From: The Colonial Revolution and the Sino-Soviet Split

The third item in this chapter, The Colonial Revolution and the Sino-Soviet Split, is a document written in 1964, and first published by Sussex University Socialist Society. As the title implies, it once again explains the nature of the split between the Russian and the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracies, this time after the event, but it also extends the analysis of the Chinese revolution to encompass the broader processes of the colonial revolution.

At this time, at the height of the post-war boom, the ultra-left sects condemned the working class in the West as 'bourgeoisified', and turned their attention to the students and to the struggles for national liberation in the colonial world. For them, the centre of gravity of the world revolution was shifted from China to Cuba, from Cuba to Algeria, from Algeria to Vietnam, on each occasion slavishly and uncritically supporting the leadership of the liberation movements.

This document, therefore, was largely a polemic against these middle-class infatuations, providing a broad review of the colonial revolution. Building on the analysis first made in relation to China, it showed how similar processes could take place in smaller countries, like Burma, Vietnam and Cuba.

Referring to the war of liberation waged by the Vietnamese workers and peasants against US imperialism, the document pointed out that a victory for the Vietnamese people would be an historic step forward. But it correctly predicted that the regime that would be likely to be installed would be, like the government in North Vietnam, a deformed workers' state.

The general analysis gave a penetrating insight into the processes of the colonial revolution as they unfolded in a number of countries. It pointed to the tendency for the 'statification' of the economy, where there were radical regimes that faced grave economic crisis and the pressure of the masses, even though in some cases, like Egypt and Algeria, the process did not go all the way to the complete expropriation of landlordism and capitalism.

– From Introduction to The Colonial Revolution and Proletarian Bonapartism

(Full version available on the Ted Grant archive)

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 emerged strengthened for a whole historical period.

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 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 person.

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. The 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.

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, 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.

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 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 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 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. 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 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 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 bourgeois 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, for any lengthy period is impossible.

Consequently, some form of Bonapartism, some form of military-police state, was inevitable in Burma. The 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 expropiation 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 adopted the policy of 'Arab socialism'.

The monotony with which such tendencies appear in all these countries is striking. The Great Aswan Dam, from the beginning, was owned by the state. 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. 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. 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. 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 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 so-called '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. The 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' states 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 these 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 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, 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 South 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 dustbins 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 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 America. Historically, due to the circumstances sketched out by Trotsky in a whole series of works, and by the British Marxists in the post-Trotsky period, if the revolution is developing first in the backward and weakest countries, this factor (the breakdown of capitalism at its weakest links) has been decisive for a temporary period in unfolding the distortions and deformations in which the revolution in these countries is developing.

The national limitations of the Chinese Stalinists, their insistence in the quarrel with the Russian Stalinists on mixing reactionary Stalinist ideas of the worst type with demagogic anti-imperialist demands, is an indication above all, of their incapacity really to understand the problems of the world revolution and of their real aims and interests. Even the solution of the national problems of the 'underdeveloped' areas of the world is only conceived as part of the diplomatic manoeuvres of the Chinese state.

Their idea of each country forming a national entity to build its own variety of socialism is reactionary through and through. But the idea of 'socialism in one country' did not drop from the skies; it reflected the interest of the narrow bureaucratic caste in Russia, and similarly also in Yugoslavia, Albania, Rumania and North Korea, these ideas reflect the same processes and the same contradictions.

More than a decade and a half ago the British Trotskyists, predicting in advance the victory of Chinese Stalinism, also foretold the probability, even the inevitability, of this narrow nationalist clique coming into collision and breaking away from their Moscow comrades. The revolution in China in that sense bad a two-fold contradictory character. Enormously progressive in its solution of the problems of Chinese development, and giving an impetus to the national awakening of two-thirds of mankind doomed to hunger and misery in the so-called 'undeveloped' areas of the world, at the same time, it further reinforced the Stalinist dictatorship in Russia and strengthened Stalinism throughout the world.

In the metropolitan centres of capitalism the Stalinist parties could bask, not only in the usurped mantle of the Russian revolution, but in the aura of the great Chinese revolution. The history of Chinese Stalinism would show, since its advent to power, that it never rose, and by the nature of its ideology, methods and perspectives, never could rise above the narrow national horizon.

