permanent revolution

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The theory, due to Trotsky, that a proletarian socialist revolution may develop continuously from a previous non‐socialist revolution. The actual phrase is taken from Marx's Address to the Central Committee of the Communist League (1850).

Trotsky depicted Russia as an example of uneven development, combining the most modern and the most backward social and economic forces. Industrialization had been forced by an absolutist state and financed by foreign capital. As a result, the domestic bourgeoisie would not establish hegemony and thus could not lead a democratic revolution. In contrast, the proletariat acquired a significance beyond its size because of the large scale and concentration of industry and its own levels of organization and consciousness.

Given the impotence of the bourgeoisie, it was left to the proletariat to accomplish the democratic revolution. However, a workers' government could not be restricted to those tasks because it would be influenced by the continuing class struggle. Once set in motion the revolution would become an uninterrupted process, the democratic stage merging into the socialist.

Trotsky acknowledged that the material base for socialism did not exist in Russia but he contended that this could be resolved by the second part of the theory—the international character of the revolution. Russia was just a link in the chain; it could not survive without the support of the European proletariat.


Subjects: Politics.

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