The October Revolution: in Celebration of its 100TH Anniversary
A festival of progressive humanity
The October revolution was an event of unsurpassed historical impact; an event which literally shook the world and has shaped the 20th century. For it at once sounded the death knell of imperialism and clearly indicated the future path of humanity’s development – namely socialism.
Lenin, commenting in 1918 on the influence of the USSR upon the proletarians of all countries said:
“The example of the Soviet Republic will stand before them for a long time to come. Our Socialist Republic of Soviets will stand secure as a torch of international socialism and as an example to all the labouring masses. Over there – conflict, war, bloodshed, the sacrifice of millions of lives, capitalist exploitation; here – a genuine policy of peace and a Socialist Republic of Soviets”.
In view of the recent counter-revolutionary debacle in the eastern bloc, the hirelings of capital in all their many guises have been vehemently proclaiming the death of socialism. But to confound (Krushchevite) revisionism, that capitalist-roading perversion of socialism, with the genuine article, and then to lay the blame for the ignominious collapse of the former at the feet of Marx and Lenin, this is twisted logic indeed. It is ‘logic’ that does little to mask the motivations of the capitalist lackeys who thrust these analyses forward.. We, however, would aver that the quotation from Lenin remains valid, because, for as long as the Soviet Union remained truly socialist, its achievements were truly mighty.
Socialism in the USSR eliminated in practice the contradictions that were then rending the very fabric of capitalist society at the seams, the contradictions that continue to this day to tear the imperialist world apart from within – contradictions that can lead only to crises and war.
• Not only did the proletarian dictatorship of the USSR destroy the old exploitative bourgeois relations of production but also it went on to build a new form of economy – a socialist planned economy in which the satisfaction of the people’s needs superseded forced extraction of surplus labour as the sole motive force for production.
• Socialism transformed Russia from the ‘prisonhouse of nations’ it had been under Tsarist rule into a freely associated brotherhood of nations in which freedom and equality of language, culture and religion were guaranteed.
• “In Tsarist Russia, especially during the latter years of the decline and impending collapse of Tsarism, pogroms of the Jews blackened the pages of its history and sickened the conscience of the world. These pogroms were widely regarded as uncontrollable outbreaks of the ignorant and savage Russian masses. Only the subsequent publication of the secret police records finally proved, what had long been a matter of accusation, and had been sufficiently visible from the peculiar relations of their government with the ‘Black Hundreds’ or hooligan ‘patriotic’ organisations, that the pogroms were directly inspired, initiated and controlled by the government. From the day that the Russian people won power over their own country, the pogroms completely ceased. In the Union of Soviet Republics the most diverse races and religions live happily together". Thus proving that “There is no natural inevitable difficulty from the cohabitation of differing races or religions in one country. The difficulties arise from social-political conditions. They arise, in particular, wherever a reactionary regime is endeavouring to maintain itself against the popular movement. They are the surest sign of the impending downfall of a regime” (R. Palme-Dutt, India Today, Victor Gollancz, London, p.404).
• While the capitalist world was reeling under the hammer blows of the great depression of the 1930s, the Soviet Union’s economy passed from strength to strength. By 1935 the phenomenon of unemployment – a phenomenon which to this day condemns millions to the scrapheap of inactivity in order to depress the wages of those lucky enough to find work – was unknown in the USSR.
• Through provision of creches, kindergartens and communal facilities of all kinds, socialism in the USSR laid the basis for the liberation of women not merely in words, but in deeds.
• The USSR, in the true spirit of proletarian internationalism, rendered every possible support to the revolutionary and national liberation struggles of the downtrodden masses. Indeed, the October Revolution served as the direct inspiration for countless uprisings and actions throughout the world.
