartism represents a most peculiar form of workers’ rule. Contradictions in a largely backward society in which the proletariat represents a small minority, as Lenin pointed out, can lead to the dictatorship manifesting itself through the rule of one man.

A proletarian form of Bonapartism by its very nature represents a caricature of workers’ rule. In a society where private ownership has been abolished and there is no democracy, the powers of the state gain enormous extension. The state raises itself above society and becomes a tool of the bureaucracy in its various forms: military, police, party, “trade union” and managerial. These are the privileged strata within the society. They are the sole commanding stratum. In the transition from capitalist society to socialism the form of economy can only be state ownership of the means of production, with the organisation of production on the basis of a plan. Only the democratic control of the workers and peasants can guarantee such a transition. That is why political revolution in these countries is inevitable before workers’ democracy is instituted as an indispensable necessity if the state is to “wither away”, but such “transition regimes” can only be workers’ states—deformed workers’ states—because the economy of these states is based on nationalisation of the means of production, the operation of the economy on the basis of a plan.

Marx never considered the problem of revolution in backward countries as he considered the revolution would come in the advanced capitalist countries first. These Bonapartist regimes—regimes of crisis—reflect the unresolved economic and social problems, both on the narrow national plane and internationally—crises which can only be resolved by world revolution, especially in the advanced countries.

The development of the Chinese revolution, next to the Russian revolution the “greatest event in human history” as the documents of the Revolutionary Communist Party proclaimed in advance, took place with a mighty deformed workers’ state at its back, plus the frustration of the revolutionary tide in the West. Without the existence of the monstrously deformed workers’ state in the East, and the paralysing of the hands of imperialism by the radicalisation of the workers in the West, the Chinese revolution could not have taken the form which it did.

The Chinese revolution unfolded as a peasant war (see documents where this is developed) led by ex-Marxists. Thus as in Eastern Europe the revolution from the beginning assumed a Bonapartist character, with the classical instruments of Bonapartism, the peasant army. It was the complete incapacity of the Chinese bourgeoisie to solve a single one of the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, which resulted in the revolution taking the form which it did.

Trotsky in the pre-war period had posed the problem of what would happen in the case of the Chinese “Red” Armies emerging victorious in the civil war against Chiang Kai-Shek. He had tentatively forecast that the tops of the Red Army would betray their peasant base, and in the cities, with the passivity of the proletariat, would fuse with the bourgeoisie, leading to a classical capitalist development.

This did not take place because on the road of capitalist development there was no way forward for China. With the model of Russia, the Stalinist leadership of the peasant armies manoeuvred between the classes, at one time resting on the “national” bourgeoisie, or the peasants, and at others on the working class and constructed a strong Stalinist leadership in the image of Moscow. At no time was there a period of workers’ rule such as in Russia in 1917, when the workers through their Soviets controlled the state and society.

Just as bourgeois Bonapartism, manoeuvring between the classes, nevertheless in the last analysis, defends the basis of capitalist society, so in the same way proletarian Bonapartism rests in the last analysis on the base created by the revolution: the nationalised economy.

The Chinese revolution solved all those problems which bourgeois society was incapable of solving. The three decades of rule by Chiang Kai-Shek, the Bonapartist representative of finance capital, revealed the complete incapacity of the bourgeoisie to unify China, to carry through the agrarian revolution, to overthrow imperialism. It could only usher in a new period of decay for Chinese society. It was this which gave the impulse to the leadership of the peasant armies to overthrow the bourgeoisie and, thanks to the model of Russia at her back, construct a state on the Stalinist model.

The leadership was without international or Marxist perspectives. The conscious role and leadership of the proletariat, without which socialism is impossible, was absent. The Stalinist leadership, in the conquest of the cities, used the passivity of the proletariat, and where elements of proletarian action emerged spontaneously, met these with the execution of the leading participants.

However, the welding of the atomised and separate provinces into a single unified national state on modern lines, for the first time in the history of China; the agrarian revolution; the nationalisation of the means of production: all these gave a mighty impulse to the development of the productive forces. China advanced as no colonial economy has advanced for decades.

The Chinese bureaucracy, like all bureaucracies of a similar character, is interested mainly in advancing its own power, privileges, income and prestige. It defends the base of nationalised property on which it rests, because this is the basis of its income and power.

As predicted in advance, before the Chinese bureaucracy came to power, the possibility of a conflict between it and the Russian bureaucracy, was inherent in the situation. The attempt of the Russian bureaucracy to arrive at an agreement with American imperialism, without giving consideration to the needs and interests of the Chinese bureaucracy, precipitated the split between the two tendencies.

The rationalisation of the split by “ideological” considerations was a means to try and gain support within the Communist Parties, on a world scale. The Chinese, for the moment, have used radical slogans as a means of mobilising support in the Stalinist world movement against the Russians, especially among the colonial peoples. Their open support of Stalin, repelling the workers in the Soviet Union and the West, among other calculations, is intended to draw a line of blood and confusion between the Communist workers looking for a Marxist solution, and “Trotskyism”, ie genuine Marxism-Leninism.

Because of their radical slogans, at this time, the Chinese appeal to the cadre elements in the Stalinist parties looking for a revolutionary road. In that sense, every nuance, every cranny, must be utilised by the Marxist tendency for the purpose of finding a way to the sincere Stalinist workers.

