WeeklyWorker

07.01.2016
How revolutionary was the bourgeoisie?

The Davidson papers

Mike Macnair reviews Neil Davidson

Neil Davidson, Holding fast to an image of the past: explorations in the Marxist tradition Haymarket Books 2014, 400pp, ISBN 978-1608463336, £15.99

Neil Davidson, We cannot escape history: nations, states and revolutions Haymarket Books 2015, 500pp, ISBN 978-1608464678, £17.99

It is, I guess, a symptom of my own advancing age that my initial reaction to receiving a review copy of We cannot escape history was to think that Neil Davidson is a bit young to be publishing a three-volume set of his collected papers: sort of like the old cliché of the policemen getting younger ...

The first volume, Holding fast to an image of the past, is in substance a collection of seven book reviews and review essays with five other essays, ‘thematised’ as being about individuals in or related to the Marxist tradition (Adam Smith can be included because of his influence on Marx). The second volume, We cannot escape history, is mainly essays around questions about the ‘bourgeois revolutions’. As such, its interest suffers from the fact that Davidson has already published 840 pages worth of extended reflection on the same issue in How revolutionary were the bourgeois revolutions (2012).1 The third volume, Nation-states: consciousness and competition, focusing on the national question, is due out in February.

Why?

‘Collected papers’ or ‘selected papers’ volumes have several uses. I have several volumes of this sort on my bookshelves at work, because academics writing about Roman law or about English or European legal history commonly publish in a mix of journals and edited books (collections of essays) published in several countries, so that even with the resources of the Bodleian Library to hand, some important work by eminent Professor X will not be available in the library unless it’s reprinted in such a collection.

The old Selected Works of Marx and Engels, or of Lenin, Mary-Alice Waters’ Rosa Luxemburg speaks (1970), Isaac Deutscher’s Trotsky reader The age of permanent revolution (1973), and so on, performed a related function, of making a selection of texts available to readers (perhaps activists) who did not have access to a good library.

On the other hand, actual Collected works sets, properly done, including all sorts of ephemera and correspondence, provide both context for individual works, and a much clearer picture of the evolution of the thought of the author, than is available from individual texts. Hal Draper’s Karl Marx’s theory of revolution showed how much could be achieved in deeper understanding by actually using Marx and Engels’ Collected works, as opposed to sticking to the ‘big texts’.

Yet another possibility has been generated by US ‘publish or perish’, UK ‘research assessment’, and similar mechanisms: this is that academics are commonly not allowed, after the PhD, to take the time required to produce an actual monograph with a connected argument running through it; instead, they produce a series of essays on related themes, published individually in journals, and then string these essays together with an introduction and conclusion to make a book.

Comrade Davidson’s two volumes so far don’t quite fit any of these models. The larger part of the reviews in Holding fast and several of the essays in We cannot escape, are from International Socialism journal, and as such are available free, globally, online; the Socialist Workers Party has not, as yet, responded to Davidson’s split from its ranks by taking them down as a damnatio memoriae, and does not look likely to do so. So it’s not a ‘making available’ project.

The essays cover a relatively short period (1996-2015) and are not presented in chronological order, so that this is not a ‘collected works’ and does not in any sense present an evolution of comrade Davidson’s ideas. We may get more of this from the next volume due out in February, on nationalism, since there is a remarkable shift between comrade Davidson’s hostility to Scots nationalism at the time of The origins of Scottish nationhood (2000) and Discovering the Scottish revolution (2003) and his more recent support for a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum and for the left-nationalist Rise group. But don’t bet on it.

There is no sign at all that comrade Davidson intends to print his contributions to debates connected with the SWP crisis (he was already somewhat ‘dissident’ by 2008) and his own departure, though some is on the web.

