Workers Vanguard No. 904
7 December 2007
The Development and Extension of Leon Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution
This part concludes this article. Part One appeared in WV No. 901 (26 October), Part Two in No. 902 (9 November) and Part Three in No. 903 (23 November).
In generalizing and extending the concept of permanent revolution following the defeat of the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27, Leon Trotsky explained in The Permanent Revolution (1930):
“Does this at least mean that every country, including the most backward colonial country, is ripe, if not for socialism, then for the dictatorship of the proletariat?... Under the conditions of the imperialist epoch the national democratic revolution can be carried through to a victorious end only when the social and political relationships of the country are mature for putting the proletariat in power as the leader of the masses of the people. And if this is not yet the case? Then the struggle for national liberation will produce only very partial results, results directed entirely against the working masses. In 1905, the proletariat of Russia did not prove strong enough to unite the peasant masses around it and to conquer power. For this very reason, the revolution halted midway, and then sank lower and lower. In China, where, in spite of the exceptionally favourable situation, the leadership of the Communist International prevented the Chinese proletariat from fighting for power, the national tasks found a wretched, unstable and measly solution in the régime of the Kuomintang.”
As in Trotsky’s time, there are today a number of especially backward countries—e.g., Afghanistan, East Timor, Rwanda—in which there is not a modern, concentrated proletariat with sufficient social weight to lead the oppressed masses in carrying out the tasks of permanent revolution. Even so, as we noted in regard to the modernizing intellectuals and military officers of the pro-Soviet People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in the 1980s, radicals have much to learn from the struggles of Georgi Plekhanov a century earlier, notwithstanding the vast differences between contemporary Afghanistan and tsarist Russia. Despite the fact that the Russian proletariat in the 1880s was also a relatively insignificant social force, Plekhanov fought to forge a core of Marxist revolutionaries through polemical and ideological struggle (see Part One of this article). What is crucial is to develop a Marxist-internationalist framework, linking the struggle for social modernization and liberation to the class struggles of the proletariat in more advanced countries outside their own countries’ boundaries.
Afghanistan’s tiny proletariat is dwarfed by a far more numerous Islamic clergy, and the small urban population is surrounded by a sea of nomadic herdsmen and landless peasants beholden to the khans. In April 1978, a coup brought the PDPA to power, touching off a reactionary Islamist revolt backed by the CIA. It was at the behest of the PDPA that the Soviet Red Army intervened in December 1979. The International Communist League—then the international Spartacist tendency—declared: Hail Red Army in Afghanistan! Extend social gains of the October Revolution to the Afghan peoples!
We understood that the entry of the Soviet Army posed the chance to not only defeat the imperialist-sponsored reactionary cutthroats but to incorporate Afghanistan into Soviet Central Asia, where the masses lived a modern existence light years beyond that of the Afghan peoples. The withdrawal of Soviet troops by the Gorbachev regime in Moscow in 1988-89 was a historic betrayal that not only ushered in bloody mujahedin rule in Afghanistan but also opened the floodgates to capitalist counterrevolution in East Germany and then the Soviet Union itself.
Likewise in desperately poor Nepal, where Maoist forces have waged a peasant-guerrilla struggle aimed at replacing the monarchy with a bourgeois coalition government, the proletariat is relatively insignificant. However, Nepalis have for decades crossed into India to live and work, becoming a part of what is now a rapidly growing proletariat in India; hundreds of thousands of Nepalis work elsewhere in Asia. A proletarian revolution in India would have a massive immediate effect on Nepal and other neighboring countries, posing a struggle for a socialist federation of the subcontinent. Crucial to such a proletarian-internationalist perspective is the fight for workers political revolution in the Chinese deformed workers state, a fight that must be premised on the unconditional military defense of China against imperialism and domestic counterrevolution.
The Algerian Independence Struggle
Today in South Africa and in many semicolonial countries such as South Korea, the role of the peasantry is no longer the crucial question it was in Russia in 1917 or in China in 1925-27. Nonetheless, historical experience since then has confirmed the theory of permanent revolution for such countries, which are characterized by combined and uneven development.
