Red Letter
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An Excerpt on 1905 from October : the story of the Russian Revolution
by China Mieville
Estimated Reading Time: 13 min

This is a project exploring Left Theory. How do we get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do? And for the most part, we've staying in theory (If you're new, feel free to check out the Year To Date link at the bottom and see what we've read so far). Sometimes things happen in history that demarcate a line and we can't simply rely on theory and polemics to tell what happened. 1905 is seen as the dress rehearsal of the successful revolution in 1917.

But how do you tell the story of Russia in 1905? As Lenin put it:

Without the tremendous class battles and the revolutionary energy displayed by the Russian proletariat during the three years 1905–07, the second revolution could not possibly have been so rapid in the sense that its initial stage was completed in a few days. The first revolution (1905) deeply ploughed the soil, uprooted age-old prejudices, awakened millions of workers and tens of millions of peasants to political life and political struggle and revealed to each other—and to the world—all classes (and all the principal parties) of Russian society in their true character and in the true alignment of their interests, their forces, their modes of action, and their immediate and ultimate aims. This first revolution, and the succeeding period of counter-revolution (1907–14), laid bare the very essence of the tsarist monarchy, brought it to the “utmost limit”, exposed all the rottenness and infamy, the cynicism and corruption of the tsar’s clique, dominated by that monster, Rasputin. It exposed all the bestiality of the Romanov family—those pogrom-mongers who drenched Russia in the blood of Jews, workers and revolutionaries, those landlords, “first among peers”, who own millions of dessiatines of land and are prepared to stoop to any brutality, to any crime, to ruin and strangle any number of citizens in order to preserve the “sacred right of property” for themselves and their class.
Without the Revolution of 1905–07 and the counter-revolution of 1907–14, there could not have been that clear “self determination” of all classes of the Russian people and of the nations inhabiting Russia, that determination of the relation of these classes to each other and to the tsarist monarchy, which manifested itself during the eight days of the February-March Revolution of 1917. This eight-day revolution was “performed”, if we may use a metaphorical expression, as though after a dozen major and minor rehearsals; the “actors” knew each other, their parts, their places and their setting in every detail, through and through, down to every more or less important shade of political trend and mode of action.
For the first great Revolution of 1905, (...) led after the lapse of twelve years, to the “brilliant”, the “glorious” Revolution of 1917...

It has been said that the most striking aspect of a revolution is the speed with which the masses learn and people around the world turned to Russia after 1905. Was it possible? But how do we tell that story? Let's turn to the great writer China Mieville and get a sense of the drama of the moment.

Russia eyes the east, pushing into Asia, grasping at Turkestan and Pamir, as far as Korea: continuing work on the Trans-Siberian Railway, with China’s collaboration, puts it on a collision course with a similarly expansionist Japan. ‘We need’, says Prime Minister von Plehve, ‘a little victorious war to stem the tide of revolution.’ What better foil in a jingoist epic than a ‘lesser race’ such as the Japanese, whom Tsar Nicholas calls ‘monkeys’?

The 1904 Russo-Japanese War begins.

The regime, in the depths of self-delusion, expects an easy victory. Its forces, however, are incompetently led and inadequately equipped and trained, and they are catastrophically routed at Liaoyang in August 1904, Port Arthur in January 1905, Mukden in February 1905, Tsushima in May 1905. By the autumn of 1904, even the timorous liberal opposition is raising its voice. After the Liaoyang defeat the journal Osvobozhdenie, which six months before trumpeted ‘Long live the army!’, denounces the expansionism behind the war. Through regional self-government assemblies known as zemstvos, liberals organise a ‘banquet campaign’, large lavish suppers that culminate in pointed toasts to reform. Political activism through passive–aggressive dinner parties. The following year, opposition to the regime’s trajectory reaches such a pitch that even Nicholas feels forced to make grudging concessions. But the wave of revolt stretches way beyond the liberals, into the peasantry and the restive working class.

In St Petersburg, one ‘police socialist’ union, the Assembly of Russian Factory and Workshop Workers, is led by an unusual former prison chaplain named Georgy Gapon. This fierce-faced man is, in the words of Nadezhda Krupskaya, the Bolshevik militant to whom Lenin is married, ‘by nature not a revolutionary, but a sly priest ... ready to accept any compromises’. Father Gapon nevertheless heads a social ministry, inflected by Tolstoy’s quasi-mystical concern for the poor. His theology – devout, ethical, quietist and reformist all at once – is confused but sincere.