Its methods in Asia, even in the intervention in the Korean War, were dictated not by internationalist considerations, but purely by the strategic political and economic interests of the 'Chinese State' ie of the bureaucracy itself. Its opportunist agreement with the Indian government not to alter the social relations of the feudal theocratic state of Tibet, in return for an agreement with the Indian bourgeoisie, was upset by the attempted counter-revolution in Tibet. This compelled the bureaucracy to lean on the serfs and peasants and destroy the old Tibetan society.

Even in the war with India on the border and the strategic road between Sinkiang and Tibet, its conduct of the war was dictated only by nationalist considerations and not that of provoking internal class struggle in India itself. Its criticism of Moscow and of the opportunist policies of the French, Italian and other Communist Parties in the West, is more or less an afterthought and an attempt to gain support for the policies and methods and ideas of the Chinese state. At no time has it raised the ideal elementary for Marxismof a Federation of all Asia on a socialist basis.

At no time has the problem of a Russo-Chinese Federation been put forward, which would automatically have been the issue in the event of a revolution on Leninist principles in China and had there been a Leninist regime in the Soviet Union. Thus, before the Chinese revolution and other revolutions in Asia could be placed on the road of transition to socialism, the proletariat and peasants, the people of these countries, would have to pay with a new revolution, this time not a social revolution, but a political revolution, to install workers' democracy.

It is the historic task, unconsciously perhaps, of these regimes to prepare the material and social forces (to a certain extent, the historical task which capitalism in these countries was incapable of developing to the same extent as in the West) of the proletariat and of industry to prepare the base for socialism. The victory in the backward countries of Asia of the social revolution in a bastardised form provokes social contradictions internally with the very growth of the productive forces themselves and at the same time, as far as the advanced workers of the West, and as the proletariat as a whole are concerned, a confusion of ideas in relation to socialism and its task.

The Russian revolution provoked an immense revolutionary awakening of the proletariat of the West and of the East. It raised the level of consciousness of the sleeping proletariat of Western Europe to a level never seen in history before. It raised the ideas of theory, of understanding, of Marxism, to a new and higher level. The idea of soviets, of workers' control, of workers' democracy, of a transitional society, were understood by broad layers of the advanced workers in the West.

This consciousness arose on the basis of the greatest democratic and social movement of the masses in the whole of human history. In its liberating effect, in the theoretical conclusions, even the Paris Commune and the lessons that the genius Marx drew from it, have paled into insignificance.

Had the revolution of 1925-7 in China succeeded, it could only have done so with a similar pattern to the events of 1917. That is why, at the time, Trotsky looked confidently to the effects that the Chinese revolution would have in Russia, leading to the overthrow of the Soviet bureaucracy, because it would rouse and mobilise in its revolutionary heat the Soviet proletariat. At the same time it would have aroused echoes within the proletariat of the capitalist countries of the West, thus tying the revolution together into one indissoluble knot. Trotsky looked to this development of 'permanent revolution' because he conceived the Chinese revolution with the background and perspective of world socialism.

The bureaucracy in Russia, while at best regarding the 1949 revolution with lukewarm favour (Stalin and the bureaucracy not believing in the possibility of revolutionary victory even in the caricatured form in which it was taking place) nevertheless did not and could not regard the victory of the bastardised Bonapartist form as a threat to the position, or, if one wishes, an immediate threat to the position of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union.

It is an incontestable, historical fact, foreshadowed and explained by British Marxists, that ironically, the extension of the revolution to China, Eastern Europe and to the other countries of Asia where Bonapartist regimes had been established, added to the cohesion, the confidence and the power of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union for a whole historical period.

One has only to compare the revolution in a backward country like Spain, which Trotsky likened to the relations of an Asiatic country rather than a modern European state, to see the difference that a revolution in which the proletariat plays the decisive and dominant role must have in its national and international effects. The 1931-7 revolution in Spain, had it succeeded, would have precipitated the revolution in France, in Germany and the other countries of Western Europe. The intervention on the scene of history of the heroic proletariat of Spain would have undermined the position of the Soviet bureaucracy also.

