Why the Russian Revolution matters and always will matter!
As we enter into 2018, it is true to say that the survival of humanity is more urgent than ever before. Capitalism, the system that supposedly creates profit, is in crisis, with imperialist powers and private businesses on the brink of collapse. Serious confrontations exist in the modern world today and they highlight exactly how capitalism is an inherently corrupt and oppressive system. However, there are alternatives to this destructive machine and they were, and remain to be, some of the strongest nations in the world. The Soviet Union or USSR, created via the October Revolution in 1917 and a common uprising of the people, highlights this. Russia between 1917 and 1991 is an example of the triumphs of communism, creating a movement that maintained the equality of its people and highlighted to the world that there was an alternative to free-market capitalism controlled by the upper echelons of society, maintained by a revolution. 2017 marked 100 years since the Russian Revolution, a feat largely ignored by the bourgeois media due to the fact that it clearly goes against their capitalist self-interest, yet a period in history which showed both the strength of the proletariat and that an alternative to capitalism was possible, and must at all costs still be fought for.
Behind an extravagant bourgeois media cover-up exists the Soviet Union, the first country which declared itself as socialist and openly pursued the building of a communist state. This state was in direct juxtaposition to the Tsarist autocracy that existed before it, the aristocracy that was primarily responsible for the oppression experienced by the Russian people in terms of serfdom, famine, war and reactionary policies such as Russification, which sought to assimilate different cultures into one; what we would now call a form of social cleansing. Unbeknownst to the imperialist capitalist countries of the Western World, the Soviet Union since October 1917 championed in areas of literacy, equality, education and health since its insurrection.
One of the most influential pieces of literature that came early on in Russia’s rebirth were the April Theses, or “The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution” written by Vladimir Lenin. The Theses gave ten steps towards revolution and were the basis for the October Revolution. The steps involved the end of Russian involvement in the “imperialist war” being fought in the west, granting power to the proletariat and peasantry, nationalization of all land and social production and distribution being put in control of the Soviets. The Theses later influenced the Decrees, social reforms which were passed straight after the October Revolution, 190 of them issued within the first six months of Bolshevism. One of the most famous decrees was the Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, which was signed in November 1917, and gave subject nations self determination. The other Decrees themselves included making a swift exit from World War I, transferring land to the peasantry, allowing the workers to seize the means of production and making any form of class, sex, nationality or religious inequality illegal. Therefore, within months of the Bolshevik state being established, Lenin had already succeeded in creating a state which granted its people the rights that they deserved.
Another great feat of Soviet Russia was that it was able to survive until 1991, despite the amount of propaganda, intervention and smear tactics that were directed against it. As soon as the Bolsheviks established themselves in 1917, the country experienced a civil war, which is also known as the “War of Intervention,” with allied intervention inherent in trying to destroy the communist state before it had even begun. As soon as the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (which took Russia out of World War One) was agreed to, capitalist troops were landing in Russia in order to starve the country from its inception. At the height of the civil war in 1918, there were 14 capitalist nations supporting the White Russian forces in attacking the communist state. It is a testament to the strength of the Bolsheviks in the fact that they were able to defeat such an onslaught of imperialist forces.
The extent to which the imperialist forces wanted to get rid of the Soviet Union was highlighted in a secret document from September 15th 1945, in which the Pentagon envisioned bombing the Soviet Union with a coordinated nuclear attack. The Pentagon even went as far as to estimate that it would take 204 atomic bombs to wipe the Soviet Union off the map. What America succeeded in doing to Hiroshima, with 100,000 people dying as a result of the bomb in the first seven seconds, shows the extent to which this plan would have been put into action and how state-funded terror is at the forefront of American imperialism.
Within Britain, the Labour Party also held anti-Bolshevik viewpoints, in the ideology surrounding the Fabian society and social democratic ideals. When the Tsar was overthrown in February 1917, it created celebrations from across the political spectrum and a promise of a parliamentary democracy within Russia. The Labour Party were within the Second International and said they were committed to not getting involved with the looming imperialist war. However, they abandoned this position in the outbreak of war, with the famous quote by Ben Tillett, the General Secretary of the Docker’s Union, “In a strike I am for my class, right or wrong; in a war I am for my country, right or wrong.” Therefore, despite the Russian Revolution and the rise in class consciousness, the Labour Party would continue their support of imperialism. Britain were one of the capitalist forces who, in the aftermath of the October Revolution, sought to undermine what they saw as the temporary Soviet uprising. Churchill spoke of poisoned gas in 1919 that “I would very much like the Russians to have it.” It was the ultimate hypocrisy for the British to send troops to Russia whilst also being at war with Germany, and this demoralization cost them.