In late 1904, four workers at the city’s colossal Putilov metallurgy and machine-building plant – which employs more than 12,000 people – get the sack. At sympathy meetings organised by their workmates, an appalled Gapon finds leaflets calling for the tsar’s overthrow. He rips them to pieces: that is well beyond his mission. But to the workers’ petition calling for the men’s reinstatement he adds demands for a wage increase, improved sanitation, an eight-hour day. Radicals to his left add further calls, resonating far beyond sectional interests: for the freedom of assembly and of the press, the separation of church and state, an end to the Russo-Japanese War, a Constituent Assembly.

On 3 January 1905, a city-wide strike is declared. Very soon, between 100,000 and 150,000 people are out.

Sunday 9 January: protestors gather in the freezing pre-dawn darkness. A numerous group from the working-class Vyborg district sets out for the monarch’s sumptuous residence, the Winter Palace, whose windows survey the confluence of the two Nevas, the cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fortress, the rostral columns at the tip of Vasilievsky Island, at the heart of the city.

Deep water, frozen solid. From its north bank, the marchers descend onto the Neva ice. Tens of thousands of workers with their families, shivering in threadbare clothes, begin to trudge. They hold icons and crosses. They chant and sing hymns. At their head, Father Gapon in his robes, bearing an entreaty to the tsar. ‘Lord’, it beseeches, in exquisite combination of the lickspittle and the radical. It begs ‘little Father’ Nicholas to grant ‘truth and protection’ from the ‘capitalist exploiters’.

Opposition like this could easily be placated. But these authorities are cruel as well as stupid. Thousands of troops are lined up and expectant on the ice.

It is mid-morning as the marchers approach. Cossacks draw their sabres and gallop at them. The crowd scatters in confusion. The tsar’s forces face them down. The people do not disperse. The troops raise their guns and begin to fire. The Cossacks flail nagaikas, their vicious whips. Gore melts the frost. The desperate people scream and slip and fall. When the carnage comes to an end, as many as 1,500 people lie dead in the drifts. This is Bloody Sunday.

The impact is incalculable. It unleashes a sea change in popular attitudes. That evening, Gapon, his world view shattered, ‘red hot’, Krupskaya will recall, ‘from the breath of the revolution’, fulminates to a crowd of survivors: ‘We have no Tsar!’

That day accelerates revolution. Information travels the sprawl and spread of the railway lines, racing across its territories in the company of the trains, and it brings fury with it.

Strikes rage across the empire. They are embraced by groups new to such actions – clerks, hotel maids, cab drivers. More confrontations follow, and more deaths – 500 in Lodz, ninety in Warsaw. In May, a mutiny over spoiled meat shakes the battleship Knaz-Potemkin. Further revolts come in November, in Kronstadt and Sebastopol. The regime is frantic. It experiments with combinations of concession and repression. And the revolution provokes not only bloody official crackdowns, but the traditional ultra-right sadism quasi-sanctioned by the state.

Only two years previously, the Bessarabian city of Kishinev suffered the first pogrom of the twentieth century. For thirty-six hours, marauding bands, untroubled by the police and blessed by Orthodox bishops, practised butchery. Jewish adults and children were tortured, raped, mutilated, killed. The tongue of a toddler was cut out. Murderers emptied out the disembowelled bodies of their victims and stuffed them with feathers. Forty-one people died, almost 500 were wounded, and, a journalist observed, most Gentile citizens expressed ‘neither regret nor remorse’.

Amid the anguish, many claimed that the Kishinev Jews had not resisted hard enough. This supposed ‘shame of passivity’ provoked soul-searching among Jewish radicals. So now, in April 1905, when the Ukrainian Jews of Zhitomir get word of an impending attack, the response is defiant: ‘We will show that Zhitomir is not Kishinev.’ And when, indeed, they fight back against the murderers, limiting damage and death, the Zhitomir defenders inspire the Jewish Bund to declare that ‘the times of Kishinev have gone forever’.

Almost instantly, this proves horrifyingly wrong.

