The peasants, in contrast, were viewed by classical Marxist theory as not yet prepared to lead a socialist revolution, a consequence of the isolated conditions in which they worked and lived. Moreover, the peasants had an objective interest in obtaining ownership of the land on which they worked, and this was understood in classical Marxist theory as a bourgeois interest in private ownership. However, classical Marxist theory viewed the peasant as prepared to support a worker-led socialist revolution, if the socialist revolution unequivocally supported peasant interests in obtaining land from large-scale landholders. And classical Marxist theory believed that that the socialization of the land and the voluntary collectivization of the peasants would establish the conditions for the emergence of socialist consciousness among peasants (Trotsky 2008:294-95, 625-40, 916-18; Lenin 1997:67).
Trotsky viewed the necessity of proletarian leadership of the peasantry as unique to the Russian Revolution, a consequence of the particular economic and social conditions of Russia. He viewed these conditions as fundamentally different from those that had shaped revolutions in England from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries, in France during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and in Germany during the nineteenth century (Trotsky 2008:38-39).
However, with reference to the colonized region, Trotsky believed that proletarian leadership of the revolution is necessary. He writes: “This appraisal of national wars and revolutions does not by any means imply, however, that the bourgeoisie of the colonial and semicolonial nations have a revolutionary mission. On the contrary, this bourgeoisie of backward countries from the days of its milk teeth grows up as agentry of foreign capital, and notwithstanding its envious hatred of foreign capital, always does and always will in every decisive situation turn up in the same camp with it. . . . The upper circles of the petty bourgeoisie, including the intelligentsia, may take an active and occasionally very noisy part in the national struggles, but they are totally incapable of playing an independent role. Only the working class standing at the head of the nation can carry either a national or an agrarian revolution clear through” (Trotsky 2008:656). Accordingly, Trotsky believed that oppressed nationalities must link their fate with that of the working class by freeing themselves from the leadership of the national bourgeoisie and national petty bourgeoisie, thus subordinating the national revolution to proletarian revolution (Trotsky 2008:655).
Trotsky, however, writing before the emergence of Third World national liberation movements, could not discern the important role played by the petit bourgeoisie in anti-colonial and anti-neocolonial movements, casting its lot with workers and peasants in a revolutionary movement that sought the transformation of the structures of the neocolonial world-system. We will see the important role of petty bourgeois leaders in Third World anti-colonial and anti-neocolonial revolutions in future posts.
Observing the characteristics of Third World revolutions that have emerged since the days of Lenin and Trotsky, we are able to see that the global revolution has passed from a proletarian revolution to a popular revolution, characterized by the active participation and leadership of multiple popular classes and sectors, including the petty bourgeoisie, workers, students, peasants, women, and indigenous/ethnic groups.
Lenin, V.I. 1997. El Estado y La Revolución. Madrid: Fundación Federico Engels.
Trotsky, Leon. 2008. History of the Russian Revolution. Translated by Max Eastman. Chicago: Haymarket Books.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Russian Revolution, Lenin, Trotsky, proletariat, proletarian, vanguard