Here’s the video of my overly long presentation (practically a monologue) on Trotskii’s excellent 1906 reflection, Results and Prospects. Sadly, James was sick yesterday, and Lisa’s been out of town. Plus Eugene has been really bogged down with schoolwork, and Sidd and Yoni weren’t around. So the attendance was a bit light, but whatever:
Basically, the thrust of my interpretation of this text centers around Trotskii’s remark in the third chapter that “The 19th century has not passed in vain,” which I contend can be understood in a twofold sense:
1. First, at a purely objective level, in terms of the social and economic means of production, the 19th century has not passed in vain. Capitalism has developed and expanded in an irreversible manner, both extensively (as an increasingly global system) and intensively (with accelerating technological rapidity). The productive capacities of mankind are greater today than at any prior point in recorded history. Thus, we cannot go back to 1789, 1848, 1871, etc. The world is more prepared than ever to overcome capitalism on the basis of capitalism itself.
2. Moreover, at a subjective level, in terms of the development of an historical and political consciousness in a prospective revolutionary class, the 19th century has not passed in vain. After the great fissure within modern (civil) society burst into the open in June 1848, a radical and international working-class movement has gained more and more momentum, reaching its peak in the 1890s around the Second International and continuing into the first two decades of the twentieth. The potential political agency of a self-conscious social subject has risen to an unprecedented degree. Thus, we are in a better place, politically, than the revolutionary bourgeoisie in 1789, the nascent working-class movement in the Insurrection of 1848, or the communards of 1871.
In light of Trotskii’s assertion in 1906 that “History does not repeat itself…The 19th century has not passed in vain,” I thus asked an analogous question with respect to our present moment, wondering
Has the 20th century passed in vain? Continue reading