In Holding fast, Davidson has largely rewritten his previous material on Alasdair MacIntyre’s ‘Marxist period’ in the 1950s-60s. But he has not reassessed at all the judgment that MacIntyre in 1961 left the Socialist Labour League run by Gerry Healy’s sectarian clique in favour of Tony Cliff’s open and democratic International Socialists. Now it might be perfectly reasonable to conclude that the 1960s IS was open and democratic, with bureaucratic centralism arriving only later. But writing after 2013 some mention of the issue is surely called for.

So not a ‘collected works’ any more than ‘collected papers’ or ‘selected works’ - nor pseudo-monographs constructed out of a series of articles. The articles in Holding fast ... are too diverse to amount to a pseudo-monograph, even on historical materialism as a method. We cannot escape is closer to being pseudo-monographic, but Davidson’s actual monograph on the topic has already been published - How revolutionary.

So what is the function, or perhaps the message, of this product? We can look at it, in a sense, from two directions: that of the publishers, Haymarket, and that of the author. Haymarket is the publishing house of the US International Socialist Organisation. Once (and for a long time) the SWP/International Socialist Tendency franchise in the US, the ISO was expelled from the IST in 2001 for (allegedly) supporting a minority faction in the IST’s Greek affiliate and (allegedly) failing to ‘turn’ adequately to the ‘anti-globalisation movement’, ie, failing to pretend to be anarchists. The SWP leadership alleged that this showed ‘sectarianism’. Since the break, however, the ISO has pursued a more open policy towards the rest of the left.

From the ISO and Haymarket, therefore, publishing Neil Davidson’s collected papers sends the message: see, the departed SWP opposition includes important theoretical writers (even if Richard Seymour’s theoretical prominence has been much reduced by the ‘chair-gate’ farce together with the predictable failure of the Syriza government as an anti-austerity project). Such a message is perhaps affirmed by William Keach’s rave review of Holding fast in the ISO’s International Socialist Review, which celebrates Davidson as providing an alternative to dogmatism.2

What about comrade Davidson? I guess that it must be flattering to have a publisher agree to produce one’s ‘collected papers’. But maybe comrade Davidson has an agenda in connection with the politics of the SWP split. The line of Alex Callinicos generally was that the SWP oppositionists were succumbing to ‘new reformism’ (and to ‘feminism’): that beyond the ‘Delta dispute’ and related issues of party democracy were substantive breaks with ‘revolutionary politics’ - meaning Cliffism.

It is possibly also relevant that Alex Callinicos, reviewing How revolutionary for the ISJ in 2013, flagged up Davidson’s argument that ‘permanent revolution’ was no longer a relevant strategy, while ‘combined and uneven development’ remained a fundamental Trotsky insight; Callinicos insists that permanent revolution is still fundamental. A similar approach was taken by Dominic Alexander, reviewing the book for Counterfire.3 Davidson has replied to Callinicos, and to a shorter comment by Donny Gluckstein, in the April 2014 issue of the ISJ, reprinted in Chapter 12 of We cannot escape.

In these contexts, perhaps Davidson, by republishing a good deal of his work over the last fifteen years without the polemics associated with the SWP crisis, is saying to the reader: “I am still a revolutionary Marxist”, or, more specifically: “I am still a Cliffite: my organisational departure from the SWP represents only a limited critique of the recent SWP leadership, not a critique of the fundamental Cliffite project”.

What?

At this point it is appropriate to outline briefly the content of the two books and to notice, equally briefly, a few issues I don’t propose to discuss further. The one issue which I do think is worth discussing further is mainly posed by We cannot escape, but also surfaces in a few places in Holding fast. This is the interlocked questions of ‘permanent revolution’, ‘combined and uneven development’, ‘bourgeois revolution from above’, ‘deflected permanent revolution’, and Cliff state capitalism. It is worth discussing because, in my opinion, Callinicos and Alexander are right that Davidson’s reinterpretation of the issues in How revolutionary - and in We cannot escape - poses large and debatable questions for the Cliffite project, and ones which Davidson’s reaffirmation of his Cliffism by republishing a lot of substantially orthodox Cliffite work doesn’t solve.

