The Permanent Revolution by Leon Trotsky

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1. Briefly explain Permanent Revolution and its three elements.

2. How did Marx use the term “Permanent Revolution”?

3. What was Lenin’s concept for the future Russian revolution?

4. How did Trotsky’s concept differ from Lenin’s?

5. What are two ideological distortions of Marxism made by Stalin?

6. How did Stalinism betray the Chinese revolution? What principles for colonial revolutions did Trotsky draw from the Chinese debacle?

7. How is feminism linked to Permanent Revolution?


Preface to the 1919 Edition

1. What was the point of view of the Mensheviks regarding the nature of the Russian Revolution and what class would lead it?

2. What did the Bolsheviks think about the nature of the Revolution? Which class did they think would lead it? What kind of state did they think would issue from the overthrow of the monarchy?

3. What did Trotsky say about the rule of the working class in the Revolution? What conclusions did he draw about the course of the revolution as a result?

4. What did Trotsky conclude about his refusal to join either faction of the Social Democratic Party up until 1917?

Introduction and Chapter 1

1 Trotsky said that “the revolution in Russia came unexpectedly to everyone but the Social Democrats,” How did the Social Democrats know it would happen?

2. Why did the Tsarist state “swallow up on inordinately large part of the “surplus product” of Russia’s economy?

3. Compare the relative strength of the state power in Russia with that of the more developed European nations. What accounted for the difference?

4. The Russian autocracy pushed capitalist development in Russia. To what extent was it able to do so regardless of the prior course of Russian economic development?

5. At the point that developing bourgeois society in Russia “began to feel the need for the political institutions of the west,” what was the strength of the autocracy compared with that of the bourgeoisie? In what way did this matchup differ from that in western European societies at a comparative stage of bourgeois development?

6. Did the huge administrative, military, and financial power of absolutism mean that revolution was less likely in Russia than it had been in Western Europe? Who thought this was the case?

Chapter 2

1. Did Russian industry grow out of handicraft and domestic manufacture as it had in western Europe? What was the significance of the difference to the Russian Revolution?

2. What class was destined to play the decisive and leading role in the Russian Revolution? Why?

3. What class was the main support for early bourgeois revolutions such as the French Revolution?

4. What was the relationship of European capital to the Russian autocracy? Was it opposed or in favor of the continued rule of absolutism? Why?

5. Was European capital’s political power in Russia as strong as its economic power over it?

Chapter 3

1. What class led the French Revolution? Why? What was the role of the embryonic working class? What was the role of the peasantry?

2. What were the class dynamics that brought about the failure of the 1848 European revolution? What position did the bourgeoisie take toward absolutism and the workers respectively? What was the role of the workers in the revolution? The role of the urban petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry?

3. Now that the bourgeoisie is no longer a progressive political force as it was during the French Revolution, what is necessary for the success of bourgeois revolutions?

4. What is the significance of the demand for a national militia? Why did this question present itself differently in 1905 than in 1848?

Chapter 4

1. Why did the revolutionary capability of the Russian workers not directly depend on the development of the productive forces or the strength of the Russian bourgeoisie?

2. Why did the workers’ position in society mean in terms of the seizure of power?

Chapter 5

1. Why did Trotsky say that the Russian workers must be the dominating force in the revolutionary government after the overthrow of the Tsar?

2. Why could only the workers emancipate the peasantry?

3. Why couldn’t the peasantry play an independent role in the revolution?

Chapter 6

1. Why did Trotsky say that the workers and the upper segments of the peasantry would part company after the overthrow of the monarchy?

2. Why would the workers press on with the socialist revolution despite the split with a large part of the peasantry?

3. What position would the workers’ government be forced to take with regard to workers’ demands? What would its policy in the countryside necessarily be?

Chapter 7

1. What were Professor Rozhkov’s three pre-requisites for socialism?

2. Why was each of these pre-requisites unrealizable? Why were they mutually exclusive?

3. What are the productive-technological pre-requisites for socialism?

4. What is the socio-economic pre-requisite for socialism? What is the revolutionary importance of the proletariat based on? Why is the mere numerical proportion of the proletariat in society as a whole insignificant in considering its revolutionary potential?

5. In addition to its role in production, what is necessary for the proletariat to move toward the seizure of power?

6. Why is the idea that the proletariat must adopt a socialist psychology before making the revolution so utopian?

Chapter 8

1. What did the role of the workers’ government have to be in beginning the transition to a collectivized economy?

2. Why was the first order of business for the Russian workers’ government the agrarian question?

3. What was wrong with the “socialization of all land” proposal that was popularized by the Social Revolutionary Party?

4. What did a lasting socialist dictatorship in Russia depend on?

Chapter 9

1. Why did capitalism’s dependence on pre-bourgeois forces of reaction open up such wide horizons for not only the Russian but the world revolution?

2. What was the European “balance of power” before World War I and what did its impending breakdown mean for the Russian and European revolutions?

