Introduction to new Urdu edition of ‘Permanent Revolution’ by Leon Trotsky
We publish below a new introduction by Peter Taaffe to Leon Trotsky’s ‘Permanent Revolution’, which our comrades in the Socialist Movement Pakistan (CWI) are publishing in Urdu.
What relevance does Trotsky’s Theory of the Permanent Revolution have to the problems of the workers’ cause or the peasants’ (small farmers) movement today? After all, it was formulated more than 100 years ago during the first Russian revolution of 1905-07.
The same kind of question could be posed – and it is – regarding the ideas of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg. But no matter how ‘old’ is an idea – a method of analysis upon which mass action is based – if it more accurately describes the situation today than ‘new’ theories, it retains all its relevance in the modern era. This is particularly the case for the masses in the neo-colonial world – and especially today in the vital country of Pakistan with more than 200 million inhabitants – confronted as they are with all the terrible problems flowing from the incomplete capitalist-democratic revolution.
A similar situation as exists in Pakistan today confronted Russia also in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Russia had not completed the capitalist-democratic revolution: thoroughgoing land reform, purging of the countryside of feudal and semi-feudal remnants, unification of the country, the solution of the national question, and freedom from the domination of foreign imperialism. At the same time there was no democracy – the right to vote for a democratic parliament, a free press, trade union rights, etc. This system was crowned by the brutal, autocratic, age-old tsarist state. How to solve the capitalist-democratic revolution? This was the question of questions posed before the young Russian workers’ movement. The different theories exploring this issue were tested out in practice in the three Russian revolutions of 1905-1907, the February revolution of 1917 and the October 1917 revolution itself. The latter, for the first time in history, brought the working class to power and it remains to this day the most important single event in human history.
The bourgeois revolution
Both Lenin and Trotsky differed fundamentally from the Mensheviks (the original minority in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party) who believed the task of the working class in economically undeveloped countries such as Russia at that stage was to tail-end, give ‘critical support’, to the liberal capitalists in completing ‘their’ revolution. This was because they considered the liberal capitalists to be the main agents of the capitalist-democratic revolution. However, the belated development as a class of the capitalists – already revealed in 1848 by the German capitalists, who did not press through the German revolution at that stage – meant that they were incapable of completing this historic task.
Firstly, the capitalists invested in land and the landlords invested in industry and both were united, particularly in the modern era, to bank capital. Therefore any thoroughgoing bourgeois-democratic revolution would come up against the opposition not just of the landlords but also the capitalists themselves and their political representatives, the liberal capitalist parties. Above all, they were afraid that the masses, the main agency of change in all revolutions, including capitalist ones, inevitably pressed forward with their own demands, thereby challenging the position of the capitalists themselves. Even in the bourgeois French revolution of the eighteenth century, the plebeian sans-culottes (literally ‘without trousers’) were the main agency in clearing French society of all feudal rubbish. But they then went on to demand in 1793-94 measures in their own interests such as ‘maximum wages’ and ‘direct democracy’ which the newly empowered representatives of the bourgeoisie correctly understood as a threat. The sans-culottes were suppressed, first of all by the Directory and then by Bonaparte himself.
A similar, although even more pronounced, fear of the rising bourgeoisie in Germany occurred in the 1848 revolution. Then, the fear of the masses trumped the desire of the bourgeois to establish their own untrammelled political rule. Hence the compromise of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties with feudalism and its representative, the monarchy. In the case of Germany, it took the intervention of Bismarck, basing himself on the Junkers – the former representatives of landlord-feudal reaction – to carry through belatedly the capitalist-democratic revolution ‘from above’ in the late nineteenth century. Even then, it was not fully completed and only the 1918 working-class revolution in passing following the First World War completed this process.
