Trotskyist “Permanent Revolution” is Counter-revolution
Trotskyism in its various forms has outlasted most other revisionist lines of the same time period, going on 80 years since Leon Trotsky’s demise. The reasons for Trotskyism’s persistence has very little to do with the successes of Trotskyist practice. Trotskyism’s persistence today has more to do with Trotsky’s excellent rhetorical skills in his speeches and writings, alongside a heavy dose of fawning by the agents of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The many different and often conflicting lines expressed by Trotsky are the basis for the dozens of splinter sects calling themselves “Trotskyist” today. We are not going to get distracted by Trotsky’s many wavering and conflicting positions, and focus only what political line is revealed by actual historical Trotskyist practice.
Trotskyism takes the current capitalist-imperialist system and its major superstructural components for granted, from the military to economic development. Trotsky’s theory of “Uneven and Combined Development” is an elaborate restatement of the revisionist Theory of the Productive Forces. In the preface of the American Edition of his work “The Permanent Revolution”, Trotsky writes:
“If we take England and India as the opposite poles of capitalist types, we must state that the internationalism of the British and Indian proletariat does not at all rest on the similarity of conditions, tasks and methods, but on their inseparable interdependence. The successes of the liberation movement in India presuppose a revolutionary movement in England, and the other way around. Neither in India, nor in England is it possible to construct an independent socialist society. Both of them will have to enter as parts into a higher entity. In this and only in this rests the unshakable foundation of Marxian internationalism.” (1)
Trotskyism glosses over the exploitative relationship between the imperialist exploiter nations and the colonized exploited nations. In the place of exposing this global social relationship for what it is, Trotsky refers rather to the “interdependence” of exploiter and exploited nations. Unlike many other revisionist lines that pretend that there are no great differences between exploiter and exploited, Trotskyism acknowledges these differences. Like other revisionist lines however, Trotskyism denies the contradiction between the two opposing forces.
The Trotskyist strategy of “Permanent Revolution” is based on this revisionist theory of “Uneven and Combined Development”. It is an adjustment of the more classic revisionist and chauvinist outlook that makes the imperialist country working bourgeoisie into the motive force. Since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution proved false the notion of “advanced” imperialist countries coming to socialist revolution first, the Trotskyist line on world revolution allows for the “backward” countries to breakout into proletarian revolution first.
According to this social-chauvinist theory however, such revolutions can only succeed in building a viable socialist transition to communism if revolution in the “advanced” imperialist countries immediately follows. For Trotskyists today, this especially implies the exploited Third World proletariat cannot build and expand the New Power without neocolonial “assistance” by the social motion of the First World working bourgeoisie.
Contrast “Permanent Revolution” with the strategy of Global People’s War. With the Global People’s War strategy of the Leading Light, the masses in the Proletarian World (the Third World) build the New Power. The New Power expands to deepens its roots, creating a “state in miniature”. The New Power of the Leading Light in command in the poorest places across Asia, Africa, and Latin America will gain the confidence of the masses, and their confidence in the old powers will wane.
The determination of the masses to defend the New Power institutions that serve them will pave the way to the next wave of People’s Wars. These People’s Wars will reinforce one another, and become a global tidal wave to sweep away the old powers and expand the New Socialism of the Leading Light all over the planet. The final phase of this Global People’s War will encircle and conquer the citadels of the Bourgeois World (the First World). The Global People’s War strategy of the Leading Light Communists turns the counter-revolutionary Trotskyist strategy of “Permanent Revolution” on its head. The end point of our strategy declares that the victory of Global People’s War will spread socialism to the populations of the Bourgeois World! (2)
The revisionist rot of “Permanent Revolution” is further informed by the historical practice of Trotskyism regarding the role of the military. Leon Trotsky’s leadership of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War is often credited for preserving the newborn Soviet regime. However, this was not done without the use of heavy coercion towards Red Army officers, soldiers, and the masses alike. Trotsky emphasized the need for experts in the Red Army command, which meant the employment of ex-Czarist officers under the coercive supervision of political commissars. A harsh policy called “War Communism” was instituted that requisitioned all grain surpluses from the peasantry, to feed workers in the cities who were often coerced into production for the war effort. (3)
With the Russian Civil War coming to a close in 1921, the Kronstadt rebellion broke out among thousands of the Bolshevik Revolution’s most notable original participants. This signaled a course change for the Bolshevik leadership called the “New Economic Policy” with a retreat towards state capitalism. This was a way to soften the harshness of the War Communism policy for the masses. As Trotsky was the one to give the go ahead to crush the Kronstadt rebellion, it did not benefit his political profile in the eyes of the masses to oppose the NEP.