3. Why would be bankruptcy of the Russian state have similar effects as the breakdown of the “balance of power”?

4. What factor—existing independently of capitalism’s dependence of feudal reaction, the “ balance of power,” or state bankruptcy—opened up wide horizons for the Russian Revolution”?

5. What immediate effect would the Russian Revolution have on the class struggle in Western Europe?

6. What does Trotsky say is the cause for war in Europe in early 1900s?


Introduction to the First (Russian) Edition

1. What was the character of Lenin’s slogan, “The Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry?

2. In one sentence: Why was and is the dispute over Permanent Revolution so critical?

3. Very briefly: What is Permanent Revolution? What is its historical origin? What are its three main tenets?

4. There are two basic things the Stalinists do in their attack on Permanent Revolution. What are they?

5. What theory did the struggle against “Trotskyism” lead to? What overriding considerations influenced that struggle? Discuss the relationship between these considerations and the “psychological motives” that prompted the attacks on Permanent Revolution.

6. What are the four arguments of the epigones against Permanent Revolution?

7. In two sentences: How did the Comintern 3rd International) sabotage the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27? Why?

8. Why and how did Karl Radek become an epigone of the epigones?

Introduction to the German Edition

1. Why is a correct strategy for the collectivization of peasant holdings unthinkable without understanding the socialist revolution as a whole?

2. How is the optimum tempo for industrialization and collectivization of agriculture determined?

3. What “mistake” did Stalin make in common with German Social Democracy?

4. Why did building a nationally isolated socialist society mean pulling the national productive forces backward, even in relation to capitalism?

5. According to Stalin, what should the Communist Parties in every country base their activities on?

6. Why was Stalin wrong?

7. Why did Stalin make a fetish of the “law of uneven development”? Why was this law inapplicable precisely in the way Stalin wanted to apply it?

8. Why did the Stalinist conception that socialism could be realized on a national scale logically mean the liquidation of the Comintern?

9. What does capitalism’s development depend on?

10. What were the respective strengths and weaknesses of the Soviet economy?

11. What was the underlying reason for both the “tortoise pace” toward collectivization in the ‘20s and the forced collectivization that followed it?

Chapter 1

1. Radek’s work was based on what conclusion? Why?

2. What would Radek have learned if he’d bothered to read the first two books of Trotsky’s Our Revolution?

3. What was the basis for the concrete content that Lenin gave his formula, “Democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry at any given time?

4. What does Trotsky mean when he says that “I dealt with the prognosis of Permanent Revolution from the standpoint of those basic features which coincide with the strategic line of Bolshevism.”? What was the strategic line of Bolshevism prior to 1917?

5. In what sense did Trotsky acknowledge that Lenin was right in his criticism of him? What was the lesson of Trotsky’s mistake?

6. What is wrong with Radek’s argument that, because Trotsky did not assemble a faction based on his theory, the theory was incorrect?

7. How was the fundamental strategic agreement between Trotsky and Lenin decisively manifested?

Chapter 2

1. According to Radek, what was the essential feature that distinguished Permanent Revolution from Lenin’s theory?

2. What did Radek intend to prove by the accusation that Trotsky “mixed up” the bourgeois and socialist “stages” of the Russian Revolution?

3. What point of Permanent Revolution was most violently assaulted by Radek? Why?

4. What was the attitude of the oppressed non-proletarian masses to the Petersburg Soviet in the 1905 Revolution?

Chapter 3

1. Why was the consideration of the “subjective factor” of the revolution, i.e., parties and their programs (the collaboration between the proletariat and the peasantry) so important? Did Lenin ignore this consideration?

2. What did the “contradictions” in Lenin’s thought regarding the political mechanics of the seizure of power reflect?

3. What were some of the factors that led Lenin to believe that an independent peasantry might arise?

4. What did the various “experimental” attempts to build an independent peasant party in Russia demonstrate?

5. What was the utmost that can be said about the differences of opinion between Trotsky and Lenin on the nature of the dictatorship?

6. Is it true, as Lenin said in 1916, that Trotsky “did not take into consideration” that, if the proletariat leads the peasantry in an overthrow of the monarch and the establishment of a provisional government, this is just what will constitute the consummation of the “national bourgeois revolution,” and that this is just what the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry will be?

7. What did Trotsky accuse Lenin of overestimating? What did Lenin accuse Trotsky of underestimating?

8. What is a “peasants and workers government”?

Chapter 4

1. What was Radek trying to prove in his attempt to discredit Trotsky’s tactical line in the Chinese Revolution?

2. How did the concept of uninterrupted revolution express the relationship between the democratic and the socialist revolution? Did it signify a “leap” over the democratic stage?

3. What was the attitude of the Mensheviks toward the respective roles of the “democracy” (bourgeoisie) and the workers’ parties in the revolution? What was the basic fallacy of this attitude? What did this fallacy lead the Mensheviks to try and invent?

4. The middle and petty bourgeoisie were the motor force of the French Revolution. Why? And why could not the petty bourgeoisie play the same role in the Russian Revolution?