It is true to say that British capitalism ruled the world, and therefore, when the Russian Revolution gave nations self determination, the British Empire suffered. Therefore, the British capitalist class felt undermined and attacked by Communism, and made it their mission to break down the Russian state. In 1968, Harold Wilson, Labour prime minister, was also nearly responsible for being on the brink of war with the Soviet Union, due to the fact that he believed Britain couldn’t stand “idly” whilst Russia expanded its socialist programme. This example perfectly highlights the “cold war panic” which existed within the Western World.
However, the Soviet Union was responsible for multiple successes. Much of what is known about the Soviet Union is that people died, Stalin instigated a reign of terror and that there were no freedoms. These so-called facts do not correlate with what actually went on within the Soviet Union and are more examples of lies fabricated by the capitalist and imperialist nations of the west. The Soviet Union was the first country to eliminate hunger, something that even the United States as a developed and rich nation has not achieved. When the West talks of Stalin’s genocides, The Ukrainian Famine is the event that they use to tie him to genocide and equate Communism and Nazism together, despite the fact that they are dialectically opposed. Famines had existed within the Tsarist autocracy too, due to the fact that agriculture was not developed and small-scale previous to the collectivisation of the 1930s, therefore the famines were common in the situation left behind by semi-feudal Tsarism and were not a factor of Stalin’s collectivisation policies.
The Soviet Union eradicated smallpox and established a free network of water, electricity, heating and transport. The Soviet Union was the first literate nation; public, compulsory and collective education for all in society, with late night university for workers. The Soviet Union established free and universal public health. Women had free labour, painless childbirth (pain prevention and psychotherapy) and equality in all aspects of life by not being confined to a commodity economy. The USSR were the first country to perform organ transplants. Life expectancy doubled and the population grew. Despite Churchill wanting to “drown the child in the cradle,” the Soviets succeeded in granting rights that had never been heard of in Tsarist Russia. Forty years after the autocratic Tsarist monarchy, the Russians were part of the space race, and were able to recreate themselves after the destruction of World War II. The Eastern Bloc and East Berlin represented the Soviet Union’s intent to expand and establish itself as a leading power outside of the shackles of capitalist oppression. All that the Soviet Union achieved did not come without problems, but the fact that the communists were able to create such a society speaks volumes about its strength.
The Soviet Union influenced many countries such as Cuba. As Fidel Castro said, “The Cuban Revolution became possible only because the Russian Revolution of 1917 had been accomplished long before. Without the existence of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s socialist revolution would have been impossible.” Many sources describe Fidel as a Marxist Leninist as far back as 1953, showing that his links to the Soviet Union influenced Cuba from the beginnings of his political consciousness. The Kremlin supported the Cuban economy until the breakup of the Soviet Union, and it is true to say that America’s forced trade embargo serves as evidence of Cuba still representing a strong alternative to capitalist authority. The collapse of the Soviet Union also highlights the importance of supporting other socialist states such as Cuba, Venezuela and the DPRK (North Korea) in their fight against capitalism. By joining a communist organisation like the Revolutionary Communist Group, who are prepared to fight for socialism abroad, these movements can be realised.
If we look to the modern world, it is adorned by many crises. The serious confrontations surrounding Iran, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, North Korea, Ukraine and Trump’s Presidency all represent the disease of capitalism. Without the commodity economy and the greed that is associated with profit, countries can exist with emphasis on collectivism, shown by the Soviet Union and its legacy.
All in all, if one reflects on the impact of the Russian Revolution, one can see that it was a movement which established itself into a working society and economy, and was seen as a major alternative to the oppressive structure of capitalism. The Soviet Union wasn’t perfect, but it succeeded in creating a new era of political consciousness. Therefore, celebrating 100 years since the October Revolution represents the struggle for socialism, peace and progress in the modern world and due to those three things, the Soviet Union’s successes should never be forgotten.