The real face of Chinese Stalinism is revealed in the opportunism of the leadership in the colonial world, where they have given support to the rotting, feudal, bourgeois upper strata in many countries. The support of the Imam in the Yemen, the loans to Afghanistan, to Sri Lanka, to Pakistan, support of Sukarno in Indonesia, etc. Without being able to compete in resources, they have used the slender means of the Chinese economy in competition with the Russian bureaucracy and with imperialism. Their ideology, their conceptions, cannot rise above the narrow national interests of the Chinese bureaucracy.

Their “internationalism” consists in trying to build an instrument of support similar to that possessed by the Russian Stalinist bureaucracy. Their ideology, methods and attitudes are a counterfeit of Marxism, as much as that of the Russian bureaucracy, at various stages of its development.

The idealisation of Stalinism in its crudest and most repressive form, is for the above-mentioned reason of the need to prevent any tendency of the militant workers to drift towards “Trotskyism” and because of the nature of the Chinese economy. Like the Russian before it, such a regime, on the basis of the Chinese economy alone, may endure for decades, with its slender base in industry, in comparison with the hundreds of millions of peasants. Only the socialist revolution in the West, or the political revolution in the Soviet Union, could alter this perspective.

The viciousness with which the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union supported India in the conflict with China, withdrew their technicians and destroyed plans and blueprints in their endeavours to weaken China, is an indication of the real character of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. They have been ready to lavish loans and aid on the bourgeoisie and parasitic upper layers of the colonial countries, in order to prop up these regimes in competition with imperialism. But to the bureaucracy of another workers’ state coming into conflict with them, they demonstrated their selfish national aims.

Similarly, China—as with the diplomatic agreement with Pakistan and the tour of Prime Minister Chou En Lai, in Africa—apes the Russian bureaucracy in its endeavour to find friends. In Zanzibar they came to an agreement with the Sultan, before he was overthrown; they made no criticism of the governments of Tanganyika, Uganda and Kenya for calling British troops against their own mutinous troops.

The Chinese Stalinists, not accidentally, advised the Algerians to “go slow” with their revolution. This was because of the forthcoming diplomatic agreement with French imperialism. The basic perspectives of Chinese Stalinism are determined by their national aims of obtaining a seat in the United Nations, and for strengthening the Chinese national state through whatever means possible, agreement with imperialism for trade etc. They have attempted to mobilise the Afro-Asian bloc with this in mind and not at all with the international perspectives of socialism and the social revolution.

The split between Russia and China, as with the split between Yugoslavia and Russia and now the development of new national Stalinism in the countries of Eastern Europe, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, etc., is a symptom of Stalinist decay and, simultaneously, of the weakness of the revolutionary forces of Marxism on a world scale at the present time. Had there been in existence mighty Marxist revolutionary forces of the proletariat, consciously preparing the revolution in the industrially advanced countries of the world, such a phenomenon would have been impossible. As at the time of the Hungarian political revolution of 1956, before which the bureaucracies of these countries trembled and drew together for mutual protection and support, the Chinese bureaucracy would not have dared to launch the campaign against Russian “revisionism”. All these bureaucracies would have been facing collapse and overthrow.

The split between the Stalinist bureaucracies on national lines adds further confusion among the broad masses throughout the world. Even among the advanced workers, while creating certain opportunities for the ideas of Marxism, it further complicates the task of revolutionary Marxism. However, in the long term, it undermines completely the former monolithism of Stalinism and its hold on the masses. The way is prepared for, on the basis of great events, tens and hundreds of thousands of workers to enter the revolutionary road. In the next great upheavals, both East and West, of social and political revolutions, Stalinism will crumble away.

Nevertheless, one of the basic tasks of the period is the education of the most conscious workers not to be infected by any of the variants of Stalinism. There is as great a gulf between Stalinism in its various forms, both of state and ideology and real workers’ democracy and Marxism as there is between Bonapartism, fascism and bourgeois democratic state and ideology.

While defending the progressive aspects of the economy in Russia, China, Cuba and Eastern Europe, at the same time it is necessary to draw a fundamental distinction between the rotten nationalist bureaucratic ideology of Stalinism and its states, and the conscious control of the economy and of the movement towards socialism of the working class as explained in the methods and conceptions of international socialism.

The Colonial Revolution in Asia, Africa and Latin America

Following the failure of the post-war revolutionary wave in the West, capitalism succeeded in stabilising itself for an entire epoch. Consequences became cause. A new period of capitalist growth was ushered in for all the metropolitan countries, of greater or lesser strength. The increasing power of the Soviet Union with its far faster tempo of industrial growth, together with the growth of the workers’ states and the stabilisation of a mighty China, resulted in a new balance of forces on a world scale between the capitalist forces of the West and the workers’ states of the East.

This is the background on which, in one country after the other, there has been the continual upheaval of national upsurge and revolution against imperialist domination and national oppression. At a time of rapid growth of productive forces in the metropolitan countries the gap between the industrially developed countries and the so-called “undeveloped” areas of the world has become twice as great as before the Second World War. The growth of industry on a modest scale in these latter countries has exacerbated the social contradictions.