Those countries that underwent “democratic” or anti-colonial revolutions that did not result in the overthrow of capitalist rule remain bourgeois states mired in backwardness and dominated by imperialism. A case in point is the Algerian independence struggle against France in the 1950s and early ’60s, one of the most radical and heroic of the colonial revolutions of the postwar period. From the first military operation by the National Liberation Front (FLN) in November 1954, it took more than seven years, at a cost of over one million dead, for the Algerian masses to drive the colonial rulers out of their country. The Algerian proletariat played an important, though not politically independent, role in this national liberation struggle. Together with the bourgeois-nationalist FLN, the UGTA union federation called a number of powerful strikes, including a massive general strike in July 1956.
When independence was finally achieved in 1962, it placed in power the FLN, which was committed to maintaining capitalism with a domestic ruling class lording it over its “own” people. Various leftists, uncritically promoting the FLN’s “socialist” rhetoric, played a direct role in helping to consolidate an anti-working-class bourgeois regime in independent Algeria. The Algerian Communist Party liquidated into the FLN in 1956, and its successor organization was outlawed as soon as the FLN came to power. Yet the Stalinists continued to serve in the FLN machine after independence as propagandists, administrators and UGTA bureaucrats. Revisionist “Trotskyist” Michel Pablo was a top economic adviser to the FLN government of Ahmed Ben Bella and was instrumental in chaining the working class to the capitalist government.
The FLN banned strikes by public sector workers and imposed an iron grip over the organized working class. The FLN demobilized thousands of women who had courageously fought against French colonialism and enforced the subjugation of women, including through references to Islamic law. The Berber ethnic minority, whose militants had played an exceptionally prominent role in the independence struggle, were subjected to vicious repression. FLN rule paved the way for a brutal military dictatorship and the rise of a mass Islamic fundamentalist movement committed to the enslavement of women, the reversal of modernization efforts and savage terror against workers and minorities.
The Cuban Revolution
However, following World War II there were also several revolutions in the backward countries that destroyed capitalist class rule and overthrew the yoke of imperialist domination. When Mao Zedong’s peasant-based People’s Liberation Army seized power from the collapsing Guomindang in 1949, the state that resulted was not a “New Democracy” based on a “bloc of four classes”—the parlance of the Stalinist Communist Party (CCP)—but a dictatorship of the proletariat, albeit bureaucratically deformed from its inception. Stalinist-led social overturns in Yugoslavia, North Korea and North Vietnam (extending to the South in 1975) also resulted in bureaucratically deformed workers states. Similar social overturns also occurred in the postwar “People’s Democracies” established under the aegis of the Soviet Red Army elsewhere in East Europe and in East Germany.
Michel Pablo, then head of the Fourth International that had been founded under Trotsky’s leadership in 1938, seized on the postwar social overturns to repudiate the central importance of a conscious revolutionary leadership and argue for the liquidation of Trotskyist organizations into various Stalinist and social-democratic parties. This revisionism led to the destruction of the Fourth International in 1951-53. In the early 1960s, the leadership of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which had broken with Pablo in 1953, embraced similar revisionist conclusions in its adulation for the petty-bourgeois Castroite leadership of the Cuban Revolution (see “Genesis of Pabloism,” Spartacist No. 21, Fall 1972).
Fidel Castro led a force of petty-bourgeois intellectuals and peasant guerrillas, the July 26 Movement, who were temporarily estranged from the bourgeoisie and independent of the proletariat. Under ordinary conditions, the rebels, after their overthrow of the corrupt, U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship in January 1959, would have followed in the footsteps of countless similar movements in Latin America, wielding radical-democratic rhetoric to reassert bourgeois control. But with the old capitalist state apparatus shattered, in 1960-61 the Castro regime nationalized U.S.-owned and domestic capitalist holdings, creating a deformed workers state. The existence of the Soviet Union was crucial in this development, providing not only a model for the Castro regime but, more importantly, economic assistance and a military shield that helped stay the hand of the U.S. imperialist beast just 90 miles away.
It was only as a result of exceptional circumstances—the absence of the working class as a contender for power in its own right, hostile imperialist encirclement and the flight of the national bourgeoisie, and a lifeline thrown by the Soviet Union—that Castro’s petty-bourgeois government was able to eventually smash capitalist property relations (see “Cuba and Marxist Theory,” Marxist Bulletin No. 8). Similar circumstances allowed for the creation of deformed workers states in Yugoslavia and elsewhere by Stalinist-led petty-bourgeois forces following World War II.
