'WE ARE ON THE PATH OF REVOLUTION'
On the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution
The Revolution proved that the goal of a classless society without exploitation is realistic
On November 7 of 1917 (October 25 according to former Russian calendar), the working class and its ally, poor peasantry, seized power. In other words, toiling masses sealed the destiny of a big country struggling with pervasive poverty, a destroyed economy, and mass illiteracy, during the World War I when imperialist states led to a catastrophe for the peoples of the world. What the working class had after the revolution was literally a wreck. Last but not least, imperialist powers and the reactionary forces of Russia immediately swooped down on Soviet Russia to suffocate the workers’ state. After the first years of formidable struggle, in 1930s, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics managed to become a country which took giant steps toward industrialization, towards the revolutionizing of education, healthcare, culture, and most importantly, a country realizing all these on an egalitarian basis while abolishing exploitation. Despite all its shortcomings, the Soviet experience of 1917-1991 made remarkable progress in the name of humanity, which even advanced capitalist countries could not come close, thus resolving many of the injustices suffered by humanity today. The October Revolution and the social formation it created proved that humanity is not doomed to capitalism.
1917 is the verification of Marx
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote in the Manifesto of the Communist Party in 1848 that the theory of communists could be summarized in one sentence: abolishment of private property! The propertied capitalist class that appropriated factories, natural resources, and land, have become richer by exploiting workers who have no choice but sell their labor-power to live. Socialist revolution is nothing but a historical “settling of the accounts” between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat -those two classes for whom it is impossible to establish “equitable” relations. Neither the socioeconomic differences Marx highlighted between the advanced capitalist countries and Russia, nor the fact that imperialism developed as the highest stage of capitalism or the significant transformations that took place at the early 20th century regarding the logic of class struggle and the stages on which it occurs; none of these broke the indissoluble bond between the goal expressed in one sentence in the Communist Manifesto and the actuality of the October Revolution. The first socialist revolution was also the first successful political challenge by humanity against the private property over the means of production. Revealing the laws of class struggle and hastening the social transformations that will pave the way for a classless society were central to Marx’s theory and practice. The Bolsheviks marched along this path.
The idea of vanguard party is the most critical link in the struggle for socialism
It is not the parties that make the revolutions. Revolutions are achievements of social classes and masses. Yet it is an absolute necessity that the vanguard party bring its initiative into play so as to render the revolution a permanent victory for the working people. Until the October Revolution, the term “working class party” had meant, more or less, an institutionalized mass political party that managed to get into the parliament, and which aimed for a gradual change. The October Revolution proved that the basic need of the working class was an “agile” party with solid cadres who were prepared for the chaotic conditions of periods of crisis; and most importantly, a party with a perspective of socialist revolution. Although the step from Marxism to Marxism-Leninism was the product of a holistic process, we know that the most important element of this transformation was the idea of vanguard party. Capitalism prolongs its existence by putting the burden of its crisis on the shoulders of working masses in the absence of a revolutionary party of the proletariat that succeeded in reaching a position and sufficient power corresponding to its vanguard mission. The Leninist Party is a unique subjective agent, which cannot be substituted by the spontaneous acts of the working class, the initiatives it takes or any other kind of organizational forms.
Lenin’s theory of imperialism opened the doors of the October Revolution of 1917
The Revolution took place under the conditions of deep political, economic, and ideological crisis triggered by the World War I, the tooth-and-nail fight among imperialists, which meant a total catastrophe for the peoples of the world. It was not Lenin who invented the concept of imperialism. There is no doubt that there existed several valuable works that had set the ground for Lenin’s theory of imperialism. But what makes the latter singular is that it brought a resolution to the strategic issues that the fact of imperialism deemed necessary for the struggle for socialism. With the analysis of imperialism, Lenin laid bare how the social democrats betrayed the working class in the advanced capitalist countries, and more importantly he responded to the question on how and by which political and ideological interventions the working class parties could avoid pro-establishment solutions. The October Revolution was a great historical act by which these responses were verified.