In all these countries, the problems of the national revolution, the agrarian revolution, the liquidation of feudal and pre-feudal survivals, could not be solved on the old basis. This has been the period of national awakening of the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Faced with this upsurge of the colonial masses, the imperialists have been compelled to retreat. A century ago, Marx explained that only the lack of national consciousness among the peasant masses allowed the imperialists to conquer and dominate the East and Africa. Once they were aroused, it was practically impossible to hold a whole nation in chains. Trotsky in the year prior to the Second World War, had observed that the task of “pacification” of the colonial revolts had become far more expensive than the fruits of the exploitation of the colonies. And this in a period when colonial uprisings were at an early stage.

Already in 1945, Britain had drawn the conclusion from the revolt of the Indian people, of the necessity to arrive at some sort of compromise with the Indian bourgeoisie and landlords. Partly this was due to the impossibility, because of the radical mood of the soldiers of Allied imperialism and of the working class in Britain, of waging a large scale war of conquest or re-conquest of India and partly for fear of the upsurge of the Indian people.

French and Dutch imperialism had to learn the lessons after the squandering of blood and treasure in Indonesia, Indo-China, Algeria, etc. The Bourbons(1) of Portugal are in the process of learning the lesson at the present time.

Thus the lag of the revolution in Europe and other metropolitan countries has pushed the revolution to the extremities of the capitalist world, to the weakest links in the chain of capitalism. However, the development of Stalinism in Russia and its extension to China and Eastern Europe, the frustration of the revolution in the industrially decisive areas of the capitalist world, has meant that the development of the permanent revolution in these underdeveloped countries has taken a distorted pattern. The degeneration of the Russian revolution, the Bonapartist form of the Chinese revolution, in spite of its splendours, has meant in its turn that the revolution in the colonial countries begins with nationally limited perspectives and with fundamental deformations from the very beginning.

The revolution in Russia, which began as a bourgeois-democratic revolution, ended in a proletarian revolution of the most classic proportions, with the dominating role of the proletariat as the main decisive force of the revolution. It culminated in the October insurrection of the working class, which throughout was based on internationalist and Marxist perspectives. The Chinese peasant revolt, which culminated in the peasant war of 1944-9, was in a sense derived from the defeated revolution of 1925-7, but entirely different from it in the role of the working class. It was a peasant war carried out first as a guerrilla war, and culminating in the conquest of the cities by the armies of the peasants.

The socialist revolution, in contrast with all previous revolutions, requires the conscious participation and control of the working class. Without it, there can be no revolution leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat as understood by Marx and Lenin, nor can there be a transition in the direction of socialism.

A revolution in which the prime force is the peasantry cannot rise to the height of the tasks posed by history. The peasantry cannot play an independent role; either they support the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. Where the proletariat is not playing a leading part in the revolution, the peasant army, with the impasse of bourgeois society, can be used, especially with the existence of ready-made models, for the expropriation of bourgeois society in the Bonapartist manoeuvring between classes and the construction of a state on the model of Stalinist Russia.

The bourgeoisie of the colonial areas has come too late on the world arena to be enabled to play the progressive role which the Western bourgeoisie played in the development of capitalist society. They are too weak, their resources are too narrow to hope to compete with the industrial economies of the capitalist West. The disparity between the weak and underdeveloped economies of the colonial world and the metropolitan areas, far from being ameliorated, is gathering speed. It has been further emphasised during the last two decades by the upswing of capitalist economy in the metropolitan areas. Whereas in the capitalist economy in the West, the standard of living of the masses has increased in absolute terms, even though the rate of exploitation has increased, there has been an absolute decline in living standards in the East. By the peculiar dialectic of the revolution, the colonial revolution itself has actually helped the economies of the metropolitan countries by creating a market for capital goods.

The imperialists, except for the Portuguese, were forced to abandon the old method of direct military domination in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Economic domination with nominally independent states became the norm.

The [period since the] Second World War has seen unprecedented upheavals in the colonial areas. The period of national awakening of all oppressed peoples has been on a scale and in a measure that military means are doomed to failure, as evidenced by the British in even such as small island as Cyprus, the French in Algeria, and tomorrow the collapse of the attempt to pacify Angola.

All these revolutions and national awakenings have taken place with a lag and delay of the revolution in the West. However, the greatest force for change in society, which must always be regarded from an internationalist perspective, still lies in the decisive areas of Western Europe, Britain, Japan and the United States in the capitalist world, and Russia and Eastern Europe in the deformed workers’ states. From the point of view of the change from one society to another, while of fundamental importance to revolutionaries involved in the actual struggle, a decade or two in the development of society is of secondary significance. The very growth of the capitalist world, the very development of the economy in the underdeveloped areas of the world, are all drawing together the threads of change on a world scale. In the endeavour to compete with the advancing economies of the Stalinist countries, capitalism has been compelled to use up a great part of its social reserves. Direct domination and colonial tribute as a consequence of a military overlordship, have disappeared or are in the process of disappearing.

Economic domination and the crushing preponderance of the metropolitan economies over the frail economies of the colonial or ex-colonial states is even greater and further increasing than in the past. At the same time, in the metropolitan countries themselves, the very growth of the productive apparatus has led to a situation where the social reserves of the ruling class are becoming narrowed. The growth of monopoly, the growth of industry, the industrialisation of agriculture, have all led to the contraction of the peasantry and the petit-bourgeoisie and a further increase in the decisive weight in society of the proletariat.