Our tendency, originating as the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) in the SWP, was born in a struggle to defend the Trotskyist program against the Pabloism of the SWP majority. Painting Castro as an unconscious Trotskyist, the SWP argued:
“Along the road of a revolution beginning with simple democratic demands and ending in the rupture of capitalist property relations, guerrilla warfare conducted by landless peasant and semiproletarian forces, under a leadership that becomes committed to carrying the revolution through to a conclusion, can play a decisive role in undermining and precipitating the downfall of a colonial or semicolonial power. This is one of the main lessons to be drawn from experience since the second world war. It must be consciously incorporated into the strategy of building revolutionary Marxist parties in colonial countries.”
—SWP Political Committee,
“For Early Reunification of the World Trotskyist Movement,” SWP Discussion Bulletin Vol. 24, No. 9 (April 1963)
In direct counterposition, the RT upheld Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution and asserted:
“Experience since the Second World War has demonstrated that peasant-based guerrilla warfare under petit-bourgeois leadership can in itself lead to nothing more than an anti-working-class bureaucratic regime. The creation of such regimes has come about under the conditions of decay of imperialism, the demoralization and disorientation caused by Stalinist betrayals, and the absence of revolutionary Marxist leadership of the working class. Colonial revolution can have an unequivocally progressive significance only under such leadership of the revolutionary proletariat. For Trotskyists to incorporate into their strategy revisionism on the proletarian leadership in the revolution is a profound negation of Marxism-Leninism no matter what pious wish may be concurrently expressed for ‘building revolutionary Marxist parties in colonial countries.’ Marxists must resolutely oppose any adventurist acceptance of the peasant-guerrilla road to socialism—historically akin to the Social Revolutionary program on tactics that Lenin fought.”
—“Draft Resolution on the World Movement,” 14 June 1963;
reprinted in Marxist Bulletin No. 9 and most recently in Spartacist (English-language edition) No. 58, Spring 2004
The Cuban Revolution demonstrated yet again that there is no “third road” between the dictatorship of capital and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In this sense, it confirmed the theory of permanent revolution. But the Cuban Revolution was a far cry from the Bolshevik-led proletarian socialist revolution that took place in Russia in November 1917. In Cuba, as in the other deformed workers states, the road to further socialist development was blocked by the political rule of a parasitic and nationalist bureaucracy. Upholding the anti-revolutionary Stalinist dogma of “socialism in one country,” the Castro regime has been hostile to the struggle for world revolution. Instead, it has promoted “progressive” bourgeois formations from the Allende popular-front government in Chile in the early 1970s, which resulted in a bloodbath of the workers, to the national-populist regime of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez today.
As was the case with the degenerated Soviet workers state, what is necessary in Cuba and the other remaining deformed workers states is the shattering of the bureaucracy through a proletarian political revolution that establishes democratic organs of working-class rule based on revolutionary internationalism. Trotskyists base this perspective on the unconditional military defense of the workers states against imperialist attack and domestic capitalist counterrevolution.
To the limits of our modest forces, the ICL fought in East Germany and in the USSR to rally the working class to defeat the forces of capitalist restoration and to oust the disintegrating Stalinist regimes, which had undermined the workers states and in the end capitulated to imperialist-backed counterrevolution. Today we raise the same program in regard to China, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea and fight for socialist revolutions in capitalist countries from the Third World to the imperialist centers of the U.S., Japan and West Europe.
Permanent Revolution vs. Populist Nationalism
The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union and the East and Central European workers states had disastrous effects for the people of those societies and was a world-historic defeat for workers and the oppressed internationally, with the balance of forces dramatically altered in favor of imperialism. The working people of the former workers states have been plunged into mass poverty, ethnic bloodletting and other horrors. In the imperialist centers, the capitalist rulers have taken the ax to workers’ hard-won gains, accompanied by widespread attacks on immigrants and minorities. With a military force far surpassing that of any other country, U.S. imperialism in particular has been riding roughshod over the peoples of the Near East and elsewhere, while imperialist-dictated austerity measures have driven the masses of the Third World further into misery.
The profound retrogression in consciousness resulting from the destruction of the USSR has led even militant workers and radical youth to dismiss the Marxist program of proletarian revolution as, at best, a pipe dream. Instead, many leftists look to the resurgence of bourgeois-populist nationalism in Latin America, exemplified by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, as the road to, in Chávez’s words, “21st century socialism.” Among those promoting such illusions is Cuban writer Celia Hart, a supporter of the Castro regime and self-styled Trotskyist, who in a recent interview with the fake-Trotskyist Argentine El Militante (translated by CubaNews online, 6 July) lavishes praise on “Venezuela’s revolutionary process, which is increasingly moving to a radical left.”