Prominent in the Zhitomir attack were the Black Hundreds, an umbrella name for various cells of proto-fascist ultra-reactionaries, which sprang up out of authoritarian outrage at the 1905 revolution. They are apt to sprinkle a few populist calls, such as for land redistribution, atop fervour for an autocratic tsar – Nicholas II is an honorary member – and murderous spite against non-Russians, most particularly Jews. They have street-fighting thugs, and plenty of friends in high places, parliamentary deputies like Alexander Dubrovin and Vladimir Purishkevich. Dubrovin is leader of the Union of the Russian People (URP), an advocate of extreme racist violence, a doctor who gave up medicine to fight the creep of liberalism. Purishkevich is the URP’s deputy chair. Flamboyant, fearless and eccentric to the point of derangement, characterised by the author Sholem Aleichem as an ‘atrocious villain’ and ‘high-strutting cockerel’, he is a devout believer in God-sanctioned autocracy. Indeed, some Black Hundreds – such as the sect known as the Ioannity – spice their race-hate with ecstatic religiosity, directing the enthusiasms of Orthodoxy against ‘Christ-killers’, fever dreams of blood-drinking Jews, icons and eschatology and mysticism in the service of depravity.

In October the Black Hundreds commit mass murder in the cosmopolitan city of Odessa, butchering more than 400 Jews. In the Siberian city of Tomsk, they stop up all entrances to a building where a meeting is taking place, set it alight and gleefully burn their scores of victims alive. They throw petrol on the flames. A teenage boy, Naum Gabo, escapes with minutes to spare to witness the depredation. Years later, an elderly man, by then a leading sculptor of his generation, he will write, ‘I do not know if I can convey in words the horror that oppressed me and seized my soul.’

This is the Black Hundreds’ carnival, but they will continue with the work for years.

And while reaction is on its violent march, the tsar still flounders, groping for compromise. In August 1905 he announces a consultative parliament, a Duma. But its complex franchise favours the rich: the masses remain unappeased. The Treaty of Portsmouth ends the Russo-Japanese War, and is merciful to Russia, given the circumstances. Nevertheless, the state’s authority has been crushed abroad and at home, among all classes.

Insurgency has strange triggers. In Moscow, October 1905, a matter of punctuation sparks the final act of the revolutionary year.

Moscow printworkers are remunerated per letter. Now, in the Sytin publishing house, they demand payment for punctuation, too. An arcane orthographic revolt that prompts a wave of sympathy strikes. Bakers and railway workers join in, some bankers as well. Dancers with the Imperial Ballet refuse to perform. Factories and shops close, trams stand still, lawyers refuse cases, jurors to hear them. Rolling stock is motionless on the railways, the iron nerves of the country frozen. A million troops are stranded in Manchuria. The strikers demand pensions and decent pay and free elections, an amnesty for political prisoners, and, again, a representative body: a Constituent Assembly.

On 13 October, at Menshevik instigation, about forty workers’ representatives, SRs, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks meet in the St Petersburg Technological Institute. Workers vote them in, one for every 500 workers. They name their gathering with the Russian word for ‘council’ – the Soviet.

In the three months before mass arrests put an end to it, the Petersburg Soviet spreads its influence, draws personnel from a wider pool, begins to assert extensive authority. It sets strike dates, controls telegraphs, considers public petitions, issues appeals. Its leader is the well-known young revolutionary Lev Bronstein, known to history as Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky is hard to love but impossible not to admire. He is at once charismatic and abrasive, brilliant and persuasive and divisive and difficult. He can be compelling and he can be cold, even brutal. Lev Davidovich Bronstein was the fifth of eight children born in a village in modern-day Ukraine to a comfortably off, non-observant Jewish family. A revolutionary by the age of seventeen, a brief narodnik flirtation took him to Marxism, and in and out of prison. The name Trotsky was borrowed from a jailer in Odessa in 1902. Once considered ‘Lenin’s cudgel’, he sided with the Mensheviks at the contentious 1903 congress, though he soon broke with them. During these, his ‘non-factional’ years, he and Lenin repeatedly exchange ill-tempered polemics on various issues.