The desperate support of the bureaucracy for the bourgeois counter-revolution in so-called Republican Spain was dictated by the frantic fear of the rising of the Russian proletariat. Victory in Spain on the basis of some form of workers' democracy would have led swiftly to the victory of the political revolution in the Soviet Union. In this international and national role of the proletariat in all these revolutions can be seen the difference between the hybrid form of the transition even where victorious in backward countries - and the proletarian revolution as conceived by Lenin and Trotsky.

Again it is not a question of sentiment or formalism but of the organic conception of socialism with a conscious participation and control of the working class.

One only has to compare the great Chinese revolution with the political revolution in Hungary[7], to see the importance and difference between the revolution in its Bonapartist form and the political revolution. In Hungary we had the immediate participation and upsurge of the working class as the dominant force in the revolution, immediately organising its organs of self-expression, democracy and control.

After 20 years of fascist terror, after 10 years of Stalinist terror, the workers of Hungary revealed the tremendous tenacity of the ideas of socialism and workers' democracy, as the only means of assuring the development of future society. The workers, as if they had read the programme worked out by Trotsky, in every detail put forward the demands which Trotsky (reflecting the ideas, interests and aspirations of the proletariat) had worked out would be the demands of the workers in a political revolution in Russia.

Whereas the revolution in Eastern Europe and China had been regarded as a welcome adjunct and extension of the power, privilege and vested interests of the bureaucracy, the revolution in Hungary struck terror in the hearts of the bureaucrats from Peking, through Moscow to Belgrade. The fate of all the regimes of Eastern Europe hung in the balance. Not since the Spanish revolution had there been such a social earthquake, which stirred the proletariat of the Soviet Union and of the other workers' states. That is why, on the frantic urging of Mao Tse-Tung and the other Stalinist leaders, the Soviet bureaucracy had to intervene in Hungary and drown the resolution in blood before the proletariat could create in the fire of the revolution, as always in such circumstances, the necessary Marxist party and leadership. The hot flame of the revolution rendered the proletarian troops of the Russian army of occupation completely unreliable. They had to be withdrawn and only the most backward troops from Siberia, untouched at that stage by the revolutionary events, could be used to drown the revolution in blood.

As Marxist theory would expect, whereas the revolution in China appeared as a remote event, with perhaps the sympathy of the more advanced workers among the proletariat of Western Europe, it did not in the eyes of the proletariat of Western Europe affect them as an event directly connected with their interests and aspirations. The Hungarian revolution, like the Spanish before it, immediately awakened the interest of the mass of the working class in Western Europe. Apart from its repercussions in the Communist Parties of the West, among the advanced layers, it also aroused an echo among the broad masses in the factories, in the workshops and wherever the workers were gathered together in industry.

The difference between the effects of the revolution in colonial countries at present and the revolution in backward countries like that of China 1925-7, was because the latter was on the model of the Russian revolution as far as the participation of the social classes was concerned. Similarly for the Spanish revolution, also a revolution in a backward country. If these revolutions did not lead to victory over the bourgeoisie, it was directly because of the proletariat's leadership.

The proletariat strove, with all the efforts of which that class is capable, to carry through the revolutionary transformation of society a la Russe. In China and the other areas where the revolution had been victorious since the second world war, in the main all backward countries, the proletariat did not play the same role as it did in Spain, in China in 1925-7 and in the Hungarian revolution.

Those comrades who have newly discovered the peasantry and the semi-proletariat and even the village proletariat as the main revolutionary force in these colonial revolutions, have not understood the real significance of the role which these classes have played. Where the proletariat is led by a conscious revolutionary party, the petit-bourgeois in town and countryside, under the firm leadership of the proletariat, can support the victory of the working class and the installation of its revolutionary dictatorship, ie in the sense of the dictatorship of the proletariat, in Trotsky's expression, according to the norm. Even here, this can only be done where such a revolution organically, step by step, is linked to the prospect and the ideas of a socialist revolution on a world scale. In the History of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky quotes a peasant soldier influenced by the propaganda and agitation of Bolshevism, who spoke of the world revolution as the only salvation for the revolution. Thus the Russian revolution in a backward country provoked the 'Ten Days that Shook the World'.

