The relevance of permanent revolution: A reply to Neil Davidson

Issue: 131

Joseph Choonara

Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution formed in its author’s mind during Russia’s 1905 Revolution—between 9 January, when workers marched to the Winter Palace to petition the Tsar, and the mass strikes of October that gave birth to the Petrograd Soviet.1

In early 2011 the practice of permanent revolution once more became a burning question as workers took centre stage in movements that swept away dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. These uprisings seemed to show the relevance of many of the key features described in Trotsky’s theory. The working class in less economically developed societies played a crucial role in fighting for democracy; the struggles showed the potential to grow over into a challenge to capitalism; the international dimension necessary to allow the achievements of the revolution to become permanent was clear as struggles spread across different Arab states.

In analysing these events a key point of reference for those associated with International Socialism was the theory of permanent revolution. Indeed, this theory, along with that of “deflected permanent revolution” developed by Tony Cliff in the early 1960s,2 has been deployed in almost all our writing on struggles in the Global South for over half a century. Readers of Neil Davidson’s recent article on the subject in this journal might therefore have been surprised to see “permanent revolution and consequently deflected permanent revolution” described as “historical concepts”.3

I am confident that Neil shares our broad assessment and analysis of the events in the Arab world this year. So what’s in a name? Does it matter if we refer to the patterns of revolution we hope to emerge in such contexts as “permanent”? I believe there is something to be said for stressing the basic continuities connecting the situations and struggles analysed by Trotsky and some of those of our day, and I think that Neil’s reasons for stressing the historical break between these contexts are bad reasons.

I will attempt to set out, as clearly as possible, what I think the theory means and what is left when the general aspects of the theory are disentangled from the context in which they were formulated.

Why do we need the theory?

In the Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels stressed that capitalism itself was developing the various prerequisites for communism. These boil down to two key elements. First, the forces of production must be sufficiently developed to allow the emergence of a society capable of meeting human needs. Second, the working class, the “gravediggers” of capitalism, must have sufficient weight to be able to enact the “forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions”.4

If these criteria are applied mechanically, a more economically backward society, possessing a low level of material development and in which the working class are a tiny minority, is in no way ripe for socialism. According to this argument, in such a society the best one can hope for is a revolution that secures favourable conditions for capitalist development, leading, eventually, to a potential struggle for socialism.

This “stagist” approach—first the “bourgeois-democratic revolution” to establish a modern capitalist state and then, at some later stage, a fight for socialism—was a commonplace of Stalinist theory.5 It is still widely accepted on the left internationally today. I will give just one especially striking example. It is from an interview with Bolivia’s vice-president Álvaro Marcelo García Linera, who, along with President Evo Morales of the MAS party, was carried to power on the back of two major waves of struggle in 2003 and 2005:

Interviewer: Is it your thesis that socialism is not viable in Bolivia today?

Linera: There are two reasons why there is not much chance of a socialist regime being installed in Bolivia. On the one hand, there is a proletariat that is numerically in a minority and politically non-existent, and you cannot build socialism without a proletariat. Secondly, the potential for agrarian and urban communities is very much weakened. There is an implosion of community economies into family structures, which have been the framework within which the social movements have arisen…

Interviewer: In that case, what kind of system does the MAS want to build?

Linera: A kind of Andean capitalism.

Interviewer: What is Andean capitalism?

Linera: It is a question of building a strong state… It is a question of transferring a part of the surplus of the nationalised hydrocarbons in order to encourage the setting up of forms of self-organisation, of self-management and of commercial development that is really Andean and Amazonian… Bolivia will still be capitalist in 50 or 100 years.6

What was Trotsky’s alternative to such a bleak perspective?

Trotsky’s theory

One of the strengths of Neil’s article is his detailed discussion of the theory of uneven and combined development.7 The term was introduced by Trotsky in The History of the Russian Revolution,8 published in 1930, but the concept is, contrary to Neil’s suggestion,9 present in a more or less complete form in his earlier writings on permanent revolution—notably 1905 and Results and Prospects.

