ALLIANCE 41:  30 June 2001.
Marx and Engels and:
"The Permanent Revolution", and,
"Socialism In One Country"


This issue consists of materials relevant to a recent discussion on the e-list of the "International Struggle Marxist-Leninist". At that site a discussion was initiated by Comrade Gazza who pointed out, that in a passage from a work by Frederick Engels, it seems that Engels believed that socialism in a single country was impossible.
    This issue contains the following:

    Firstly an annotated and edited version of three e-messages between comrades Gazza and Klo McKinsey ;
    Secondly a commentary from Alliance; outlining the views of Marx, Engels, Then discusses Trotsky's distortion and differences from Lenin; and finally Stalin's evaluation of these differences.
    Thirdly, an Appendix of two relevant letters from Engels .

    We feel that the discussion is of importance, not the least because with honest intent, there is an echo of an earlier distortion of the concept of "Permanent Revolution", by Trotsky. We stress that we have no concern that Comrade Gazza has any intent to re-tread Trotsky's path. But his isolation of an earlier quote from Engels deserves a fuller discussion, if only to remind all Marxist-Leninists of the history of the theory of "Socialism in One Country", and its' Trotskyite counter-part , the "Theory of Permanant Revolution".


1) The e-list Correspondence between Comrades Gazza & McKinsey Upon the Question –Three notes;
2) Commentary From Alliance, consisting of:
a) The Early Views of Marx and Engels On "Socialism In One Country"; b) In What Sense is the "Revolution Permanent"?
c) The Later Positions of Marx and Engels on Socialism In One Country;
d) Marx and Engels on the Russian Prospects for Revolution;
e) Trotsky's Distortion of Marx and Engels, the theory of "Permanent Revolution"; & Lenin's and Stalin's Critique of it.
APPENDIX: Two letters of Engels

The First Note: A Citation from Engels by Comrade Gazza:

The Second Note: Comrade Klo McKinsey to Gazza.     THIRD NOTE: From Comrade Gazza to Comrade Klo:


    Firstly; the practice of finding citations from the leaders of our movement is pervasive in our movement, and is on the whole a useful approach.
By this means, we can more fully understand lines of demarcation and it allows us to see by what steps our leaders arrived at their conclusions.
    However, Secondly, no citation can be, or should be - treated by Marxist-Leninists as a "holy writ". Even our leaders may have made mistakes, and a cardinal principle of Marxist-Leninists is to acknowledge these if there are any, and to learn from them. No one is immune from such criticism or self-criticism.
    Thirdly, Nonetheless, if any serious differences between the leaders on important questions are found, it is important to explore and understand with no pre-conceptions.
    Therefore, in this context, we should ask and answer honestly the following question:
"Is there a difference between the Attitudes of Engels and Lenin upon the Question of Socialism In One Country? "

Superficially, at least based on this single citation, there does appear to be a difference between Comrade Engels and Comrade Lenin upon this matter.
If there is a difference, what accounts for it? Who was right and who was wrong?
    Comrade Gazza himself resolves the differences, as being largely due to the differing eras in which Lenin and Engels lived. That in which Engels was operating – was one of a developing and strengthening of capital:

    Comrade Gazza also suggested another underlying reason for the apparent difference, namely, that world revolution was less likely under Lenin’s day:     However, we believe that both comrades, have overlooked a couple of significant matters complicating a correct interpretation of this apparent difference. (NB After this article was largely written, Comrade Klo appears to have made some of the same observations as we have - Editor Alliance).

    Firstly and most obviously, when comrade Engels wrote the piece in question, it was 1847. Marx and Engels were to write the Manifesto only one year later. This was an intense and formative period for Marx and Engels. We can hardly be surprised that certain features of their writings may not have been entirely accurate. After all, they had a lot of intellectual fish to fry in a very short period of time. Yet they formulated the key principles and analyses that Marxist-Leninists adhere to:
    Including what drives change in society, the class nature of all human society following primitive communism, the societal epochs that mankind had formed, and the manner in which to bring about a better society.
    It is hardly surprising if a few details were too rapidly formulated for lasting historical accuracy!

    Secondly: Both Marx and Engels likely underestimated the resilience of capitalism. They both at a later stage somewhat ruefully admitted as much.

    Thirdly: Perhaps most importantly from the point of view of this discussion, both Marx and Engels - even in their lifetime – revised their view according to more sustained and careful observation.
    By the time they died, we maintain, that there was NO inconsistency with the views of Lenin and Stalin upon this question.
    One brief example of this can be seen in the following citation from a letter written in 1870, by Marx to Engels that directly contradicts the answer in "Principles of Communism", that Engels gave to Question 19.

