Two seemingly different ideologies developed amongst the Bolsheviks after the death of Comrade Lenin, though one, the Permanent Revolution, had already been theorised and even partly proven true by 1917.
But is this an indictment of the Permanent Revolution, and an endorsement of Socialism in One Country?
No. Lenin was merely saying that, due to uneven development, the notion that the world would erupt in a massive, spontaneous, revolution was unrealistic.
Lenin stated, also in 1918: “The absolute truth is that without a revolution in Germany we shall perish.” Clearly he understood the need for the Revolution to become worldwide, step by step.
Many Communists will disagree, stating fervently that one position, or the other, actually represents the culmination of Leninist thought. I assert, however, that these people are acting based upon the conflict of personality between Trotsky and Stalin, and not the actual content of the theory.
Trotsky was proven right on two points: a Socialist Revolution could be successful in a backward country, and that the Revolution would not last unless Socialist Revolutions were successful in the rest of the world.. So, given that no other Socialist Revolution was successful until 1924 (in Mongolia), and that the Russian Revolution ultimately collapsed, what conclusions can be drawn?
The obviously conclusion is that both Stalin and Trotsky were correct.
A differentiation must be drawn between a Socialist Revolution, and Socialist Construction and Production. The Socialist Revolution in Russia did succeed, and under Lenin’s NEP Socialist Construction was proceeding (according to some much too slowly). The intentional attempt to speed up Socialist Construction in Russia led ultimately to the demise of the Soviet Union.
Stalin himself differentiated between the idea of Socialist Construction being successful in one country, and Socialism being ultimately successful throughout the world. In his Response to Comrade Ivanov, Stalin stated: “Can the victory of Socialism in one country be regarded as final if this country is encircled by capitalism, and if it is not fully guaranteed against the danger of intervention and restoration?
Clearly, it cannot, This is the position in regard to the question of the victory of Socialism in one country.
It follows that this question contains two different problems :
We have already solved the first problem, for our bourgeoisie has already been liquidated and Socialism has already been built in the main. This is what we call the victory of Socialism, or, to be more exact, the victory of Socialist Construction in one country.”
According to Stalin, Socialism could work in one country, but that Capitalism would be an ever present danger. The ultimate victory of Socialism would happen only internationally, with the support of the world Proletariat (“only by combining the serious efforts of the international proletariat with the still more serious efforts of the whole of our Soviet people“). The possibility of the eventual failure of Socialism was built into Stalin’s theory, by Stalin himself.
It can be seen that Stalin’s theory contains Trotsky’s theory within it.