From the point of view of Marxism, no more favourable situation could be envisaged. The potential power of the proletariat in both the deformed workers’ states on the one side, and the capitalist countries on the other, has never reached a greater scope than in the present epoch. From this point of view, a tremendously optimistic perspective opens out for the future. The tremendous upsurge of productive forces will inevitably reach its end and result in a new period of paralysis and decay, such as the inter-war period, in the capitalist countries. In the Soviet Union and the East, the further development of productive forces will come increasingly into collision with the stranglehold of bureaucratic control. The bureaucracy will become more and more incompatible with the development of society. A new period of social revolution in the West and of political revolution in the East will be opened out.

It is on this background and with this perspective constantly in mind that the colonial revolution in Asia, Africa and Latin America must be regarded. Had Russia been a healthy workers’ state, or even a state with the relatively mild deformations of the era of Lenin and Trotsky, then undoubtedly the revolution in all backward countries would most likely have taken a different form. As Lenin had optimistically declared with the first wave of revolutionary awakening in the backward countries of the world, it would have been possible for even tribal areas of Africa to “go straight to communism” without any intervening period whatsoever. This could only have been, of course, on the basis of the integration of the economies of these countries with that of the mightily developed Soviet Union, on the basis of a genuine and fraternal federation, for the benefit of all. Of course, in any event, the problem would have been posed entirely differently; a healthy workers’ state in Russia would have led to the victory of the revolution in Europe and the industrially advanced countries of the world, thus posing the problem for undeveloped areas in an entirely different way. That was the scheme of Marx, who had thought that with the accomplishment of the revolution in Britain, France and Germany, the rest of the world (with the crushing industrial preponderance of these areas at the time) would have been compelled to follow willy nilly.

The explanation for the way in which the revolution is developing in the colonial countries lies in the delay and over-ripeness of the revolution in the West, on the one side, and the deformation of the revolution in Russia and China on the other side. At the same time, it is impossible to continue on the old lines and old pattern of social relations. If, from an historical view, the bourgeoisie has exhausted its social role in the metropolitan capitalist countries, in the present stage of world society, it is even more incapable of rising to the tasks posed by history in the colonial areas of the world.

The rotten bourgeoisie of the East and the nascent bourgeoisie of Africa are quite incapable of rising to the tasks solved long ago by the bourgeoisie in the West. Meanwhile the bourgeois-democratic and national revolution in the colonial areas cannot be stayed. The rise in national consciousness in all these areas imperatively demands a solution to the tasks posed by the pressure of the more developed countries of the West.

The decay of world imperialism and the rise of two mighty Stalinist states, of Russia in Europe and China in Asia, has resulted in a peculiar balance of world forces. The bourgeoisie and to a certain extent the national petit-bourgeoisie and upper layers of colonial society, was allowed a role which would have been impossible without the world relationship of forces which emerged as a result of the Second World War. Even the heightened role which the Afro-Asian bloc plays in the United Nations (albeit on secondary questions—they cannot play the same role when it comes to a fundamental issue) is an indication of this change. The competition between the West and Russia—and now China, Russia and the West—for the aid and support of the ruling circles in Africa and Latin America and Asia, is an indication of the result of this precarious balance of forces.

The degeneration of the Russian Revolution and the strengthening of Stalinism for a whole historical epoch was the main reason why the revolution in China began right from the start on Bonapartist lines. This in its turn has meant that the revolution in other countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America had a ready-made Bonapartist model - which is associated in the minds of the leading circles of the intellectual strata as “socialism”. Whilst the Chinese revolution was accomplished largely through a peasant war, and a peasant army as an instrument of proletarian Bonapartism, at least lip service was given in the later stages of the revolution, after the conquest of power, to the rule of the proletariat. This was the case in Cuba also, where the peasant army and the guerrilla war played the dominant role in the revolution, until the uprising of the proletariat in Havana. After the transformation of the bourgeois-democratic revolution under Castro’s leadership into a state on the model of Yugoslavia, China and Russia, also a dominant role of the proletariat was conceded, but again in words.

All history has demonstrated that the peasantry by its very nature as a class, can never play the dominant role in society. It can support either the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. Under modern conditions, it can also support the proletarian Bonapartist leaders or ex-leaders of the proletariat. However, in doing so, a distortion of the revolution is inevitable. A distortion in one form or another on the lines of a military-police state.

Every Marxist who claims to base themselves on the scientific theory of Marx and Engels, with its deepening and extension in the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky, has explained the necessary role of the proletariat—and in the role of the proletariat of socialist consciousness—as the driving force of the changeover from capitalism into the new society. Without socialist consciousness, there can be no socialist revolution and no transition of society to socialism. Marxists like Lenin and Trotsky have not emphasised the role of socialist consciousness and the conscious participation of the proletariat in the course of the socialist revolution in the overthrow of the old society for idealist or sentimental reasons. They did so because without the participation of the proletariat in the socialist revolution (in the West, the success of such a revolution is impossible without the mobilisation of all the forces of the proletariat) and its conscious control and organisation of the transitional society, a development towards socialism is absolutely impossible.