The Marxists, almost all of the view that the country is not ready for socialism, are broadly agreed that a Russian Revolution can only be, must be, a democratic and capitalist one – but, crucially, that it could be a catalyst for socialist revolution in more developed Europe. For the most part, the Mensheviks are holding out for active bourgeois leadership in Russia, as befits a liberal revolution: until 1905’s debacle, therefore, they opposed taking part in any government thrown up by a revolution. The Bolsheviks, by contrast, contend that in the context of pusillanimous liberalism, the working class itself must lead the revolution, in alliance not with those liberals but with the peasantry, taking power, in what Lenin has called a ‘revolutionary–democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’.

Trotsky, for his part, already famed as an outstanding and provocative thinker, will soon develop a very distinct take, move in different directions on such questions, formulating theories that will come to define his contested legacy. At present he is deeply engaged in the workings of the Soviet, as participant and witness in this distinct, embattled kind of governance.

In the countryside, the 1905 revolution is chiefly manifest at first in illegal and ad hoc local activities, like felling state- or landlord-owned timber, and strikes among agricultural workers. But in late July, peasant delegates and revolutionaries meet near Moscow and declare themselves the Constitutional Assembly of the All-Russian Peasants’ Union. They demand the abolition of private property in land and its reconstitution as ‘common property’.

On 17 October, the tsar, still reeling from the upheavals, reluctantly issues his ‘October Manifesto’, appointing the shrewd conservative Count Witte as premier. In a fillip to Russian liberalism, Nicholas concedes the principles of legislative powers for the Duma and limited suffrage for urban male workers. The same month sees the founding congress of the Constitutional Democratic Party, known as the Kadets.

A liberal party, the Kadets stand for civil rights, universal male suffrage, a degree of autonomy for national minorities, and moderate land and labour reform. The party’s roots include a certain strain of radical(ish) liberalism, though that wanes swiftly as the revolution retreats. By the end of 1906, their ambiguous republicanism will have mutated into support for a constitutional monarchy. The Kadets’ 100,000 members are mainly middle-class professionals: the party chair, Pavel Milyukov, is a preeminent historian. Another new party, about a fifth the size of the Kadets, the Octobrists, forms in supportive response to the tsar’s October Manifesto, attracts conservative liberals, and mostly comprises of landowners, cautious businesspeople and the moneyed. They support some moderate reforms, but oppose universal suffrage as a threat to the monarchy and themselves.

Dissent has its momentum: a second, more radical peasant congress meets in early November. In the central provinces of Tambov, Kursk and Voronezh, in the Volga, in Samara and Simbirsk and Saratov, around Kiev and in Chernigov and Podolia, peasant crowds attack, sack, often burn manor houses, and loot their estates. Revolutionary ideas spread like electricity along roads and along those conductive railway tracks. Soviets are formed in Moscow, Saratov, Samara, Kostroma, Odessa, Baku, Krasnoyarsk. In December, the Novorossiysk Soviet deposes the governor, and, briefly, runs the city.

In Moscow on 7 December the general strike becomes an urban insurrection, backed by the SRs and Bolsheviks – in the latter case out of agonised solidarity, rather than any great faith in the likelihood of its success. For days the ring of the outer city is in revolutionary hands. Workers throw up barricades across the streets and Moscow is wracked by guerrilla fighting.

At last news that loyalist Semyonov Guards are coming from St Petersburg buoys the counterrevolutionary volunteers. They bombard the insurgent textile workers in the Presnya district with artillery. In these, the uprising’s death throes, 250 radicals are killed. The revolution dies with them.

January 1906, in the chilling words of Victor Serge, is ‘a month of firing squads’. A wave of orchestrated pogroms shakes the country. The American Jewish Committee collates evidence of a staggering upswell of racist violence, taking perhaps 4,000 lives.

Resistance does continue, including assassinations. In February 1906, at the railway station in the town of Borisoglebsk, a twenty-year-old Socialist Revolutionary named Maria Spiridonova guns down the local security chief, a man notorious for his savage repression of the peasants. She receives a death sentence, commuted to hard labour in Siberia. At each stop on the journey to the penal colony, Spiridonova emerges to address crowds of sympathisers. Even the liberal press, no fan of the SRs, publishes her letters. She tells of her torture at her captors’ hands. Her mistreatment becomes a cause célèbre.