Lenin’s idea of the ‘Democratic Dictatorship’
Therefore, Lenin and Trotsky opposed the Menshevik idea that the liberal capitalists could carry though their own revolution in Russia. The capitalists had come onto the scene too late and were afraid of the masses. Arising from this, Lenin formulated his idea of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’. ‘Dictatorship’ for Lenin – as with Marx – meant the rule of a definite class. ‘Dictatorship of the working class’ meant the democratic rule of the working masses and not military rule or bonapartist ‘dictatorship’ over the masses, as opponents of Marxism argue. Because Stalinism – a one-party dictatorship of a bureaucratic elite resting on a planned economy – blighted the understanding of the masses, Marxism today does not use the term ‘dictatorship’. The phrase ‘workers’ democracy’ explains better Marx and Lenin’s idea today. Lenin’s idea was, in effect, a proposed democratic alliance of the working class and the peasantry as the main forces in a mass movement to complete the capitalist-democratic revolution. Trotsky agreed with Lenin that these were the only forces that could complete the process.
However, the weakness of Lenin’s formula was who would be the dominant force in such an alliance: the working class or the peasantry? Trotsky pointed out that history attests to the fact that the peasantry had never played an independent role. Scattered in the countryside with scarce access to the culture of the towns – with their literature, theatres, large collected populations – the peasants were always destined to seek for a leader in the urban areas. They could support the bourgeois, which would mean ultimately the betrayal of their own interests. This flowed from the foregoing fact that the capitalists could not complete thoroughgoing land reform benefiting the mass of the peasants. Or they could find a leader in the working class.
Lenin, in effect, left open which class would dominate in the alliance between the working class and the peasantry. His formula was an ‘algebraic formula’ and he left history to give it a concrete form. Trotsky went further than Lenin in his famous ‘Theory of the Permanent Revolution’. It was Karl Marx himself who first spoke about the ‘permanent’ character of the revolution drawing lessons from the 1848 revolutions. He wrote in 1850: “It is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions.” But Trotsky went further and concluded that once having drawn the mass of the peasantry behind its banner and taken power, the working class would be compelled to go over to the socialist tasks, both on a national and an international scale.
This brilliantly anticipated the October 1917 revolution. The working class took power in Petrograd, the seat of the revolutionary upheavals of the time, and Moscow. They then made an appeal to the rural masses, initiated ‘land to the tillers’, which won over the peasantry. But the dispossessed landlords joined hands with the capitalists, both the ‘liberal’ and reactionary wings, in an attempt to try to snuff out the Russian revolution. The peasantry through the travails of the three-year civil war rallied behind the workers and their party, the Bolsheviks, because they came to understand in action that they were the only ones who would give them the land. Even the intervention of 21 imperialist armies, which reduced the revolution at one stage to the old province of Muscovy, around Petrograd and Moscow, could not stop the revolution triumphing.
Another feature of the theory is the idea of ‘combined and uneven development’, particularly as applied to underdeveloped countries even today. Russia itself prior to 1917 illustrated this phenomenon very clearly. It combined extreme backwardness in relations on the land – feudal, semi-feudal, etc – with the latest word in technique in industry, achieved largely through massive imperialist intervention by French and British capital. The consequences in Russia were the development of a young and dynamic working class organised in big factories alongside archaic economic and cultural forms. A similar development has taken place in other countries in the neo-colonial world since.
Attacks on the theory of permanent revolution
Therefore, the permanent revolution has been borne out, not just in the theory formulated over 100 years ago, but also in the triumphant action itself of the Russian revolution. But this has not prevented continued attacks both on the author of this idea and the idea itself. The bureaucracy that arose in Russia, following the isolation of the Russian revolution and personified by the figure of Stalin, launched an attack on this theory. In effect, they borrowed the Menshevik idea of ‘stages’. First, so this theory argues, must come the capitalist stage, followed some time in the future by the ‘socialist’ stage. In the first stage, the workers’ parties are compelled to give ‘critical support’ to the capitalist parties, particularly the liberals, up to and including support for and even participation in bourgeois liberal governments. This idea, when put into practice by Stalinist parties, without exception has led to unmitigated disasters, particularly in the neo-colonial world.
