From Sat Nov 6 13:15:09 2004
Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2004 10:12:06 -0600 (CST)
Subject: [NYTr] Ire: Celebrating the Bolshevik Revolution
Article: 195495
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Celebrating the 87th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution

Irish Republican Socialist Party, 5 November 2004

November 6, 1917 was the date of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Irish Republican Socialist Party recognizes this event as a watershed in human history and therefore pays tribute to the memory of the “ten days that shook the world”. Accordingly, the IRSP's International Department takes this opportunity to express our solidarity with socialists, communists, syndicalists, anarchists, and anti-imperialists throughout the world who are struggling, as we are, for the liberation of our nations and our class.

Prior to the Bolshevik Revolution, the only experience the world had known of a working class revolution was the short-lived Paris Commune of 1871. The Paris Commune, despite the promise it demonstrated during its short existence, ultimately lasted only from 26 March until 28 May, too short a time to realise much of the potential it held. In contrast, the Bolshevik Revolution not only succeeded in taking state power in the name of the Russian working class, but also defended itself from attacks by the most powerful imperialist armies of the day and survived as a state for three-quarters of a century.

The revolution arose in circumstances that noone thought capable of producing a socialist revolt. Russia was the backward hinterland of Europe. Feudalism, long dead in western Europe still predominated in Russia. It was only in 1861 that the serfs were freed and prior to 1801 serfs could still be sold as chattel. Pre-revolutionary Russia was ruled by an almost absolute monarchy and peasants made up perhaps as much as 90 percent of the populace. However, the penetration of the Russian economy by foreign imperialists had transformed sections of the populace from peasants to industrial workers in modern factories. In the process, a large and militant workers' movement was forged and the Bolsheviks were the left wing of that movement. In international socialist circles the Bolsheviks were often within the left wing of the international socialist movement as well, especially in the wake of the First World War.

The widespread radicalism of the Russian working class and the Bolsheviks' reputation for unflinching revolutionary politics throughout the socialist movement won the ‘Great October Revolution’ widespread excitement and hope from socialists around the globe. (Illustrating the backward state of Russia at the time they were still using the old calendar, so despite the revolution occurring on what we know as the 6th of November, it was still October by the Russian calendar and the name of the revolution was retained, even after the calendar used throughout the west was adopted.)

But, a socialist revolution is above all else a transformation of the mode of production, distribution, and exchange, if it lives up to the title, and the Bolsheviks seizure of state power and their subsequent defense of the revolution against domestic reactionaries and foreign imperialists was not sufficient to overcome the reality of economic development in Russia. In less than five years, the workers' councils (soviets in Russian) existed in name only, the trade unions had become instruments of state control in the workplace, and managers from the days of capitalism had been returned to the workplace. Likewise, the initial abolition of rank within the military was reversed and the Red Army was turned on the Kronstadt sailors, once held up as shining examples of revolutionary heroism. By 1921, the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin made plain his view that the best that could be salvaged from the revolution was what he termed “state capitalism” and the adoption of his New Economic Policy that year was intended to accomplish that.

The collapse of the USSR in 1990 has been heralded throughout the imperialist media as proof of the failure of socialism and the final refutation of Marxism. In actual fact, it is neither. In reality, despite returning to the claim of having created socialism in Russia, following Lenin's death in early 1924, the Bolshevik leader's understanding of revolution far exceeded those who followed him and state capitalism was what had been obtained. Accordingly, its fall in Russia at the close of the 20th century is actually a comment on the present instability of capitalism in all its forms around the globe today and says nothing about socialism.

While this may be true of the USSR for most of its history, it is not true for the Bolshevik Revolution itself, however, and that is why we in the IRSP celebrate the 87th anniversary of that event today. The Bolshevik Revolution and the emergence of the central role of the workers' councils that characterised it, was soon mirrored in similar insurrections in Italy, Germany, Hungary, Austria, and many other nations, including the brief and localised experience of the Limerick Soviet here in Ireland. Unlike the Bolshevik Revolution, most of these other insurrections were short-lived, but like it, they craved the name of the working class boldly on the pages of human history and provided our class with important lessons to be learned and heroic examples of struggle, which provide continued inspiration to us.

Today, many struggles have lost heart and sought some form of compromise or accommodation within capitalism. We in the IRSP continue to believe that the only way forward for our class is to see the revolutionary transformation of society through to its conclusion. Sisters and brothers of all nations, comrades and fellow workers, look to the inspiration of the Bolshevik Revolution. Gain strength from the example of the heroes and martyrs of 1917. We still have a world to win; let us do so!