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Lal Khan-Bolshevik Revolution: 95 years on & Ted Grant articles

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  • Cort Greene
    http://www.marxist.com/bolshevik-revolution-95-years-on.htm *95th anniversary of the Russian Revolution: Russia 1917, Europe 1970s* Written by Ted Grant
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2012
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      *95th anniversary of the Russian Revolution: Russia 1917, Europe 1970s*
      Written by Ted Grant Wednesday, 07 November 2012
      [image: Print]<http://www.marxist.com/95th-anniversary-russian-revolution/print.htm>[image:

      On the 58th anniversary of the Russian Revolution Ted Grant wrote this
      article in which he compared the revolutionary ideas and tactics of the
      Bolsheviks in 1917 to the class collaborationist and reformist policies of
      the leaders of the Socialist and Communist parties in the 1970s. He
      explains how the Bolsheviks were able to lead the workers to successfully
      take power in 1917. He stressed the historical significance of the Russian
      revolution. Unfortunately the isolation of the revolution to one country
      prepared the ground for its degeneration and the coming to power of a
      bureaucratic elite.

      Read article in the Ted Grant Archive <http://marxists.org/archive/grant/>:


      also another article from 1974:




      *Bolshevik Revolution: 95 years on*
      Written by Lal Khan Wednesday, 07 November 2012

      Sometimes decades pass and not much happens. At other times more events
      take place in days than those that occurred in decades. After the collapse
      of the Soviet Union twenty years ago we were relentlessly told the great
      political and economic questions had all been settled and that liberal
      democracy and free-market capitalism had triumphed. Socialism had been
      consigned to the dustbin of history. The strategists of capital were
      exultant. The �end of history� was proclaimed by Francis Fukuyama.

      [image: alan-woods-on-the-russian-revolution-2]The events on a single day
      on 15th September 2008 were a watershed. The collapse of Lehman Brothers
      glaringly exposed a voracious model of capitalism forced down the throats
      of the world as the only way to run a modern economy, at the cost of
      grotesque inequality, exploitation, wars and colonial occupations; it has
      now come down crashing. The baleful twins of neo-conservatism and
      neoliberalism had been tried and tested to destruction. The Arab
      revolutions in 2011 not only engrossed one country after another in the
      Middle East but gave rise to more convulsive events around the globe than
      in the preceding two decades.

      The intensity and ferocity of these events was such that it sent shivers
      down the spines of the ruling elites across the world. Innumerable
      comparisons were drawn of these revolutions with the revolutions of the
      19th and 20th century yet the single greatest event of the 20th century,
      the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 was conspicuously missing from the
      analysis and reports of the media. And this is neither an accident nor a
      coincidence. It was by design which reflects the fears that even the name
      of this revolution instil in the hearts of the ruling classes the world
      over. And this is in spite of the relentless din of the voracious chorus
      that �socialism�, Marxism�, �communism� are dead.

      Of all the parodies of popular representation in which history is so rich,
      Pakistan�s political elite is perhaps the most absurd. On the one hand they
      reverberate the clich� that �socialism is dead�, while at the same time
      mostly the right wing politicians are frighteningly warning about a bloody
      revolution. Awkwardly some present the French revolution as a solution to
      the crisis without even knowing which one. From 1789 till 1968 there were
      five bourgeois revolutions and two proletarian revolutions in France. The
      victorious Paris Commune of 1871 was the first revolution in history in
      which the working classes took power and held it for more than seventy days
      while the May 1968 upheaval in France was even larger in comparison to the
      Russian revolution of 1917 but was defeated by the betrayals of the leaders
      of the traditional workers parties in France. But such is the deafening
      silence on the Bolshevik Revolution as if it never even happened. If one
      dares to mention it the abrupt reply of the political overlords and their
      intellectual geniuses of today is �Oh! That failed in Russia.� The relative
      weight of slander in a political struggle in society still awaits its

      The Russian revolution of October 1917 changed the course of history. The
      American journalist and socialist who witnessed the events of the
      revolution at first hand wrote in his epic book, Ten days that shook the
      world, �No matter what one thinks of Bolshevism, it is an undeniable fact
      that the Russian revolution is one of the greatest events in human history,
      and the rule of the Bolsheviki is a phenomenon of worldwide importance.�
      According to the Russian orthodox calendar, the revolutionary insurrection
      and the capture of power by the Bolsheviks took place on the night of
      October 26, which falls on November 7 in the modern Christian calendar.