Late developing capitalist nations do not simply replicate their predecessors. Russia in the early 20th century would not follow the path of pre-existing capitalist powers such as France or Britain. There would not be centuries of painstaking growth of handicrafts and manufactories before the rise of the great factories of the industrial revolution. Under the pressure of external competition—military and economic—from more advanced economies Russia would implant the most sophisticated machinery and techniques. By squeezing the peasantry to raise taxes and by borrowing from European financiers, the Tsarist bureaucracy could import the most advanced factories and railroads onto Russian soil. This created, as Trotsky writes:

The most concentrated industry in Europe based on the most backward agriculture in Europe. The most colossal state apparatus in the world making use of every achievement of modern technological progress in order to retard the historical progress of its own country.10

The uneven development of the world system led to combination, in which the modern and the archaic fused in novel ways. Neil writes that this “usually involves what Michael Burawoy calls ‘the combination of capitalist modes of production with pre-existing modes’”.11 However, he adds, there can be extreme disparities in the development of the forces of production within the capitalist mode of production itself. So Neil writes of the “immense difference between industrial capitalism and previous modes of production”.12

Uneven and combined development affects not only the shape and pace of advance of the means of production of a society, but also the class structure. In the Russian case it meant a small and weak domestic capitalist class, heavily penetrated by external financiers, a colossal and repressive bureaucracy, and a freshly formed and small, but potentially powerful, urban working class.

This had implications for the coming Russian Revolution. The largest social group, the peasantry, lacked the cohesion or commonality of interest necessary to lead a revolution. It could play a revolutionary role only insomuch as it could connect to a revolutionary class in the cities. The bourgeoisie would not play a revolutionary role, because it feared and was antagonistic towards the working class that it oppressed and exploited.

This posed a problem for the country’s socialist movement, which was divided between its Bolshevik and Menshevik factions. For the Mensheviks, the coming revolution would be bourgeois in character. Therefore it would be made by the “democratic bourgeoisie”. Workers might assist as part of a democratic coalition of forces, but could at best act as a kind of ginger group assuring certain rights for workers in the ensuing democratic regime.13 The Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, recognised the need for a militant struggle by workers. In their formulation there would be a “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” which would drive the revolution through. The proletariat would, according to this rather vague scenario, limit itself to the tasks appropriate to a bourgeois revolution.14 This formulation persisted until 1917, when, in the course of the revolution, Lenin won the Bolshevik Party (which Trotsky had by then joined) to a perspective remarkably similar to that of permanent revolution.15

For Trotsky the solution to the problems faced by Russia—an agrarian revolution to resolve the land question, the overthrow or Tsarism and the introduction of democracy, and so on—could only be brought about by workers. This struggle might begin with tasks common to the bourgeois revolutions of the past (the English Revolution of the 17th century or the French and American revolutions of the 18th), “but the principal driving force of the Russian Revolution is the proletariat, and that is why, so far as its methods are concerned, it is a proletarian revolution”.16 Faced with this, “the proletariat is driven by the internal progress of events towards hegemony over the peasantry and to the struggle for state power”.17 Having established a workers’ state, it was implausible to suggest that the workers would accept a self-denying ordnance and stop at purely “democratic” or “bourgeois” tasks. On the contrary, they would use their power to wrest economic, social and political control from the old ruling class.18

In other words, the revolution could pass directly over into a social revolution leading towards the establishment of socialism and becoming “permanent”.19 However, having made such a revolution the working class would face a potentially hostile mass of peasantry, who, having taken control of their land in alliance with the workers, would now have quite different interests. This would mean the eventual overturning of the revolution unless the workers could prove that socialism offered greater potential than private capitalist agriculture. But that meant accessing far greater material and cultural resources than were available in Russia. Successful revolution would again run up against the limits of the pre-requisites for socialism.