The experience of the NEP from 1921-1928 became something that 20th century rightists within the communist movement have sought to permanently implement, from Nikolai Bukharin to Deng Xiaoping. Again, policies like NEP were not part of Trotsky’s preferred revisionist line. The Trotskyist line fundamentally seeks to permanently implement a harsh policy like War Communism. Trotsky writes in his book “Terrorism and Communism”:
“While every previous form of society was an organization of labor in the interests of a minority, which organized its State apparatus for the oppression of the overwhelming majority of the workers, we are making the first attempt in world-history to organize labor in the interests of the laboring majority itself. This, however, does not exclude the element of compulsion in all its forms, both the most gentle and the extremely severe. The element of State compulsion not only does not disappear from the historical arena, but on the contrary will still play, for a considerable period, an extremely prominent part.”
“The introduction of compulsory labor service is unthinkable without the application… of the methods of militarization of labor.”
“Why do we speak of militarization? …No social organization except the army has ever considered itself justified in subordinating citizens to itself in such a measure, and to control them by its will on all sides to such a degree, as the State of the proletarian dictatorship considers itself justified in doing, and does. Only the army—just because in its way it used to decide questions of the life or death of nations, States, and ruling classes—was endowed with powers of demanding from each and all complete submission to its problems, aims, regulations, and orders.” (4)
There is a stark contrast between Trotskyist “Militarization of Labor”, and the role of the People’s Liberation Army under socialist China. The slogan of the People’s Liberation Army was “Serve the People”. Instead of using coercion against the masses, the PLA upheld Mao’s famous line on guerilla warfare, “move among the masses as a fish swims in sea”. The PLA was viewed by the masses as their own army, rather than the masses being the hostage possession of the standing army.
The 1960 “Four Firsts” campaign, the 1964 “Learn from the PLA” campaign, and the “Flying Leap” campaign by the PLA led by Lin Biao during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution emphasized communist politics and the mass line. (5) In contrast, “one-man management” and technical expertise was emphasized by the Red Army under Trotsky, as well as his “Militarization of Labor” line on economic development. The Trotskyist line has no reservation in putting the masses through the militarist meat grinder in the name of defending and consolidating socialism, so long as it aids a social-imperialist First World “workers revolution”. Trotskyism takes the customs, habits, “experts”, and politics of the capitalist-imperialist system for granted, rather than putting communist politics in command.
On gender oppression, the Trotskyists also take the current imperialist-backed global patriarchy for granted. The various Trotskyist sects are notorious liberals when it comes to the institutions that systematically oppress women and children in the Third World. They take the sex trade and the culture of pornography as a “given” under socialism, and tend to refer to their elimination under socialism as simply a matter of “guaranteeing full employment”. (6) Leading Light Communists believe that the masses of sex workers in the Proletarian World should not simply be paid more to rent their compliance to men’s sexual advances, or to simply make sex work process “safer” until the socialist economy develops. Rather, Leading Light Communists believe the masses of sex workers can actively combat the whole patriarchal system that sexually commodifies women and children. The masses of women in the Third World demand not only full equality, but total liberation!
