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In the 1840s Karl Marx wrote that social revolution would involve "carrying out the thoughts of the past," in which "humanity begins no new work but consciously completes the old work". The role of revolutionary thought for Marx, in other words, involved drawing attention to how past revolutionary tasks were failing to be worked through in present political practice; of understanding the reasons why theory and practice had changed and, in turn, how this understanding could be advanced towards the (present) completion of the (old) revolution.
What does it mean today when the challenges to the status quo are no longer clearly identifiable as originating from the Left? While it seems implausible that Left ideology has been transcended because people still explain social currents in terms of Left and right, there is a sense in the present that to end exploitation will demand a measure of realpolitik—a better tactical response—rather than ideological clarification. One has the uneasy feeling that existence of the Left and the right only persist by virtue of the fact the concept of the Left has somehow become settled, static, and trapped in history. But wouldn't this be antithetical to any concept of the Left?

A panel event that took place in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki at 17th of December 2013, organized by the Thessaloniki chapter of the Platypus Affiliated Society.

PANEL DESCRIPTION:

It seems that there are still only two radical ideologies: Anarchism and Marxism. They emerged out of the same crucible - the Industrial Revolution, unsuccessful revolutions in 1848 and 1871, a weak liberalism, the centralization of state power, the rise of the workers movement, and the promise of socialism. They are the revolutionary heritage. All significant radical upsurges of the last 150 years have returned to mine their meaning for the current situation. Our moment seems no different.

There are a few different ways these have been taken up. Recent worldwide square occupations reflect one pattern: some version of Marxist theory - understood as a political economic critique of capitalism - is used to comprehend the world, while an anarchist practice - understood as an anti-hierarchical principle that insists revolution must begin now - is used to organize, in order to change it. Another option: some resist this combination, claiming that Marxism repudiates anti-statist adventurism, and calls for a strategic reorganization of the working class to resist austerity, and perhaps push forward a “New New Deal”. This view remains wedded to a purportedly practical welfarist social democracy, which strengthens the state and manages capital. There is a good deal of hand-waving in both these
orientations - as to the base of politics, as to tactics and strategy, as to the end goal. Finally, there are attempts to leave the grounds of these theories entirely - but these often seem either to land right back in one of the camps or to remain marginal.

To act today we seek to draw up the balance sheet of the 20th century. The historical experience concentrated in these ideas must be unfurled if they are to serve as
compass points. In what ways the return of these ideologies represent an authentic engagement - and in what ways the return of a ghost? Where have the battles left us? What forms do we have for meeting - theoretically and practically - the problems of the day?

QUESTIONS:

What do Marxism and Anarchism have to say to those politicized today? Do they instruct us as to how we might act, now? Must we return to these orientations? If so, how?

Many recent leftist groupings tend toward square occupation and leaderless horizontality, while retaining an unclear, even reformist, ideological orientation toward capitalism and the state. How do you understand the advent of these forms? Do they challenge traditional Marxist theory and ways of organizing? Are they affirmations of Anarchist modes of thinking and practice? In general, what forms of organization are necessitated by the theories we inherit and the tasks of today?

Can you briefly assess the most important splits and breaks between and within both traditions? Does the historical divide between Marxism and Anarchism still matter? What are the significant splits within Marxism and within Anarchism that continue to shape the context?

What are the inalienable values and the end goals of radical politics? Are Marxism and Anarchism ideologies of freedom? Of democracy? Of the working class? How do they handle the objective contradictions of realizing these principles under the conditions of capitalist life?

What should we fight for today - more state or less state? Has history vindicated Marxism or Anarchism or neither at all?

PANELISTS:

Nikos Nikisianis: member of Network for Social and Political rights (participates in Syriza)

Lia Gioka: activist and translator

Tasos Sapounas: member of the communist marxist-leninist party of Greece

Forging a Left in Iran: Possibilities and difficulties

ATTENTION, LOCATION CHANGE: Tisch Hall, 40 W. 4th St. (4th and Mercer, on the South side of the street) Lower Level 2, Room. LC11.