The idea of leaning on the peasant masses, of the 'revolutionary elements with nothing to lose' and of the lumpen proletariat as a revolutionary force, superior to the 'respectable industrial proletariat' which has a higher standard of living, as the decisive force in the revolution, is the idea of Bakunin[8] and not of Marx or Trotsky. True, these classes under the influence of the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat - again dependent on the revolutionary role of its leadership - can play an important role in the revolution, as the peasantry did in Russia and to a certain extent as the petit-bourgeoisie in the towns also rallied to the side of Bolshevism.

But by the very nature of these classes, where they played the dominant role in a transition, where they are 'used' in the Machiavellian sense by a Stalinist, an ex-Marxist or Bonapartist leadership, this places a decisive stamp on the revolution. Such a role for these classes is only possible because of the impasse of world capitalism and imperialism, on the one side, and the existence of the present balance of world forces on a world scale, the latent power of the proletariat in the industrially advanced countries and, most decisive of all, the existence of the mighty Bonapartist deformed workers' states. But where these classes play the dominating role in the destruction of capitalism in the backward countries, they lay their stamp on the development of events.

The revolutionary peasant armies of China could be likened to the armies of Cromwell, in the sense that the army and the party fused together in the fight. While using the phrases of socialism, they could not have the same collective consciousness of socialism, which almost instinctively develops in the proletariat in industry.

Thus these classes can play the key role of the reserve troops of the revolution of the battering ram, but the sharp point of the revolution can only be a revolutionary consciousness of the industrial working class. Religion and all the other prejudices and superstitions accumulated for centuries and even millennia still play an important and even decisive role in the ideology of these states. This is reflected in the ideology and public statements of the leaders of these movements, such as in Algeria, and is of decisive significance in characterising the type of state which has emerged and will emerge in the revolutions in these countries (without a victory of the proletariat in the industrial countries of the West).

These traits are not accidental. To even suggest such abominations on the part of a Marxist leadership would be criminal. Only Stalinism and social democracy have debased the revolutionary consciousness for these purposes. Of course, with all the blemishes, warts and defects, the significance of the social change for Marxists is decisive. Whilst not throwing out the baby with the bathwater one must, at the same time, if one is to preserve the continuity of Marxist ideas and find the road to a correct policy, understand the inevitable result of the role and character of these revolutions.

These classes cannot play an independent role. Where they are organised by the leadership of ex-Marxists or by intellectual strata of the petit-bourgeoisie in one form or another - the army officers of Burma, Egypt, the ex-Marxists in China, the intellectual layers of the petit-bourgeois in Ghana and other countries - it is possible under the historical conditions sketched above, with a weak and rotting bourgeoisie, or even the absence of any real bourgeoisie, for a transitional regime of a Bonapartist workers' state to be set up.

When one considers the confusion that prevails throughout the labour movement and infects even the advanced layers of the Marxist cadres on these questions, one has only to think of the crystal clear ideas of Lenin and Trotsky on the role of the state.

Even under the most favourable of historical conditions, with a developed proletariat playing a dominant role in society, they have warned, echoing in this the elementary ideas of Marx, of the danger that lies in the very existence of the state. The state, or to be more accurate, the semi-state, even in the advanced countries, constitutes a source of danger and of infection, which only the highest revolutionary consciousness and vigilance on the part of the proletariat and its leadership can prevent from degeneration and deformation.

The rise of Stalinism in Russia was no accident, but was due to the isolation of the revolution from the advanced countries of the West. Even what is unthinkable in the present world relationship of forces, a proletarian victory in an advanced capitalist country that did not spread to other countries, would be in danger over a long and historical period of degeneration and collapse.

But the whole relationship of forces on a world scale, the whole development of the epoch, has been such that a single revolutionary victory in Western Europe, in Japan, in Britain or America will be sufficient to transform the world scene. It would spread like a bush fire, far faster and with far more profound effects than even the Russian revolution.