There is no automatism of the productive forces without the control [by the workers of the state]—even in a highly industrialised state like Britain or America, the very existence of a state would be a capitalist survival from the past. Without conscious control on the part of the proletariat, whose dictatorship is intended to speedily dissolve all elements of state coercion into society, the state as evidenced in Russia and China, inevitably gains an impetus and a movement of its own.

If in China the bourgeoisie revealed its utter incapacity to solve a single one of the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, events will demonstrate the even greater incapacity of the Indian, still less of the other Asian and African, bourgeois elements to solve a single one of the problems posed in front of these countries by history.

It is the incapacity of the bourgeois, semi-bourgeois, upper middle class, landlords and petit-bourgeois to solve these tasks, that poses the problem of the permanent revolution in a distorted way. Had there been in existence strong Marxist parties and tendencies in the colonial areas of the world, the problem of power would have been posed somewhat differently. It would have been posed with an internationalist perspective. But even then a prolonged isolation could only have had the same effect as in Russia and China. Even more than in the industrially developed countries of the West, socialism in one country, or, one might add, in a series of backward countries, is an impossible chimera. Nevertheless, the tasks of development in these countries are imperiously posed. With the world balance of forces, with the delay of the revolution in the West, with the lack of Marxist parties in these countries and with the balance of social forces between West and East, between imperialism and these countries, and with the social classes in these countries themselves, new and peculiar phenomena are inevitable.

For example, with a mighty Chinese revolution on its borders, developments in Burma have taken a peculiar form. Since the end of the War Burmese society has been disorganised. The national minorities have waged a constant struggle for self-determination and national autonomy in their own states (Kachins, Shans, etc.) and at the same time, different factions of the Stalinist party have waged a terrific guerrilla war. One government has succeeded another, but each has been incapable of solving the problems of Burmese society. The weak bourgeoisie has been incapable of putting its stamp on society. Like the Chinese bourgeoisie before it, it has been incapable of unifying society, giving it social cohesion and satisfying the land hunger of the peasants, or breaking the economic power of imperialism. It is a striking symptom of the new developments in these backward countries that all the factions in Burma claim to be “socialist”. Imperialism dominated the economy, by its ownership, largely, of whatever industry existed and [of] the main economic forces such as teak plantations, oil and transport.

With the example of China on the border, it became more and more apparent to the upper layers of the petit-bourgeois that on the road of bourgeois society there was no way forward for Burma. As in China, in the decades before the revolution, the bourgeoisie was incapable of bringing the guerrilla war to an end and ensuring the development of a stable society and the inauguration of industrialisation and the creation of a modern state.

Each succeeding government made only the feeblest attempts to try and develop the economy. The weakness of imperialism, the balance of forces nationally and internationally, led to a situation where the officer caste posed the problem before itself of finding some stability within society. In all these countries, the development of the bourgeois revolution, a bourgeois democratic state, and a development towards a modern bourgeois democracy, given the existing relationship of class and national forces and with the pressure of the world economy, at any rate for any lengthy period is impossible.

Consequently, some form of Bonapartism, some form of military-police state, was inevitable in Burma. The army officer caste saw itself in the role of the only strata which could “save” society from disintegration and collapse, as the feeble bourgeoisie obviously offered no solution. Consequently, the officer caste which had participated as one of the “socialist” factions, decided that the only way forward was on the model of “socialist” China, but called a “Burmese model” of “socialism”. They have moved rapidly on familiar lines—a one-party totalitarian state, and the nationalisation of foreign-owned interests, including oil, teak, transport etc. They have begun the expropriation of the indigenous bourgeoisie. They even threatened the nationalisation of the small shops. They based themselves on the peasants and the working class. But they do not have a model of scientific socialism, on the contrary, their programme is one of “Burmese-Buddhist socialism”.

Thus we see the same process at one pace or another in all the colonial countries. At the moment the process is becoming marked in the Arab countries, which have been in a state of ferment for the last decade. In Egypt the revolution against the incompetent and corrupt Farouk(2) regime, agency of imperialism, was led by the officer caste. Over a period, Nasser has adopted the policy of “Arab socialism”.

The monotony with which such tendencies appear in all these countries is striking. Already a great part of the economy of Egypt is nationalised. The Great Aswan Dam, from the beginning, was owned by the state. During this year the Nasser regime has nationalised the greater part of industry. Under the impact of economic crisis on a world scale, it can be predicted that the ruling caste, with the support of the workers and peasants, will nationalise the rest of the economy. The bourgeoisie is so weak and impotent that they are incapable of resistance. The officer caste which carried out the revolution, with the support and sympathy of the masses undeniably, did so because there was no perspective of modern development for the nation under the old system. There were no forces capable of resisting such change. Imperialism is too weak and has learned the lesson in the failure of the wars against the national revolutions in the post-war period. With the model of Russia, China and now a whole series of states, with the example of developments in Algeria, there is no doubt that the ruling petit-bourgeois castes (as well as the basis that the Bonapartist regime of Nasser has among the workers and peasants) will support the complete nationalisation of the productive forces, stage by stage. Only thus can the Egyptian state enter into world developments.

It is easy for this caste to play this role because their [own] privileges and income, their social role, can be reinforced and increased. The bourgeois system in these areas is so effete and prematurely decayed that it can offer no perspective of development.