A teach-in on labor, human rights and prospects for a Left in Iran with Ervand Abrahamian

The Platypus Affiliated Society, in collaboration with United for Iran, Amnesty International and the Network of Iranian Unions (NILU) has organized a teach-in on Iran for May 2nd, from 1-5pm at the Tisch Hall, 40 W. 4th St. (4th and Mercer, on the South side of the street) Lower Level 2, Room LC11. The keynote speaker for the evening  will be historian on Iran and outspoken voice on the recent events, CUNY professor Ervand Abrahamian. The day will consist of an opening informational (1-2pm) panel, a workshop (2-3pm), a break with refreshments provided (3-3:30pm) and the keynote address with Ervand Abrahamian followed by an audience Q&A (3:30-5pm).

We would like to raise questions about the direction of the Green movement in Iran, with an especial, though not exclusive, focus on labor organization in Iran, the role it's playing and what it may achieve in the future. This teach-in will produce political discussion around these questions and inform students, faculty, and the public at large of the ongoing events in Iran. We would like to brainstorm (during the workshop especially) what kind of political response would further possibilities in our time for a progressive leftist movement.

Please register for this free event at (we need a count for refreshments): http://iran.platypus1917.org/
Facebook Invite: Iran Teach-in with Ervand Abrahamian

This event was organized by the platypus affiliated society with the help of united for iran, amnesty international and the network of iranian labor unions (NILU).

http://newyork.platypus1917.org/

http://united4iran.org/

http://www.amnesty.org/

http://iranlaborreport.com/

The Platypus Affiliated Society presents
30 Years of the Islamic Revolution in Iran: The Tragedy of the Left
6:00pm Sunday, September 13, 2009
at The Brecht Forum 451 West St New York, NY

The Platypus Affiliated Society presents:

30 Years of the Islamic Revolution in Iran

The Tragedy of the Left

6:00pm Sunday, September 13, 2009

at The Brecht Forum 451 West St New York, NY

 

A panel discussion with:

Ervand Abrahamian Professor of History at Baruch College, CUNY and author of Iran: Between Two Revolutions, 1982

Siyaves Azeri Head of the Committee of International Relations of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran

Hamid Dabashi Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and the author of Iran: A People Interrupted, 2007

Moderated by Pam C. Nogales C. (Platypus)

By tailing after events, the Left betrays its revolutionary history. The Iranian election protests of the last three months have been no exception. Leftists have hailed the amorphous social upheaval in the streets of Tehran as a step towards the transformation and progressive “evolution” of Iranian society. Yet, however optimistic this position may sound, celebration without understanding only obfuscates our political situation. Undoubtedly, the Left today should demand the overthrow of theocratic regimes. But here is the importance of ideology: how the regime is overthrown — who participates in this act and how they understand their political practice — has real effects. In 1977-79, the international Left overlooked this problem by uncritically supporting those seeking to overthrow the Shah. In so doing, the Left helped a right-wing popular movement establish the theocratic dictatorial government the protesters fight against today. How are we as leftists to make sense of this political failure so as to help rebuild an emancipatory Left today? In the spirit of renewal, Platypus asserts that if the Left is to change the world, it must first transform itself!

Past events: /category/multimedia/

Recommended Platypus Review articles:

1. 30 Years of the Islamic Revolution: An Interview with Ervand Abrahamian

2. The Failure of the Islamic Revolution: The nature of the present crisis in Iran

IMG caption: A Mujahidin-i-khalq demonstration in Tehran during the revolution. The figure on the left is Dr. Ali Shari’ati

Questions for the panelists

Question 1:

Who were the major political players in the Iranian Revolution—individuals, organizations, classes? What role did the Left in Iran play in preparing, carrying through, and influencing the outcome of the Revolution? How, if at all, did international Leftist elements influence the course of events?

Question 2:

How do you see the Iranian Revolution in relation to the history of modern revolutions marked by, among others, 1789, 1848, 1917?

Question 3:

Why is it that, historically, Leftists have understood secular movements as offering greater possibilities for the attainment of human freedom than those guided by religious commitment?