Let us go further and pose the problem that in a country like Italy or France, where the proletariat plays an overwhelmingly decisive role and where its latent power has been further reinforced by the development of industry, that the Stalinists under the influence of the revolutionary wave should be pushed into power, which is not theoretically excluded. It is true that at the present time both the Italian and the French Stalinist parties are second-line defenders of the bourgeois state but, under the impact of a revolutionary wave, they would put forward their most left face.

If they were pushed in the direction of taking power, it could only be with a mobilisation of the full resources, revolutionary energy and capacity for organisation and struggle on the part of the proletariat. Such a proletariat would not allow the development of bureaucracy as in the backward countries, where the proletariat has not played the dominant role. Without the mobilisation of the proletariat to its uttermost extent, as in France in 1936, as in Germany in 1918, as in Spain in 1936 and 1937, victory over the bourgeoisie could not be assured.

But a revolutionary victory would transform the situation nationally and internationally. The Stalinist party would burst at the seams. On the other hand one can make the confident prognosis that the far more likely development would be that the great new revolutionary events would cause an immediate crisis within the ranks of the Stalinist parties in all the industrial countries, spreading to the countries of the Eastern bloc.

The events of the last two decades took place and were influenced by the Stalinist syphilis. At the moment the splits of world Stalinism, the development of nationalist deviations on the part of the deformed workers' states, the 'independent' nationalist role of the Communist parties in the capitalist countries, the ceding of the decisive role in social transformations in Cuba, Algeria, Ghana and other countries to petit-bourgeois layers of nationalist intellectuals, is an historical confirmation of the role which Trotsky predicted would mark the end of the Communist International as a revolutionary force.

The crisis within world Stalinism is of such a character that the fundamental unthinking adherence, the blind loyalty which was given by revolutionary workers, even by the advanced layers, has been ended. But even this takes a dialectical form. The old-style Stalinist was far more revolutionary than the present layers within the ranks of the Stalinist party, at least in the industrially advanced countries.

Two decades of 'peaceful' social relations, in comparison with the upheavals of the pre-war days, since the end of the revolutionary upheavals following the second world war, have dulled the consciousness of the advanced layers within the Stalinist movement. Two decades of theoretical and chauvinist poison systematically disseminated by the Stalinist party have lowered the theoretical level of the Stalinist movement. This, coinciding with the period of capitalist upsurge and growth, and interacting with it, has led to a lowering of the theoretical level of the rank and file of the movement.

Within the ranks of the Communist parties, however, the shocks and upheavals of the Stalinist world, the 20th Congress, Hungary, the new splits between Stalinist states, above all the split betweeen Russia and China, open the way at a later stage for the decisive transformation of the relations within these parties. Never again in the face of revolutionary events will the rank and file accept unquestioningly the counter-revolutionary role which the Stalinists played in the mass capitalist countries in the past epoch.

However, the development on these lines will be more complicated than could have been foreseen. In criticising the programme of the Communist International in the early stages, Trotsky had predicted that the theory of 'socialism in one country' would lead inevitably to the degeneration on nationalist lines of the parties of the Communist International. In a peculiar historical way this has been borne out by events in the countries where the Stalinists have come to power because of the peculiar development of history, as well as in the capitalist countries.

The brilliant prediction of Trotsky, perhaps in a way which could not have been foreseen, has nevertheless shown the power of Marxist foresight and analysis in dealing with the fundamental principles. These principles arise from the class relations within society. Any tendency in the labour movement which does not at each great historical turn review events from this fundamental standpoint, runs the risk, possibly the inevitability, of coming under the influence of hostile tendencies in the labour movement such as reformism or Stalinism.

The deformed character of the Chinese revolution, its inevitable reflection of the needs and interests of the elite bureaucracy, the shouldering aside of even the peasants, let alone the workers, in the ruling state inevitably stamps the outlook of the ruling Chinese clique. It has more in common with Mandarinism[9], in the tradition of China, rather than that of a healthy workers' state, in the sense of the domination of the state by a ruling aristocratic, bureaucratic elite.