      This revolutionary victory appropriated rulership from one oppressor class
      in a tiny minority and transferred it to the vast majority of the working
      classes in society. The process of the overthrow of the bourgeois state and
      capture of power by the leading party of the proletariat had a massive
      conscious involvement and participation of the vast majority of toilers. It
      is the only revolution hitherto that took place on classical Marxist lines.
      Lenin explained what real change this revolution ought to bring. He wrote
      in December 1917, �One of the most important tasks of today, is to develop
      [the] independent initiative of the workers, and of all the working and the
      exploited people generally, develop it as widely as possible in creative
      organisational work. At all costs we must break the old, absurd, savage,
      despicable and distinguishing prejudice that only the so-called upper
      classes, only the rich, and those who have gone through the school of the
      rich, are capable of administering the state and directing the
      organisational development of socialist society.�

      The most distinguishing feature of the Bolshevik party was that they
      subordinated the subjective goal, the guarding of the interests of the
      toiling people, to the dynamics of the revolution as an objectively
      hardened course. The party�s strategy was based on the scientific discovery
      of the laws that govern mass movements and upheavals. The muzhiks (poor
      peasants) had not read Lenin, but Lenin knew how to read the minds of the
      muzhiks. The oppressed and exploited masses are guided in their struggle
      not only by their demands, their desires, their needs but above all the
      experiences of their lives. The Bolsheviks were never under any snobbish
      prejudice or held any patrician derision for the independent experience of
      the people in struggle. Conversely they took it as their starting point and
      built upon it. Where the reformists and the pseudo-revolutionaries moaned
      and groaned about the hardships, obstacles and difficulties, the Bolsheviks
      took them head on. Trotsky defines them in his epic work, History of the
      Russian Revolution: �The Bolsheviks were revolutionaries of deed and not
      gesture, of the essence and not the form. Their policy was determined by
      the real grouping of forces, and not by sympathies and
      antipathies...Bolshevism created the type of authentic revolutionist who
      subordinates to historic goals irreconcilable with contemporary society the
      conditions of his personal existence, his ideas, and his moral judgements.
      The necessary distance from bourgeois ideology was kept up in the party by
      a vigilant irreconcilability, whose inspirer was Lenin. Lenin never tired
      of working with his lancet, cutting off those bonds which a petty bourgeois
      environment creates between the party and official social opinion. At the
      same time Lenin taught the party to create its own social opinion, resting
      upon the thoughts and feelings of the rising class. Thus by a process of
      selection and education and in continual struggle, the Bolshevik party
      created not only a political but a moral medium of its own, independent of
      bourgeois social opinion and implacably opposed to it. Only this permitted
      the Bolsheviks to overcome the waverings in their own ranks and reveal in
      action the courageous determination without which the October victory would
      have been impossible.�

      After the victorious insurrection, Lenin spoke to the All Russia Congress
      of the Soviets: �We shall now proceed to build, on the space cleared by
      historical rubbish, the airy, towering edifice of socialist society.� The
      revolution ushered in a new era of socioeconomic transformation. Landed
      estates, heavy industry, corporate monopolies and the commanding heights of
      the economy were expropriated by the nascent workers state. The
      dictatorship of the financial oligarchy was broken; the state had a
      monopoly on all foreign trade and commerce. Ministerial perks and
      privileges were abolished and the leaders of the revolution lived in most
      modest conditions. Victor Serge in his, Memoirs of a Revolutionary wrote:
      �In the Kremlin Lenin still occupied a small apartment built for a palace
      servant. In the recent winter he, like everyone else, had no heating. When
      he went to the barber�s he took his turn, thinking it unseemly for anyone
      else to give way to him.� Initially the new government was a coalition of
      the Bolsheviks, Left Social Revolutionaries and the Menshevik
      Internationalists. Only the fascist Black Hundreds were banned and even the
      Kadets, the bourgeois liberal party, was allowed to operate after the
      revolution. The new government was based on the most democratic system ever
      seen in history, the soviets, i.e. workers, soldiers and peasants councils
      at grassroots level that were devised to manage and democratically control
      the economy, agriculture, industry, army and society. The main guiding
      principles of this soviet system of governance were the following:

      1. Free democratic elections to all positions in the soviet state;
      2. Right of recall of all officials;
      3. No official to receive a higher wage than a skilled worker, and
      4. Gradually, all tasks of running society and the state to be performed
      by everyone in turn.