Question 4:

Some believe that Iranians suffer from an inherent traditional disposition that intractably blocks the influence and efficacy of a secular Marxist politics — a politics ultimately too “Western” to have any purchase in a place like Iran. How does this rather narrow particularistic argument impede Leftists today from learning from past political failures on the Left? How do we explain the failure of a Marxist politics to capture the political imagination of Iranians via a retrospective look at the trajectory of the Left—before, during, and after the Iranian Revolution? How do we understand the political disenchantment in Iran as part of our time, i.e., as modern, and not as the stubborn remnants of “tradition”?

Question 5:

One of the fundamental axes around which oppositional politics has orbited over the course of the twentieth century is imperialism and its relation to capitalism. Therefore an understanding of how imperialism and capitalism are related—and consequently, how to oppose one, the other, or both—has proved central in the self-understanding of political actors and the choices they and their organizations have made. At issue here is how a Left schooled by a generation that may be loosely called “third wordlist”—with an emphasis on the extortive role of the First to the Third World, the death of revolutionary potential in the First (and Second) World, and the importance of resistance to the major capitalist hegemons—understood itself and thus acted based on these understandings. Overall, how did understandings of capitalism impact political decisions and alliances both within revolutionary Iran and in the global Left?

How did Leftists in Iran understand the relationship of Iran to modern capitalism? What were the essential relationships that defined capitalism in their understanding—between bourgeoisie and proletariat? Between center and periphery? How was the anti-imperialism of Khomeini the same or different than the anti-imperialism of Shari'ati and other Leftists—and how did they perceive their interrelations?

Question 6:

How was “the West” understood by Iranian revolutionaries? Was there any revolutionary potential invested in the “developed” capitalist nations? Was the proletariat of the West still a potentially revolutionary force? How did Iranian leftists understand the internal dynamics of Western societies vis a vis their own political situation?

Question 7:

What was the range of responses to the Iranian Revolution by the International Left? How was Iranian society understood? Was someone like Michel Foucault, in his fascination with the religious elements of the Revolution and his look towards the Revolution as providing a new and different model of revolutionary (post-) politics, overcoming the revolutionary heritage of 1789, typical or an outlier? How did these understandings affect the role the international Left would play over the course of the Iranian Revolution?

Question 8:

What were the explicit goals of the Iranian Revolution? Were they met? Could they have been met? Why did the Iranian Revolution end with an “Islamic Republic?” What is an “Islamic Republic” and how does it relate to or deviate from the goals of the Revolution as a whole?

Can we imagine a counterfactual case where the Iranian Revolution did not end as it did? What would have had to have been different in 1977-1979 for another, more progressive, outcome to have occurred? How far back historically can we trace the conditions that made for the Left’s failures in the Revolution? What political decisions might have been made in the Revolution itself that could have shaped differently the course of events?

Question 9

Do you think that the idea and the reality of the Islamic Republic should be challenged? Why are Leftists today not calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic?

What are the ideas that have captured the political imaginations of the Tehran protestors today? Are they similar or different to the ones that inspired the revolutionaries of 1977-1979? How does the recrudescence of these ideas affect our understanding of the protests today? What does it say about the protesters self-understanding when they rally under the slogan, “Khomeini, where are you? Mousavi is alone!”?

KARL KORSCH'S SEMINAL ESSAY “Marxism and Philosophy” (1923) was first published in English, translated by Fred Halliday, in 1970 by Monthly Review Press. In 2008, they reprinted the volume, which also contains some important shorter essays, as part of their new “Classics” series.

The following letter that I wrote will be published in The Nation.

I wrote in response to the article "Rising to the Occasion" (published elsewhere as "The 'S' Word") by Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed) and Bill Fletcher, Jr. (spokesperson for the Maoist Freedom Road Socialist Organization and co-founder of Progressives for Obama), and forum of articles in reply, under the title "Re-Imagining Socialism," by Robert Pollin, Tariq Ali, Immanuel Wallerstein, Rebecca Solnit, Christian Parenti, Doug Henwood, Mike Davis, Michael Albert, et al.