Their entire criticism of other Stalinists is dominated by nationalist considerations, as is, of course, the rotting Stalinist bureaucracy of Russia. Their whole policy, both in world diplomacy and in their intervention in the workers' movement, is dictated by nationalist considerations. The most significant aspect of their struggle against the Russian bureaucracy is their nationalist orientation and perspective. They go even further than Stalin himself dared, to talk about 'centuries of building socialism in China.'

Their criticism of the opportunism of Togliatti, Thorez (Italian CP and French CP leaders, respectively) and the British and American communists, was linked to the idea that it was 'not their business' they did not want to 'interfere' in the internal affairs of these parties; only the criticism of the Chinese by these leaderships provoked the retaliation of the Chinese. It is obvious that the Chinese were not asleep for 15 years and suddenly rediscovered the works of Marx and Lenin.

Their criticism of the proposed Comecon agreement between the Eastern European states and Russia was of the worst type of narrow nationalism. It is true that the Russians proposed this to reinforce their control and domination over these states. But the solution lay in proposing a Balkan Federation of States, linked to federation with Russia. This in turn should be linked to a mighty federation with China. But that is what is impossible with the domination of the bureaucracy of all these countries.

What determines the policy of all of them is the narrow clique interests of the ruling elite. Consequently they all have to base themselves on the most reactionary nationalist prejudices and chauvinism. Only a party resting on the real interests of the proletariat can base itself on genuine internationalism through the inter-penetration of the economy of these countries, for the mutual benefit of all. The imperative need of the world economy to be joined in unity, as against the wastefulness and insanity of particularism, is recognised by the bourgeoisie themselves, as evidenced in the Common Market and other attempted agreements. The bourgeoisie cannot solve this problem, but can only take partial measures, which in the end will collapse into the opposite of 'internationalism' - virulent nationalism and tariff walls.

Trotsky many times emphasised that the twin evils of the modern epoch were private ownership, plus the hampering restrictions of the nation state. These were the main impediments to the development of the productive forces of the modern epoch and the reason why the capitalist system on a world scale was ripe and overripe for the social revolution.

In the backward countries, for a temporary historical period, the achievement of the national state by the expulsion of imperialism remains a powerful and relatively progressive force. But on the world scale, these states immediately come up against the hampering and overwhelming domination of the advanced countries.

But in the countries where the proletariat would come to power, whether in advanced or backward countries, it is the international perspective which is decisive. This alone would condemn the haughty nationalist bureaucracies of these countries. They simultaneously played a progressive role in relation to the defence of the foundations of the regime, ie nationalised property, but an enormously reactionary role in defence of their privileges, which is summed up in narrow nationalism.

It is not of importance here to go into the theoretical perspectives of modern development and the different variants gone into by Trotsky in his last articles, so misunderstood and distorted by Shachtman, Deutscher[10]and Cliff. But what is of interest is the emphasis which Trotsky gives to the fact that the historical task is not only the destruction of capitalism but the ending of the old national economies which are constricting and hampering the development of productive forces.

In fact, Trotsky gives decisive importance to the question of the reactionary role of the national state and shows that the mere destruction of private ownership, of enormous historical importance, would nevertheless only be an episode without the destruction of the former.

Had the Russian workers retained control of their state, the revolutions in China and Eastern Europe could not have assumed their reactionary nationalist character. The problems which the development of Siberia poses, would have been solved by the welcome emigration of tens of millions of Chinese peasants to Siberia, to be trained by Russian technicians and the joint use of resources of this fabulously rich area, for the benefit of both peoples and the cementing of federation between them.

Instead of this modestly practical scheme, neither the Russian bureaucracy nor the Chinese, limited by their caste interests, could pose the problem in this way. The Chinese, from their point of view, pose the problem of 'national' socialism, each country developing its own resources, while the Russians pose as 'internationalist' ie to use the power of their industrial position to dominate the weaker economies of the smaller Stalinist states in Eastern Europe. The national limitedness of Chinese Stalinism screams from every page of their documents. In this respect, there is nothing to choose between the two powerful Stalinist states.

It is one of the ironical paradoxes of history that in the advanced economies of Western Europe, the degenerate Stalinist leaderships clothe themselves in the stinking rags of outmoded nationalism. They criticise from the nationalist standpoint the hopeless attempts of the bourgeoisie to overcome the impediment of the national state, a task which the modern bourgeoisie is incapable of carrying out, despite their ludicrous and feeble attempts.

