Extract from: Michael Löwy: The politics of combined and uneven development. The theory of permanent revolution

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Some countries – Mexico, Bolivia, Algeria, Peru – have implemented relatively radical reforms, while others – Mexico, India, Venezuela etc. – have established more or less stable parliamentary democratic states. Finally, some countries have attained a significant degree of political and economic independence in relationship to imperialism: Algeria, Burma, Egypt (at least in Nasser's time), Mozambique, etc. Yet these results must be qualified in two ways: first, each of these accomplishments has been incomplete, limited and often ephemeral; secondly, no country has so far succeeded in successfully combining all three revolutionary-democratic transformations, and, as a result, explosive and unresolved contradictions have persisted in the core of their social formations.

Moreover, it is important to distinguish the two social modalities assumed by most of these revolutionary-democratic movements:


1) Interrupted popular revolution: where the popular masses, workers and/or peasants, burst onto the scene of history, smash the old political structures, but are eventually neutralized by bourgeois or petty-bourgeois forces who usurp leadership and 'institutionalize' the revolution. Classic cases include; Mexico (1910-20), Bolivia (1952-55) and Algeria (1954-65).


2) Semi-revolutions from above: characterized by a Bonapartist leader with broad popular support who implements some important reforms. Examples include: Kemal Ataturk (Tureky 1919-38), Getulia Vargas (Brazil 1930-45, 1950-54), Lazaro Cardenas (Mexico 1934-40), Juan Peron (Argentina 1944-55), Nehru (India 1947-64), Jacob Arbenz (Guatemala 1951-54), Nasser (Egypt 1952-70) and Sukarno (Indonesia 1945-66). These 'semi-revolutions' are unstable and tend to dissipate or disintegrate altogether after the death, retreat or overthrow of the Bonapartist and charismatic leadership (although some reforms may survive).


This taxonomy, of course, is relative, not absolute: in every actual historical case movements 'from above' and 'from below' interacted with each other, sometimes as a conflictual balance of forces, at other times as a succession of phases.

Michael Löwy: The politics of combined and uneven development. The theory of permanent revolution. 1981 (p. 164)