• Despite all manoeuvrings of the western imperialist powers, who would have liked nothing better than to see the land of Soviets crushed under the jackboot of the Nazi-Fascist war machine – it was the USSR that stemmed the tide of blitzkrieg, turned the tables on the allegedly invincible master race at Stalingrad and finally raising the Red Flag above the Reichstag. 95% of German forces had been deployed on the eastern front, and the vanquishing of such a tremendous force of destruction was only made possible by the rapid industrialisation that had taken place over the preceding decade, the firm leadership of the CPSU(B) and the confidence of the broad masses of workers and peasants in that leadership which inspired them to such selfless acts of heroism.
Socialism in one country
Above all, the October revolution proved in practice the validity of Lenin’s theory that the victory of socialism was possible and probable – under the conditions of imperialism – at first in several countries or even in one country.
On what did Lenin base his theory? This theory is based upon the law of uneven development of capitalist countries. Lenin’s theses on imperialism remain as valid and forceful as ever (as Harpal Brar’s excellent book on imperialism demonstrates only too clearly) and it is worth recalling the basic elements of the law of uneven development:
Firstly, the fact that the world is already divided up among imperialist groups, that there are no more `vacant’, unoccupied territories in the world, and that in order to expand, it is necessary for imperialists to seize territory from others by force.
Secondly, the fact that the unprecedented development of technology and the increasing levelling out of development of the capitalist countries have made possible and facilitated the spasmodic outstripping of some countries by others, the ousting of more powerful countries by less powerful but rapidly developing countries.
Thirdly, the fact that the old distribution of spheres of influence among the various imperialist groups is forever coming into conflict with the new correlation of forces in the world market, and that, in order to establish ’equilibrium’ between the old distribution of spheres of influence and the new correlation of forces, periodic redivisions of the world by means of imperialist wars are necessary.
Thus rivalry and war leads to periodic weakenings in the world front of imperialism and to the possibility of the revolutionary proletariat breaking this front at its weakest point. Lenin stressed that this weakest point need not necessarily be one of the most developed capitalist countries, and subsequent events showed that the weakest link in the imperialist front during the first great imperialist war for redivision of the colonies was none other than Tsarist Russia.
At the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI, Stalin pointed to the fact that Russia had become the base of the international revolution and exposed the capitulationist nature of those who would surrender the chief positions of socialism in the following trenchant terms:
“Only madmen can deny the paramount importance of an alliance of the proletarians of our country with the proletarians of all other countries in the building of socialism. Only madmen can accuse our party of underestimating the importance of an alliance of the proletarians of all countries. Only in alliance with the world proletariat is it possible to build socialism in our country.
“The whole point is how this alliance is to be understood.
“When the proletarians seized power in October 1917, this was assistance to the proletarians of all countries; it was an alliance with them.
“When the proletarians of Western Europe frustrated intervention against the USSR, refused to transport arms for the counter-revolutionary generals, set up councils of action and undermined the rear of the Capitalists, this was assistance to the proletariat of the USSR; it was an alliance of the West-European proletarians with the proletarians of the USSR. Without this sympathy and this support of the proletarians of the Capitalist countries, we could not have won the Civil War.
“When the proletarians of the Capitalist countries send a series of delegations, check our constructive work, then spread the news of the successes of our constructive work to all the workers of Europe, this is assistance to the proletarians of the USSR, it is support of the highest value for the proletarians of the USSR, it is an alliance with the proletarians of the USSR, and a curb on possible imperialist intervention in our country. Without this support and without this curb we should not now be having a ‘respite’, and without this ‘respite’ there could be no widely developed work on the building of socialism in our country.
“When the proletarians of the USSR consolidate their dictatorship, put an end to economic disruption, develop constructive work and achieve successes in the building of socialism, this is support of the highest value for the proletarians of all countries, for their struggle against capitalism, their struggle for power; because the existence of the Soviet Republic, its steadfastness, its successes on the front of socialist construction, are factors of the highest value for the world revolution, factors that encourage the proletarians of all countries in their struggle against capitalism. It can scarcely be doubted that the destruction of the Soviet Republic would be followed by the blackest and most savage reaction in all capitalist countries."
