“Because Britain is the classic land of capitalism, because capitalism there organically developed from handicrafts through manufacture into modern industry step by step, by an ‘evolutionary’ road so that yesterday’s prejudices and those of the day before, the prejudices of the past and the previous centuries, all the ideological garbage of the ages can be discovered under MacDonald’s skull (…). At first glance there is here some historical contradiction: why did Marx appear in backward Germany, in the most backward of the great countries of Europe in the first half of the 19th century, not counting Russia of course? Why did Marx appear in Germany and why did Lenin appear in Russia on the borders of the 19th and 20th centuries? A clear contradiction! But what is its nature? One that can be explained by the so-called dialectic of historical development. In the shape of British machinery and in the shape of British cotton cloth, history created the most revolutionary factor of development. But this machinery and this cloth were processed and created by way of a prolonged and slow historical transition, one step at a time, while human consciousness remained in general frightfully conservative. When economic development proceeds slowly and systematically it tends to find it hard to break through human skulls. Subjectivists and idealists in general say that human consciousness, critical thought and so on and so forth draw history forward like a tug towing a barge behind it. This is untrue. You and I are Marxists and we know that the motive power of history consists of the productive forces which have up till now taken shape behind man’s back and with which it tends to be very difficult to smash through man’s conservative skull in order to produce there the spark of a new political idea, and especially, let me repeat, if the development takes place slowly, organically and imperceptibly. But when the productive forces of a metropolis, of a classic land of capitalism, like Britain, encroach upon a more backward country, as with Germany in the first half of the 19th century, and with ourselves on the watershed of the 19th and the 20th centuries, and at the present time with Asia; when economic factors intrude in a revolutionary way cracking the old regime, when development takes place not gradually, not ‘organically’ but by means of terrible shocks, and abrupt shifts in the old social layers, then critical thought finds its revolutionary expression incomparably more easily and rapidly, providing there is of course the necessary theoretical prerequisite  for this. That is why Marx appeared in Germany in the first half of the 19th century and that is why Lenin appeared here and that is why we can observe at first sight the paradoxical fact that in the land of highest, oldest and most revered European capitalism, Britain, we have the most conservative ‘Labour’ party. While on the other hand in our Soviet Union, an extremely backward country economically and culturally speaking, we have – and I say this unshamedly for it is a fact – the best communist party in the world (applause)” [Leon Trotsky, From a speech to the Communist University for Toilers of the East, 21st April 1924 (Perspectives and Tasks in the East)] [in Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings and Speeches on Britain. Volume One, 1974]

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