We will proceed to adduce some further evidence to support our viewpoint.

(a) The Early Views of Marx and Engels On "Socialism In One Country"
Comrade Gazza reminds us of the early views of Engels on this matter. But, it is just as pertinent to consider the early views of Marx. Marx and Engels had one primary theoretical purpose in the years leading from 1845-1848 - this was to clarify their analysis of class society. As a part way to achieving this, they wrote the famous work, "The German Ideology".
    In this work, their primary purpose was to achieve a self-clarification. In his famous later note of 1859, Marx observed that:

    In that joint work, Marx and Engels explicitly advocated the necessity of an international communist movement - "Empirically communism is only possible as the act of the dominant peoples "all at once" and "simultaneously which pre-supposes the universal development of productive forces and the world intercourse bound up with them".
    The full citation is as follows: SUMMARY: There can be no doubt that early on, before their full maturity, both Marx and Engels thought that the revolution had to be virtually simultaneous in several countries around the world.

2. In What Sense is the "Revolution Permanent"?
    It is relevant to examine the views of Marx and Engels on how the movement should revive itself after the defeat of the 1848-9 revolutions.
    Again this was an early period in their political careers. Nonetheless, by now, they had not only participated in extraordinary theoretical achievements, but they had also been in the thick of mass movements. They had now a practical experience that allowed them to begin to formulate more precisely the theory of the mechanics of the proletarian revolution. In other words the practical implementation of the strategy and tactics of the revolution itself - How was the revolution to be brought forward?
    They had already laid down principles in their theoretical works and in the great Communist Manifesto of 1848. But now they had a mass collective experience that they could analyse and draw upon. It was now 1850. Marx and Engels were mulling over the 1848 revolutions and the collective and international failure to ignite a proletarian revolution from the democratic sparks.
    In their famous advice given to the Communist League, Marx and Engels used the word "permanent", to stress that the long term CLASS interests of the proletariat must always be considered - irrespective of what class alliances were necessary for the proletariat to undertake in achieving any short term goals.
    Trotsky later warped this notion into an insistence that the proletariat dispense with any class alliances (specifically the peasantry in Russia); and that the Russian state could not be maintained as "socialist" in isolation.
    Marx and Engels delineated clear differences in the ultimate aims of the proletariat - versus the progressive but entirely short lived aims of the petty-bourgeois democrats. These latter aims, are of a benefit to the workers. But the proletariat is interested in a revolution transcending the short-term aims. It has a more far reaching aim. It is in this sense that the revolution must be "permanent".
    However, it is still true that mixed in with this notion, in 1850 Marx and Engels do still convey the sense that an international solution must be found. This is highlighted in the following citation:    In the highlighted section, it is perfectly clear that Marx and Engels still adhere to their "early" viewpoint expressed before in both the German Ideology" and the "Principles of Communism" - that an  international revolution is required for an ultimate successful end.
    But there is now, no sense that a simultaneous revolution is required. The sense instead is that the ultimate goal must simply not be forgotten ("UNTIL all more or less possessing classes have been forced out of their position of dominance") .
    Of even more central concern to this article however, is the form of alliances that the proletariat should make with the democratically minded petty-bourgeoisie.
    In other words, Marx and Engels pose the question of whether there should be an alliance of the proletarians with the "petty-bourgeois democrats"; for what period of time; and how to move to the second stage of revolution - i.e. to the socialist revolution ("2. In the next struggle which will give them the upper hand"). 
    Marx and Engels are quite clear that the aims of the petty-democrats are  different from those of the workers. The petty-bourgeois democrats wish only to have democracy for their own purposes:     Nonetheless, even a temporary bourgeois democratic structure, will benefit the workers, and assists them to move on to the next stage. The formula that encapsulates the advice of Marx and Engels was:     Marx and Engels end this article, by exhorting the workers to remain on guard and NOT to cease their struggle independent of the "democratic petty bourgeois": Summary: Already in this text, the emphasis has entirely shifted, from a "simultaneous" revolution in several countries to one of a dogged persistence with the revolutionary agenda, in order to spread it world-wide.
    The later relevance this article assumed, followed Trotsky's distortion of its main message. Trotsky did this in order to serve his own ends, to justify the "Theory of the Permanent Revolution".
    We shall examine this distortion, after we have seen the later positions of Marx and Engels upon "Socialism in One Country".