For Trotsky, the pre-requisites did not exist on the national terrain. He insisted on the international nature of revolution because the prerequisites only existed on a world scale. Russia must provide the prologue for the European, and ultimately the world, revolution.

As capitalism is an international system, connected both through imperialism and the world market, crises provoking revolutionary situations were likely to be regional or global in scale. The other dimension to the “permanence” of the Russian Revolution was, therefore, that revolutions would have to follow in major European countries. The revolutionary wave that followed 1917 was confirmation of the viability of Trotsky’s theory; the ultimate defeat of this wave, which paved the way for Stalinist counterrevolution, was, in a negative sense, also a confirmation.

The discreet charm of the bourgeois revolution

Thus far I think Neil would agree with the basic outlines of the theory as I have presented them. The problems involve the generalisation of the theory, something Trotsky later sought to achieve by applying it to colonial and semi-colonial countries.

It is over this question that I think Neil confuses matters unnecessarily by emphasising that the revolution begins as a “bourgeois revolution”. If permanent revolution means the replacement of a feudal society with a capitalist one, then permanent revolution is clearly no longer a historical possibility.20 There are, of course, no “feudal societies” left. But this was not what was at stake in Russia in 1905 or 1917 either. As Lenin and Trotsky both emphasise, Russia was a country with considerable capitalist development, even if the pattern of development was peculiar compared to that of Britain or France. The tasks assumed by the Russian revolutions had also mutated considerably from those of the classical bourgeois revolution. For instance, the procession led by Father Gapon to the Tsar’s palace spoke of the problem of “unheated factories” and the demand for an “eight-hour day”, not just “universal and equal suffrage” or land reform.21 In other words it took up, from the outset, workers’ issues that lay firmly within a capitalist framework. So, when Neil claims that permanent revolution implies a break with “feudal”, “tributary” or “colonial” rule, or, later in his article, the overthrow of “absolutism”, he ought to spell out carefully what he means.22

He further complicates matters by the way he employs the categories “social revolution” and “political revolution”. In doing so he claims to be applying Hal Draper’s definitions, but Draper’s descriptions of political and social revolution are far more illuminating than Neil’s:

Political revolution…puts the emphasis on changes in governmental leaderships and forms, transformations in the superstructure. But if such a revolution involves a change in the social stratum even within the ruling class, a social element is plainly entailed. Political revolutions run the gamut, from those involving almost no social side, to those with a very important social element, even if it is within the class boundaries we have assumed.

If these social boundaries are burst…then we have a different sort of revolution…The outcome is a revolution involving the transfer of political power to a new class; and this change in ruling class tends to entail a basic change in the social system (mode of production). It is this kind of revolution that is most properly called a social revolution.23

However, this does not exhaust the problem. Draper uses the neologism “societal revolution” to describe a long-term transformation of one society into another that changes class or social relations in a fundamental way. He continues:

We can now narrow our focus to what tends to be called a social revolution in Marx’s theory. It is most clearly used for a political revolution that expresses a social-revolutionising drive towards the transference of state power to a new class. It is a “political revolution with a social soul”, in Marx’s earlier (1844) formulation. By the same token it points in the direction of a societal revolution, regardless of when changes in the social system actually begin to take place… The societal revolution is the realisation of these potentialities.24

A crucial insight follows:

Our aim is not to make a hard and fast distinction between political revolutions and social revolutions but, if anything, the reverse: to recognise how often they are mingled in given revolutionary situations, so that the two elements must be distinguished by analysis. For, especially in modern times, revolutionary events tend to blend both in varying proportions… Thus the relationship between political and social revolution is not static.25

Now Neil’s definitions seem quite different. In a political, as opposed to social, revolution, writes Neil, “the class that was in control of the means of production at the beginning will remain so at the end…and the class that was exploited within the production process at the beginning will also remain so at the end”.26 By implication, a social revolution must mean that control of the means of production does shift from one class to another or that those who are exploited at the beginning are not at the end.