The Chinese revolution of 1925-27 had a greater possibility of victory under the banner of the working class and the young Chinese Communist Party than in Russia itself less than 10 years earlier. A working class super-exploited, kept at the level of pack animals, rose in one of the most magnificent movements in history, created a mass Communist Party and drew behind it the majority of the peasants in a war against landlordism and capitalism. Even though the masses had barely-formed trade unions, they also attempted to create soviets, workers and peasants’ councils, as the organ of the revolution in a movement which sought to emulate the Russian revolution. Unfortunately, the rising Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia itself determined that the rhythm of the Chinese revolution could continue only under the Menshevik baton, this time wielded by Stalin himself. The consequence of this led to support for the ‘radical’ Kuo Min-Tang of Chiang Kai-shek, including recognising it as a sympathising section of the Communist International. This ended in disaster. The revolution was drowned in blood and on its bones rose the monstrous dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek.
This, by the way, gave a vision of what would have happened in Russia if the Mensheviks’ ideas had been followed in the revolution. It would have led, as in other situations, to an aborted revolution. General Kornilov, who was defeated in September 1917 (or a similar military figure) would have imposed a bloody dictatorship on the bones of the Russian revolution itself. This was prevented by the intervention of the Bolshevik party led by Lenin and Trotsky and their ideas. The disasters in the neo-colonial world, of Indonesia, of the setbacks in Vietnam following the Second World War and many others resulted from the Menshevik policy of ‘stages’ in the revolution, implemented by the Stalinists, in place of Trotsky’s clear ideas which were shared by Lenin in October 1917.
Yet despite this, there are some ‘Marxists’, who professed adherence in the past to the ideas of Trotsky, who now attack his theory of the permanent revolution. Others even support the idea of the ‘permanent revolution’ but in practice put forward a Menshevik position, supporting workers’ organisations participating in coalition governments with capitalist parties. In the first category of those who reject Trotsky are the two wings – which are separate organisations – of the now-disbanded Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) in Australia. They have gone to great lengths to attack Trotsky’s idea of the permanent revolution. In the process of attacking our pamphlet written in the 1970s, one of their leaders, Doug Lorimer, counterposed Lenin’s ‘democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ to Trotsky’s idea of the permanent revolution. To achieve this admittedly difficult task, he engaged in a policy of deception, consistent misquotation, half quotations of Trotsky’s ideas and innuendo which sought to counterpose to Trotsky Lenin’s ‘more correct’ idea of the ‘democratic dictatorship’.
He was not at all original in his endeavours as Karl Radek, once a leading member of the ‘Trotskyist’ Russian Left Opposition, after he capitulated and made his peace with Stalin, had also earlier attacked the theory of the permanent revolution. In answering him, Trotsky pointed out the Radek “did not pick up a single new argument against the theory of the permanent revolution”. He was, said Trotsky, an “epigone” (a slavish unthinking adherent) of the Stalinists. Lorimer acted in the same way. Speaking about the 1905 Russian revolution, Lorimer argued: “Lenin argued that the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution by an alliance of the workers and peasants, led by the Marxist party, would then enable the working class, in alliance with the poor, semi-proletarian majority of the peasantry, to pass uninterruptedly to the socialist revolution.”
But Lenin only occasionally mentioned about moving “uninterruptedly” towards the socialist revolution when he adhered to his “democratic dictatorship” idea. This idea of “uninterrupted” or “permanent” revolution had first been put forward by Trotsky in the book ‘Results and Prospects’. Lenin’s main idea was that the bourgeois-democratic revolution could have led to, could “stimulate” the revolution in western Europe, which would then come to the aid of the workers and peasants in Russia, and only then place ‘socialism’ on the agenda. If Lenin had consistently advanced the idea, as some like Lorimer have suggested, there would have been no fundamental differences between him and Trotsky on the revolution. But clearly Lenin envisaged a period of time, a development of society and the working class between the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” and their coming to power and socialism. There is nothing “uninterrupted” in this.
Role of the peasantry
Another legend perpetuated by the Stalinists and by some like the former DSP is that Trotsky “underestimated the peasantry”, believing that the working class alone could carry through the revolution in Russia. He was therefore against a real alliance of the peasantry with the working class. On the attempts to find a fundamental difference with Lenin, Trotsky wrote: “The devil can quote scripture to his purpose.” He admitted there were “gaps” in his original theory of the permanent revolution, published, it must be understood, in 1906. History, particularly the great experience of the February and October revolutions of 1917, filled in these “gaps” but in no way did they falsify Trotsky’s general idea but rather reinforced and strengthened it.