c). The Later Positions of Marx and Engels on Socialism In One Country

    It is difficult for even the most ardent Trotskyite to deny, that Marx and Engels took a more sophisticated and clear-sighted view later in their careers on many issues, than they had taken earlier on.
    It is interesting that even Marx and Engels themselves were somewhat disparaging about at least sections of their earlier work. In 1888 Engels said this in a preface to "Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy":

    One case in point appears to be the matter of Socialism in One Country. 
For there is clear evidence that in later years, both Marx and Engels had considerably modified their earlier view, of the need for a "simultaneous" and far-reaching revolution in several countries at once.
    In the following letter written in 1882, Engels makes clear to Kautsky that the pace of revolution varies from country to country. In the context here, Engels is explicitly relating this thought to countries lacking independence, such as Italy, but especially he means Ireland and Poland:     In yet another letter to Kautsky, also in 1882, Engels broaches the question of the colonial revolution in relation to English colonial policy. Engels disclaims precise description of how events will unfold, however he projects colonial revolutions where the "natives" are ruled. Of these countries he estimates that a revolution might begin in India - decidedly different to his anticipations of an earlier 1847:      It cannot be over-looked that the army and military specialist of the Marxist-Leninist movement – General Engels – advises against the export of revolution": Only one thing is certain, namely that a victorious proletariat cannot forcibly confer any boon whatever on another country without undermining its own victory in the process. And then there are the numerous works where both Marx and Engels examine Russia. These illustrate their changed view in more detail.

(d). Marx and Engels on the Russian Prospects for Revolution (adapted From Alliance Issue 36, at                                   )

   It is apparent that Marx and Engels were extremely well informed about the position of the Russian movement and of Russian society in general. A bourgeois canard is still about that Marx and Engels "Got it wrong because they did not foresee that the proletarian revolution would begin FIRST in a backward country like Russia, and not in a fully developed capitalist country, like Britain or Germany."
    It is certainly true that early on in their writing, both Marx & Engels not only hoped for, but also thought it most likely - that revolution would break out in countries where capitalism was fully developed. But by the middle, and especially the end of their lives and careers, they had both correctly predicted that the weak link was likely to be Russia. This is linked to this article’s theme, since Marx and Engels predicted that the revolution would break out in Russia, and only then would be emulated following the stimulus in Western Europe.
    Again, this was a departure in two respects from the prognosis for revolution given by them in the early part of their career. Engels for example wrote:

   After the folding of the First International (See Alliance issue -----------), there was a question as to when it would be right to form the Second International. In discussing this timing, Engels argued that the proletarian powder should be kept dry, until the battle began. He believed that this battle would begin in Russia, and that this would give the signal for the International’s "official" re-birth. This would be an action orientated, and not merely theoretical manifestation:     But perhaps the best illustration that Engels thought the revolution would start in Russia, comes from correspondence with Vera Zasulich. Engels clearly displays an exuberant optimism in the Russian revolution. Now it may be true that he was some 20 years too early! But, after all, he had clearly identified the motive forces of the "Old Mole" in Russia. He even made clear that so serious was the situation in Russia, that in a "certain" sense this might be a relatively unique situation – one where some degree of Blanquist theory, might be relevant.     Lenin, naturally, made a particular study of the views of Marx and Engels upon Russia. He clearly saw the same inter-relation between Russian revolution and European revolution that Marx and Engels had. Here are some notes in his famous encyclopaedic "Notebooks on Imperialism" – and are drawn from two articles of Engels. A Postscript to the Engels article "On Social Relations In Russia" (1894) - ends with this:     And it was necessary for Lenin in other places, to point out in contrast to those who argued in 1905, that the Bolsheviks should not harbor "Jacobin" prospects for the 1905 revolution, that Russia was "too backward" for the proletarian revolution"; that Marx and Engels had argued against such a step as the first proletarian revolution, etc; etc; ....: Summary: There is therefore no justification for the view that Marx and Engels got it wrong by not foreseeing the Russian revolution. Moreover, their views in this regard buttress the fact that they had moved well beyond their early understanding of an absolute necessity of a "simultaneous" world revolution.

(e) The Distortion Of Marx and Engels by Trotsky: The Theory of the "Permanent Revolution"; and Lenin and Stalin's Critique of it. (Adapted from Communist League "Trotsky Agaisnt the Boslheviks" part One, dated 1976; see -----------------------------).