I am not sure to what extent his formulation is simply a clumsy one and to what extent it reflects Neil’s actual approach. But, given that his argument seems to hinge upon the relationship between bourgeois revolution, social revolution and permanent revolution, it certainly requires clarification.

Consider the actual processes involved in socialist revolutions and in bourgeois revolutions. Communism, as an economic system, does not develop within capitalism. A communist economy can be developed only once the working class has assumed state power. Furthermore, the conscious agency and leadership of the working class are required because socialist revolution, unlike bourgeois revolution, must be an act of self-emancipation. Socialist revolution implies, therefore, a revolution in which workers break the existing state machine and replace it with a workers’ state. This flows directly into a process through which workers take control of the means of production and begin to produce in a communistic manner. The actual transition to communism is therefore a prolonged process following the socialist revolution.

Capitalism, by contrast, develops within the interstices of feudal social relations. France had already experienced capitalist development and the emergence of considerable capitalist class power prior to the Great French Revolution of 1789. It is not true that between 1788 and 1790 or 1795 control of the means of production passed from the feudal ruling class to a capitalist one, or that a different class was exploited at the end of the revolution.

Neil adds that this “social revolution” can be a much more prolonged process, indicating that it sometimes requires subsequent phases such as the 1830 Revolution in France. But in such an account any number of phases might be added without necessarily leading to the kind of change to the class structure of society that Neil seems to make the hallmark of social revolution.

In later examples, in which the process was not driven by the kind of classical mobilisations seen in France, America or England in the 18th and 17th centuries, the situation is even more complex. For one thing, a whole range of different agencies can push for what Draper calls “societal revolution”. The revolutionary processes that created the “political conditions of capitalist domination” were driven through “from above” in the cases of German unification or the Japanese Meiji Restoration in the 19th century.27

But this is not the end of the story. As the system develops on a world scale and capitalist political domination becomes the norm, subsequent “bourgeois revolutions” can take on an even more disjointed and episodic form in late developing capitalisms. Often it is difficult to specify a moment or even a decisive period in which quantity transformed into quality. At what point, for example, did Bolivia cease to be “feudal” and become “capitalist”? Along with a long societal process of economic development, a whole series of upheavals were required, combining blows struck from below and manoeuvres at the top, through successive political revolutions with a social dimension. This must include the great indigenous struggles of 1780-82 and the liberation from colonial rule in the early 19th century, the various coups and countercoups at the start of the 20th century to the great popular nationalist revolution of 1952 and beyond.

However, it is certainly true that there is no society today where capital does not rule politically and economically (whether or not members of the capitalist class directly exercise their political power). Indeed, according to Trotsky, writing in 1930, this has been the case for some time:

Then wherein lies the distinction between the advanced and backward countries? The distinction is great, but it still remains within the limits of the domination of capitalist relationships. The forms and methods of the rule of the bourgeoisie differ greatly in different countries. At one pole, the domination bears a stark and absolute character: The United States. At the other pole finance capital adapts itself to the outlived institutions of Asiatic medievalism by subjecting them to itself and imposing its own methods upon them: India. But the bourgeoisie rules in both places. From this it follows that the dictatorship of the proletariat will also have a highly varied character in terms of the social basis, the political forms, the immediate tasks and the tempo of work in the various capitalist countries.28

Today uneven and combined development is best conceived as a drawing together of successive phases—including, crucially, capitalist phases—in novel forms within countries of the Global South. Uneven and combined development poses peculiar problems for those societies that may require revolutionary struggle in their resolution. This involves a broadening of the scope of the theory, but not a break from it. Trotsky, again and again, uses the terms “peculiar” and “peculiarities” in his writings on permanent revolution. He stresses the need, for instance, to make a “genuine study of the peculiarity of a given country, ie the living interpenetration of the various steps and stages of historical development in that country”.29