Look at the honesty with which Trotsky deals with the evolution of his ideas against the shameful misrepresentation of them by Stalin, later by Radek and other latter-day critics. He wrote in answer to Radek: “I do not at all want to say that my conception of the revolution follows, in all my writings, one and the same unswerving line…There are articles [of Trotsky] in which the episodic circumstances and even the episodic polemical exaggerations inevitable in struggle protrude into the foreground in violation of the strategic line. Thus, for example, articles can be found in which I express doubts about the future revolutionary role of the peasantry as a whole… and in connection with this refused to designate, especially during the imperialist war, the future Russian Revolution as ‘national,’ for I felt this designation to be ambiguous.” He goes on: “Let me also remark that Lenin – who never for a moment lost historical sight of the peasant question in all its gigantic historical magnitude and from whom we all learnt this – considered it uncertain even after the February revolution whether we should succeed in tearing the peasantry away from the bourgeois and drawing it after the proletariat.”
Lorimer said much in the past about Trotsky, in his early writings, looking towards an alliance between the working class and the poor peasants rather than the “peasantry as a whole”. Lenin himself sometimes spoke in the manner that Trotsky did of the proletariat linking up with the poorer layers in the villages, etc. But in 1917 the working class in the revolution led the peasantry to complete the bourgeois-democratic revolution but did not stop there. It then passed in an “uninterrupted” fashion to begin the socialist tasks in Russia and to spreads the revolution internationally.
Fantastical schemas have been worked up by the opponents of this theory that the October revolution was not a socialist revolution but represented the victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution through the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”. This was separated as the “first stage” (in accordance with the ‘two-stage’ theory) from the socialist revolution which was only carried through in the summer and autumn of 1918. This is a false, mechanistic idea which seeks to artificially separate the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution from socialist tasks. It is completely inaccurate when applied to October 1917. Moreover, it would be absolutely fatal if, as in the past, it was applied to the current situation existing in many of the countries in the neo-colonial world, including Pakistan.
China and Cuba
Some, like the former DSP, even argue that the Chinese and Cuban revolutions are a vindication of the original position of Lenin of the ‘democratic revolution’, of “first the democratic phase and then the socialist”. On the contrary, these revolutions were an affirmation of the correctness of Trotsky’s permanent revolution although in a caricatured form. A social revolution did indeed take place in China and Cuba (see ‘Cuba: Socialism and Democracy’ by Peter Taaffe) but not with the soviets and workers’ democracy of the 1917 Russian revolution. In China, a Maoist/Stalinist one-party regime was established from the outset, albeit with a planned economy. In Cuba, it is true that the revolution saw elements of workers’ control but not the full workers’ democracy of Russia. This limited the attraction of both revolutions – particularly to the working class internationally – which was not the same as the mesmeric effect of the Bolshevik revolution in the ‘Ten Days that Shook the World’.
Some even argue that there can be ‘independent’ peasant parties which can come together in a coalition government with the ‘workers’ parties’ to carry through the bourgeois revolution. Some even drag in isolated quotes from Lenin in which he suggests this: “A provisional revolutionary government is necessary… [The RSDLP] emphatically declares that it is permissible in principle for Social-Democrats to participate in a provisional revolutionary government (during the period of a democratic revolution, the period of struggle for a republic).” [V.I. Lenin, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, Chapter 2.]
Commenting on this, Trotsky conceded that Lenin did indeed formulate an idea like this. But Trotsky described this as “incredible” and, moreover, contradicting everything that Lenin stood for subsequently, including in the period of the February revolution right up to the October revolution. Lenin in his ‘Letters from Afar” condemned even the slightest ‘critical’ support for the Provisional Government and demanded total class independence, both of the Bolshevik party and the working class. Moreover, the arguments of many such as Radek in his latter-day imitators like the DSP, the very history of Russia, attests to the fact that prior to 1917 there was no stable independent peasant party or parties.