For the Marxist wing in the labour movement any criticism of the warring Stalinist factions must begin with this standpoint. No concessions can be made to the degenerate nationalism of all wings of Stalinism. Trotsky explained the weakness of the Fourth International, among other reasons, by the power of nationalist ideas and traditions.

Now in the metropolitan countries of the West, the Stalinists have become partially a second reformist agency of the bourgeoisie rather than, as in the past, a faithful tool of the foreign policy of the Russian bureaucracy.

The struggle between Russia and China gives a certain independence to the bureaucracy of the Communist parties. Decades of poisonous and chauvinist propaganda have disorientated the upper layers of the Communist parties in the metropolitan countries and even affected the rank and file. But the big majority of the cadre elements, uneasily in opposition and looking to Peking for a revolutionary lead, will only be won to the banner of Marxism if these aspects of internationalism and of theory are emphasised and stressed.

The entire cadres of the Stalinist parties have been miseducated on these questions for decades. It is our task in approaching these cadres to emphasise these problems. At the dawn of the struggle of the Left Opposition it was this problem that was emphasised, underlined and stressed by Trotsky. Not for nothing did Trotsky write a Criticism of the Draft Programme of the Communist International on these questions. Since the decades have passed - and what decades - every event has demonstrated the correctness of this approach. It was always central to the approach of Trotsky. Those comrades who dream of an 'easier' approach are deluding themselves. Nor is it feasible to imagine that an opportunist approach on 'current', 'modern' lines will succeed, while the revolutionary approach is left for the bedroom.

Why should any cadres in the Russian wing or the Chinese wing approach the Marxists unless they have something to offer? What have we to offer, at this stage, except the theories of the masters, reinforced and enriched by the experience of the last decades? Episodic criticisms will drive those cadres becoming critical to one side or the other. As far as the masses are concerned, we do not have their ears as yet.

In some senses, the crisis of Stalinism has sown further confusion within the ranks of the Communist parties. Their lack of education in the fundamentals of Marxism, the degeneration of Stalinism on nationalist lines, the apparent lustre of revolutionary victories in China and other countries, tomorrow the victory of the peasant war in Vietnam, have muddled and confused their ranks. But the quarrels of all the nationalist Stalinist factions, particularly that between China and Russia, have laid the seeds of terrific crises in the Stalinist parties, particularly in the metropolitan countries.

In a certain sense, the immediate effect of the Russo-Chinese conflict as far as the mass membership of the Communist Party is concerned, is to make the task of the Marxists more difficult. Many cadres, embittered by the opportunism of the Communist parties, have welcomed what they conceive as the 'revolutionary' turn of the Chinese. Instead of mighty Russia, they look to mighty Peking as the revolutionary centre. They will not be interested in incidental criticism.

Nevertheless, from a historical point of view, the crisis opens up a way for the complete transformation of the world scene. The labour bureaucracy in Western Europe have long lost the uncritical enthusiasm of their followers. The uncritical adherence of the ranks within the Communist Party is also now ended. There cannot be more than one Rome or one Pope.

On the basis of the great events which impend in the next decade or two, as Trotsky predicted, perhaps a little belatedly, not one stone will remain upon the other of the old 'Internationals' of the working class. The changed consciousness of the masses will be revealed in the mass Communist parties, especially in France and Italy. Never again will the ranks of the Communist parties tolerate without mighty movements of protest, the sell-outs and betrayals of 1936 in France and Spain and in 1944-7[11] in France and Italy. The Communist parties would be split from top to bottom.

Above all, it is necessary for Marxists to make an implacable criticism of the nationalism of both the Russian and Chinese bureaucracies. For Marxists in the colonial countries, the problem is exceptionally difficult. It is not easy for peasant masses to see beyond the national horizon. Their outlook is strictly limited. They can be led in this direction only by the proletariat and by concrete linking up of their material interests with that of an international perspective.