Hart asserts that “many Cubans who stopped talking about socialism” are “seeing that Venezuela talks quite naturally about socialism and want to follow suit, never mind the strange ways some people want to call it these days, namely 21st Century Socialism, saying that it can be attained without expropriating the local capitalists and so forth.” Speaking of Chávez’s call for “socialism,” Hart adds: “It’s like seeing how the Permanent Revolution thesis of that Russian in 1905 comes to life a century later.”
Similarly, Mexican leftist Guillermo Almeyra, in an article titled “Trotsky in the 21st Century” in La Jornada (19 August), a newspaper that supports the bourgeois-nationalist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), claims: “The attitude of poor countries like Venezuela or Cuba in their solidarity aid is inscribed, consciously or not, in that course of thought by Trotsky which Lenin shared.” In his “defense” of permanent revolution, Almeyra, a former Pabloite who now “critically” supports the PRD, recasts Trotsky’s fight for the continuity of Lenin’s Bolshevism into a tale of “democracy” vs. “the monolithic party” and concludes by warning against “dogmatic” and “Talmudic” followers of Trotsky today.
Knowingly or not, Hart and Almeyra echo the SWP line that Castro was an unconscious Trotskyist. To say this of Hugo Chávez is truly breathtaking. Since his election as president in 1998, Chávez has diverted some of the huge profits the Venezuelan bourgeoisie has gleaned from skyrocketing oil prices to provide enhanced social services for the plebeian masses. Meanwhile, the government has increased taxes on foreign oil companies, which continue to rake in profits. The social measures under Chávez, and the fact that he boasts of his zambo (mixed African and indigenous) heritage, have earned him the contempt of the lily-white oligarchy. He has also incurred Washington’s wrath for his friendship with Castro’s Cuba and his pointed denunciations of the arrogant U.S. imperialists. In the event of a U.S.-sponsored coup attempt, as in 2002, we call for the military defense of the Chávez regime.
But Chávez is no socialist. He has moved to tighten the straitjacket of capitalist state control over the Venezuelan workers movement and, as even Hart admits, is not about to countenance the expropriation of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie. As we noted in “Venezuela: Populist Nationalism vs. Proletarian Revolution” (WV No. 860, 9 December 2005):
“When Castro’s rebel army marched into Havana on 1 January 1959, the bourgeois army and the rest of the capitalist state apparatus that had propped up the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship collapsed in disarray. By the time Castro declared Cuba ‘socialist’ in 1961, the Cuban bourgeoisie and the U.S. imperialists and their CIA and Mafia henchmen had all fled and every bit of capitalist property down to the last ice cream vendor had been expropriated. In contrast, Chávez came to power and rules at the head of the capitalist state, the Venezuelan bourgeoisie is alive and kicking, and the imperialists continue to carry on a thriving business with Venezuela, White House threats and provocations notwithstanding.”
Hart and Almeyra turn permanent revolution on its head in order to justify their support to bourgeois populists, who are no less the class opponents of the victory of the workers and urban and rural poor than neoliberal politicians. The programmatic essence of permanent revolution is the struggle for the class independence of the proletariat from all wings of the semicolonial bourgeoisie—no matter how “progressive” or “anti-imperialist” their proclamations. That struggle can be realized only through forging revolutionary, internationalist workers parties in opposition to all variants of bourgeois nationalism. The ICL fights to reforge the Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution.
The Modernization of Capitalist Spain
Despite substantial industrial development in recent decades, Brazil, South Korea and the so-called “tiger” economies of Southeast Asia have not been able to escape from imperialist subjugation. However, there are a handful of countries on the periphery of Europe that have managed—at great human cost and in the context of wars, counterrevolutions and other major world developments—to develop from backward agrarian societies to modern capitalist states as part of the European imperialist consortium. For example, in the period before World War I Finland was an economic backwater, with a sizable oppressed peasantry, that had been part of the Russian tsarist empire. But the attempt to consummate a proletarian revolution following the Bolshevik victory in Russia was drowned in blood by the imperialist-backed Mannerheim military dictatorship, and capitalist Finland was subsequently integrated into imperialist Europe.