      What this revolution really meant for the oppressed and exploited working
      classes of Russia was portrayed in an inspiring anecdote by John Reed:
      �Across the horizon spread the glittering lights of the Capital,
      immeasurably more splendid by the night than by the day, like a dike of
      jewels heaped on a barren plain. The old workman who drove the wheelbarrow
      held in one hand, while with the other he swept the pavement, looked at the
      far gleaming capital and exclaimed in an exulted gesture, �Mine!� he cried,
      his face all alight. �All mine now! My Petrograd!�

      If the revolutionary victory has to be explained from a scientific
      analysis, the Marxists also have a historical responsibility to give a
      scientific explanation of the degeneration and collapse of the Soviet
      Union. But Marxism is a science of perspective and it is a mediocrity of
      knowledge to analyse events after they have taken place. The Marxists had
      predicted the fall of the Soviet Union far in advance, starting with the
      leader of the revolution Vladimir Lenin, who from a Marxist standpoint had
      never ever envisaged the accomplishment of socialism in a single country.
      On March 7, 1918, Lenin weighed upon the situation, �Regarded from a
      world-historical point of view, there would be no hope of the ultimate
      victory of our revolution if it were to remain alone, if there were no
      revolutionary victories in other countries... our salvation from all these
      difficulties is an all-European revolution. At all events, under all
      conceivable circumstances, if the German revolution does not come, we are
      doomed.� Leon Trotsky wrote an epoch making book, The Revolution Betrayed
      in 1936 in which he scientifically predicted more than fifty years before
      the events took place that why and how the Soviet Union will collapse if
      the revolution in the advanced countries is not victorious and a political
      revolution of workers democracy doesn�t take place in the USSR. Ted Grant
      in his outstanding 1943 work, Marxist theory of the state, further
      elaborated and analysed this process. His perspectives, albeit in a
      negative sense, were vindicated by the events around the fall of the Berlin
      Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

      The Russian revolution of 1917 was not an isolated national event but had
      immense international repercussions. It not only overthrew capitalism and
      landlordism in Russia but also smashed the shackles of the imperialist
      stranglehold. This triggered revolutionary upheavals far beyond the
      frontiers of the USSR, particularly in Europe. The imperialist masters were
      terrified by these mass revolts that threatened capitalism in its citadels.
      The British Prime Minister Lloyd George wrote in a confidential memorandum
      to Clemenceau, his French counterpart at the 1919 Versailles Peace
      Conference: �The whole of Europe is filled with the spirit of revolution.
      There is a deep sense not only of discontent but of anger and revolt
      amongst the workmen against the present conditions. The whole existing
      order in its political, social and economic aspects is questioned by the
      masses of the population from one end of Europe to the other.� To crush the
      epicentre of the rising tide of the revolutionary upheavals they launched a
      massive attack on the nascent Soviet state with twenty one imperialist
      armies. Although the revolution itself was a relatively peaceful affair as
      only nine people died during the actual insurrection, the imperialist
      attack supporting the reactionary white armies brought drastic carnage,
      bloodshed, mayhem, starvation and destruction to a backward country already
      devastated by the first world war.

      On the basis of extreme deprivation and pulverisation of the masses
      aggravated by the civil war and the blockade, the �struggle for individual
      existence�, in the words of Karl Marx, did not disappear or soften, but
      assumed in the subsequent period a ferocious character. The defeats of the
      revolutions in Germany (1918-19 and 1923), China (1924-25), Britain (1926)
      and several other countries were a fatal blow for the Bolshevik Revolution.
      They intensified its isolation and induced nationalist degeneration. The
      imperialist aggression was defeated by the combination of the heroic fight
      by the Red Army and the support of the proletariat and the soldiers of the
      imperialist countries and armies. Trotsky raised a revolutionary Red Army
      of five million from a war-torn Russian army of three hundred thousand.
      Innumerable Bolshevik cadres perished in this imperialist civil war. This
      created a vacuum in which the opportunist and the careerist elements
      penetrated the Soviet government. The shortages and dearth of commodities,
      the collapse of industry and agriculture due to the war brought a
      generalised misery that played an important role in the bureaucratic
      degeneration of the revolution.

      Lenin struggled against this degeneration before his early death in 1924.
      Lenin�s last testament which criticised and called for a struggle against
      this bureaucratic deformation was concealed in the iron vaults of the
      Kremlin, and finally exposed in 1956 at the 20th Congress of the CPSU. But
      the hostile objective conditions, the exhaustion of the proletarian
      vanguard due to war and revolution created a situation where a bureaucratic
      regime began to emerge around Stalin in the Soviet government and the
      state. Trotsky created a left opposition and put up a valiant resistance
      against this degeneration but that was crushed because of the ebbing of the
      revolutionary tide. This led to the consolidation of a bureaucratic
      totalitarian apparatus with huge perks and privileges. The maximum wage
      differentials of 1:4 were abolished. This political reaction against the
      October revolution was so repressive that by 1940 there was only one
      survivor, apart from Stalin of the central committee of the Bolshevik Party
      that had led the revolution in 1917. All others were either exterminated,
      died, committed suicide, were incarcerated or exiled.

