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Permanent Revolution

Permanent Revolution

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Permanent revolution is a term within Marxist theory
The English word theory was derived from a technical term in Ancient Greek philosophy. The word theoria, , meant "a looking at, viewing, beholding", and referring to contemplation or speculation, as opposed to action...

, established in usage by Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 and Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

 by at least 1850 but which has since become most closely associated with Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

. The use of the term by different theorists is not identical. Marx used it to describe the strategy of a revolutionary class to continue to pursue its class interests independently and without compromise, despite overtures for political alliances, and despite the political dominance of opposing sections of society.

Trotsky put forward his conception of 'permanent revolution' as an explanation of how socialist revolutions could occur in societies that had not achieved advanced capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

. Part of his theory is the impossibility of 'socialism in one country
Socialism in One Country
Socialism in One Country was a theory put forth by Joseph Stalin in 1924, elaborated by Nikolai Bukharin in 1925 and finally adopted as state policy by Stalin...

' - a view also held by Marx, but not integrated into his conception of permanent revolution. Trotsky's theory also argues, first, that the bourgeoisie in late-developing capitalist countries are incapable of developing the productive forces
Productive forces
Productive forces, "productive powers" or "forces of production" [in German, Produktivkräfte] is a central idea in Marxism and historical materialism....

 in such a manner as to achieve the sort of advanced capitalism which will fully develop an industrial proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

. Second, that the proletariat can and must, therefore, seize social, economic and political power, leading an alliance with the peasantry.

'Permanent revolution' according to Marx and Engels

Marx first used the phrase in the following passage from The Holy Family
The Holy Family (book)
The Holy Family was a book written by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels in November 1844. The book is a critique on the Young Hegelians and their trend of thought which was very popular in academic circles at the time. The title was a suggestion by the publisher and is meant as a sarcastic reference to...

(1844). He wrote:
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 presented the last battle of revolutionary terror
Revolutionary terror
Revolutionary terror ) refers to the institutionalized application of force to counterrevolutionaries, particularly during the French Revolution from the years 1793 to 1794...

 against the bourgeois society which had been proclaimed by this same Revolution, and against its policy. Napoleon, of course, already discerned the essence of the modern state; he understood that it is based on the unhampered development of bourgeois society, on the free movement of private interest, etc. He decided to recognise and protect this basis. He was no terrorist with his head in the clouds. Yet at the same time he still regarded the state as an end in itself and civil life only as a treasurer and his subordinate which must have no will of its own. He perfected the Terror by substituting permanent war for permanent revolution [emphasis added]. He fed the egoism of the French nation to complete satiety but demanded also the sacrifice of bourgeois business, enjoyments, wealth, etc., whenever this was required by the political aim of conquest. If he despotically suppressed the liberalism of bourgeois society — the political idealism of its daily practice — he showed no more consideration for its essential material interests, trade and industry, whenever they conflicted with his political interests. His scorn of industrial hommes d'affaires was the complement to his scorn of ideologists. In his home policy, too, he combated bourgeois society as the opponent of the state which in his own person he still held to be an absolute aim in itself. Thus he declared in the State Council that he would not suffer the owner of extensive estates to cultivate them or not as he pleased. Thus, too, he conceived the plan of subordinating trade to the state by appropriation of roulage [road haulage]. French businessmen took steps to anticipate the event that first shook Napoleon’s power. Paris exchange-brokers forced him by means of an artificially created famine to delay the opening of the Russian campaign by nearly two months and thus to launch it too late in the year.

In this passage, Marx says that Napoleon prevented the 'bourgeois revolution' in France from becoming fulfilled: that is, he prevented bourgeois political forces from achieving a total expression of their interests. According to Marx, he did this by suppressing the 'liberalism of bourgeois society'; and he did it because he saw 'the state as an end in itself', a value which supported his 'political aim of conquest'. Thus, he substituted 'permanent war for permanent revolution'. The final two sentences, however, show that the bourgeoisie did not give up hope, but continued to pursue their interests. This tells us that, for Marx, 'permanent revolution' involves a revolutionary class (in this case, the bourgeoisie) continuing to push for, and achieve, its interests despite the political dominance of actors with opposing interests.