Spain before World War II was a prime example of combined and uneven development where the tasks of permanent revolution were manifest. A large peasantry was brutally exploited by a landowning class, derived from the old feudal nobility, that heavily overlapped with the urban bourgeoisie. The powerful Catholic church, which exercised a monopoly in the education of children, was the country’s largest landowner and also had substantial investments in industry and finance. Furthermore, then as today the Spanish state contained within its boundaries such oppressed nations as the Basques and Catalans. Amid the social backwardness, there also existed a raw, combative working class made up in good part of peasant youth who retained close ties to their families in the countryside.
The Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 posed pointblank the possibility of proletarian revolution. But this opportunity was betrayed by the Stalinists, Socialists and anarchists who were the mainstay of the bourgeois Republican government, a popular front that was also treacherously supported by the centrist POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification). Through its disarming and suppression of the revolutionary proletariat, mainly at the hands of the Stalinists, the popular front paved the way for the victory of the right-wing forces of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who subsequently ruled Spain with an iron fist for nearly four decades.
Developments in Spain between the 1930s and the 1980s, at both the economic and political levels, were to a large degree determined and conditioned by the changing international situation. Following the end of World War II, the U.S. forged a political and military alliance (NATO) with the West European capitalist governments as part of the imperialist Cold War against the Soviet Union. By allying itself with American imperialism, the Franco regime broke Spain out of its former international isolation. (The country had not even been allowed to join the United Nations at its founding.) In 1953, Washington scrapped a UN-sanctioned economic embargo of Spain in exchange for U.S. military bases there. Spain became a recipient of U.S. government loans and, more importantly, began to increase its economic ties to the rest of West Europe.
Beginning in the 1960s, Spain experienced a rapid rate of economic growth that would eventually lead to a predominantly urbanized and culturally cosmopolitan society with an annual per capita gross domestic product ($25,300) not much below that of Italy (Economist, Pocket World in Figures, 2007). In The Economic Transformation of Spain and Portugal (1978), American economist Eric N. Baklanoff summarized the international factors underlying what was called the Spanish “economic miracle”: “For it was the international economy, and most especially the European Economic Community and the United States, that presented Spain with surging markets for its products, sent it free-spending tourists by the millions, invested in its factories and real estate, and employed a goodly share of its ‘surplus’ manpower.” Private foreign investment climbed from $40 million in 1960 to nearly $800 million in 1973. Attracted by Spain’s relatively cheap labor, American, German and British capitalists concentrated their investments in manufacturing, especially the automobile and chemical industries.
The economic boom of the 1960s-early ’70s led to the effective liquidation of small peasant farming. The agricultural labor force declined from 5.3 million in 1950 to 2.9 million in 1975 and then to 2.4 million in 1980. Small family holdings, dependent on manual labor and draft animals, were increasingly replaced by larger, mechanized farms. The share of the labor force engaged in agriculture declined from 48 percent in 1950 to 13 percent by 1990 (Carlos Prieto del Campo, “A Spanish Spring?”, New Left Review, January-February 2005). Today, Spain’s agricultural labor force consists primarily of immigrants from North Africa and elsewhere.
Following Franco’s death in 1975, Spain experienced a massive wave of labor strikes that raised both economic and political demands. At this point the Spanish ruling class and its senior partners in Washington and the capitals of NATO Europe recognized that the only way to restore social and political order was to work out a deal with the country’s reformist workers parties, which had been outlawed under the Franco regime. In late 1977, in exchange for their parties’ legalization and the promise of “democratization,” the Communist and Socialist leaders demobilized the workers movement, thereby ending the greatest threat to bourgeois rule in Spain since the end of the Civil War. Groomed by the West German Social Democracy, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party has since become a bulwark of a stable bourgeois parliamentary order. Clearly the perspective of permanent revolution in regard to the historic tasks associated with the bourgeois-democratic revolution no longer applies to Spain.
Ireland is another European country that was historically marked by socio-economic backwardness, including a primarily agrarian economy and a dominant role played by the Catholic church in society. Moreover, a significant proportion of the Irish Catholic nation constitutes an oppressed minority in the Ulster Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland statelet, which is part of the British imperialist state.