And who, having witnessed the forcible imposition of imperialism’s `New World Order’ can doubt the veracity of these words?
It should not be forgotten that this `preoccupation’ with construction, the special importance attached to the concrete building of a socialist economy within the USSR as the best means of advancing the world revolution, originates not with Stalin, but with Lenin, who stated at the Tenth all-Russian Party Conference (as early as 1921) that:
“At the present time, we are exercising our main influence on the international revolution by our economic policy. All eyes are turned on the Soviet Russian Republic, the eyes of all toilers in all countries of the world without exception and without exaggeration… That is the field to which the struggle has been transferred on a world-wide scale. If we solve this problem, we shall have won on an international scale surely and finally. That is why questions of economic construction assume absolutely exceptional significance for us” (V.I. Lenin, Tenth all Russian Conference of the RCP(B). Closing Speech).
USSR inspired Norman Bethune
An individual whose eyes turned intently towards the Soviet Union, was a Canadian surgeon named Norman Bethune.
In the summer of 1935 Dr Bethune paid a visit to the young USSR to attend an international physiological congress being held in Leningrad, and was greatly impressed with the scientific foundation of society in general and of medicine in particular, whose lavish facilities were available free of charge to all as a constitutional right, priority being given to those industrial workers who in the West would have been least able to afford provision. In the short period since the revolution, despite the havoc wrought by wars of intervention and the furious pace of socialist construction necessitated by capitalist encirclement, the nation’s health was improved immeasurably with, for example, the incidence of TB being halved.
So greatly was he impressed that he returned to Canada committed to the principles of socialised medicine, speaking out fiercely against the philistine criticisms from his petty-bourgeois colleagues in such powerful terms as the following:
“…What would a person think, watching for the first time a woman in labour and not knowing what was happening to her? Would he not be appalled at the blood, the agony, the apparent cruelty of the attendants, the whole revolting technique of delivery? He would cry: “Stop this! Do something! Police! Murder!”
“Then tell him that he was seeing a new life brought into the world and that the pains would pass, that the agony and the ugliness were necessary and always would be necessary to birth. Knowing this, then, what could he say truthfully about this woman as she lies there? Is she not ugly? Yes. Is she not beautiful? Yes. Is she not pitiful, ludicrous, grotesque and absurd? Yes! Is she not magnificent and sublime? Yes! And all these things would be true.
“Now, Russia is going through her delivery and the midwives and obstetricians have been so busy keeping her alive that they haven’t got around as yet to cleaning up the mess, and it is this mess, this ugly and uncomfortable mess, which affronts the eyes and elevates the noses of those timid male and female virgins suffering from sterility of the soul, who lack the imagination to see behind the blood the significance of the birth.
“Creation is not and never has been a gentle gesture. It is rude, violent and revolutionary. But to those courageous hearts who believe in the unlimited future of man, in the divine destiny which lies in his own hand to make of what he will – to these Russia presents today the most exciting spectacle of the evolutionary, emergent and heroic spirit of man which has appeared on this earth since the Reformation. To deny this is to deny our faith in man – and that is the unforgivable sin, the final apostasy” (quoted by Ted Allan and Sydney Gordon, The Scalpel, The Sword, Robert Hale, London, 1954, p.73).
Can the significance for the international revolution of furnishing direct proof that the proletariat is capable not only of destroying the old, but also of building the new, be denied after such rousing testimony? The direct experience of socialist construction in the USSR led Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor, to adopt the struggle of progressive humanity as his own, fighting first in the Spanish Civil War and later laying down his life while serving as the medical commander of the 8th Route Army in the Chinese People’s Anti Fascist War. Hence we have a clear illustration of the tremendous international impetus given to the socialist revolution by the seizure of power and subsequent economic consolidation of the proletarians of a single country, namely the USSR. There is no dialectical conundrum here!