By 1849, Engels is able to quote the use of the phrase by other writers ('Schwanbeck', a journalist on the Kölnische Zeitung newspaper and Henri Druey
Henri Druey
Daniel-Henri Druey was a Swiss politician of the 19th century and a founding father of constitutional democracy in Switzerland.-Early life:Druey was born in Faoug in the Canton of Vaud...

.), suggesting that it had achieved some recognition in intellectual circles.

The March 1850 Address

Marx's most famous use of the phrase 'permanent revolution' is his March 1850 Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League. He enjoins the proletariat in Germany, faced with the prospect that 'the petty-bourgeois democrats will for the moment acquire a predominant influence' - i.e. temporary political power -
In the remainder of the text, Marx outlines the content of his proposal that the proletariat 'make the revolution permanent'. In essence, it consists of the working class maintaining a militant and independent approach to politics both before, during and after the 'struggle' which will bring the 'petty-bourgeois democrats' to power.

The proletariat should organise autonomously

Marx is concerned that throughout the process of this impending political change, the petty-bourgeoisie will
seek to ensnare the workers in a party organization in which general social-democratic phrases prevail while their particular interests are kept hidden behind, and in which, for the sake of preserving the peace, the specific demands of the proletariat may not be presented. Such a unity would be to their advantage alone and to the complete disadvantage of the proletariat. The proletariat would lose all its hard-won independent position and be reduced once more to a mere appendage of official bourgeois democracy.

Marx outlines how the proletariat should respond to this threat. First, he says that 'above all the [Communist] League, must work for the creation of an independent organization of the workers' party, both secret and open, and alongside the official democrats, and the League must aim to make every one of its communes a center and nucleus of workers' associations in which the position and interests of the proletariat can be discussed free from bourgeois influence'. That is, 'it is essential above all for them to be independently organized and centralized in clubs'. Marx does say that 'an association of momentary expedience' is permissible if, and only if, 'an enemy has to be fought directly' - though this is not an excuse for a long term alliance, since emergency alliances will arise satisfactorily when needed.

A political programme of demands which threaten the bourgeois consensus

In an article two years earlier, Marx had referred to 'a programme of permanent revolution, of progressive taxes and death duties, and of organisation of labour'. This confirms the impression that Marx's theory of 'permanent revolution' is not about revolution per se, rather more about the attitude that a revolutionary class should adopt in the period of their political subjection, including the programme of political demands they should propose. This aspect is raised in the Address. As well as overtures for organisational alliance with the petty bourgeoisie, Marx is concerned about attempts to 'bribe the workers with a more or less disguised form of alms and to break their revolutionary strength by temporarily rendering their situation tolerable'. Therefore, the workers' party must use their autonomous organisation to push a political programme which threatens the bourgeois status quo
Status quo
Statu quo, a commonly used form of the original Latin "statu quo" – literally "the state in which" – is a Latin term meaning the current or existing state of affairs. To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are...

, along the following lines:
1. They can force the democrats to make inroads into as many areas of the existing social order as possible, so as to disturb its regular functioning and so that the petty-bourgeois democrats compromise themselves; furthermore, the workers can force the concentration of as many productive forces as possible - means of transport, factories, railways, etc. - in the hands of the state.

2. They must drive the proposals of the democrats to their logical extreme (the democrats will in any case act in a reformist and not a revolutionary manner) and transform these proposals into direct attacks on private property. If, for instance, the petty bourgeoisie propose the purchase of the railways and factories, the workers must demand that these railways and factories simply be confiscated by the state without compensation as the property of reactionaries. [...] The demands of the workers will thus have to be adjusted according to the measures and concessions of the democrats

In this passage, we can see that Marx believes the proletariat should refuse to moderate its demands to the petty-bourgeois consensus, and advocate extensive nationalisation. Furthermore, the demand of the workers should always seek to push the bourgeois further than they are prepared to go.