Holding fast is a collection of seven book reviews or review essays, and five other essays. The book reviews are of the Verso reissue of Deutscher’s biography of Trotsky; Verso’s reprint of Victor Kiernan’s history of US imperialism, and Neil Smith on globalisation; Dave Renton on the Anti-Nazi League; the third edition of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined communities; a response to Chris Nineham’s review of Esther Leslie’s biography of Walter Benjamin; Naomi Klein’s The shock doctrine; Neil Rafeek’s Communist women in Scotland; and Eric Hobsbawm’s How to change the world.

The other essays, while not book reviews, are nonetheless broadly in the mould of ‘literature reviews’: on the political evolution of Tom Nairn; on Marx and Engels on the Scottish highlands; on Alasdair MacIntyre as a Marxist; on Antonio Gramsci’s reception in Scotland; and on the uses of Adam Smith.

The diversity of the material makes it hard to comment coherently. I reviewed Davidson and Paul Blackledge’s collection Alasdair MacIntyre’s engagement with Marxism in 2010, and Davidson’s updating of his account of MacIntyre’s ‘Marxist’ period does not seem to have added much.

Overall, I find the essays most interesting when they are on issues of Scottish history: thus Tom Nairn’s evolution, Marx and Engels on the highlands, and to a more limited extent the reception of Gramsci in Scotland.

They are least interesting when they are fairly orthodox SWP journalism: thus, most clearly the piece on Deutscher; the use of Renton on the ANL to ‘carry’ a (very weak) argument - that neither the ANL, nor Respect, was a people’s front; the review of Rafeek’s Communist women, which unrealistically imagines the SWP playing the good parts of the role of the old ‘official’ CPGB.

More generally - and this is applicable to both books, as Callinicos and Gluckstein commented on How revolutionary - comrade Davidson shows a certain tendency to substitute the ‘literature review’ which begins the standard social science PhD for the interesting explicit fully rigorous analytic and/or dialectical theory, and/or empirical research which is supposed to follow.

Contrary to what is perhaps implicit in Callinicos and Gluckstein’s criticisms, I do not think this problem is uniquely Davidsonian: there is a good deal of the problem in other ISJ authors and it is reflected in the common sprawling character of pieces in Historical Materialism. Part of what is involved seems to be a sort of ‘pseudo’ version of ‘academic courtesy’ which entails unwillingness to dismiss sufficiently summarily nonsense arguments which happen to be fashionable and produced by leftists. For example, the short (and obviously correct) grounds Davidson gives for rejecting the argument of Naomi Klein’s Shock doctrine should not need the 23 pages he takes to discuss it.

In We cannot escape the shape and balance of the book is different. The opening essay is the long write-up of Davidson’s contribution to the 2004 Deutscher Memorial Lecture (his Discovering the Scottish revolution shared the Deutscher prize with ‘Brennerite’ Benno Teschke’s Myth of 1648). There follow two pieces on pre-capitalist societies: chapter 2, also from 2004, is a piece from ISJ defending John Haldon’s ‘tributary mode of production’ against Chris Harman on the ‘Asiatic mode of production’,4 and chapter 3 is a contribution to a Historical Materialism symposium on Chris Wickham’s Framing the early middle ages, based on a 2006 conference paper, though only published in 2011.

There are then four chapters on the bourgeois revolutions: chapter 4 ‘Scotland: birthplace of passive revolution’, from a Capital & Class symposium on ‘passive revolution’; chapter 5, a 2007 ISJ review of Henry Heller’s The bourgeois revolution in France; chapter 6, ‘The American Civil War considered as a bourgeois revolution’, from a 2011 Historical Materialism symposium on John Ashworth’s Slavery, capitalism and politics in the antebellum republic; and chapter 7, a 2007 ISJ review of Pierre Broué’s The German revolution (the translation by John Archer published by Historical Materialism in 2005).