You can find these articles at:

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090323/ehrenreich_fletcher

-- Chris

* * *

The articles to which I am primarily responding include:

Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher, Jr., "Rising to the Occasion"

Rebecca Solnit, "The Revolution Has Already Occurred"

Robert Pollin, "Be Utopian: Demand the Realistic"

Christian Parenti, "Limits and Horizons"

(etc.)

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090323/ehrenreich_fletcher

* * *

Dear editors of The Nation,

Ehrenreich and Fletcher's article "Rising to the Occasion" and the Nation's forum of articles in reply exhibit a glaring disparity between the breadth and depth of the crisis being depicted and a striking timidity of response: in particular, Pollin's reversal of the 1960s-era slogan, "Be realistic, demand the impossible!," that we should now instead "be utopian, demand the realistic," support and seek to push further Obama's reforms.

But there was an earlier formulation of reality and utopia by C. Wright Mills in his 1960 "Letter to the New Left," the injunction that any purported Left "be realistic in our utopianism." After the 1950s-era declaration of the "end of ideology," Mills recognized that the only realistic possibility of political responsibility was to be found in the "utopian" and frankly "ideological" program of socialism, what Ehrenreich and Fletcher treat as the dirty "S" word.

Mills warned that socialism needed to be reinvented, but could only be so on the basis of the best of the Marxist tradition. Mills enjoined his readers to "forget Victorian Marxism" but nevertheless "re-read Lenin and Luxemburg," and recall what socialism once meant, what Marxism had sought to achieve.

But what we have now is the rehash of the worst associated with socialism since the 1920s-30s and 1960-70s, the undigested Stalinism and authoritarianism of the nation-state, as well as the opportunistic compromises of the Popular Front and worshiping of the accomplished fact that didn't bring about "socialism" and actually made us forget what it meant.

For the global problems of capitalism will not find solutions derived from Lula's Brazil or Chavez's Venezuela, Swedish policies in the 1970s-80s, take-overs of closed factories in Argentina, or community gardens in Detroit's emptied lots.

Such a perspective amounts to what Mills called the politically irresponsible combination of "liberal rhetoric and conservative default" in the on-going absence of a true Left, the radical politics of a Marxian socialism.

While there are indeed much worse things than living under the Swedish welfare state or eating home-grown vegetables, this is not a realistic prospect for saving the majority of the world's people, nor even the majority of Americans, from the ravages of capitalism.

When Parenti -- who co-authored with Featherstone and Henwood a fine critique of "Left anti-intellectualism" in "Action Will Be Taken" (2002), invoking Adorno's critique of unthinking "actionism" -- now notes the virtue of Marxism so even a semi-literate Indian public could grasp the dynamics of international capitalism better than their American counterparts, we have arrived at the reversal of Marx's 11th Thesis on Feuerbach, that hitherto we have tried only to understand the world while the point is to change it. For we cannot even understand our world and its problems on the basis of such a weak political perspective for changing it.

Only what the present "Left" deems "utopian," "full-throttle socialism" and "anarchism, as in direct democracy," not only in "little bits and pieces," but "enlarged and clarified" -- but beyond anything envisioned by our authors here -- starting and pursued to conclusion in the core of global capital, such as the U.S., where the crisis and its potential solution find their nexus, has any real hope of a true diagnosis of our problems and a prognosis for overcoming them.

While the revolution envisioned by Marx and his best followers has never yet occurred, it still might and indeed must take place, if we are to begin to address the manifest problems of capitalism recognized clearly so long ago. This is our true limit and horizon, however constantly failed and betrayed, whether we recognize it or not.

Sincerely,
Chris Cutrone, for the Platypus Affiliated Society
www.platypus1917.com

The following letter that I wrote will be published in The Nation.

I wrote in response to the article "Rising to the Occasion" (published elsewhere as "The 'S' Word") by Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed) and Bill Fletcher, Jr. (spokesperson for the Maoist Freedom Road Socialist Organization and co-founder of Progressives for Obama), and forum of articles in reply, under the title "Re-Imagining Socialism," by Robert Pollin, Tariq Ali, Immanuel Wallerstein, Rebecca Solnit, Christian Parenti, Doug Henwood, Mike Davis, Michael Albert, et al.