The Address in context

Marx concludes his Address by summarising the themes elucidated above:
Although the German workers cannot come to power and achieve the realization of their class interests without passing through a protracted revolutionary development, this time they can at least be certain that the first act of the approaching revolutionary drama will coincide with the direct victory of their own class in France and will thereby be accelerated. But they themselves must contribute most to their final victory, by informing themselves of their own class interests, by taking up their independent political position as soon as possible, by not allowing themselves to be misled by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty bourgeoisie into doubting for one minute the necessity of an independently organized party of the proletariat. Their battle-cry must be: The Permanent Revolution.

Since Marxism emphasises the contingency of political developments on material historical circumstances (as against 'idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

'), it is worthwhile to have some idea of how Marx saw the context in which he advocated 'permanent revolution'. It seems that he believed that 'the first act of the approaching revolutionary drama [in Germany] will coincide with the direct victory of their own class in France and will thereby be accelerated'. That is, the petty-bourgeois are expected to come to power in Germany at the same time as the 'direct victory' of the proletariat in France. Furthermore, Marx seems to believe of the former (and hence, of both) that it is 'imminent' (c.f. the third paragraph of the Address ). Marx clearly believes, therefore, that Europe is entering a time, and is at a level of development of the 'productive forces
Productive forces
Productive forces, "productive powers" or "forces of production" [in German, Produktivkräfte] is a central idea in Marxism and historical materialism....

' in which the proletariat have the social revolution
Social revolution
The term social revolution may have different connotations depending on the speaker.In the Trotskyist movement, the term "social revolution" refers to an upheaval in which existing property relations are smashed...

 within their reach. If Marx is understood to be consistent about his emphasis on historical circumstance, it is unclear how the relevance of his theory of permanent revolution should be evaluated in times in which the social revolution is not expected to be imminent.

Summary, and the relation of Marx's theory to Trotsky's

Marx and Engels advocated 'permanent revolution' as the proletarian strategy of maintaining organisational independence along class lines, and a consistently militant series of political demands and tactics. It will be noted that at no stage does Marx make the central claim with which Trotsky's conception (see below) of 'permanent revolution' is concerned - i.e., that it is possible for a country to pass directly from the dominance of the semi-feudal aristocrats, who held political power in Russia in the early part of the 19th century, to the dominance of the working class, without an interceding period of dominance by the bourgeois. On the contrary, Marx's statements in his March 1850 Address explicitly contradict such a view, assuming a 'period of petty-bourgeois predominance over the classes which have been overthrown and over the proletariat'.

Marx and Engels do claim, as does Trotsky, that socialism is impossible in one country, but they also say that 'in all probability, the proletarian revolution will transform existing society gradually and will be able to abolish private property only when the means of production are available in sufficient quantity' (Engels' The Principles of Communism, Sections 17 and 19). The Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto, originally titled Manifesto of the Communist Party is a short 1848 publication written by the German Marxist political theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It has since been recognized as one of the world's most influential political manuscripts. Commissioned by the...

alludes to Marx's view that the dominance of the bourgeoisie is a necessary prelude to that of the proletariat: 'the bourgeoisie therefore produces ... its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable'. In this sense, Trotsky's version of the theory represents both a development and (in some ways) a contradiction of the expressed opinions of Marx and Engels.

Marx and Engels began exploring the ideas Trotsky would later develop in the preface to the 1882 Russian Edition of The Communist Manifesto:
"Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina
Obshchina or Mir ) or Selskoye obshestvo were peasant communities, as opposed to individual farmsteads, or khutors, in Imperial Russia. The term derives from the word о́бщий, obshchiy ....

, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?
The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development".

'Permanent revolution' according to Trotsky

Trotsky's conception of Permanent Revolution is based on his understanding, drawing on the work of fellow Russian Alexander Parvus
Alexander Parvus
Alexander Lvovich Parvus , born Israel Lazarevich Gelfand , was a Marxist theoretician, a Russian revolutionary, and a controversial activist in the Social Democratic Party of Germany...

, that in 'backward' countries the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution could not be achieved by the bourgeoisie itself. This conception was first developed in the essays later collected in his book 1905 and in his essay Results and Prospects, and later developed in his 1929 book, The Permanent Revolution.

The basic idea of Trotsky's theory is that in Russia the bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 would not carry out a thorough revolution which would institute political democracy and solve the land question. These measures were assumed to be essential to develop Russia economically. Therefore it was argued the future revolution must be led by the proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

 who would not only carry through the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution but would commence a struggle to surpass the bourgeois democratic revolution.