The most striking demonstration of the correctness of this thesis are the events in Iraq. The Communist Party, through its cowardly opportunism and the policy of Kruschev not to disturb the imperialists in this area, failed to take advantage of the revolutionary situation provoked by the fall of the old regime. The impulsion of the masses ended in disappointment and demoralisation. Nevertheless, the Kassem (3) regime, while waging war on the Kurds, at the same time was preparing measures of nationalisation.

The recent counter-revolutionary coup of the army took place to prevent these measures. But now to maintain themselves in power, and in view of the hopelessness of the situation, this very caste which is carrying on the reactionary war against the Kurdish people and which carried out the bloody counter-revolutionary coup against the temporising regime, has itself now announced measures of nationalisation, which embrace all important industry and banks. A great part of these were foreign owned, but nevertheless this coup has taken place. Like Algeria, for the present, the oil industry has been exempt from these measures, for fear of reprisals from the powerful international oil interests. But the tendency is there and will be further reinforced in the next period.

In Asia the remorseless peasant war of liberation in Vietnam, which has continued uninterrupted for 20 years, is nearing success. The American position in South Vietnam, tomorrow in South Korea, is becoming untenable. The attempt to prop up the old semi-feudal landlord capitalist state is doomed to failure, especially with the example of China in the near vicinity. The most far-sighted representatives of capitalism are well aware of this process. De Gaulle, after his experience in Algeria, has understood this problem clearly and wishes to take advantage of it in the national interests of France. They understand that the American war of oppression is as hopeless as the French stand in Algeria. They see that landlordism and capitalism in this area are doomed. How to face up to this problem? There is no question with a peasant war under Stalinist leadership and with only limited nationalist perspectives of revolutionary contagion of the West. The area is doomed to be lost in any event. Why not then try and ensure the victory of a nationalist-Stalinist regime in Vietnam and the rest of Indo-China, independent of China, like Yugoslavia is independent of Russia?

They want a Vietnam—once the regrettable and inevitable end of capitalism in the area is accepted as the perspective—which would look to France and even America for aid and assistance, in order to prop it up as a force independent of Red China. The perspective of America in relation to Yugoslavia, Poland and Rumania is their perspective for South East Asia. Their policy is that of the lesser evil. Why not make the best of a bad job and make the most of the contradictions of the national Stalinist regimes? After all, they pose no direct social threat to the metropolitan areas, no more than Algeria under nationalist leadership did to France.

In Africa, Nkrumah(4) in Ghana speaks of “African socialism”. Under the impact of events it is not excluded that Ghana might take over all industry. This would be so in the event of economic crisis on a world scale.

A similar process is taking place in the Algerian revolution. Beginning as a national revolutionary war against colonial oppression, Algeria finds itself in an impasse. On the lines of capitalist society, there can be no solution of its problems. With the result, step by step, that Ben Bella and the FLN (National Liberation Front) are being pushed in the direction of a “socialist solution”.

Algeria lacks an industrial proletariat at the present time. The war was waged largely by the peasant-guerrilla army plus a large stiffening of rural proletarians and semi-proletarians. Had the leadership of the French proletariat conducted itself in a revolutionary way, it would have had its effect on the Algerian struggle but the betrayal of the French Socialist and Communist Parties in their turn pushed the struggle of the Algerian people through the FLN on to a purely nationalist basis.

This in turn led to the situation where the French workers, and technicians in Algeria, small colons and shopkeepers were pushed into the arms of the fascist OAS (Secret Army Organisation). The elements in Algeria supporting the Socialist and Communist Parties deserted to the OAS. This in its turn exacerbated the conflict. The victory of the revolution led to the fleeing of the French technicians, artisans and skilled workers to France, creating exceptional difficulties for the new Algerian state. Right from the start, the control of Algeria has been on the basis of Bonapartism. If in the early stages, the elements of a weak workers’ control existed in the enterprises and partially in the estates expropriated from imperialism, these cannot be of decisive significance in the future. Without an industrial proletariat and without a conscious revolutionary party, with half the population unemployed, the regime will assume a more and more Bonapartist character.

History will demonstrate whether this will be a proletarian form of Bonapartism or a bourgeois variant of Bonapartism. The development of events should push the leadership of the FLN and the army in the direction of establishing the regime of nationalised property and of state ownership. It can only be, with the nationalist perspective of the leadership, with the social organisation of Algeria, with the lack of a conscious proletariat and in the world setting of the present time, a Stalinist dictatorship of the familiar model—a deformed workers’ state.

Symptomatic of the process is the development of the ideology as put forward by Ben Bella—of Algerian “Muslim” socialism. This Buddhist socialism, African socialism, Muslim socialism and various other aberrations of a similar character sum up themselves the process as it has taken place in the backward countries of the world. The difference between these revolutions and the proletarian revolutions as conceived by Marx and Lenin, is summed up in the difference between “Buddhist-Muslim-socialism” and conscious “scientific” socialism. Of course, every revolutionary worth their salt would hail enthusiastically the development of the colonial revolution even on bourgeois lines; every blow against imperialism, every lifting of the chains of national oppression, marks a step forward in the struggle for socialism and would even be welcomed by all enlightened elements of society.