An attack on Stalin is an attack on Lenin
Being unable to attack (the above self-evident truth of) Leninism openly, the opposition in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union adopted the manoeuvre of attacking Leninism by attacking the ’theory’ of Stalin – a theory with which Stalin had absolutely nothing to do – a theory whose sole author was none other than Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin.
This is how Stalin described Trotsky’s manoeuvring – again at the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI:
“The way I understand it is that Trotsky set out to give battle to Lenin’s theory, but since giving open battle to Lenin is a risky business, he decided to fight this battle under the guise of combating a ‘theory’ of Stalin’s. Trotsky in this way wants to make it easier for himself to fight Leninism, by disguising that fight by his criticism of Stalin’s ’theory’. That this is precisely so, that Stalin has nothing to do with the case, that there can be no question of any ‘theory’ of Stalin’s, that Stalin never had any pretensions to making any new contributions to theory, but only strove to facilitate the complete triumph of Leninism in our party, in spite of Trotsky’s revisionist efforts – this I shall endeavour to show later. Meanwhile, let it be noted in passing that Trotsky’s statement about Stalin’s ’theory’ is a manoeuvre, a trick, a cowardly and unsuccessful trick, designed to cover up his fight against Lenin’s theory of the victory of Socialism in one country, a fight which began in 1915 and is continuing to the present day. Whether this stratagem is a sign of honest polemics, I leave the comrades to judge” (Stalin, Speech delivered at the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, 13 December 1926).
These days, it is impossible to put forward a Leninist line without being denounced by bourgeois agents as a ‘Stalinist’. Why is this? Because Stalin was the foremost pupil of Lenin; because under the leadership of the CPSU(B), with Stalin at the helm, the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union was both successfully built and defended. Finance capital was denied its `god given right to exploit’ one sixth of the world’s territories. This is ‘Stalin’s cardinal sin’, a sin that could not but evoke the most furious hatred in the imperialist camp.
Soviet socialism inspires us today
The example of Soviet socialism continues to inspire us. There is no room for pessimism and defeatism in the working-class movement: We too can win and we must win. When Lenin’s Bolshevik party fought Tsarism and imperialism, there had been no precedent to prove irrefutably the possibility of success of socialist construction. Yet that party’s iron will and determination was built upon the concrete Marxian analysis of the conditions prevailing in monopoly capitalist economy at that time.
These conditions are today more exaggerated than ever before, any seeming political stabilisation of capitalism and the decline in the vibrancy of the working class movement can be only transient, a mere passing phase, when the economic foundations of capitalism are collapsing around the imperialists’ ears!
Humanity has no other future than socialism. The first world imperialist war was the first attempt to redivide the already divided world. That attempt cost capitalism the victory of the revolution in Russia and the undermining of the foundations of imperialism in the colonies and dependencies. The second world war further undermined those foundations, and left in its devastating wake the flag of socialism flying triumphantly over a third of the world’s surface.
Inter-imperialist trade war is already well under way, and in the absence of the Soviet Union its tempo has become particularly acute. The United States continues to act as the self-appointed policeman of the world, its military might is still supreme. However its economic supremacy was long ago overturned, not only by the less powerful, but rapidly developing, imperialist countries from the European Union and Japan, but also by the phenomenal economic development of the People’s Republic of China and other BRICS countries. Sooner or later, in order to maintain its dominance, US imperialism is only too likely to resort to armed conflict on a world scale against those who stand in its way, be they rival imperialist powers or countries such as China or Russia which are already within its sights.
It is our job in the socialist movement to build a truly working class party that is capable of counteracting the social-democratic recruiting sergeants of imperialism, of turning the breaches in the world imperialist front to the advantage of the international proletariat. To learn the lessons of October, to follow the example of October.
Yes, the numbers of the politically conscious workers are as yet small, but our strength lies in the fact that we truly represent the interests of the vast masses. Our strength lies in our devotion to the revolutionary cause of the international proletariat.
Long Live the Great October revolution!
Long live the Dictatorship of the proletariat!
Uphold the Banner of Communism!