Colonial Revolution

vietcongThe postwar period was one of unprecedented turmoil in the colonial and ex-colonial countries. Wars, revolutions and counter-revolution were on the order of the day. Millions of poor and oppressed people were thrown into a ferocious struggle against imperialist domination. But although many of the tasks of the colonial revolutions were bourgeois in character, such as land reform and national liberation, on a capitalist basis there was no way forward.

Thus, in a stark confirmation of Marxism and the Theory of Permanent Revolution, as developed by Leon Trotsky, these movements swung sharply to the left, challenging the basis of the system itself. In some countries, such as Syria, Burma and Ethiopia, capitalism was abolished completely and a nationalised planned economy laid the basis for rapid development of society.

In the absence of a genuine Marxist leadership, this did not lead to the setting up of healthy workers' states, but at best deformed caricatures, similar to the Stalinist regime in Russia. However, these movements did reveal the enormous revolutionary potential of the masses.

In the bourgeois media today, Afghanistan is portrayed only in relation to Islamic fundamentalism, jihad, warlords and drug cartels. While these ills are a sad fact of life in Afghanistan today, that was not always the case. 40 years ago, a revolution almost shook the country out of its backwardness, only to be thrown back after the imperialist-backed, fundamentalist counter-revolution. To understand the current situation in the Middle East, as well as the rise of the reactionary forces, it is necessary to understand the rise and fall of the Saur revolution in Afghanistan in 1978.

The world has been shaken by the Arab Revolution. From the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf, revolution is on the agenda. And once again Egypt has been at the heart of this process, as it has always played a leading role in the region, due to its size, population and economic weight.

This originally five-part document was written by Iranian Marxists on the historical roots of the Iranian revolution. In the first part they concentrate on how the Iranian economy developed, leading to an enormous strengthening of the working class and how this led to revolution in 1979. After the fall of the Shah in 1979 all the conditions for socialist revolution had matured. The tragedy was the role played by the various left parties and groups, who to one degree or another fostered illusions in Khomeini as a kind of “progressive bourgeois”.

Arrival of Ayatollah Khomeini on February 1, 1979

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. The media has been highlighting it as an "Islamic revolution", when in actual fact what we witnessed thirty years ago was a genuine workers' revolution that was hijacked by the reactionary Ayatollahs because of the lack of a genuine revolutionary leadership. Thirty years later we must learn the lessons of those tumultuous events and prepare for the next revolutionary upsurge.

As was the case with so many post-war political developments, the colonial revolution was shrouded in mystery and confusion to the leadership of what remained of the so-called Fourth International, as well as to the theoreticians of Stalinism and reformism. Different 'Trotskyist' sects took turns to idealise Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others, without a glimmer of understanding about what real political forces these leaders represented. It was the Marxist tendency gathered around Ted Grant which was able to place all these leaders and movements in their correct context, explaining their origins and development.

Twenty five years after the 1978 revolution that overthrew the Shah, Iran is once more witnessing a reawakening of the mass movement. The regime no longer has the same grip on society as it did in the past. The lessons drawn, both from the 1978 revolution and its later defeat and hijacking by the reactionary Mullahs, must be remembered and made available to the new generation of workers and youth who are looking for a way out in Iran today. This article written in 1983 by Iranian Marxists who had actively participated in the revolution gives an excellent analysis of the whole process.

The hated regime of the Shah was overthrown by a workers' revolution in Iran in 1979. This article was written by Ted Grant in that same year. We are republishing it because we believe it is essential reading for any active worker or youth who wishes to understand both how the Shah was toppled by the masses and how, unfortunately, the revolution was hijacked by the fundamentalist mullahs.

In 1978, a radical faction of the Afghan Communist Party seized power in a military coup. The 'Saur Revolution' carried out a whole series of progressive measures. The government passed decrees abolishing the selling of brides and giving equality to women. It announced a land reform and the cancellation of farmers’ debts. These measures met with the ferocious opposition of the powerful land owners and moneylenders. This article by Ted Grant, published in 1978, contains an analysis of the revolution, as well as the phenomena of colonial revolutions and proletarian bonapartism more generally.

A key historical document that analyses the important question of "proletarian bonapartism", i.e. Stalinism, in the former colonial countries. It explains the roots of the Chinese revolution and why the Maoist regime came into conflict with the Soviet Union, and also the nature of several similar regimes that came into being in that period. It was also the basis for the expulsion of Ted Grant and his followers from Mandel's so-called Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International.

Using the method of Marxism to describe the regime of Tito, and hence explain the split with Stalin, this document by Ted Grant from 1949 takes the argument further and extends it to the example of China. It elaborates further the process by which Mao Tse Tung established his regime, explaining that it was, of necessity, 'deformed' from the very beginning.

Building upon the theoretical work which had already been undertaken in relation to Russia, Eastern Europe and the Tito-Stalin split, the article by Ted Grant puts forward a perspective in relation to China that is lucid and consistent from a Marxian point of view, and moreover, brilliantly prophetic. With the world 'leaders of Trotskyism' still humming and hawing, the article goes straight to the point and applauds 'the destruction of feudalism and large-scale capitalism, in this important section of Asia, even though it is carried out under the leadership of Stalinism. In its long-term implications, it is as important as the October revolution itself.'