But the state’s punitive expeditions spread out from the cities to reassert its authority, and the resilience of the radicals ebbs. By the time the revolt is finally put down, 15,000 have died – the great majority revolutionaries – and 79,000 are in prison or exiled. Pyotr Stolypin, governor of Saratov, earns infamy for his recourse to the gallows. The hangman’s noose becomes known as ‘Stolypin’s necktie’.

‘Better’, one workers’ slogan has it, ‘to fall a pile of bones than live like slaves.’

The rubble of the 1905 defeat and the subsequent repression put paid to any naivety about the regime’s goodwill, any residual faith in the tsar, and, for radicals, any hope of collaboration with ‘census society’, as the propertied classes and liberal intelligentsia are known. For most of that layer, the October Manifesto proves sufficient to justify capitulating, and the workers learn that they are alone.

What that knowledge stokes among the most ‘conscious’, the small, growing group of worker– intellectuals, autodidacts and activists, is an implacable class pride. A trenchant sense of culture, discipline and consciousness, of outright irreconcilability with the bourgeoisie. From now on from below come escalating calls not only for economic improvements, but also for dignity. One indignant grassroots soldiers’ song is clear in these priorities:

Sure we’d like some tea
But give us with our tea
Some polite respect
And please have officers
Not slap us in the face.

Soldiers and workers demand to be ‘respectfully’ addressed, in the courteous second-person plural, vy, rather than as ty, the singular, which is deployed from a position of authority.

In this fraught and protean political culture, the pride and shame of the oppressed are inextricable. On the one hand, there is the furious scolding one Putilov worker gives his son, when the young man ‘allows himself’ to be beaten by military officers for speaking positively of the Bolsheviks. ‘A worker should not endure a blow from a bourgeois,’ he shouts. ‘ “You hit me? – There, take one back.” ’ On the other hand there is the disgust one activist, Shapovalov, feels at his own impulse to cower, to avoid meeting his boss’s gaze. ‘It was as if two men were living inside of me: one who for the sake of the struggle for a better future for the workers was not afraid of sitting in the [jail of the] Peter and Paul Fortress and in Siberian exile: and another who had not fully liberated himself from the feeling of dependence and even fear.’

In reaction to such ‘slavish feelings’, he nurses a furious honour. ‘I came to hate capitalism and my boss ... even more intensely.’

In March 1906, the grudgingly promised Duma meets. By now, though, the tsar’s government feels strong enough to clip the parliament’s already weak wings. Together, the Kadets, the Social Democrats – as the Marxists are known – and the narodnik Socialist Revolutionaries have a majority: the resulting programme of agrarian reform is anathema to the regime. Which, on 21 July 1906, therefore dissolves the Duma.

Radical attacks on government officials continue, but now the tide is with reaction. Peasants are tried under military law, to allow the death penalty. The tsar replaces the able Witte with the ruthless Stolypin, he of the ‘neckties’, sower of more bones. In June 1907, Stolypin peremptorily dissolves the follow-up Second Duma, arrests the Social Democratic deputies, restricts the vote, favouring property owners and nobility, and slashes non-Russian representation. It is on this rump franchise that the Third Duma is elected in 1907, and the fourth in 1912.

To modernise agriculture, the regime wants to break up the mir, the commune, and create a layer of smallholders. Stolypin gives peasants the right to buy individual plots. Progress is slow: still, by 1914 – three years after the assassination of Stolypin himself – some 40 percent of peasant households will have abandoned the mir. Only a few, though, will ever make it as small farmers. The poorest are instead forced to sell their tiny holdings, becoming agricultural labourers or migrating to the cities. Stolypin cracks brutally down on the peasant movement, leading the SRs to refocus somewhat toward work in cities.

These are hardly, though, a fertile arena. Around 1907–08, a new landscape of repression emerges. Strike rates are slashed. Revolutionaries are forced into miserable, defeated exile. By 1910, membership of the RSDWP collapses from 100,000 to a few thousand. Lenin, in Geneva and then Paris, clings to a pitiful optimism, managing to interpret any scrap – an economic dip here, an uptick in radical publications there – as a ‘turning point’. But even he grows despondent. ‘Our second period of emigration’, says Krupskaya, ‘was ever so much harder than the first.’