How far the proletariat would be able to travel upon that road would depend upon the further course of events and not upon the designation of the revolution as "Bourgeois Democratic". In this sense the revolution would be made permanent. Trotsky believed that a new workers' state would not be able to hold out against the pressures of a hostile capitalist world unless socialist revolutions quickly took hold in other countries as well. This theory was advanced in opposition to the position held by the Stalinist faction within the Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 Party that "socialism in one country" could be built in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....


Trotsky's theory was developed as an alternative to the Social Democratic theory that undeveloped countries must pass through two distinct revolutions. First the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution, which socialists would assist, and at a later stage, the Socialist Revolution with an evolutionary period of capitalist development separating those stages. This is often referred to as the Theory of Stages, the Two Stage Theory
Two Stage Theory
The two stage theory is the Stalinist political theory which argues that underdeveloped countries, such as Tsarist Russia, must first pass through a stage of bourgeois democracy before moving to a socialist stage...

 or Stagism.

Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

 and the Bolsheviks initially held to a version of the Stagist theory, since they were still connected to the Social Democrats at the time. Lenin's earlier theory shared Trotsky's premise that the bourgeoisie would not complete a bourgeois revolution. Lenin thought that a 'Democratic Dictatorship' of the workers and peasants could complete the tasks of the bourgeoisie. Lenin was arguing by 1917 not only that the Russian bourgeoisie would not be able to carry through the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution and therefore the proletariat had to take state power, but also that it should take economic power via a Soviet (council)
Soviet (council)
Soviet was a name used for several Russian political organizations. Examples include the Czar's Council of Ministers, which was called the “Soviet of Ministers”; a workers' local council in late Imperial Russia; and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union....

. This position was put forward to the Bolsheviks on his return to Russia, in his April Theses. The first reaction of the majority of Bolsheviks was one of rejection of the Theses. Initially, only Alexandra Kollontai
Alexandra Kollontai
Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai was a Russian Communist revolutionary, first as a member of the Mensheviks, then from 1914 on as a Bolshevik. In 1919 she became the first female government minister in Europe...

 rallied to Lenin's position within the Bolshevik party.

After the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

, the Bolsheviks, now including Trotsky, did not discuss the theory of Permanent Revolution as such. However, its basic theses can be found in such popular outlines of Communist theory as The ABC's of Communism, which sought to explain the program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

, by Yevgeni Preobrazhensky
Yevgeni Preobrazhensky
Yevgeni Alekseyevich Preobrazhensky was an Old Bolshevik, an economist and a member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik faction and, its successor, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.-Life:...

 and Nikolai Bukharin
Nikolai Bukharin
Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin , was a Russian Marxist, Bolshevik revolutionary, and Soviet politician. He was a member of the Politburo and Central Committee , chairman of the Communist International , and the editor in chief of Pravda , the journal Bolshevik , Izvestia , and the Great Soviet...


Later on, after Lenin's death, in the 1920s, the theory did assume importance in the internal debates within the Communist Party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

 and was a bone of contention within the opposition to Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

. In essence a section of the Communist Party leadership, whose views were voiced at the theoretical level by Nikolai Bukharin
Nikolai Bukharin
Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin , was a Russian Marxist, Bolshevik revolutionary, and Soviet politician. He was a member of the Politburo and Central Committee , chairman of the Communist International , and the editor in chief of Pravda , the journal Bolshevik , Izvestia , and the Great Soviet...

, argued that socialism could be built in a single country, even an underdeveloped one like Russia. This meant that there would be less need to encourage revolutions in advanced Western countries in the hope that a Socialist Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 (for example) would later give Russia the economic base needed to construct a socialist society. Bukharin argued that Russia's pre-existing economic base was sufficient for the task at hand, provided the USSR could be militarily defended. Acting on these ideas, the Communist International became less revolutionary and more willing to compromise with "reactionary" forces, for example by advising its Chinese section to back the Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

's efforts to unify China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. This effort was seen as being the Chinese Bourgeois Democratic Revolution, and the fact that communists supported it meant a return to a Stagist position.

