Trotsky, Cárdenas and Chávez (11) - permanent revolution

Permanent revolution in Mexico

Despite its relative economic backwardness in the 1930s, Trotsky did not rule out the possibility that Mexican workers might seize power – even before their counterparts in the US. (Latin American problems: a transcript, Writings supplement 1934-40, p.785) However he was concerned about a mechanical interpretation of permanent revolution as applied to Mexico by some of the LCI.

He argued: “The working class of Mexico participates, cannot help but participate, in the movement, in the struggle for the independence of the country, for the democratisation of the agrarian relations, and so on… Not to pose an abstract socialist dictatorship to the real needs and desires of the masses, but starting from these daily struggles to oppose the national bourgeoisie on the basis of the worker’s needs, winning the leadership of the workers and gaining the power…
“In the agrarian question we support the expropriations. That does not signify, of course, that we support the national bourgeoisie. In every case where it is a direct fight against the foreign imperialists or their reactionary fascist agents, we give revolutionary support, preserving the full political independence of our organisation, our programme, of our party, and the full freedom of criticism.” (Latin American problems: a transcript, 4 November 1938, Writings supplement 1934-40, pp.784-785)

This did mean a bloc with the Mexican national bourgeoisie and its state: “The Fourth International will defend the Mexican stage [state?] against imperialist intervention… But as the Mexican section of the Fourth International, it is not our state and we must be independent of the state. In this sense we are not opposed to state capitalism in Mexico; but the first thing we demand is our own representation of workers before this state. We cannot permit the leaders of the trade unions to become functionaries of the state. To attempt to conquer the state in this way is absolute idiocy. It is not possible in this manner peacefully to conquer power. It is a petty bourgeois dream.”

He added: “I believe we must fight with the greatest energy this idea that the state can be seized by stealing bits of the power. It is the history of the Guomindang. In Mexico the power is in the hands of the national bourgeoisie, and we can conquer power only by conquering the majority of the workers and a great part of the peasantry, and then overthrowing the bourgeoisie. There is no other possibility.” (Latin American problems: a transcript, Writings supplement 1934-40, p.792, p.793)