The third part consists of five chapters more directly addressed to the theoretical issues: chapter 8, ‘From uneven to combined development’; chapter 9, ‘China: unevenness, combination, revolution?’; chapter 10, ‘Third world revolution’; chapter 11, ‘From deflected permanent revolution to the law of uneven and combined development’; and chapter 12, which I have already referred to, Davidson’s reply to Callinicos’s and Gluckstein’s criticisms of How revolutionary ... The book closes with an ‘Afterword’ explaining its title (a quotation from Abraham Lincoln) and attempting to draw together some of the threads.

Permanent revolution ...

Why are other writers from the Cliffite tradition (Callinicos, Alexander) so concerned about Davidson’s argument that ‘permanent revolution’ has ceased to be strategically fundamental, while ‘combined and uneven development’ remains theoretically fundamental?

Their reasoning is markedly problematic. Callinicos merely offers a distinction between the (alleged) marginality of democratic demands in the imperialist centres (which reflects merely the economism, or more exactly left-syndicalism, of the far left), and their (alleged) centrality in the semicolonial periphery - where, as Tunisia showed, revolution can be explicitly triggered by the economic impact of ‘structural adjustment’, and as Egypt has shown, working class class-political independence and the need for the construction of unions, cooperatives, mutuals and so on as an alternative to Islamist ‘welfare’ operations are fundamental to any real strategy. Alexander, on the other hand, deploys the usual use of the alleged ‘non-dialectical’ character of his opponents’ arguments; and insists ‘deflected permanent revolution’ is still relevant because what is involved is a mode of escape from imperialist domination.

Thus Callinicos’s interpretation of permanent revolution entails tailing the leaderships of ‘democratic’ movements in the Arab Spring, while Alexander’s entails tailing the leaderships of ‘national’ movements against imperialism - reflecting the conjunctural differences between the SWP’s ‘Sunni’ line and Counterfire’s ‘Shia’ line on Syria at the time when these articles were written. In both cases, however, the need to create some sort of perspective which includes ‘permanent revolution’ is taken for granted, so that Davidson ‘problematising’ this is seen as objectionable as such.

The fundamental problem is that Davidson’s argument calls into question the absolute foundations of the political basis of the Cliffite tradition: its ‘unorthodox Trotskyism’. It does so for two reasons. The first is that debates about ‘state capitalism’ and the Russian revolution in the 1920s, which were partly between Stalinists and Trotskyists, were also part of debates which opposed communists (including those who later became Trotskyists) to the ‘Two and a Half International’, and especially to Karl Kautsky and Julius Martov - and to ‘left’ critics of Comintern among the anarchists and council communists. The particular form of Cliff’s ‘state capitalism’ theory, and the idea of ‘deflected permanent revolution’, responded to the desire to avoid falling into either the Kautsky-Martov version of ‘state capitalism’, for which events in Russia were merely a deformed form of the bourgeois revolution, or the ‘council communist’ version, in which state capitalism had emerged in 1918. Davidson’s argument risks unpicking this.

Secondly, the debates between Stalinists and Trotskyists were not only about ‘permanent revolution’, but also about economic management under working class rule (the New Economic Policy and related issues); about the concept of the party monolith; about ‘socialism in one country’ and ‘national roads to socialism’; and about the ‘united front’ common workers front with open criticism, advocated by the Comintern in the 1920s, and the version of the ‘united front’ common front with communist self-censorship for the sake of unity, advocated by Georgi Dimitrov at the 7th congress of Comintern in 1935, and in the same argument extended to the ‘people’s front’ to include left bourgeois parties and other forces.

These other aspects of the Stalinist-Trotskyist debates had already ceased to be interesting to Cliffites by the 1970s, by virtue of the fact that they characterised the USSR and its satellites and imitators as ‘state capitalist’. They had, of course, never been interesting to other variants of state capitalism theory. The consequence, however, is that, believing that their ‘state capitalism’ immunizes them from adapting to Stalinism (a belief most strikingly on display in Davidson’s essay on Deutscher in Holding fast), the Cliffites have in fact to a considerable extent collapsed into Stalinist positions: in particular on the party monolith (on which Davidson is in these books silent), and on the people’s front (where, in reviewing Renton, Davidson defends Dimitrov’s line).