It is possible to cut through many of Trotsky’s eloquent and conflicting statements based on the historical practice of Trotskyism. We can then condense the essence of Trotskyist revisionism, which is at its core a misanthropic anti-People ideology. In the same work calling for the “militarization of labor”, Trotsky explains his position on the relationship of the human species to labor:
“As a general rule, man strives to avoid labor. Love for work is not at all an inborn characteristic: it is created by economic pressure and social education. One may even say that man is a fairly lazy animal. It is on this quality, in reality, that is founded to a considerable extent all human progress; because if man did not strive to expend his energy economically, did not seek to receive the largest possible quantity of products in return for a small quantity of energy, there would have been no technical development or social culture. It would appear, then, from this point of view that human laziness is a progressive force.” (7)
Contrast this to how Karl Marx describes the relationship of the human species to labor:
“It is just in his work upon the objective world, therefore, that man really proves himself to be a species-being. This production is his active species-life. Through this production, nature appears as his work and his reality. The object of labor is, therefore, the objectification of man’s species-life: for he duplicates himself not only, as in consciousness, intellectually, but also actively, in reality, and therefore he sees himself in a world that he has created. In tearing away from man the object of his production, therefore, estranged labor tears from him his species-life, his real objectivity as a member of the species and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his inorganic body, nature, is taken from him…
Estranged labor turns thus…[m]an’s species-being, both nature and his spiritual species-property, into a being alien to him, into a means of his individual existence. It estranges from man his own body, as well as external nature and his spiritual aspect, his human aspect.” (8)
Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky have diametrically opposite views on what makes human beings human! For Marx, humans have “species-being” through their productive interaction with the natural world (labor), unlike most other species on this planet. It is only in a class divided society, where humans are alienated from the product of their labor, that labor itself becomes dehumanizing.
In a general sense, Trotsky is correct that in class society “human laziness is a progressive force”, he obscures the fundamental point Marx makes about human labor being affirmative of what it means to be a human being. Trotsky takes alienated human labor for granted when he makes the false and misanthropic claim that “Love for work is not at all an inborn characteristic… One may even say that man is a fairly lazy animal.” Is there any wonder why Trotskyists don’t make a point about applying the mass line, putting communist politics in command, and building institutions that serve the people? Is there any wonder why the Trotskyists instead seek to impose “experts” who will slave-drive the masses with “military labor discipline”? Real communists, Leading Light Communists, seek to Serve the People. Fake “communists”, revisionists like the Trotskyists, seek to slave-drive the masses “for their own good”. What outrageous, reactionary poison!
Nevertheless, the call to “return to Marx” will do nothing to negate revisionist lines like Trotskyism. Indeed, all revisionist lines claim to have some thread back to the “original Marx”, whether emphasizing Marx’s Labor Theory of Value or other basics of Marxist social science. However, very few revisionist lines in existence today deal concretely with Marx’s Theory of Alienation. The reason is that this thread of Marxist thinking has consequences for one’s practical view of social class in the 21st century. This thread affirms the Leading Light Communist view on global class, much more than it affirms the retrograde lines of any other “return to Marx” cult group. (9)
Leading Light Communism breaks with a view of social class that is strictly tied to one’s relationship with the means of production. In turn, Leading Light Communism has revisited what the proletariat actually is today, based on an global egalitarian distribution principle. (10) Marx presented his Theory of Alienation as it affected the industrial worker, before the 21st century “Planet of Slums”. Even so, the same thinking from Marx about how human alienation in class society applies as much to the “declassed” slumdweller and subsistence farmer as it does the Third World factory worker. Each of those exploited social groups belong to the proletariat, because they are alienated from their fair share of the global social product, and thus alienated from their own humanity and from other humans.
Likewise, Marxism-Leninism and Maoism (including “Maoism-Third Worldism”) is also not enough to combat Trotskyism and other revisionist lines that uphold the Theory of the Productive Forces. There are many ways which the Leninists did not break sharply enough with some of these backward productivist ideas that Trotskyism represents, like “one-man management” and other organizing methods that undermined the proletarian dictatorship. The Maoists went even further in their break with Trotskyist and other productivist ideology. (11) Even still, the Maoists in China did not fully break with productivism, as evidenced by how they sought to “catch up” to the First World during the Great Leap Forward.
