The Third International after Lenin

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rediscovering Bolshevism

Bolshevism and the capitalist crisis today

The genuine forces of revolutionary Marxism were neither demoralised nor disillusioned by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The search for an alternate to the present mayhem and drudgery of capitalism will have to rediscover the path of the most scientific of the revolutions of the past.

Meeting in the Putilov works, 1917Meeting in the Putilov works, 1917This year the 94th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution falls at a time when capitalism is in the throes of its worst crisis and is facing revolts on a world scale. The rapid increase in poverty, unemployment and misery is devastating society and has exposed capitalism as the real cause of this calamity to billions of suffering souls. The movements against this system have transcended national boundaries, religious differences and ethnic divisions. This is unprecedented in history. This might have taken many by surprise but for the Marxists this new wave of class struggle across the planet is a vindication, yet again, of the profound ideological foundations of scientific socialism and communism — proletarian internationalism. Marxism is internationalism or it is nothing.

Whereas the current upsurge has universally rejected capitalism, the dilemma facing the movement at large is determining the real character of the revolution and the alternative socioeconomic and political system that can transform society. The din of the monotonous rhetoric of ‘revolution’ by status quo politicians is appalling. Most of them do not have a clue of what a revolution really means. As the excruciating crisis of the economy and society worsens, the mainstream intelligentsia, including the ex-leftists, draw analogies and mention precedents of the revolutions in Germany, France, China and other countries. The revolution they are reluctant to recall is the Socialist Revolution in Russia that was victorious on the night between November 6-7, 1917 (October 26th and 27th according to the orthodox Byzantine calendar prevalent in Czarist Russia at the time). The fear of this revolution reflects their capitulation to capitalism.

The Russian Revolution transformed every sphere of society and changed the course of history. No other revolution in history apart from the brief heroic episode of the Paris Commune of 1871 brought the vast majority of the toiling masses into power. John Reed, an American communist and journalist, wrote in his brilliant book, Ten Days that Shook the World: “No matter what one thinks of Bolshevism, it is undeniable that the Russian Revolution is one of the greatest events in human history...It is fashionable to speak of Bolshevik insurrection as an ‘adventure’. Adventure it was, and one of the most marvellous mankind ever embarked upon, sweeping into history at the head of the toiling masses, and staking everything on their vast and simple desires.” The salient feature of this great revolution was the conscious participation of the majority of the working class in historical events in a collective endeavour to transform society by overthrowing capitalism and feudalism. Through the medium of the ‘soviets’ of the workers, soldiers and peasants, they began to build a new order. In his introduction to Ted Grant’s epic work, Russia: From Revolution to Counter-Revolution, Alan Woods writes, “The regime established by the October Revolution was neither totalitarian nor bureaucratic, but the most democratic regime yet seen on earth — a regime in which for the first time, millions of ordinary men and women took their destiny in their own hands...For the first time in history, the viability of a nationalised planned economy was demonstrated not in theory but in practise. Over one sixth of the earth’s surface, in a gigantic, unprecedented experiment, it was possible to run society without capitalists, landowners and moneylenders.”

For 70 years there were scintillating advances in the economy, industry, education, health, agriculture, science and technology. The Soviet Union produced more doctors, engineers, scientists, researchers and technicians than the US and Europe combined. No other country has ever achieved such high growth rates. More tractors, heavy mechanical complexes, cement, steel, agricultural products were produced than the most advanced capitalist economies. The USSR had a balanced budget and a surplus every year. There was hardly any inflation and no unemployment. Health, education and other collective amenities were free for society. Life expectancy more than doubled and child mortality fell by nine times. Massive advances were made to facilitate the full involvement of women in all spheres of social, economic and political life. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 there was a euphoric frenzy amongst the bourgeoisie and its media. The apologists of capitalism were in a wild chorus about the ‘failure of socialism’. They vented their spleen against Marxism and tried to deceive the masses by identifying socialism and communism with the bureaucratic totalitarian regime that arose from the isolation of the revolution in a backward country. This was not socialism but its deformed caricature, the emergence of which had been predicted by Marxists much in advance. The leaders of the revolution itself, Lenin and Trotsky, had clearly drawn out the guidelines and ideological strategy that was not adhered to and subsequently led to the degeneration and later the collapse of the USSR.

Lenin had never envisaged the Soviet Union as a nation state, nor did the concept of ‘socialism in one country’ have anything to do with Marxism. In 1921 Lenin said, “Berlin is the heart of Germany and Germany is the heart of Europe. If there is no revolution in Germany the Russian Revolution is doomed...Even if we have to sacrifice the Russian Revolution for the success of the German Revolution, we shall not hesitate for a second.” Lenin’s approach was to build a world USSR if a society devoid of want, i.e. communism, was to be created. Trotsky in his 1936 classic, Revolution Betrayed, wrote, “The fall of the present bureaucratic dictatorship, if it were not replaced by a new socialist power, would thus mean a return to capitalist relations with a catastrophic decline of industry and culture...Whoever worships the accomplished fact is incapable of preparing the future...We intend to show the face and not the mask.” The genuine forces of revolutionary Marxism were neither demoralised nor disillusioned by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The search for an alternate to the present mayhem and drudgery of capitalism will have to rediscover the path of the most scientific of the revolutions of the past. In spite of the differences of time, peculiarities and local factors, the ideology and principles of Bolshevism are very much valid for a genuine revolutionary transformation today. Slanders and lies cannot distort reality. The locomotive of human advance is truth, not lies. Truth will not remain buried for all time. Trotsky explained long ago the historical significance of the October Revolution, “Even if the Soviet Union, as a result of internal difficulties, external blows and the mistakes of its leadership, were to collapse...there would remain as an earnest of the future this indestructible fact, that thanks solely to a proletarian revolution in a backward country achieved successes unexampled in history.” For the 21st century, Bolshevism is the only real road to revolution.

This article was originally published in The Daily Times (Pakistan)

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