After the fall of the USSR, ‘state capitalism’ is no longer a real political dividing line (though it still serves as a theoretical marker). ‘Permanent revolution’ then becomes a totemic marker of the difference between the Cliffites and the surviving ‘official’ communists; but it also has a peculiar character, that the focus is on an interpretation of ‘permanent revolution’ which is extraordinarily similar to the political line of the Comintern majority in the Chinese revolutionary movement of 1925-27, ie, that working class class-political independence is subordinated to ‘mobilising the masses’. Witness, here, the SWP’s and its cothinkers’ extraordinary somersaults in the aborted Egyptian revolution of 2011-13.

Hence - from a very different point of view - the argument of “Michael Ford”, in his critique of Left Unity, that a really useful regroupment would be one between the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, Socialist Action and Counterfire:5 all that would be needed, though Ford doesn’t mention this point, would be for Counterfire to give up the Cliffite tics - ‘permanent revolution’, and so on - which no longer have any operative significance in their politics.

Stages

We should step back from these immediate present political issues slightly in order to understand what is going on. To begin with, the starting point for ‘permanent revolution’ may in a certain sense be the 1850 Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League;6 but for practical purposes it was discussions of the perspectives of the workers’ movement in Russia and other ‘backward’ parts of Europe, beginning with Marx and Engels. It is quite false to say, as Trotskyists commonly do, that there is no basis in Marx and Engels’ work for a “stages theory”. On the contrary, they did propose different programmatic positions - radically different ones - in relation to the agrarian question, for those countries in which there was an existing capitalist development of agriculture, and for those countries in which feudal relations persisted in the countryside; and these proposals profoundly shape national political strategy.

In relation to existing capitalist agriculture, they started with the slogan of the nationalisation of the land: “expropriation of landed property and application of ground rent for state expenditures” (Communist Manifesto).7 In the Manifesto this formed one of a series of demands “pretty generally applicable”, “in most advanced countries”; in an 1869 letter Marx commented that “In England the land could be transformed into common property by act of parliament in the course of a fortnight. In France it must be accomplished by means of the proprietors’ indebtedness and liability to taxation”.8

In contrast, in relation to countries in which feudal relations persisted in the countryside, they argued for a French-style peasant revolution against the landlords. Thus, for example, Engels argued in 1848 that “The big agricultural lands between the Baltic and the Black Sea can escape from patriarchal-feudal barbarism only through an agrarian revolution which transforms the enserfed or corvée-burdened peasants into free landowners, a revolution which is altogether the same as the French revolution in the countryside.9 Marx argued in 1851 that what was needed in Italy was “the complete emancipation of the peasants and the transformation of their sharecropping system into free bourgeois property”.10 On Ireland, Engels commented in 1888 that “A purely socialist movement should not be expected from Ireland for some time. The people first want to become small landowning peasants, and when they do, the mortgages will come along and ruin them once again. In the meantime there is no reason why we should not help them to liberate themselves from the landlords, that is, to change over from a semifeudal to a capitalistic condition.11

These differences are grounded in an analysis of the class character of the petty proprietors which precisely insists - as Marx and Engels insisted in the Communist Manifesto and Socialism, Utopian and Scientific as well as elsewhere - that capitalist development and the rise of the proletariat is a necessary precondition for socialism. ‘Stages’ is thus intimately linked to deep fundamentals of Marxist theory. The problem is that the property-holding peasant and urban petty-bourgeois classes are too committed to their private property holdings to be capable of a real collective management of production. (The same is true of the intelligentsia, and of the bureaucracy, which are particular forms of the property-holding urban petty-bourgeoisie holding de facto ‘intellectual property possessions’ in the first place, and ‘turf’ or jurisdictions in the second.) The displacement of these forms of petty property-holding by wage labour is therefore a precondition for socialism; and this displacement can only take place through capitalism, not through forced collectivisation, as the Stalinists proved by dreadful experiments in Russia and China (Great Leap Forward, etc).