Permanent revolution in this conception involves the combination of democratic and socialist challenges to the existing order of things. The former cover a range of potential demands, including the dissolution of large landed estates across much of the Global South, the introduction of parliamentary democracy in Egypt or Tunisia today, the resolution of the “indigenous question” in Bolivia in the struggles of 2003 or 2005, or the overthrow of colonialism in India in 1946-7. None of these demands are, in themselves, incompatible with capitalist social relations, but achieving these in the context of uneven and combined development can lead to an anticapitalist dynamic raising the possibility of social revolution.

The particular interweaving of the political and social is here a dialectical and fluid “blend”, to use Draper’s term. Permanent revolution begins, Trotsky writes at one point, with “a far-reaching and burning problem ‘for the people’…in the solution of which the majority of the nation is interested, and which demands for its solution the boldest revolutionary measures”.30 It is in this sense that the theory is general to both the early examples that Trotsky deals with and the instances we are faced with today.

It follows that Trotsky and Cliff are quite justified in discussing bourgeois or democratic “tasks”, provided such tasks are seen as fluid, as part of a dynamic historical process, rather than a fixed and mechanically applied set of criteria. In this context it is tempting to talk about the “uneven and combined consciousness” of those striving for revolutionary change.

While it is quite true that the introduction of parliamentary democracy with universal adult suffrage was not achieved by any of the classical bourgeois revolutions, it is today a feature of many of the most advanced capitalist countries. For the Egyptian masses to demand this is in the tradition of permanent revolution—they have made it their “democratic task”. It may well be that, due to the instability of any liberal parliamentary regime faced with the agrarian problem, the weakness of Egyptian capital, the Palestinian question, etc, a further social deepening of the revolutionary process is required to force through such a change. It may be that, out of such a struggle, a higher form of democracy emerges, leaping ahead of the parliamentary democracies of the Global North. Surely this too is part of the tradition of 1917, which, Trotsky wrote, was “in its initial task…a democratic revolution. But it posed the problem of political democracy in a new way”.31

We need to remain true to this, the spirit of Trotsky’s theory, rather than seeking to apply it formalistically and, inevitably, finding it wanting. Strangely enough, and in contradiction to much of the rest of the article, Neil seems to come to a similar conclusion towards the end of his piece:

Uneven and combined development is therefore likely to be an ongoing process, which will only be resolved by either revolution or disintegration. But in the meantime, China and other states like India and Brazil where growth has been less dramatic remain both inherently unstable in their internal social relations and expansive in their external search for markets, raw materials and investment opportunities. It is in this inherent instability that the possibilities for permanent revolution lie.32

If that is Neil’s position, then there is no disagreement.

Cliff’s contribution

From this standpoint, Cliff’s contribution to the problem of permanent revolution is less ambiguous than Neil implies. Cliff’s starting point was the insight that “an automatic correlation between economic backwardness and revolutionary political militancy does not exist”.33 Neil objects that Trotsky never insisted on such a correlation and he adds that uneven and combined development is the fundamental “enabling condition” for workers’ militancy.34

While it is true that uneven and combined development is one factor destabilising the Global South, and so creating potentially revolutionary situations, this is only one part of the story. Cliff focuses on societies where these kinds of processes lead to revolutionary crises but where workers do not play a revolutionary role. We do not require a single special explanation for the failure of workers to “be revolutionary” in any particular context—a whole range of economic, political and ideological factors will dictate whether this is the case. But I do not see any evidence in what Neil writes that it was the absence of uneven and combined development that prevented workers’ militancy taking hold.