It has been suggested that the Social Revolutionaries fell into this category of independent peasant parties. But all of these organisations claiming to represent the peasantry “as a whole” and existing in relatively stable periods then flew apart, divided along class lines – the upper layers looking towards the bourgeoisie, the lower layers merging and acting with the working class – in periods of social crisis. The Social Revolutionaries in 1917 reflected this. After February 1917 they were a prop of the bourgeois coalition together with the Mensheviks and opposed giving land to the peasants. In action, they were repudiated by the majority of the peasants. The Left Social Revolutionaries who split from the SRs, it is true, shared power for a short period with the Bolsheviks after the October revolution. They occupied a minority position compared to the Bolsheviks, which was not clearly envisaged in Lenin’s original idea of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Trotsky, from the beginning, in his theory argued that the working class would dominate and lead the peasantry. Subsequently, the Left SRs separated from the government, which itself was a reflection of the growing class conflict at their base amongst the peasantry as well as an indication of their inchoate, middle-class character.
Pakistan and the permanent revolution today
What is the relevance of this to Pakistan and the neo-colonial world today? Firstly, where the mistaken ideas of Menshevism – the two-stage theory of the revolution – have been put into practice, it has resulted in catastrophe for every mass movement fighting for power. Secondly, the bourgeois-democratic revolution remains to be completed in Pakistan. The fact that feudal and semi-feudal relations dominate the countryside and, in a sense, the whole of society is something that is almost taken for granted by the working masses of Pakistan. There is no other country – even in the neo-colonial world – which demonstrates more the intractability, the impossibility, of the bourgeois solving the accumulated problems of their regime. Very few other countries have such a concentration of wealth in the hands of a feudal/semi-feudal ruling class of landlords and capitalists as does Pakistan. Twenty families, as is commonly understood by the mass of the Pakistani population, dominate society. The main political parties, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) led by Asif Zardari, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of Nawaz Sharif, the army and the state machine, the overwhelming majority of large industrial and commercial combines and companies: all are dominated by this very narrow super-rich ruling class.
However, an additional special feature of feudal and semi-feudal Pakistan is the domination of the army, which has held a controlling hand right from the state’s inception over 60 years ago. It is an extreme example of the corrupt ‘crony capitalism’ which blights the ruling classes in the neo-colonial world and increasingly in the ‘developed’ world too. In 2007, a book demonstrating the colossal private business interests of the Pakistani military, ‘Military Incorporated’, was written by Dr Ayesha Siddiqua. She claimed that this internal military ‘empire’ could be worth as much as £10 billion. Officers run secret industrial conglomerates, manufacturing everything from corn flakes to cement and actually own 12 million acres of public land. The generals have ruled Pakistan directly for more than 30 of the 62 years since independence in 1947. They still control the government, despite the existence of ‘civilian rule’ in the last three years. There has not been one day of ‘peace’ in the country since then, highlighted by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the PPP, the catastrophe of Swat Valley – hard on the heels of the ‘Talibanisation’ of parts of Pakistan – and now the monstrous ‘suicide bombings’, which plague not just Afghanistan but Pakistan as well, even affecting the urban centres such as Lahore.
There is a false impression – particularly from abroad – that Pakistan, following Afghanistan, is in the unstoppable grip of the right-wing Islamic fundamentalists. Yet, as the Socialist Movement Pakistan (SMP) has pointed out, the fundamentalists have never had mass support up to now. Moreover, the mass, indiscriminate bombing campaign of the Taliban and other murderous terrorists is calculated to alienate the masses even further. At the same time, the indiscriminate counter-terrorism of sections of the Pakistani state and American imperialism armed with its ‘drones’ raining death from the sky can enrage the population and could drive them, at least temporarily, into the arms of the Taliban. However, the Taliban’s murderous rule in Swat, after the Pakistani state had negotiated a truce and withdrawn, was so vicious that the local population rose up against them. They had met with terrible repression from the Taliban. This led to the intervention of the army and a new pacification campaign against the Taliban, which in effect ripped up their previous agreement, signed only a matter of months before. This underlines the highly unstable, catastrophic position that is developing in Pakistan. In fact, so linked together is Afghanistan with Pakistan that they are now referred to as ‘AfPak’ by observers.