The Bolsheviks are riddled with informers. Their numbers plummet. They are destitute. The émigré insurrectionists have to seek any work to survive. ‘One comrade’, Krupskaya will recall, ‘tried to become a French polisher.’ The ‘tried’ is poignant. Among the left diaspora, despair, mental illness and suicide are not uncommon. In Paris in 1910, Prigara, a starving, deranged veteran of the Moscow barricades, visits Lenin and Krupskaya. His eyes are glassy, his voice loud. He ‘begins talking excitedly and incoherently about chariots filled with sheaves of corn and beautiful girls standing in the chariots’. As if he can see one of those peasant Arcadias, as if he can almost touch Nutland, Darya, Opona.

But he is closer to drowned Kitezh. Prigara escapes the protection of his comrades, ties stones to his feet and neck and walks into the Seine.

The twentieth century opens on a great, sluggard, contradictory power. The Russian empire stretches from the Arctic to the Black Sea, from Poland to the Pacific. A population of 126 million Slavs, Turks, Kirghiz, Tatars, Turcomen, countless others, gathered in wildly various polities under the tsar. Cities full of cutting-edge industries imported from Europe punctuate a vastness where four-fifths of the people are peasants tied to the soil, in near-feudal abjection. In the works of visionary artists like Velimir Khlebnikov, the self-styled King of Time, Natalia Goncharova, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Olga Rozanova, a strange modernist beauty illuminates a dominion where the great majority cannot read. Jews, Muslims, animists, Buddhists and freethinkers abound as, in the empire’s heart, the Orthodox Church propagates its lugubrious and ornate moralism – against which chafe dissenting sects, minorities, sexual dissidents in the cities’ queer hinterlands, radicals.

In his books 1905 and Results and Prospects, written shortly after the failed revolution, and throughout his life thereafter, Trotsky develops a particular conception of history as ‘a drawing together of the different stages of the journey, a combining of separate steps, an amalgam of archaic with more contemporary forms’. Capitalism is an international system, and in the interrelations of cultures and polities, history does not clean up after itself.

‘A backward country assimilates the material and intellectual conquest of the advanced countries,’ Trotsky will come to write. ‘Though compelled to follow after the advanced countries, a backward country does not take things in the same order.’ It is driven to

the adoption of whatever is ready in advance of any specified date, skipping a whole series of intermediate stages ... [though it] ... not infrequently debases the achievements borrowed from outside in the process of adapting them to its own more primitive culture ... From the universal law of unevenness thus derives another law which ... we may call the law of combined development.

This theory of ‘uneven and combined development’ suggests the possibility of a ‘leap’, a skipping of those ‘stages’ – perhaps autocratic order might be sundered without the mediation of bourgeois rule. Reconfiguring a term from Marx and Engels, Trotsky invokes ‘Permanent Revolution’. He is not the only leftist to use the term – he draws on an unorthodox Belarussian Marxist, Alexander Helphand (‘Parvus’) and others are developing similar concepts – but he will become the most celebrated one so to do, and he develops it in particular important ways.

In a ‘backward’ country like Russia, Trotsky says, where the bourgeoisie is weak, it will not execute a bourgeois revolution, which leaves the working class to do the job. But how can that working class self- stall its demands? Its triumph will be driven by its interests, eroding capitalist property and going beyond ‘bourgeois’ gains. By now, he is not the only Marxist to hold that if the working class is at the helm of this ‘permanent’ revolution it must continue beyond capitalism, but far from seeing that as a potential or likely disaster like many others, he is the most enthusiastic about the prospect. Still, for Trotsky as for most of the Russian Marxists, the international dimension is key. ‘Without the direct state support of the European proletariat’, he writes immediately after 1905, ‘the working class of Russia cannot remain in power and convert its temporary domination into a lasting socialistic dictatorship.’

In these bleak post-1905 days, some Mensheviks have shifted on the possible necessity of the party entering government, ‘against its will’ and without optimism about its prospects, if no appropriate historical agent arises. They continue to hold that the working class should ally with the liberal bourgeoisie they still see as key, and hunt for suitable bourgeois radicals who, even if ‘subjectively’ anti- revolutionary, Martynov says, contribute ‘objectively, without wishing to do so’, to the revolution. To their left, the Bolsheviks advocate instead a ‘democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants’. Both sides see that ‘progressive’ bourgeois–democratic revolution as desirable, an aspiration at the limits of the possible and sustainable. To most, Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’ is a scandalous eccentricity.

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