It is this core concept which forms the underlying basis of the wider theorisation of ‘tasks of the bourgeois revolution,’ modelled on the French revolution, and meaning the ‘solution’ of the national question (national unification and independence), the land question, and the ‘democratic question’, ie, the introduction of some form of liberal constitutionalism.

The concept of the permanent revolution grows out of the 1850 Address and the idea found there of the refusal of the bourgeoisie to make the revolution, leading to the need for the working class to organise itself independently of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois radicals in order to carry the revolution through to the end - even if, for most of the Second International writers collected in Day and Gaido’s Witnesses to permanent revolution, this ‘end’ meant merely the full implementation of the ‘tasks of the bourgeois revolution’ in the way most favourable to the working class.

Parvus and Trotsky’s argument in 1905-08 was more specific, and grew out of what is later theorised as ‘uneven and combined development’. This did not, however, mean what Davidson makes it mean in chapters 8-9 of We cannot escape, ie, Gerschenkron-style ‘advantages of backwardness’ and the specific local recombination of rapidly growing high-tech industry with rural backwardness and ‘feudal survivals’. It meant integration in the world market, including integration of peasant agriculture in the world market: argued at length by Parvus in his 1896 Neue Zeit series ‘The world market and the agrarian crisis’.12

The result of this approach is that in Results and prospects, Trotsky argued - unlike Lenin - that there could be no stable worker-peasant alliance or ‘democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’. Hence, while the working class would be driven to take power in order to complete the ‘tasks of the bourgeois revolution’ in Russia, it would necessarily lose power within months of doing so unless the socialist revolution broke out in western Europe. Although Lenin thought the democratic revolution probably would trigger the socialist revolution in western Europe (which was very widely expected in the near future), his argument on the basis of The development of capitalism in Russia saw a national development of capitalism, not tied to the world market (except in a limited sense and imitatively), and (hence) the possibility of a strategic worker-peasant alliance holding power in a single country for a more or less prolonged period.

By the time of his 1930 rewrite in The permanent revolution, Trotsky had unavoidably moved towards Lenin’s position on this question: precisely because his own arguments in Results and prospects would support the conclusion that objective forces would compel the Russian Bolshevik regime, in the absence of socialist revolution in western Europe, to become a state-capitalist form of the transition from feudalism to capitalism - as Kautsky and Martov already argued in 1918-20.

Hence, The permanent revolution not only broadens the case for ‘permanent revolution’, as Davidson argues; it also conceptualises it in terms, not of the outbreak of a European revolution, but of a series of national Russian-style revolutions, and including what is, in fact if not in form, Lenin’s medium-term strategic alliance of the proletariat and peasantry (smychka), albeit the peasantry is expected to follow the leading role of the proletariat.

However, this reinterpretation could only make sense insofar as the Russian soviet regime actually was post-capitalist and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Because if it wasn’t, there would be no case for conceptualising it as a form of the socialist revolution; and then, in turn, the case for ‘permanent revolution’ as opposed to ‘stages’ would fall to the ground.

Cliff’s version of state capitalism avoided being Martov’s or Kautsky’s version because it was largely orthodox Trotskyism in nearly everything except the label. The Soviet regime not only was the dictatorship of the proletariat, but remained the dictatorship of the proletariat until the outright victory of the Stalin group in 1929-30. Rather than seeing state capitalism as a form of the transition to capitalism, as Kautsky and Martov did, Cliff’s interpretation was substantially closer to Schachtman’s ‘bureaucratic collectivism’ as a post-capitalist social order (in Cliff’s terms, it was a ‘highest stage’ of capitalism beyond Lenin’s imperialism). Though this still logically implied that there was a problem with permanent revolution - because ‘Cliff state capitalism’ seemed to be the natural outcome of ‘permanent revolutions’ - after 1945 ‘deflected permanent revolution’ could serve, like the epicycles of Ptolemaic astronomy, to ‘save the phenomena’.