One thing is clear; the Pakistani army tops will never tamely adhere to imperialism’s plans in Afghanistan so long as there is no agreement between India and Pakistan, involving the issue of Kashmir. The Pakistani military considers Kashmir as part of its ‘hinterland’, a source of pressure on and a ‘buffer’ against India. Commenting on this, David Gardner wrote in the Financial Times: “Notwithstanding the offensive against the Pakistan Taliban in South Waziristan, the Pakistani military’s mindset has not fundamentally changed. They do not simply regard the jihadis as a greater security threat than India.” He goes on: “The army would need at least three times the troop strength it has deployed to take and hold South Waziristan. This operation looks more like an attempt to punish the Pakistan Taliban for straying off the reservation”! Compelled by its increased effectiveness, the army has recently been forced to go after the Pakistani Taliban, whereas it previously tolerated the Punjabi jihadis, Laskhar-i-Janghvi. Moreover it still supports and uses against India the original Kashmiri-orientated jihadi group, Laskhar-i-Taiba, thought to be behind November 2008’s bloody assault on Mumbai. Again, Gardner states: “The group’s mastermind, Hafiz Saeed, has a revolving door relationship with Pakistani jails.”
Pakistan, in effect, holds down half a million Indian troops in the valley of Kashmir with just a few thousand jihadis. Its support for the Afghan jihadis is based on the same reasoning, as a counter-weight – amongst other things – against India. India, for its part, is suspected of abetting insurgents in Pakistani Baluchistan. A top general commented: “Definitely we want Afghanistan to be the strategic depth of Pakistan.”
The national question in Pakistan
At the same time, the military has not given up hope of stepping in and once more openly seizing the reins of power in Pakistan. To this end, it has conducted a systematic unauthorised campaign of intervention in the political and judicial processes. Moreover, it has brutally repressed and ‘disappeared’ hundreds of its opponents in the rebellious state of Baluchistan. As Khalid Bhatti pointed out on the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) website in November 2009, the uprising in Baluchistan is more serious than that in the tribal areas. Although in the latter the Pakistani state has lost control to the Taliban, there is not a national opposition as such to the Pakistani state. Things stand differently in Baluchistan, which only adhered to the Pakistani ‘federation’ in 1969. As Khalid pointed out: “The majority of the people do not have any positive feelings towards the state. More and more young Baluchi people are taking up the armed struggle. The nationalist insurgency not only continues, but is expanding into more areas of the province.”
There are now numerous Baluchi armed insurgent groups fighting the Pakistani army. Unfortunately, ‘targeted killings’ have also taken place against non-Baluchis with three thousand non-Baluchi people losing their lives with thousands fleeing the province for fear of meeting a similar fate. By one estimate, 50,000 non-Baluchi families have so far emigrated from Baluchistan and thousands more have applied for transfers out of the region. The university remained closed for more than three months, there is growing sentiment for separation from Pakistan, with Baluchi nationalists claiming: “We want an independent Baluchistan as it was before 1948, when it was annexed by Pakistan through military force.” These sentiments are particularly strong amongst youth, with university students in the lead, and, as a symptom of the depth of the movement, with women playing a prominent role.
The Pakistan regime, however, is prepared to wade through as much blood as is necessary to hold onto this strategically important province. It is important not just for Pakistan but for all the regional powers, with the jockeying for influence by the US, China, Iran and Afghanistan with even the ‘footprint’ of India present in the area. It is important for its rich natural resources of energy, natural gas and minerals, for its fishing and also for the strategic importance of Gawadar, the newly-built port overlooking the Straits of Hormuz, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf and, therefore, a vital stopping-off point for naval vessels in the area. China, in particular, sees this facility as vital for its interests and is the reason why it contributed the lion’s share of the capital and labour to build the port.
Yet Baluchistan is just the most extreme expression of the brewing national discontent in the non-Punjabi provinces which make up the ‘federation’. Even in Sind, resentment at ‘Punjabi domination’ – in effect, the control exercised by the landlord-capitalists of the Punjab, especially in the army – is fuelled by the grinding and growing poverty throughout Sind and Pakistan as a whole. The national question forms a crucial aspect of Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution. Without Lenin’s position on the national question – defended and added to by Trotsky’s analysis of this issue in many countries and many situations – the Russian revolution would have been impossible. That is a thousand times more the case today, especially in the neo-colonial world and particularly given the multinational character of Pakistan.