Thus in the last 15 years the development of the colonial revolution in whatever form, is an enormous step forward for the world proletariat and for the mass of mankind as a whole. It marks the stepping onto the stage of history of peoples who have been kept at the level of animal existence by imperialism, an existence hardly worthy of being called human.

Thus if the revolutionary working class would hail as a step forward the victory of the colonial revolution and national independence, even in a bourgeois form, the defeat of capitalism and landlordism, the destruction of the elements of bourgeois and landlord society obviously marks an even greater step forward in the advance of these countries and the advance of mankind.

In the process of the permanent revolution, the failure of the bourgeoisie to solve the problems of the capitalist democratic revolution, under the conditions of capitalist society of modern times, is pushing towards revolutionary victory.

Even the victory of a Marxist party, with the knowledge and understanding of the process of deformation and degeneration of Russia, China and other countries, would not be sufficient to prevent the deformation of the revolution on Stalinist lines, given the present relationship of world forces.

Revolutionary victory in backward countries such as Algeria, under present conditions, whilst constituting a tremendous victory for the world revolution and the world proletariat, to be enthusiastically supported and aided by the vanguard as well as by the world proletariat, cannot but be on the lines of a totalitarian Stalinist state.

Whilst constituting an enormous step forward from the point of view of ending the stagnation and restriction of productive forces imposed by imperialism, capitalism and landlordism and bringing these countries onto the road of a modern industrialised society, it cannot solve the problems posed in front of these societies. New contradictions on a higher level will inexorably be posed. The delay in the revolution in the West has, as a penalty for colonial peoples, meant that the revolution against imperialism and landlordism, moving forward to the proletarian revolution, takes place on the basis of Bonapartist deformation.

It is a striking indication of the weakness of “Marxist” theorists and their lack of conscientiousness towards the problems of the socialist revolution, that nowhere are the problems of the different countries considered from the point of view of world revolution and world socialism. Even within the ranks of the “Fourth International”, under the pressure of the great historical regression in theory and ideas, panaceas are put in the place of Marxist perspective.

Of all [the] historical tendencies, that of Bolshevism alone began with a clear internationalist perspective. The Russian revolution was carried through clearly and consciously as the beginning of revolution in Europe. This internationalist perspective, an indispensable necessary basis for socialist revolution, permeated not only the leading cadres but the masses of people led by the Bolsheviks.

Internationalism was not conceived as a holiday or sentimental phrase, but as an organic part of the socialist revolution. Internationalism is a consequence of the unity of the world economy, which was capitalism’s historical task to develop into a single economic whole. If Russia, with all her immense resources, and a most highly-conscious proletariat, with the finest Marxist leadership, could not solve its problems despite its continental basis and resources, it is ludicrous for Marxists even to think that in the present world conjuncture it would be possible in any of these backward countries, in isolation from any healthy workers’ state to maintain anything but a Bonapartist state of a more or less repressive character.

Internationalism and conscious leadership—the two go together — are an organic part of Marxism. Without them, it is impossible to take the necessary steps in the direction of socialist society. Not one of these states is, in proportion to population, even as industrially developed as was Russia at the time of the revolution. Industrial development of a backward economy with the pressure of imperialism and Soviet and Chinese Bonapartism, the pressure of internal contradictions which a developing economy would mean, inevitably, in an economy of scarcity, would lead to the rise of privileged layers.

The independence of the state from its mass base, which all these countries possess in common (even where they have had or have the support of the mass of the population, either enthusiastically or passively), all indicate that on the basis of backwardness, it is impossible to start the process of dissolution of the state into society. The necessary dismantlement of the temporary structures of the state, which would be involved in a society with real democratic control and participation on the part of the population is in itself an indispensable prerequisite of a healthy transition to socialism. Thus, the further development of these states is dependent on the development of the world revolution.

In those colonial or ex-colonial countries where the bourgeoisie has been enabled to maintain a precarious balance for a temporary period, such as India and Sri Lanka, they have maintained a semblance of bourgeois democracy. In many of the states in Asia and Latin America, bourgeois democracy in one form or another has been maintained on the basis of the economic upswing developed since the war. In India, which had perhaps the strongest bourgeoisie of all the ex-colonial countries, this regime has succeeded in maintaining itself but the bourgeoisie in the colonial world has no real perspective.

Thus, on the onset of the first deep economic crisis, if capitalism maintains itself in India, bourgeois democracy will be doomed. To maintain itself, the bourgeoisie will launch on the road of capitalist Bonapartism. The process was clearly demonstrated in Pakistan(5). In the other countries of Asia and in practically all the countries of Africa, the upper layers of that society have only been able to maintain themselves on the basis of a one-party Bonapartist state—Ghana, Egypt etc.

On a bourgeois basis, such countries will be condemned to decay and degeneration. Economically, politically, socially, the bourgeoisie can only develop and aggravate the problems of society. In India, the bourgeoisie has not solved the problem of landlordism, the national problem or even the problem of caste. The standard of living, despite the industrial construction that has taken place, has actually declined relative to the increase in population. Of all these states, the Indian bourgeoisie had possibly the best opportunity of taking the road of the development of a modern economy and a modern state.

