Permanent Revolution: Yesterday & Today

Table of Contents

  1. Preface, Permanent Revolution Group (New Zealand), May 1993 [below]
  2. Introduction: The Theory of Permanent Revolution, Its Origins and Its Application Today, Permanent Revolution Group (New Zealand), October 1988
  3. Contribution to Discussion in the Young Socialists (New Zealand) (1986), David M and Marcus P
  4. What is the Permanent Revolution? Basic Postulates, Leon Trotsky

Preface [to Permanent Revolution: Yesterday and Today]

By the Permanent Revolution Group (New Zealand), May 1993

We first published this pamphlet in November 1988 in order to demonstrate the considerable distance which separated the reformist Socialist Action League (SAL) from the revolutionary-Leninist politics it sometimes pretended to stand for. In the intervening period that distance has, if anything, increased.

Now incongruously renamed the "Communist League" (CL), this organisation has been particularly disoriented by the historic international events which have occurred since the late 1980s; its incapacity to explain key political and social struggles and to chart a revolutionary-Marxist course of action for ordinary working people has never been more clear. Along with its American parents in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the Communist League has reacted in bizarre fashion to the destruction of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European deformed workers’ states. It celebrated the defeat of the August 1991 coup in the USSR as a "giant victory" for Soviet workers;1 in reality the coup defeat was a victory for Boris Yeltsin’s vicious free-market austerity programme, and it marked the end of the Soviet degenerated workers’ state. In similar head-in-the-sand fashion the SWP/CL had described the toppling of the Stalinist regimes across Eastern Europe as an "historic defeat" for imperialism2, despite the fact that these events had opened the road to capitalist restoration.

But while communists shed no tears for the personal fates of the Stalinists, it is essential to realise that their defeat at the hand of imperialist-backed forces also meant the overturn of the bureaucratised workers’ states and therefore, ultimately, the destruction of the collectivised economies which those states defended. Thus in August 1991 it was necessary to call for a military bloc with the Stalinists against the Yeltsinites, and the defeat of the coup leaders must be regretted.

The Communist League, Fidel Castro & Kim Il Sung

The chief article of faith for the Communist League/SAL has always been its obsequious and uncritical support for the Cuban Stalinist bureaucracy, headed by Fidel Castro. But after the collapse of the USSR–Cuba’s primary sponsor–the small Caribbean deformed workers’ state is looking increasingly unsteady; a resurgent hostility from US imperialism threatens to restore capitalism to Cuba, something all communists must oppose vigorously. But the Communist League seems now to be experimenting with latching on to a new national Stalinist bureaucracy: the SWP/CL leadership have begun to send occasional "revolutionary greetings" to Kim Il Sung and other heads of the oppressive North Korean Stalinist regime.3

Perhaps the SWP/CL leadership’s subjective motivation for their new turn is that because Castro’s days in a post-Soviet world seem to be numbered they must therefore look to a new Stalinist regime for which to act as cheerleaders. But with the Kim Il Sung regime they have chosen an especially unsavoury bunch of Stalinists. Kim has been ensconced in power since 1948, and he has attempted to found a Stalinist dynasty, anointing his son, Kim Jong Il, as his successor to the state presidency and the leadership of the ruling Korean Workers Party. His bureaucracy keeps an iron grip on all political processes, and the "elected" national legislature, the "Supreme People’s Assembly", has in any case no real power. The working class is completely excluded from any participation in political life through police measures. The state-directed adulation of Kim Il Sung–almost religious in its intensity–is even worse than the abject lunacy of the cult of personality surrounding Josef Stalin in the USSR.

This recent turn towards the presidential palace in the North Korean capital confirms that the Communist League has moved even further away from being a serious political organisation and, instead, increasingly displays characteristics usually associated with cults or charismatic religious organizations. Today this organisation is held together, not by healthy internal debate and the political consciousness of its members, but by an intense apolitical loyalty to the organisation and its leadership. This loyalty is independent of the political line in vogue at any given time and thus political folk heroes can be picked up and discarded with relatively little disruption to the life of the organisation.

An Obstacle to Socialist Revolution

As long as the Communist League continues to dress up nonrevolutionary leaderships as being capable of achieving fundamental revolutionary change, this organisation will remain an obstacle on the path to socialist revolution. The Permanent Revolution Group–since 1990 the New Zealand section of the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT)–hopes to continue a political dialogue with the Communist League as a means of winning subjectively revolutionary members of the CL to the communist politics of Lenin and Trotsky. We hope this pamphlet will continue to play a role in that process.

For the present edition of this pamphlet we have made some occasional alterations to subheadings, paragraphing structure, spelling and punctuation; we have also made some minor alterations to existing footnotes, usually for the purpose of providing fuller references. To the Introduction and to the "Contribution to Discussion in the Young Socialists (1986)" we have also added a number of footnotes containing reference information.

For the first edition of this pamphlet in November 1988 we added some footnotes to the "Contribution to Discussion in the Young Socialists (1986)", including both substantive explanatory material and references. In this edition the explanatory material remains unchanged.

  1. The Militant, 6 September 1991. The Militant is the biweekly of the US Socialist Workers Party and has in recent years been sold in New Zealand by the Communist League as their sole journal.
  2. As above.
  3. Militant, 17 January 1992 & 8 May 1992.

Posted: 24 June 2005