Yet, unbelievably, the basic demand for the right of self-determination of the oppressed nationalities of Pakistan is, in practice, rejected by the alleged ‘Trotskyists’ in the present crisis-riven ‘Class Struggle’ tendency in Pakistan. Only the SMP has pursued a consistent, principled and sensitive position on this issue. It stands, as Lenin and Trotsky did, for the rights of all oppressed peoples, for equality and against discrimination on racial, ethnic, religious or national lines. This does not mean advocating the right of self-determination, including the right to secede, without taking into account the mood of the masses. It is the right of peoples in the distinct national areas of Pakistan outside of Punjab, and even in Punjab itself, to choose their own path.
The ideal position from the standpoint of the workers’ movement in Pakistan would be a socialist confederation. This would provide full rights of autonomy, allow all legitimate national rights, down to the elimination of the slightest expression of nationalism or national superiority of one ethnic or national group over another. However, if oppressed nationalities wished to separate from even a democratic workers’ state, then the workers’ movement must accept that, as Lenin consistently argued and, in effect, carried out in the case of Finland in 1918. ‘Class Struggle’, led up to now internationally by the Alan Woods group, has consistently opposed such a policy in Pakistan. This has alienated them from some of the best fighters and leaders of the oppressed workers and peasants in the non-Punjabi parts of the country, many of whom have consequently gravitated in the direction of the SMP.
Crisis in the International Marxist Tendency
At the same time, they have a totally false position of sticking to the so-called ‘traditional organisations of the working class’ – without taking into account the concrete circumstances as to whether these organisations still represent the working masses. This policy now lies in ruins as a big split has developed in the Woods ‘International’, the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), on the consequences of this amongst other issues. It has had disastrous consequences for their organisation in Pakistan, as shown by the voluminous documentation detailing the bureaucratic methods of the Woods group, which split from the CWI in 1991.
Very few class-conscious workers now entertain any illusions that the PPP – led by ‘Mr Fifty Per Cent’ Asif Zardari – remotely represents in practice the working masses and the poor farmers of Pakistan. It is flooded out with the influence of the feudals, both in the towns and the rural areas. It is a party which has opposed strikes, called for and tried to organise strike-breaking, of the telecoms workers, for instance. The position of the PPP from what it was under its founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a ‘populist’ party capable of responding to the demands of the masses, has long gone. Therefore the same task is posed in Pakistan, as in other countries throughout the world, the development of a new mass party of the Pakistani workers and peasants, which the SMP has consistently argued for. The Woods group – which its leaders boasted was immune from the processes of ‘splits’ that allegedly condemned other organisations to ‘marginal’ influence in the workers’ movement – is seriously divided.
Ironically, it is on the very issues which formed the main ‘political’ reasons for their break from the CWI in 1992. Then it was the alleged existence of a ‘clique’ at the ‘top of the CWI’. This was rejected by 93% of the members of the British organisation and also by a majority of the CWI. Yet this is the same charge, in effect, now levelled against Alan Woods and his circle. There was absolutely no substance in this charge made by Woods and Co in 1992 about the CWI and its internal methods. The proof of this lies in the subsequent development of the national sections of the CWI with independent and thinking leaderships, capable of responding to the concrete circumstances in each country, which collaborates internationally but acts without waiting for ‘instructions’ from an international centre. The CWI operates on the basis of democratic centralism with full rights for all its members and sections with, in fact, a greater emphasis at this stage on the need for discussion and debate rather than the formal aspects of centralism.
The present split in the IMT has been kept under wraps – hidden from some of their members – up to the present time of writing. Yet all the political disputes in the CWI on a number of issues in the 1990s and the ‘noughties’ were public discussions, and documents were made public while the discussion was going on. Current debates are publically aired, for instance, in our journal ‘Socialism Today’ on such issues as China. This is done in order to allow all workers to see and, if needs be, to participate in the discussion of vital issues. Nothing like these democratic discussions takes place in the IMT.