    In November and December 1904, Trotsky Wrote a brochure on the necessity for the working class to play the-leading role in the capitalist revolution in Russia which, the following year, he entitled “Before the 9th. January” . This being the date, under the old Russian calendar, in 1905 when the first Russian revolution began with the shooting down by the. tsar's troops of an unarmed workers’ demonstration.
    When he was in Munich, Trotsky was accustomed to stay at the home of Aleksandr Helfand a Russian Jew who then claimed to be a Marxist. Helfand published his own political review "Aus der Weltpolitik" (World Politics) and wrote articles for other magazine s especially Kautsky's "Neue Zeit" (New Life) and the "new "Iskra" under' the pen-name "Parvus”.
    When Trotsky visited Munich in January 1905, he had the proofs of the brochure with him. Parvus was impressed with its contents and decided to put the weight of his, authority behind Trotsky by writing a preface to it. In this preface he stated a conclusion which Trotsky still hesitated to draw:

    In April 1905 Lenin commented on Parvus's theory that the capitalist revolution in Russia could result in a government of the working class, as it had been put forward in the brochure written by:     Lenin declared about the theory, that:     In 1905, Leon Trotsky had been one of the leaders of the St.Petersburg Soviet. He was then held in prison on charges of plotting insurrection.
    While in prison, Trotsky wrote "Results and Prospects" which was published in St.Petersburg in 1906 as the final chapter of his book "Our Revolution" a collection of essays on the Russian Revolution of December 1905.
    In this essay Trotsky gave a fundamental statement of his views on the capitalist revolution the "theory of permanent revolution",
    The term permanent revolution" was derived from the analysis of Marx and Engels in 1850 (see above):     Lenin broadly accepted this concept of the permanant revolution, although after Trotsky's publication, Marxists preferred to use the term "un-interrupted revolution" or "continuous revolution" in order to avoid confusion with Trotsky's perversion of the term in connection with his anti-Leninist theory of the capitalist revolution. In September 1905, Lenin wrote:     Trotsky's theory of the capitalist revolution, as put forward in "Results and Prospects" was as follows:

1) The working class will be the active force in the capitalist revolution with the peasantry as supporters:

2. Because the peasantry in the capitalist revolution is destined to play only an auxiliary role of supporters rather than allies of the working class, the democratic- revolution will place in power -- not an alliance of the' working class and peasantry, "the democratic dictatorship of the working class and   peasantry- - but the working class, establishing the dictatorship of the working class, a revolutionary Workers' government: 3. Once in power the working class will be compelled to proceed with the construction of a socialist Society: 4. But the, construction of socialism will inevitably bring the working class into hostile collision with the peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie: 5.  Thus, the working class in power now isolated from and opposed by the masses of the peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie will inevitably be overthrown by the forces of reaction -- unless the working classes of Western Europe establish proletarian dictatorships which render direct state aid to the working-class of Russia: 6. The Russian working class government will, therefore, be forced  to use its state power actively to initiate socialist revolutions in  Western Europe and beyond:     Trotsky continued to put forward his theory of "permanent revolution" throughout his life. In his book "The Permanent Revolution", published in Berlin in Russian in 1930, he says:     As we have seen, Lenin analysed the revolutionary process in tsarist Russia as essentially one of two successive stages --
    Firstly, the stage of democratic revolution;
    Secondly, the stage of socialist revolution, but with the possibility of uninterrupted transition from the first stage to the second if the working class were able to win the leading role in the first stage.
    The resemblance of Lenin's viewpoint to that of Marx and Engels is quickly apparent, by a simple comparison of his viewpoint with the advice that Marx and Engels gave to the Communist League as cited above.
    The Trotskyite theory of "permanent revolution" rejected Lenin's concept of two stages in the revolutionary process in tsarist Russia, and postulated a single stage, that of the proletarian-socialist revolution leading directly to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
    Lenin saw the revolutionary process in colonial-type countries also as essentially one of two successive stages -- Firstly, the stage of national- democratic revolution, secondly, the stage of socialist revolution, but with the possibility of uninterrupted transition from the first stage to the second if the working class were able to win the leading role in the first stage.
    Trotsky logically extended his theory of "permanent revolution" to colonial-type countries, here also postulating a single stage in the revolutionary process, that of proletarian- socialist revolution leading directly to the dictatorship of the proletariat.  Lenin was, of course, strongly opposed to what he called: Analysing Trotsky's "Results and Prospects" in 19070 Lenin pointed out:     At the end of 1910, we find Lenin saying:     And in November 1915, Lenin says:     In November and December 1924 Stalin made a more comprehensive theoretical analysis of Trotsky's theory of "permanent revolution":