You can find these articles at:

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090323/ehrenreich_fletcher

-- Chris

* * *

The articles to which I am primarily responding include:

Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher, Jr., "Rising to the Occasion"

Rebecca Solnit, "The Revolution Has Already Occurred"

Robert Pollin, "Be Utopian: Demand the Realistic"

Christian Parenti, "Limits and Horizons"

(etc.)

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090323/ehrenreich_fletcher

* * *

Dear editors of The Nation,

Ehrenreich and Fletcher's article "Rising to the Occasion" and the Nation's forum of articles in reply exhibit a glaring disparity between the breadth and depth of the crisis being depicted and a striking timidity of response: in particular, Pollin's reversal of the 1960s-era slogan, "Be realistic, demand the impossible!," that we should now instead "be utopian, demand the realistic," support and seek to push further Obama's reforms.

But there was an earlier formulation of reality and utopia by C. Wright Mills in his 1960 "Letter to the New Left," the injunction that any purported Left "be realistic in our utopianism." After the 1950s-era declaration of the "end of ideology," Mills recognized that the only realistic possibility of political responsibility was to be found in the "utopian" and frankly "ideological" program of socialism, what Ehrenreich and Fletcher treat as the dirty "S" word.

Mills warned that socialism needed to be reinvented, but could only be so on the basis of the best of the Marxist tradition. Mills enjoined his readers to "forget Victorian Marxism" but nevertheless "re-read Lenin and Luxemburg," and recall what socialism once meant, what Marxism had sought to achieve.

But what we have now is the rehash of the worst associated with socialism since the 1920s-30s and 1960-70s, the undigested Stalinism and authoritarianism of the nation-state, as well as the opportunistic compromises of the Popular Front and worshiping of the accomplished fact that didn't bring about "socialism" and actually made us forget what it meant.

For the global problems of capitalism will not find solutions derived from Lula's Brazil or Chavez's Venezuela, Swedish policies in the 1970s-80s, take-overs of closed factories in Argentina, or community gardens in Detroit's emptied lots.

Such a perspective amounts to what Mills called the politically irresponsible combination of "liberal rhetoric and conservative default" in the on-going absence of a true Left, the radical politics of a Marxian socialism.

While there are indeed much worse things than living under the Swedish welfare state or eating home-grown vegetables, this is not a realistic prospect for saving the majority of the world's people, nor even the majority of Americans, from the ravages of capitalism.

When Parenti -- who co-authored with Featherstone and Henwood a fine critique of "Left anti-intellectualism" in "Action Will Be Taken" (2002), invoking Adorno's critique of unthinking "actionism" -- now notes the virtue of Marxism so even a semi-literate Indian public could grasp the dynamics of international capitalism better than their American counterparts, we have arrived at the reversal of Marx's 11th Thesis on Feuerbach, that hitherto we have tried only to understand the world while the point is to change it. For we cannot even understand our world and its problems on the basis of such a weak political perspective for changing it.

Only what the present "Left" deems "utopian," "full-throttle socialism" and "anarchism, as in direct democracy," not only in "little bits and pieces," but "enlarged and clarified" -- but beyond anything envisioned by our authors here -- starting and pursued to conclusion in the core of global capital, such as the U.S., where the crisis and its potential solution find their nexus, has any real hope of a true diagnosis of our problems and a prognosis for overcoming them.

While the revolution envisioned by Marx and his best followers has never yet occurred, it still might and indeed must take place, if we are to begin to address the manifest problems of capitalism recognized clearly so long ago. This is our true limit and horizon, however constantly failed and betrayed, whether we recognize it or not.

Sincerely,
Chris Cutrone, for the Platypus Affiliated Society
www.platypus1917.com

From Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), Results and Prospects (1906), VII. The Pre-Requisites of Socialism:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/tpr/rp07.htm

"Undoubtedly, the concentration of production, the development of technique and the growth of consciousness among the masses are essential pre-requisites for socialism. But these processes take place simultaneously, and not only give an impetus to each other, but also retard and limit each other. Each of these processes at a higher level demands a certain development of another process at a lower level. But the complete development of each of them is incompatible with the complete development of the others.