Cliff’s second point was that, in contexts in which workers do not take the initiative, the sizeable revolutionary intelligentsia could impose a solution to the problems thrown up by uneven and combined development. They could do so alone, as in Cuba in 1958, or, as in China in 1949, at the head of a peasant rebellion. Neil’s second objection to Cliff is that China in 1949 was “feudal” and Cuba in 1958 was “capitalist”.35 However, if one accepts Trotsky’s claim that China was dominated by capitalist social relations in the 1920s, and it is not clear to me whether Neil does or does not,36 then the problem vanishes.

Incidentally, Cliff was also more orthodox in his Trotskyism in identifying the intelligentsia as a potentially revolutionary force than is sometimes realised. In 1905 Trotsky contrasts the middle class who, he argues, were central to the French Revolution with the Russian,”’new middle class’, the professional intelligentsia: lawyers, doctors, engineers, university professors, schoolteachers”.37 However, in the Russian context, this was a relatively small layer. Trotsky argues that they were in fact drawn behind the organisation of the liberal landowners, who resented the Tsarist state’s industrial protectionism and the burdens it imposed on the countryside. The Kadet party was “a union of the oppositional impotence of the zemtsy [landed constitutionalists] with the all-round impotence of the diploma-carrying intelligentsia”.38 When in 1905 the landowners swung behind the Tsar in the face of rural unrest, the intelligentsia:

With tears in its eyes, was obliged to forsake the country estate where, when all is said and done, it had been no more than a foster child, and to seek recognition in its historic home, the city. But what did it find in the city, other than its own self? It found the conservative capitalist bourgeoisie, the revolutionary proletariat, and the irreconcilable antagonism between the two.39

In the societies examined by Cliff, where the proletariat was not in a revolutionary mood, and where the intelligentsia was sufficiently developed to play an independent role, things were rather different. They also had a model of capitalist development to look to—in its purest form the state capitalist model giving rise to “deflected state capitalist permanent revolution”.40 The more common form involved a combination of private and state capitalism. Sensitivity to these possibilities was of profound importance to the International Socialist tradition. It allowed us to give unconditional support to struggles for national liberation without falsely painting the leadership of such movements as socialists:

For revolutionary socialists in the advanced countries, the shift in strategy means that while they will have to continue to oppose any national oppression of the colonial people unconditionally, they must cease to argue over the national identity of the future ruling classes of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and instead investigate the class conflicts and future social structures of these continents.41

I sympathise more with Neil on the question of the subsequent over-generalisation of Cliff’s theory. Chris Harman’s The Prophet and the Proletariat is an important analysis of the contradictions of political Islam.42 But Iran’s 1979 Revolution cannot be an example of deflected permanent revolution—because here, as Harman shows, the level of revolutionary energy and the potential for self-organisation of the proletariat were magnificent. Unlike Neil, though, I would see this as an aborted process of permanent revolution, which failed to break through for subjective political reasons.

The same applies to John Newsinger’s account of the 1952 Bolivian Revolution, which was marked by workers holding effective power in streets of the major cities.43 The kind of class forces Cliff discussed played an important role in Iran and Bolivia. But here the absence of a revolutionary party with sufficient size and experience is the central problem rather than the non-revolutionary nature of the working class. Trotsky would have recognised the problem of the absence of the subjective element of the revolutionary party.44

Goodbye Trotsky?

International Socialism has always prided itself on being part of a living tradition. Permanent revolution cannot, for us, be a dry and lifeless formalism. It is not something that we bolt on to our analysis simply because we require the reassuring familiarity of orthodoxy. For this reason, Neil’s contribution and the series of articles in recent journals re-examining elements of our tradition are especially welcome.

However, contrary to what I think Neil is arguing, many of the revolutionary struggles in recent years can still be usefully situated within the framework of Trotsky’s theory. This is no substitute for concrete analysis, but permanent revolution, liberated from some of the immediate context in which it was first formulated, remains relevant in guiding our understanding of struggle in the Global South today.


1: Trotsky, 1973, p8. Thanks to Alex Callinicos and Esme Choonara for their comments on the first draft of this article, and to Peyman Jafari and Anne Alexander for helpful discussions.

