☭ 100 YEARS AGO ☭: On The Great October Revolution

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When speaking of the great October Revolution, I tend to draw a historical parallel that puts the revolution in historical context. Karl Marx and the early Vladimir Lenin believed, in accordance with the findings of Marx’s thorough scientific investigation of the capitalist system, that the first socialist revolutions would inevitably occur in the most advanced capitalist countries, at the end of capitalist development. The young Lenin believed that the first socialist revolution wouldn’t even happen in his lifetime. In 1917 the exact opposite happened due to both the internal peculiarities of early Russian development and the external imperialist war (World War 1). The first socialist revolution took place in one of the most backward country on earth, in a country that just had a long awaited bourgeois-democratic (capitalist) revolution.

For many reasons, it must be said that the Bolshevik experiment was doomed from the start, or at the very lest had a very slim chance of succeeding. Had it taken place 1 or 2 centuries later, in an advanced capitalist country, the prospects of success would have been 10:1 and not 1:10. I like to say when referring to October that it was as if the French or American revolutions took place in ~1570 and not ~1770. Without the enlightenment, without the birth pains of the industrial revolution, without the death agony of feudalism and the crowning of the head of capitalism, the prospects of a successful French or American Revolution would have been extremely grim. But even this is an understatement. The French and American revolutions took place in extremely advanced nations for their time, not in the most backward, as did October. It would suffice to say that October was as if the French revolution took place in India or China in the 1570’s. Not only were the prerequisites for capitalism non-existent, but the prerequisites for even basic bourgeois (and especially not proletarian) democracy as well.

Despite its failure, and later Stalinist degeneration that is in my view comparable to a Soviet Thermidor, it marked something that the world had hitherto not seen. In the past every democratic system was at once the democracy of a small property owning minority (Greek slave owners or American and European white, male capitalists and land-owners) and a class dictatorship over everyone else. Even today, as bourgeois democracy has evolved to edit out the ‘white’ and ‘male’ attributes of the ruling class, the government still remains under the firm iron grip of the capitalist class. For instance, in the United States, the House of Representatives and Senate are so wealthy that less than 10% of elected representatives are in the bottom 80% income bracket. Virtually all elected officials of any significance in both parties in out country are preselected and funded by capitalist corporations via Super-PACS, etc. to maintain and reinforce the capitalist order. ‘The people’ do not elect them, they are elected and chosen by the bourgeoisie, which owns the electoral process, the media, the means of producing wealth, etc.

This brings us back to Lenin’s time tested and true statement about bourgeois democracy, which he recognized as a historic advance beyond the barbarity of medievalism, “Even in the most democratic and freest republics, as long as capital rules the land and remains private property, the government will always be in the hands of a small minority, nine-tenths of which consist of capitalists, or rich men”. What the October revolution represented was the turning of this system on its head. The ‘democracy’ that was the de facto dictatorship of the 1% property owing class over the 99% property-less proletarians and peasantry was replaced with the genuine democracy of the 99%, of the proletarians and peasantry, and the class dictatorship over the former oppressors and exploiters, over the 1%.

It represented for the first time in human history, a genuinely democratic system that represented the interests of the overwhelming majority of society, and not the interests of the property owning ruling class, which owned the means of producing wealth in a particular epoch. Lenin was undeniably on the right side of history, even if he was admittedly in the wrong time, and in the wrong place. I will leave the final verdict, of course, to history. But I have zero doubt in my mind that history will absolve the Bolsheviks of any wrong doing on their part. The ends of genuine Bolshevism, and not Stalinism, undoubtedly justify the means.

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