      In spite of this Stalinist degeneration of the revolution, the economy
      remained a planned one. The bureaucracy was not a class that owned the
      means of production but was a caste or a clique which controlled and
      usurped the surplus. Inspite of these severe setbacks the economy of the
      USSR grew at a pace that capitalism never achieved anywhere. Ted Grant
      wrote in his brilliant work, Russia � From Revolution to Counter
      Revolution, �In the fifty years from 1913 (the height of pre-war
      production) to 1963, despite two world wars, foreign intervention and civil
      war, and other calamities total industrial output rose more than 52 times.
      The corresponding figure for the USA was less than six times, while Britain
      struggled to double its output. In other words Soviet Union was transformed
      from a backward agricultural economy into the second most powerful nation
      on earth, with a mighty industrial base, a high cultural level and more
      scientists than the USA and Japan combined. Life expectancy more than
      doubled and child mortality fell by nine times. Such economic advance, in
      such a short a time, has no parallel anywhere in the world.� The equality
      and full involvement of women was ensured in all spheres of social,
      economic and political life � the provision of free school meals, milk for
      children, pregnancy consultation centres, maternity homes, cr�ches and
      other facilities free of cost were provided by the workers state. The
      superiority of the planned economy was proved to the world not in the
      language of dialectics but in the language of unprecedented social and
      material advances.

      However as the economy expanded rapidly it became more sophisticated,
      complex and advanced. An economy producing one million commodities cannot
      be run by the same methods as those for an economy producing 1,500 items.
      Trotsky had once said that, �For a planned economy, workers democracy is as
      essential as oxygen is for the human body.� By the late 1960s the economic
      growth had begun to falter. By 1978 it plummeted to zero percent. The dead
      weight of mismanagement, waste, corruption and bureaucracy weighed down
      heavily on the economy, eventually dragging it to a standstill. The
      isolation of the revolution, nationalist caricature of socialism and the
      lack of workers democratic control and management of the economy and
      society were the real reasons for the degeneration of the Russian
      revolution, not the so-called �failure of socialism�. What actually existed
      in the Soviet Union at the time of its collapse was not socialism or
      communism but its caricature, Stalinism.

      Today with the crisis of capitalism on a world scale there have been
      massive upheavals against this harrowing system that has plunged the vast
      majority of mankind into the pit of misery, poverty and disease. It is a
      historically doomed system and can only cause more pain, agony and grief to
      the human race. Marx and Engels understood from the beginning that the
      crisis of the capitalist system is the crisis of overproduction or
      overcapacity. Even the most far-sighted bourgeois economists acknowledge
      this crisis and how it has brought the capitalist system into extreme
      crisis at the present time. The Economist bemoans in its analysis of the
      world economy, �Modern politics needs to undergo a similar reinvention � to
      come up with ways of mitigating inequality. Some of those at the top of the
      pile will remain sceptical that inequality is a problem in itself. But even
      they have an interest in mitigating it, for if it continues to rise,
      momentum for change will build and may lead to a political outcome that
      serves nobody�s interests�.

      The mass revolts of a renewed class struggle arising around the world in
      the present epoch that is dawning are clearly rejecting capitalism. The
      most daunting problem for these movements is the determination of an
      alternative system. Most of the ex-socialists and ex-communists are in the
      forefront of condemning revolutionary socialism as a scientific alternative
      to resolve the crisis. They have capitulated to the reactionary theories of
      �end of history, etc�, i.e. capitalism. But the greater damage being done
      by these intellectuals is trying to �modernise� Marxism by venomous
      revisionism. However the only road to the salvation of mankind still today
      is revolutionary Marxism. Ninety five years later, the Bolshevik revolution
      of 1917 is the only way forward for the accomplishment of this historic
      task. In 1917 it took about two weeks for the news of the Russian
      revolution to reach the leftwing activists in the Indian subcontinent. Now
      the masses can watch revolutions live on television. In more than nine
      hundred cities of the five continents there were mass demonstrations in
      support of the �Occupy Wall Street movement�. This is the internationalism
      that Marxism anticipated and strived for by creating the First
      International. At this juncture in human history if there is another
      October it would not and could not be confined to any national frontiers. A
      socialist revolution in any major country today shall redeem Lenin�s pledge
      that the whole world will develop into a USSR with a mighty revolutionary
      storm transcending the planet. Thus the process of the conquest of universe
      by the human race shall commence.

      *This article was originally published in the Pakistan *Daily
      * in three parts November 4-6.*

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