"The development of technique undoubtedly finds its ideal limit in a single automatic mechanism which takes raw materials from the womb of nature and throws them at the feet of man in the form of finished articles of consumption. If the existence of the capitalist system were not limited by class relations and the revolutionary struggle that arises from them, we should have some grounds for supposing that technique, approaching the ideal of a single automatic mechanism within the framework of the capitalist system, would thereby automatically abolish capitalism.

"The concentration of production arising from the laws of competition inherently tends towards proletarianizing the whole population. Isolating this tendency, we should be right in supposing that capitalism would carry out its work to the end, if the process of proletarianization were not interrupted by a revolution; but this is inevitable, given a certain relationship of forces, long before capitalism has converted the majority of the nation into a reserve army, confined to prison-like barracks.

"Further -- consciousness, thanks to the experience of the everyday struggle and the conscious efforts of the socialist parties, undoubtedly grows progressively, and, isolating this process, we could in imagination follow this growth until the majority of the people were included in the trade unions and political organizations, united by a spirit of solidarity and singleness of aim. If this process could really increase quantitatively without being affected qualitatively, socialism could be realized peaceably by a unanimous, conscious 'civil act' some time in the 21st or the 22nd century.

"But the whole point lies in the fact that the processes which are historically pre-requisite for socialism do not develop in isolation, but limit each other, and, reaching a certain stage, determined by numerous circumstances -- which, however, is far removed from the mathematical limit of these processes -- they undergo a qualitative change, and in their complex combination bring about what we understand by the name of social revolution.

"We will begin with the last-mentioned process -- the growth of consciousness. This takes place, as we know, not in academies, in which it might be possible artificially to detain the proletariat for fifty, a hundred or five hundred years, but in the course of all-round life in capitalist society, on the basis of unceasing class struggle. The growth of the consciousness of the proletariat transforms this class struggle, gives it a deeper and more purposeful character, which in its turn calls out a corresponding reaction on the part of the dominant class. The struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie will reach its denouement long before large-scale enterprises begin to dominate in all branches of industry.

"Further, it is of course true that the growth of political consciousness depends upon the growth of the numbers of the proletariat, and proletarian dictatorship presupposes that the numbers of the proletariat will be sufficiently large to overcome the resistance of the bourgeois counter-revolution. But this does not at all mean that the 'overwhelming majority of the population must be proletarians and the 'overwhelming majority' of the proletariat conscious socialists. It is clear, of course, that the conscious revolutionary army of the proletariat must be stronger than the counter-revolutionary army of capital, while the intermediate, doubtful or indifferent strata of the population must be in such a position that the regime of proletarian dictatorship will attract them to the side of the revolution and not repel them to the side of its enemies. Naturally, proletarian policy must consciously take this into consideration. . . .

"Socialism is not merely a question of equal distribution but also a question of planned production. Socialism, that is, co-operative production on a large scale, is possible only when the development of productive forces has reached the stage at which large enterprises are more productive than small ones. The more the large enterprises outweigh the smaller, i.e., the more developed technique has become, the more advantageous economically does socialized production become, and, consequently, the higher must the cultural level of the whole population be as a result of equal distribution based upon planned production.

"This first objective pre-requisite of socialism has been in existence a long time -- ever since the time when social division of labour led to the division of labour in manufacture. It has existed to an even greater extent since the time when manufacture was replaced by factory, machine production. Large undertakings became more and more advantageous, which also meant that the socialization of these large undertakings would have made society more and more wealthy. . . .

"What level must social differentiation have attained in order that the second pre-requisite for socialism may be realized? In other words, what must be the relative numerical weight of the proletariat? Must it make up a half, two-thirds or nine-tenths of the population? It would be an absolutely hopeless undertaking to try to define the bare arithmetical limits of this second prerequisite for socialism. In the first place, in such a schematic effort, we should have to decide the question of who is to be included in the category 'proletariat'. Should we include the large class of semi-proletarian semi-peasants? Should we include the reserve masses of the urban proletariat -- who on the one hand merge into the parasitical proletariat of beggars and thieves, and on the other fill the city streets as small traders playing a parasitical role in relation to the economic system as a whole? This question is not at all a simple one.