An opposite picture is presented of the IMT, its internal life, its ideas and especially of its leadership in the incredible documents emanating from Pakistan, Spain and others who have fallen out with Woods and his closest circle. The Pakistani ‘dissidents’ around Manzoor Khan – the former PPP MP – paint a tragic picture of where Ted Grant and Alan Woods’s false position on the dogmatic insistence on undeviating work in the PPP and the ex-workers’ parties can lead. Manzoor justifies his opposition – on behalf of the PPP leadership – to strikes in Pakistan by wanting to remain in the PPP “at all costs”. Woods objected to this and promptly expelled Manzoor and his supporters. But a similar approach to that of Manzoor in Pakistan was adopted by Grant and Woods in Britain over our Militant MPs’ stand against the poll tax in 1991-92. We, the leadership and overwhelming majority of Militant (now the Socialist Party), stated that Terry Fields and Dave Nellist (our two MPs) could not pay the poll tax. This was because they and we had successfully urged millions of workers not to pay it and, faced with a similar situation, we declared they should take a similar principled stand. Grant and Woods argued that the MPs should pay as a means of staying inside the Labour Party!
Socialists were ‘dead’ outside of this ‘traditional organisation’, they argued, much as they had miseducated Manzoor and others in ‘Class Struggle’ in continued work in the PPP. We would have been ‘politically dead’ if the MPs and we had followed their advice. The Labour Party has since degenerated like the PPP into a bourgeois formation. Grant and Co were trapped in a false outmoded perception: that all political life of the working class was restricted to the Labour Party; to go outside meant ‘going over a cliff’. What is the result of this? They are insignificant in Britain while the Socialist Party has grown in numbers and influence. The same applies on an international scale with the IMT losing influence in many countries with Woods increasingly reduced to the role of a ‘benevolent advisor’ to Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. They reacted to the opportunist and indefensible actions of Manzoor – which was but the logical conclusion of their own ossified position on the ‘traditional organisations – by expelling him!
There are still sincere Marxists and Trotskyists within its ranks that we hope will cut through the thicket of lies and misrepresentations that have been particularly levelled by Alan Woods and his leading organising group against the CWI, its organisations, its leadership and its policies. A conscientious examination of the ideas of the CWI will, it is hoped, lead the best of these comrades to re-examine their past policies, and those of the CWI’s, and hopefully find a path back to a consistent Trotskyist position.
Socialist Movement Pakistan and the way forward for the masses
Genuine Trotskyism is destined to play a key role in the forthcoming battles of the Pakistani working class. And a vital aspect in the political armoury of the forces that will develop is the ideas and methods of Leon Trotsky, particularly his brilliant anticipation of the character of the revolution in the neo-colonial world, represented by the ideas of the permanent revolution, as outlined in this tremendous book. Despite the terrorism, the nationalism and ethnic divisions, the potential power of the Pakistani working class has also been visible in the number of strikes, mass demonstrations – including those in Baluchistan, of workers of all ethnic backgrounds and all religions – who march together in defence of workers’ organisations and their rights. The future of Pakistan is not in the hands of the mindless right-wing jihadis nor of American imperialism, nor of sectarian groupings but the mighty force of the Pakistani working class organised on socialist lines. The best hope for achieving this is in the ideas and methods of Leon Trotsky married to the contemporary analysis and programme of the Socialist Movement Pakistan.
The capitalist press speculates about another attempt of the military to seize power from the discredited ‘democratic’ politicians. But the alternative of Nawaz Sharif to that of the Zardari-dominated PPP is no real alternative at all. Nor is a coup – perhaps this time led by ‘colonels’ coming from a fundamentalist background – capable of offering a solution to the problems of Pakistan and the region. On the contrary, it conjures up a nightmare scenario of a fundamentalist or fundamentalist-backed regime, armed this time with nuclear weapons. This development, if it was to come about, would in no way represent the people of Pakistan because the fundamentalists have never received more than 10-15% of the vote in elections. Only a democratic and socialist road offers liberation from the nightmare of landlordism and capitalism for the long-suffering Pakistani masses. This book can help lay the basis for the emergence of a force that can lead them in this direction.
By Peter Taaffe