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Raymond Challinor

Out of Focus

(Autumn 1966)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.25, Autumn 1966, p.35.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Permanent Revolution
Sigmund Neumann
Pall Mall, 50s.

The author contends that while totalitarian regimes have existed in the past they have always been regarded as temporary constructions, there to cope with a given emergency, and to be supplanted when the difficulty has gone. But today totalitarian governments are built to last. Herr Neumann thinks this distinction arises from the special conditions encountered by contemporary democratic government. It finds itself unable to give society direction, cohesion, or a sense of purpose. From the ashes of democratic failure, the vulture of totalitarianism arises. Herr Neumann buttresses his argument with a mass of interesting data (and an extremely valuable bibliography is appended). But his book is unsatisfactory, for he fails to distinguish clearly between the various types of totalitarianism, to relate them to the class basis of society, or to give a satisfactory answer to the problem of how to combat encroaching dictatorial power. It is quite inadequate to write, ‘A new social vision will be needed’ (p.309) or to suggest that if, by self-denying ordinance, we do not discuss contentious questions, democratic unity will stand a greater chance of being preserved.

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Last updated: 17.12.2007