"The importance of the proletariat depends entirely on the role it plays in large-scale production. The bourgeoisie relies, in its struggle for political domination, upon its economic power. Before it manages to secure political power, it concentrates the country’s means of production in its own hands. This is what determines its specific weight in society. The proletariat, however, in spite of all co-operative phantasmagoria, will be deprived of the means of production right up to the actual socialist revolution. Its social power comes from the fact that the means of production which are in the hands of the bourgeoisie can be set in motion only by the proletariat. From the point of view of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat is also one of the means of production, constituting, in conjunction with the others, a single unified mechanism. The proletariat, however, is the only non-automatic part of this mechanism, and in spite of all efforts it cannot be reduced to the condition of an automaton. . . .

"Now we come to the third pre-requisite of socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Politics is the plane upon which the objective pre-requisites of socialism are intersected by the subjective ones. Under certain definite social-economic conditions, a class consciously sets itself a certain aim -- the conquest of political power; it unites its forces, weighs up the strength of the enemy and estimates the situation. Even in this third sphere, however, the proletariat is not absolutely free. Besides the subjective factors -- consciousness, preparedness and initiative, the development of which also have their own logic -- the proletariat in carrying out its policy comes up against a number of objective factors such as the policy of the ruling classes and the existing State institutions (such as the army, the class schools, the State church), international relations, etc.

"We will deal first of all with the subjective conditions: the preparedness of the proletariat for a socialist revolution. It is, of course, not sufficient that the standard of technique has rendered socialist economy advantageous from the point of view of the productivity of social labour. It is not sufficient, either, that the social differentiation based on this technique has created a proletariat which is the main class by virtue of its numbers and its economic role, and which is objectively interested in socialism. It is further necessary that this class should be conscious of its objective interests; it is necessary that it should understand that there is no way out for it except through socialism; it is necessary that it should combine in an army sufficiently powerful to conquer political power in open battle. . . .

"But many socialist ideologues (ideologues in the bad sense of the word -- those who stand everything on its head) speak of preparing the proletariat for socialism in the sense of its being morally regenerated. The proletariat, and even 'humanity' in general, must first of all cast out its old egoistical nature, and altruism must become predominant in social life, etc. As we are as yet far from such a state of affairs, and 'human nature' changes very slowly, socialism is put off for several centuries. Such a point of view probably seems very realistic and evolutionary, and so forth, but as a matter of fact it is really nothing but shallow moralizing.

"It is assumed that a socialist psychology must be developed before the coming of socialism, in other words that it is possible for the masses to acquire a socialist psychology under capitalism. One must not confuse here the conscious striving towards socialism with socialist psychology. The latter presupposes the absence of egotistical motives in economic life; whereas the striving towards socialism and the struggle for it arise from the class psychology of the proletariat. However many points of contact there may be between the class psychology of the proletariat and classless socialist psychology, nevertheless a deep chasm divides them.

"The joint struggle against exploitation engenders splendid shoots of idealism, comradely solidarity and self-sacrifice, but at the same time the individual struggle for existence, the ever-yawning abyss of poverty, the differentiation in the ranks of the workers themselves, the pressure of the ignorant masses from below, and the corrupting influence of the bourgeois parties do not permit these splendid shoots to develop fully. For all that, in spite of his remaining philistinely egoistic, and without his exceeding in 'human' worth the average representative of the bourgeois classes, the average worker knows from experience that his simplest requirements and natural desires can be satisfied only on the ruins of the capitalist system. . . .

"If socialism aimed at creating a new human nature within the limits of the old society it would be nothing more than a new edition of the moralistic utopias. Socialism does not aim at creating a socialist psychology as a pre-requisite to socialism but at creating socialist conditions of life as a pre-requisite to socialist psychology."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/tpr/rp07.htm