... and Davidson

Davidson does not abandon the fundamentals of these arguments. I have made the point above, that the whole exercise of the ‘Davidson papers’ can be read as reasserting his continued commitment to Cliffism. But the truth is that, if he is right about the meaning of ‘bourgeois revolution’, then in the aftermath of 1989-91 the ground for holding Cliffite as opposed to Kautsky-Martov views of the Soviet regime is destroyed. The Russian revolution would be merely a very long and painful detour in the transition from feudalism to capitalism; and endeavours to pursue any sort of ‘permanent revolution’ policy would be completely hopeless.

Davidson does, indeed, try to ‘save the phenomena’ in a different way, by insisting on the difference between the Russian revolution (worker-led, involving spontaneity, ‘from below’, and so on) and the later ‘deflected permanent revolutions’ - China, and so on - which he puts either into the class of ‘political’ revolutions which do not alter the class order of society, or into that of ‘passive revolutions’ (Gramsci) or ‘revolutions from above’, like German and Italian unification.

The problem with this approach is simple. In order to take the Russian revolution as a success, as anything more than a larger version of the Paris Commune, it is necessary not to stop its story in October 1917, but at least to carry it down to 1921 and Red victory in the Civil War. But when we look at Red victory in the Civil War, the whole character of the revolution as ‘from below’ in the language of SWP-thought disappears. Leon Trotsky becomes the organiser of a regular army, employing former Tsarist officers (albeit with commissars and the Cheka watching over them), and primarily recruited from peasants, to fight a war as far as possible in the countryside. The Chinese Communist Party, originally created out of an urban worker movement, by the 1940s had become a peasant-based military apparatus. Russia is not different enough from this pattern to ‘save the phenomena’ for Cliffism.

I do not agree with the structure of Davidson’s arguments about the bourgeois revolution (I have argued the relevant points elsewhere); and Dominic Alexander’s review, besides its ‘Counterfire’ tics, makes some entirely valid points against Davidson about the international character of the bourgeois revolution. Nonetheless, Davidson is addressing real problems; he is just - as yet - insufficiently willing to think through the implications of these problems for Cliffite theory l

mike.macnair@weeklyworker.co.uk

Notes

1. Reviewed in Weekly Worker by Marc Mulholland ‘Review: How liberal were the bourgeois revolutions?’ October 10 2013. Cf also comrade Mulholland’s own Bourgeois liberty and the politics of fear (2012) and my review of this, Weekly Worker July 17 2014.

2. http://isreview.org/issue/97/critical-openness-imaginative-commitment.

3. Callinicos, ‘The dynamics of revolution’ ISJ 137, January 2013; Alexander, www.counterfire.org/articles/book-reviews/16301-in-defence-of-permanent-revolution, February 14 2013.

4. On this issue, Davidson had moved on by the time of How revolutionary ..., recognising that Haldon’s theory is not helpful, though on questionable grounds.

5. http://leftunity.org/left-unitys-modest-flutter-2/.

6. www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/communist-league/1850-ad1.htm. See the introduction to Gaido & Day (ed) Witnesses to permanent revolution Haymarket 2011 for antecedents to this.

7. MECW 6:505, cited Draper KMTR ii pp404-409, with general discussion.

8. Manifesto loc cit; letter quoted in Draper KMTR ii p408.

9. ‘Debate on Poland’ quoted from Draper KMTR ii pp430-431.

10. Letter to Weydemeyer, quoted from Draper KMTR ii p426.

11. Interview in NY Volkszeitung, quoted from Draper KMTR ii p428.

12. ‘Der Weltmarkt und die Agrarkrisis’ NZ (available at http://library.fes.de/nz/) 14:1 (1896), pp197–202, 276–283, 335–342, 514–526, 554–560, 621–631, 654–663, 747–758, 781–788, 818–827.