Of course, this productivism is fundamentally a revisionist line, nesting inside a basically correct “train is on two tracks” orientation of socialist development. It is not possible to “catch up” to the First World that has enriched itself off of imperialist plunder. The only way for the Third World to “catch up” to the First World, is for the Proletarian Third World to encircle and defeat the Bourgeois First World! (12) The consequences of not fully breaking with the Theory of the Productive Forces has led Maoism itself to represent a “crypto-Trotskyist” line since the 1970s. Both historically inside China and around the world today, Maoists uphold a crypto-Trotskyist line that centers on the social motion of the bourgeois First World majority populations. (13)
Even when we speak of the “Second Road” of Lin Biao’s PLA during the Cultural Revolution as a contrast to historical Trotskyist practice, we are not going far enough. The PLA until 1971 was indeed a model of a communist revolution breaking with the Theory of the Productive Forces. (14) This was especially the case during the Flying Leap, in correcting the errors that derailed the original Great Leap Forward. Due to the border clashes with the social-imperialist Soviet Union in 1969, Lin was compelled to derail the motion of the social experiments in the border regions of China.
More generally, if we don’t move beyond the “barracks socialism” of Lin, then we are in danger of falling back into Trotskyist military organizing principles, and not Leading Light Communist military organizing principles. This is why “Maoism-Third Worldism” is no longer sufficient to combat revisionist ideologies like Trotskyism. As a scholar on revolutionary China wrote:
“I led the charge to rehabilitate Lin Biao. Even so, I admit that we need more than simply “barracks egalitarianism,” which is a term I have used to describe the Lin Biao trend, which was really the only Maoist trend with an articulate program for transforming the Cultural Revolution into something permanent. I was listening to interviews with ex-Maoist red guards. The same Maoist youth who were rising up in 1967 were, by 1976, coming out to support Zhou Enlai. They were disenchanted with constant Maoist calls for mobilization, especially with little results to show for them by the end. I got the sense there was a kind of collective burn out there.”
“…Yes there were mass mobilizations and the New Power that arose in the People’s Liberation Army, but there was also a lot of police suppression, police method, police narrative and falsifications, lack of due process, brute force happening. At their best, the Maoists wanted a more structural and ideological analysis of counter-revolution, a more structural and ideological method of preventing it, in reality, they used the old methods probably as much as the new methods, often mixing them together. In practice, the Maoist break was not always as great as one would hope.” (15)
All in all, the “Permanent Revolution” of Trotskyism is counter-revolutionary in fact. The only way to combat Trotskyism and all revisionist ideology is to uphold Leading Light Communism, to build the New Power and prepare the way for world revolution!
1. Leon Trotsky, “The Permanent Revolution” (https://archive.org/stream/permanentrevolut035092mbp/permanentrevolut035092mbp_djvu.txt)
2. PF, “Is Peoples’s War universal?” (https://llco.org/is-peoples-war-universal)
3. John G. Wright, “Trotsky and the Red Army” (https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/wright/1941/10/redarmy.htm)
4. Leon Trotsky, “Terrorism and Communism”, Chapter 8 (https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/terrcomm/ch08.htm)
5. PF, “Lin Biao as Barometer”, (https://llco.org/lin-biao-as-barometer)
6. Spartacist League (http://www.icl-fi.org/english/esp/58/conference.html)
7. Leon Trotsky, “Terrorism and Communism”, Chapter 8
8. Karl Marx, “Estranged Labour” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/labour.htm)
9. Shah Alam, “Communist Revolution Universal”
10. PF, “Revisiting Value and Exploitation” (https://llco.org/revisiting-value-and-exploitation)
11. Kao Hung, “From Bernstein to Liu Shao-chi” (http://marxistphilosophy.org/BernLiu.pdf)
12. PF, “On counter-revolution: Just pointing to revisionists is not enough” (https://llco.org/on-counter-revolution-just-pointing-to-revisionists-is-not-enough)
13. PF, “Who and What are Trotsky-cons?” (https://llco.org/who-and-what-are-trotsky-cons)
14. PF, “Lin Biao as Barometer”
15. PF, “On counter-revolution: Just pointing to revisionists is not enough