The position taken in 1914 against the imperialist war was a precursor of 1917
The Bolshevik Party was one of the few among working class parties of the belligerent countries who decided not to support their own bourgeois governments when the World War I broke out. Unlike the social democrats that disgracefully declared as enemies the conscribed working masses of other countries under the slogan of “patriotism”, Lenin and his comrades adopted an internationalist position. But the difference was profounder. Instead of defending an imperialist peace, which would inevitably benefit the victors (to the detriment of the repressed) once the imperialist war broke out, the Russian Bolsheviks stuck to the struggle to destroy the capitalist order. Lenin’s position regarding the war, which is usually taken as a moral attitude, should be thought as a strategic move intertwined with moral principles, of a great revolutionary mind. The Revolution of 1917 was both a ruthless response of the working class to the imperialist war, and taking the historical opportunity that the war gave, in a creative way. The extent of tragedies the working peoples experience in those countries where this opportunity had been missed is still expanding since the turn of the 21th century.
The first socialist revolution explicitly showed the limits of bourgeois democracy and what it means for the working class
The Bolshevik Party struggled under the utterly harsh conditions of the Tsarist Russia, undertaking its activities mostly in a clandestine or semi-clandestine way. However, it did not keep a categorical distance from parliamentary or electoral grounds, and sent its representatives to the assembly, though for short terms. A “liberal” period, which had never been witnessed before throughout the Russian history, opened up after the February Revolution -i.e. the first link of the 1917. The working class, poor peasantry, and soldiers created widespread organizations; revolutionary organizations began working legally, and more importantly, Russian workers were armed to protect the vested rights of the February Revolution under the chaotic conditions of the World War I. However, once again, these liberal conditions were benefiting the capitalist class in the last analysis. Russia was still taking part in the imperialist war, exploitation of workers was deepening, and the poor peasantry was shouldering the heavy burden of both the war and the large landowners. Unlike other revolutionary organizations, the Bolsheviks insisted that the liberties should be used to change this picture, and struggled in these lines. All the actions and decisions of the Bolsheviks, which distinguished them from other political parties during 1917, such as the slogan “All power to the soviets!”, the April Theses insisting on the topicality of the “socialist revolution”, rejecting to join the Provisional Government, the immediate demand to withdraw from the imperialist war, should all be assessed within this framework. The October Revolution taught us this: the expansion of the ground of bourgeois democracy shall not be an aim in itself for the communists; what matters is the liberation of the working class, and the socialist revolution itself. The struggle for liberties gains meaning only within such framework.
The October Revolution clearly revealed the link between the revolution and crisis of capitalism
Marx had already uncovered the crisis-generating structure of capitalism elaborately. Contrary to what is commonly thought, Marx demonstrated how the bourgeois dictatorship enters into crisis following the years of relative stability due to its fragilities, not only on the economic level (which is dialectically determining) but also on the political level. The distinctions between the economical, political, and ideological levels of the capitalist hegemony do not change the fact that it is a totality, and that each of these affect one another; and moreover, every different example shows that one of them may become more significant than others. The identification of the weak spots of capitalism and realizing a corresponding strategy in the name of the working class were central to the theory and practice of Lenin. With the start of the World War I, Lenin was compelled to intensify the aforementioned theoretical and practical pursuit. He woefully realized the fact that the despair and hopelessness the war created led people to submission and dishonorable solutions within capitalism, and thus, he revived the perspective explicit in Marx’s and Engels’s writings to reverse the state of affairs. The capitalism created was turned into the very destruction of itself by the initiative of the Bolsheviks. The 1917 October Revolution was the absolute verification of this position.
Communists prepare for the revolution during unrevolutionary times
Bolshevism had a history of around 15 years before the October Revolution. During some part of this period, the “revolution” was both ideally and physically far from the Russian society. In this period, the most significant quality that distinguished the Bolsheviks from others was that they never lost the “revolutionary perspective” in times when they lost their mass base, when capitalist development gained a relative stability in Russia, and when the absolute authority of the Tsar was reinforced. Lenin and his comrades never limited themselves to the mere “struggle for democracy”, even in times when the repression of the reactionary Tsarist state became unbearable, the most basic human rights were disregarded, and political organization was substantially suppressed. The goal of the socialist revolution, which found its most developed programmatic expression in April 1917, was internalized in every phase of Bolshevism. The rejection of an idea of politics that disregard revolutionary goals in unrevolutionary times allowed the Bolsheviks to be prepared for the moment of the ultimate fight, and turned the party into a “school” that serve the class struggle and revolutionary escalation in terms of both planned and spontaneous practice. It was this, i.e. the political principle Lenin initiated, which gave Bolsheviks the agility and the skills that let them move ahead of other political movements which had been in a far more advantageous position during the 1917 October Revolution. In a succinct universal formulation still valid today: without the goal for the socialist revolution, there is no need for the communist party!