2: Cliff, 1990.

3: Davidson, 2010, p195.

4: Marx and Engels, 1985, pp221-231, 246.

5: Cliff, 2000.

6: Stefanoni, 2005.

7: Davidson, 2010, pp182-195.

8: Trotsky, 1985, p27.

9: Davidson, 2010, p184.

10: Trotsky, 1973, p53.

11: Davidson, 2010, pp187-188.

12: Davidson, 2010, p192 (my emphasis). The implication that “industrial capitalism” is a distinctive mode of production is probably a slip of the pen.

13: See Trotsky 1973, pp290-329.

14: See Trotsky, 1973, pp329-333.

15: On the question of whether Lenin ever actually read Trotsky’s writings on permanent revolution, see Trotsky, 1982, pp42-43. In Trotsky’s assessment, prior to the 1917 Revolution Lenin was probably only familiar with the theory indirectly, through its citation by other writers. However, Trotsky recalls that Adolph Abramovich Joffe, a member of Trotsky’s left opposition in the 1920s, claimed a conversation with Lenin in which the latter acknowledged the correctness of Trotsky’s insights. Just before his suicide in 1927 Joffe wrote to Trotsky making the same claim. See Trotsky, 1979, pp558-561.

16: Trotsky, 1973, p66.

17: Trotsky, 1973, p72.

18: Lenin makes a similar point in one of his famous “April Theses” of 1917: “Not a parliamentary republic-to return to a parliamentary republic from the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies would be a retrograde step-but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country, from top to bottom”-Lenin, 1917.

19: The term “permanent” has an odd ring to it, implying “perpetual” to the modern reader, rather than implying an uninterrupted continuation. A recent collection of writings on permanent revolution clarifies this: “In Russian, the words ‘permanent revolution [permanentnaya revolyutsiya]’ and ‘uninterrupted revolution [nepreryvnaya revolyutsiya]’ are semantic equivalents and completely interchangeable…in his foreword to Marx’s essay on the Paris Commune…[Trotsky]…spoke of a ‘revolution in Permanenz, or an uninterrupted revolution’”-Day and Gaido, 2009, pp449-450.

20: Neil is not the first to question the relevance of the theory on this basis. A similar piece by David Whitehouse in the US-based International Socialist Review in 2006 prompted a response by Paul D’Amato that vigorously defended Trotsky’s theory. Although I agree with much of D’Amato’s reply, his claim that “all countries…need a permanent revolution because though the material prerequisites for socialism exist on an international scale, they do not within a purely national framework” robs the theory of any specificity. See Whitehouse, 2006; D’Amato, 2006.

21: Trotsky, 1973, p90.

22: Davidson, 2010, pp170, 171.

23: Draper, 1978, pp18-19.

24: Draper, 1978, p19.

25: Draper, 1978, p20.

26: Davidson, 2010, p175.

27: Callinicos, 1989, pp116, 151-159.

28: Trotsky, 1982, p129.

29: Trotsky, 1982, p129.

30: Trotsky, 1982, p130.

31: Trotsky, 1983, pp35-36.

32: Davidson, 2010, p197 (my emphasis).

33: Cliff, 1990, p22.

34: Davidson, 2010, p182.

35: Davidson, 2010, pp174-175.

36: Cited in Davidson, 2010, p188.

37: Trotsky, 1973, p58.

38: Trotsky, 1973, pp58-59.

39: Trotsky, 1973, p59.

40: Cliff, 1990, p25.

41: Cliff, 1990, p26.

42: Harman, 2010. Harman’s analysis was to be especially crucial in the development of Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists who played an important role in the 2011 struggles against the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak.

43: Newsinger, 1983, p82.

44: For instance, in his 1932 speech “In Defence of October”, he situated the need for a revolutionary party in the context of 1917 and permanent revolution-Trotsky, 1932.


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