Imperialism with one hand has rendered assistance to India and with the other hand, through terms of trade and tribute extracted from investments, has undermined the position of the Indian bourgeoisie. If there has been a certain development in industry, the exports of such countries have been of light goods such as textiles, while the imports have been of heavy machinery. With the enormous development of trade through the division of labour between the metropolitan countries themselves, the imperialists could allow a certain latitude in the import of light goods from the colonial countries.

However, the last couple of decades have been the best economic circumstances under which these countries could function within the world market, to which they are bound like Prometheus to the rock, and from which there is no escape. Even in this most favourable period for capitalism as a whole, the colonial countries’ economics, relative to those of the advanced countries, have suffered an even greater deterioration than in the period of colonial dependence in the years before the war. When it will be a question of the mighty imperialist states looking to find a way to save themselves from the crisis which the economic downswing will bring, the “concessions” which they give to the colonial countries, because of fear of revolutions within them, will be terminated in an endeavour to prevent the mighty social explosions which impend in their own metropolitan areas. Thus new convulsions and new storms will develop in the metropolitan areas and certainly in all the colonial countries.

No one, neither Marx nor Lenin nor Trotsky, could put forward a blueprint for the development of society. Only the basic and broad perspectives could be outlined. The failure of the revolution in the West, the degeneration of Stalinism, the failure of successive waves of the social revolution in Western Europe, the thwarting of the social revolution in the West and the expansion and consolidation of Stalinism in the East, have been the world background on which the revolutionary awakening of the colonial peoples has been taking place.

In Asia, the Chinese revolution has imposed its imprint on the development of events. American imperialism’s endeavours in Vietnam, in South Korea and other areas adjacent to China, has merely underwritten the rotting social formations of the past. They have endeavoured to step into the vacuum caused by the expulsion of Anglo-French and Japanese imperialism from these areas. The military police states in Vietnam and South Korea and other areas in South East Asia can only be compared to the rotting regime of Chiang Kai-Shek in the period before the Second World War.

The weak bourgeoisie in these countries cannot solve the problems of the bourgeois democratic revolution. Without the intervention of American troops and money in Vietnam and South Korea, these regimes would collapse overnight. Even with the support of American imperialism, the implacable peasant war in South Vietnam, which has continued uninterrupted since the end of the Second World War, is undermining the regime and making the victory of the peasant armies, in the long run, certain. South Vietnam is as much a liability as was Chiang Kai-Shek. Only the resources of American imperialism permit the throwing of dollars down a bottomless sink.

In the immediate post-war period, only the treacherous policy of Stalinism, above all of the Russian bureaucracy, helped to maintain the precarious balance of forces in Asia especially in the South East. But the impossibility of finding a road to the development of modern society in these areas dooms these regimes to the dustbin of history. Consequently, at any stage, when the pressure of American imperialism will be relaxed, for whatever reasons, and even in spite of this, the collapse of all these regimes is certain.

Developments in Burma, in Laos, in Cambodia [Kampuchea], are all indicative of the way in which the process will develop. On the road of capitalism there is no way forward, for all the countries of Asia. In one form or another, there will be an impulse in the direction of social revolution. In India and Sri Lanka, particularly the former, with a developed proletariat, it is possible that the bourgeois democratic revolution could be transformed into the socialist revolution on the basis of the classical idea of the permanent revolution. The installation of a workers’ democracy would be its crowning achievement, once the bourgeois democratic revolution has been accomplished, with the proletariat, directly through a revolutionary party, leading the struggle for power.

However, in these countries, even under the leadership of a Trotskyist party, such as that of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party(6) in Sri Lanka, the conquest of power by the proletariat and the firm establishment of a workers’ democracy could only be an episode, to be followed by deformation or counter-revolution in the Stalinist form, if it were not followed, in a relatively short historical period, by the victory of the revolution in the advanced capitalist countries. It would, of course, even as an “episode” be of enormous historical significance for the proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries as well as the peoples of the underdeveloped areas of the world. But even the greatest revolutionary theory cannot solve the problem without the necessary material base.

It is only the complete incapacity of outlived capitalism to solve the problems on its periphery which could allow the conquest of power in these countries. Of course, with a sub-continent such as India, the victory of the proletariat would have enormous consequences in Britain and other European countries as well, if it developed on the lines of China of 1925-7, with the proletariat playing the decisive part. On the other hand, any development of revolution on the lines of the Chinese revolution of 1944-9, with the peasantry playing the decisive role through guerrilla war, would unfold in the same way as the Chinese revolution of 1944-9.

However, the development of industry in India, the different traditions of the country, give the proletariat a preponderant weight in the social life of the country. Given that Indian Marxists should create a revolutionary party in time, then they could lead the working class to power, with the aim of creating a workers’ democracy; with the aim of leading the peasantry to the overthrow of the landlord regime in the countryside; with the aim of unifying the country as a step towards the international socialist revolution.

Stalinist China, in its whole outlook, in its methods, in its ideology, [is] not accidentally saturated with the narrow nationalism of a bureaucratic caste. If, in the transition from feudalism to capitalism, a whole variety of regimes in all the kaleidoscopic colours have revealed themselves historically, it is because in this transition the development of productive forces themselves has assured a certain autonomism of progress; once the decisive [bourgeois] revolution had been accomplished in Britain, France and

Watch the video