Addressing the intense national conflict between these two geographically interpenetrated peoples, we wrote in “Theses on Ireland” (Spartacist No. 24, Autumn 1977): “Ireland, like other situations of interpenetrated peoples as in the Middle East and Cyprus, is a striking confirmation of the Trotskyist theory of permanent revolution.” The Theses made clear that in cases of interpenetrated peoples, there can be no democratic and equitable solution to the national question within the framework of capitalism: “In such circumstances the exercise of self-determination by one or the other people in the form of the establishment of their own bourgeois state can only be brought about by the denial of that right to the other.” While opposing the national oppression of the Irish Catholics in the North, we also oppose the forcible reunification of Ireland, which would mean the oppression of the Ulster Protestant population in a Catholic-dominated state. The Spartacist League/Britain, section of the ICL, demands the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland and calls for an Irish workers republic within a federation of workers republics in the British Isles.
However, subsequent discussion within the ICL concluded that to refer to permanent revolution in this context was theoretically confusing, conflating a democratic solution to the national question in an advanced capitalist society with the historic tasks of the bourgeois revolution. For well over a century, Ireland has been integrated into the economy of the British Isles, with a large fraction of the Irish proletariat working in the factories and construction sites of London and other cities. And in recent decades, Ireland’s membership in the European Union has played a large part in the country’s further economic development.
The concept of permanent revolution is not about the relationship of proletarian revolution to democratic questions in general. In many advanced capitalist countries there exist reactionary institutions inherited from the feudal past—e.g., the monarchy in Spain, Britain and Japan; the privileged role of the Vatican in Italy—which play a very important role in maintaining the present-day bourgeois order. In the U.S., the institutionalized oppression of the black population—a strategic question for proletarian revolution—is a legacy of chattel slavery. In all of these cases, only proletarian socialist revolution can eliminate national, racial and ethnic oppression. This underlines the need to forge Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard parties that act as a tribune of the people.
For Proletarian Internationalism!
As Trotsky laid out in The Permanent Revolution:
“The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable. One of the basic reasons for the crisis in bourgeois society is the fact that the productive forces created by it can no longer be reconciled with the framework of the national state.... The socialist revolution begins on the national arena, it unfolds on the international arena, and is completed on the world arena. Thus, the socialist revolution becomes a permanent revolution in a newer and broader sense of the word; it attains completion only in the final victory of the new society on our entire planet.”
From Mexico to South Africa and elsewhere, many leftists point to the tremendous military and economic might of the U.S. to claim that a workers revolution would inevitably be crushed by the imperialists. No one would deny that the U.S. and other capitalist powers represent a formidable obstacle to proletarian revolutions. But the imperialist countries are class-divided societies with deep discontents and insoluble contradictions, necessarily leading to class and other social struggles. In the course of sharp class struggle and through the instrumentality of a revolutionary party that patiently educates the working class in the understanding not only of its social power but of its historic interests, the workers will become conscious of themselves as a class fighting for itself and for all the oppressed against the capitalist order.
The preconditions for a revolution will be different in different parts of the world. When these are met, the situation in any particular country and in the world will be different than it is today, and the consciousness of the working class will have changed significantly. Our struggle to forge Leninist vanguard parties is based on the understanding that when such parties become rooted in the working class, this will reflect a qualitative change in the political consciousness of the proletariat.
The struggles of the proletariat in the semicolonial world are integrally intertwined with those of the workers in the imperialist centers. A proletarian revolution in Mexico would have a massive impact on the multiracial U.S. proletariat, whose growing Latino component is a human bridge between the struggles of workers in the U.S. and of those in Latin America. A revolutionary proletarian upsurge in South Africa would resonate powerfully among working people and youth throughout the world, especially but definitely not only the black people who form a strategically important layer of the working class in the United States and in Brazil. A South African workers revolution would also touch off struggles throughout the continent by destroying the regional gendarme of sub-Saharan Africa. Conversely, a proletarian seizure of state power in one of the imperialist countries would have enormous revolutionary repercussions in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
In the 1994 WV series, “South Africa Powder Keg” (reprinted in Black History and the Class Struggle No. 12 [February 1995]), we wrote:
“For the moment South Africa is a weakened link in the chain of the world capitalist system binding the neocolonies of the Third World to the imperialist states of North America, West Europe and Japan. It is necessary to mobilize the forces of the proletariat to break that chain at its weakest links, and then fight like hell to take the battle to the imperialist centers, seeking allies against the vicious enemy of all the oppressed—international capital. Thus, the fight to build a South African Bolshevik Party is inseparable from the struggle we in the International Communist League are waging to reforge an authentically Trotskyist Fourth International.”
The fight for world socialist revolution is certainly not easy. But what is truly impossible is for the subordination of the working class to the class enemy to result in anything but the continuing vicious cycle of defeats and demoralizing sellouts.