The question of the Chinese revolution and the subjection of the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 to control by the Kuomintang at the behest of the Russian Communist Party was a topic of argument within the opposition to Stalin in the Russian Communist Party. On the one hand, figures such as Karl Radek
Karl Radek
Karl Bernhardovic Radek was a socialist active in the Polish and German movements before World War I and an international Communist leader after the Russian Revolution....

 argued that a Stagist strategy was correct for China, although their writings are only known to us now second hand, having perished in the 1930s (if original copies exist in the archives, they have not been located since the fall of the USSR
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 in 1989). Trotsky, on the other hand, generalised his Theory of Permanent Revolution, which had only been applied in the case of Russia previously, and argued that the proletariat needed to take power in a process of uninterrupted and Permanent Revolution in order to carry out the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic revolution.

His position was put forward in his essay entitled The Permanent Revolution, which can be found today in a single book together with Results and Prospects. Not only did Trotsky generalise his theory of Permanent Revolution in this essay but he also grounded it in the idea of uneven and combined development
Uneven and combined development
Uneven and combined development is a Marxist concept to describe the overall dynamics of human history. It was originally used by the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky around the turn of the 20th century, when he was analyzing the developmental possibilities that existed for the economy and...

. This argument goes, again in contrast to the conceptions inherent within Stagist theory, that capitalist nations, indeed all class-based societies, develop unevenly and that some parts will develop more swiftly than others. However, it is also argued that this development is combined and that each part of the world economy is increasingly bound together with all other parts. The conception of uneven and combined development also recognises that some areas may even regress further economically and socially as a result of their integration into a world economy.

The theory since Trotsky

Since the assassination of Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

 in 1940, the theory of Permanent Revolution has been maintained by the various Trotskyist groups which have developed since then. However, the theory has been extended only modestly, if at all. While their conclusions differ, works by mainstream Trotskyist theoreticians such as Robert Chester, Joseph Hansen
Joseph Hansen (socialist)
Joseph Leroy Hansen , was an American Trotskyist and leading figure in the Socialist Workers Party.Born in Richfield, Utah, Joseph Hansen was the oldest of 15 children in a poor working class family, and he was the only one of them who could attend college. His father, Conrad J. Z...

, Michael Löwy
Michael Löwy
Michael Löwy is a French-Brazilian Marxist sociologist and philosopher. He is presently the emeritus research director in social sciences at the CNRS and lectures at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales...

 and Livio Maitan
Livio Maitan
Livio Maitan was an Italian Trotskyist, a leader of Associazione Bandiera Rossa and of the Fourth International...

 related it to post-war political developments in Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

, Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 and elsewhere.

Deflected Permanent Revolution

An attempt to elaborate an exception to the theory was made by Tony Cliff
Tony Cliff
Tony Cliff , was a Trotskyist who was a founding member of the Socialist Review Group which went on to become the Socialist Workers Party...

 of the Socialist Workers Party (Britain)
Socialist Workers Party (Britain)
The Socialist Workers Party is a far left party in Britain founded by Tony Cliff. The SWP's student section has groups at a number of universities...

, in his "Theory of Deflected Permanent Revolution". In a 1963 essay he develops the idea that where the proletariat is unable to take power, a section of the intelligentsia
The intelligentsia is a social class of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them...

 may be able to carry out a Bourgeois Revolution. He further argues that the use of Marxist concepts by such elements (most notably in Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 and China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, but also for example by regimes espousing Arab Socialism
Arab socialism
Arab socialism is a political ideology based on an amalgamation of Pan-Arabism and socialism. Arab socialism is distinct from the much broader tradition of socialist thought in the Arab world, which predates Arab socialism by as much as fifty years...

 or similar philosophies) is not genuine but is the use of Marxism as an ideology of power.

This reflects his view that these countries are state capitalist societies rather than deformed workers states. Cliff's views have been criticised by more orthodox Trotskyists as an abandonment of Trotsky's theory in all but name in favour of the stagist theory, countering that Cliff was more cautious than Trotsky about the potential of the working class in underdeveloped countries to seize power. Cliff saw such revolutions as a detour (deflection) on the road to socialist revolution rather than a necessary preliminary to it.

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