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From deflected permanent revolution to uneven and combined development

Davidson, Neil (2010) From deflected permanent revolution to uneven and combined development. International Socialism, 128 (2). ISSN 0020-8736

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“Trotsky is the one for whom there is no room either in pre-1990 Really Existing Socialism or in post-1990 Really Existing Capitalism, in which even those who are nostalgic for Communism do not know what to do with Trotsky’s permanent revolution”.1 Slavoj Zizek wrote these words at the beginning of the millennium and, in this case, he expresses a sentiment with which readers of International Socialism are likely to agree. The question of “what to do” with the concept of permanent revolution is one which this journal first addressed in a systematic way with the publication of Tony Cliff’s major reappraisal of 1963, in which he augmented Trotsky’s original concept with that of “deflected permanent revolution”.2 Cliff’s article was part of a wider revisionist project. In the two years before his assassination in 1940, Trotsky made a number of claims about the world system and committed himself to a series of predictions about its future development. These included: that global capitalism had entered a period of permanent and irreversible decline, that the Russian Stalinist regime was an inherently unstable and historically unique formation which was doomed to collapse, and that the coming revolutions in the colonial and semi-colonial world would be led by the working class, as the Russian Revolution had been in 1917.