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New Left Review I/111, September-October 1978


James Petras

Socialist Revolutions and their Class Components

The starting-point for any attempt to theorize socialist revolution must be the point at which conditions of exploitation are converted into the practice of class struggle. Socialist revolutions in the twentieth century have unfolded as complex processes decisively dependent on the emergence and growth of a revolutionary political organization. The central political organization (party or movement) passes through several crucial interrelated phases, each of which provides a unique contribution to the ultimate success of the whole enterprise. The sequence leading to the revolutionary transformation begins with the formative period involving the organization and ideology of the party. This is followed by class and political struggles in which forces are accumulated, roots are put down among the masses, a mass membership is won and, finally, power is seized. Subsequently, the socialist revolutionary process includes the establishment of a government, reorganization of the state and efforts to transform social relations.

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