5. Why did the entire analysis of the Mensheviks lad them toward revolutionary pessimism? Why was Lenin’s analysis profoundly optimistic?

6. What is the most important argument against Radek’s attacks on Trotsky’s tactics? Why is this argument unanswerable?

Chapter 5

1. Was the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” realized in the Russian Revolution? If so, when? In what form?

2. What was the maximum level that bourgeois democracy could and did attain in the Russian Revolution?

3. How was the democratic dictatorship “realized” in China?

4. Why did Lenin feel his slogan had been realized after the October revolution?

5. How was Russia’s bourgeois revolution realized?

6. What was it about the character of the peasant uprising that rendered it incapable of carrying the revolution through?

7. The ambiguity of Lenin’s slogan posed a danger to the revolution only when? How did Lenin overcome this danger?

8. What was the historical significance of Lenin’s formula? What was the conclusion reached by the Bolsheviks regarding that formula? What, generally speaking, is the essence of epigonism?

Chapter 6

1. In what way can stages of development be skipped? In what way were stages skipped in Russia? What was this skipping of stages an expression of?

2. Trotsky says that one stage or another of the historical process can prove to be inevitable under certain conditions, though theoretically not inevitable. Conversely, he says that “inevitable” stages can be compressed to nothing by the dynamics of historical development. Give some examples.

3. What is “tailism”? How does it differ from a revolutionary approach in a situation where it is not possible to pose before the masses the immediate overthrow of the bourgeoisie?

Chapter 7

1. What were the conditions in China that rendered a “two-stage” revolution even more absurd than in Russia?

2. What was the lesson that Marx drew form the failed German bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1848-50?

3. What condemns the petty bourgeoisie to political nullity as an independent force insofar as leading a revolution today is concerned? Give examples that confirm this.

4. What are “intermediate forms of class rule?

5. What binds the advanced and colonial countries together? Wherein lies the distinction between advanced and colonial countries? What do these distinctions mean in terms of the dictatorship of the proletariat?

6. What must the Communists in every country first take into account when formulating their program?

7. What are among the criteria that determine the possibility of success for proletarian revolutionists in colonial countries?

8. In every country that is “ripe” for the proletarian dictatorship also ripe for socialism? If not, what does this mean for the proletarian dictatorship.

9. Is every country ready for the proletarian dictation? What happens to the democratic revolution where this is not the case?

10. When did the Mensheviks accuse Lenin of underestimating the peasantry? What were the circumstances that evoked this accusation?

Chapter 8

1. Radek contended Lenin recognized that because of Russia’s economic level of development in 1905, the proletarian dictatorship could only maintain itself with the “aid” of the west. What is the significance of this contention? Likewise, what is the significance of Radek’s contention that, in contrast to Lenin, Trotsky was “excessively” concerned with proletarian state aid from the west?

2. What is the Marxist conception of “pressure” on the bourgeoisie? How does it differ from the “pressure” of reformism?

3. Why must proletarian antiwar pressure on the bourgeoisie take the form of a struggle for power?

Chapter 9

1. What was the prime political consequence of Radek’s attack on Permanent Revolution and his capitulation to Stalin?

2. What was Radek’s “justification” for his support for Stalin’s China policy and for his capitulation?

3. Preobrazhenski’s approach to the China question was “opposite” to that of Radek. Why was his approach equally false? Why was his refusal to “quibble” with the epigones an acceptance of their policy? What were the consequences?

4. Why did the Stalinists become ultra-left on China after the defeat of the revolution?

5. Why did the Bolsheviks never abandon democratic slogans in Russia until after the open struggle between the soviets and “bourgeois democracy?

Chapter 10

1. Why did Trotsky say in 1930 that Permanent Revolution “now demands the attention of every revolutionist?

2. What does Permanent Revolution signify for countries with belated bourgeois development?

3. What must the proletarian/peasant alliance be based on?

4. The success of the proletarian/peasant alliance is conceivable only under what?

5. What showed conclusively that the peasantry could play neither an independent not a leading role in the Russian (and international) revolution?

6. What factors rule out peasant independence?

7. What effect does counterposing the “democratic dictatorship” slogan to the proletarian dictatorship have in the colonial countries?

8. Why does the democratic revolution grow over into socialist revolution under the proletarian dictatorship?

9. Why is socialist construction conceivable only through international class struggle?

10. Where does the Permanent Revolution begin? Where does it unfold? Why can it only be completed on a world scale?

11. What has prepared world economy for socialist transformation? What does the success of democratic revolution in the colonial countries depend on? What does the fate of the proletarian dictatorship depend on?

12. What is the only theory that consistently opposes Permanent Revolution? What is national messianism? Why is socialism in one country impossible?

13. How do the Stalinists separate the democratic from the socialist revolution? How do they separate the national from the international revolution? What did this mean for the Comintern?

14. What is the point to Trotsky’s 14th conclusion?

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