The doctrine of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, by its very nature, is suited to the outlook of the proletariat at certain stages in history. Of course the proletariat too is not impervious to the nationalist poison. That is why it is necessary in appealing to the advanced workers to stress and emphasise the problem of an internationalist approach not only in the advanced countries, but in the backward countries as well. Unless they understand this, the advanced workers will be lost. No concessions can be made on this question to any other tendencies in the movement.

Of course, from the point of view of world politics, the magnificent revolt of the colonial people is preparing an entirely new relationship of forces on a world scale. Once, however, the heavy battalions enter the scene of history in Western Europe, Japan or America, the whole relationship of forces on a world scale will be changed.

Trotsky once warned of the possibility of the disappearance of the Fourth International if it did not find a road to the masses. This can be reinforced with a further warning. Unless the basic ideas of Trotskyism, enriched and developed but in fundamentals the same, are not emphasised and drummed into the consciousness of the Marxists internationally, they too can degenerate impressionistically and tail behind the left reformists, Chinese Stalinists or Russian Stalinists. There must be no empirical bowing down to events, the basic issues must be brought forward again and again, especially in the theoretical works and journals of Marxism.

The problem has to be posed sharply: either the colonial revolutions have taken the particular form they have because of the delay in the revolution in the advanced countries…or there is no role for Marxist tendencies except as self-appointed and benevolent advisors to Castro, Mao and Ben Bella.

Here it should be made clear that from a Marxist point of view the arguments of Plekhanov and the theoreticians of Menshevism - that Russia was not ripe for socialism in 1917 are and were perfectly correct…if Russia is taken in isolation from the world and the internationalist perspectives of Bolshevism. All other tendencies, cliques and groupings in the labour movement are doomed to sterility and collapse for lack of the internationalist perspective as the basis for their work. The colonial revolutions mark a gigantic step forward for all the ex-colonial countries. But the final solution of the problem can only be found in the international arena and in the victory of the working class in the advanced countries.

Go back to contents page or go on to next section, The Colonial Revolution and the Deformed Workers' States


[1] The Bourbons were the ruling dynasty in France until the revolution (1792). They were briefly restored from 1830-48. In Spain the Bourbons ruled almost continuously from 1700-1931. It is used here to describe leaders who learn little or nothing from history.

[2] King Farouk I was overthrown in 1952. Gamal Nasser was prime minister 1954-56 and president 1956-70. In 1956 he nationalised the Suez canal.

[3] Abdul Kassem became Iraq's prime minister in 1958 after leading an army coup. The Kurds are the major population group in Kurdistan, an area covering parts of Iraq, Turkey and Iran. In each country the Kurds are an oppressed national minority.

[4] Kwame Nkrumah was Prime Minister of Ghana on independence (1957), became president in 1960 until 1966 when he was overthrown by a military coup. Ahmed Ben Bella was elected Prime Minister of Algeria on independence (1962) acid became president in 1963 until he was overthrown in 1965.

[5] The Pakistan constitutions of 1956 and 1962 were both replaced by martial law.

[6] The main workers' party of Sri Lanka in the late 1940s, 50s and 60s was the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. Originally a Trotskyist party, it degenerated, entered a coalition with the bourgeois SLFP, and by the mid-1970s had lost its mass support.

[7] In 1956 the workers in Hungary rose up against the ruling bureaucracy. In six weeks they organised two general strikes and two insurrections. They were eventually defeated by the intervention of Russian tanks.

[8] Mikhail Bakunin, the Russian founder of anarchism.

[9] Mandarins were Chinese civil service and state bureaucrats from early Han times until 1911. Speaking a special dialect and wearing distinctive robes, they occupied a privileged position in society.

[10] Isaac Deutscher joined the Polish CP in 1926, expelled in 1932 for his opposition to Stalinism. Biographer of Stalin and Trotsky.

[11] With the defeat of the German occupation forces in 1944, the workers in France and Italy moved in a revolutionary direction. The Communist Parties entered into 'national unity' governments which were used by the ruling class to diffuse the workers' movement. Once the immediate danger had passed, the CPs were jettisoned from the cabinets.

Join us

If you want more information about joining the RCI, fill in this form. We will get back to you as soon as possible.