The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

100 Years Later:
The Lessons of October 1917

Nov 27, 2017

The commemoration of the Russian Revolution, and especially the October insurrection, has brought forth a great flow of ink, above all, from those supporting the established order.

These writers have made anti-communist verbal assaults against the first workers power and present it as a dictatorship, a prelude to the dictatorship of Stalin. One hundred years after the revolution, such hatred of the revolution is still strong – because October 1917 represents the greatest victory of the oppressed, of the workers and of the peasants.

The Russian Revolution began in February 1917, in the midst of world war. Those who want to reduce the workers revolution to the Stalinist dictatorship avoid talking about the imperialist butchery, the millions dead, thanks to so-called Western democracies! The tsarist army could barely equip the millions of men it threw to rot in the trenches, with virtually no food nor clothing. This war is exactly what led the workers of Petrograd to launch themselves into an attack on tsarism.

Following the February 1917 victory, those who claimed to represent the workers in power actually gave the power to the Russian capitalists. But despite everything, the Russian Revolution didn’t end like so many other revolutions, because a party existed that called for the workers themselves to conquer political power.

From February to October in 1917, the Bolshevik party went from being a small minority, which set itself to “patiently explain to the masses,” as Lenin wrote many times, that only a workers and peasants power could resolve the huge problems they were facing.

The party of Lenin supported all the revolutionary actions in the countryside, just when the government was refusing to move on any agrarian reform. In the countryside, in the cities, in the factories, Bolshevik militants pushed for the workers to organize themselves, pushed for the soviets to take control of daily life, of industrial production, and of the division of the land. This power of the soviets extended throughout the country.

In August the armed workers drove back the counter- revolutionary troops under General Kornilov. The soviets of the big cities became majority Bolshevik at this point, with the countryside following.

The Insurrection of October

In this context, the Red Guard of Petrograd took power with scarcely a shot. A few blank cannon shots were enough to make the government ministers flee. The Second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets, meeting immediately afterwards, found itself holding a new kind of power, that of the oppressed, the workers, the soldiers, the peasants. The overturn of the old regime took place in the relationship of forces and in the hearts of millions before it was carried out on the ground.

The new regime rested totally on the masses. The first measures taken by the workers power in Russia disturbed all the other governments of the world. Its decree on land established that those who had monopolized the land would find themselves expropriated, that all land now belonged to the state and the peasants could divide it up. The oppressed nationalities gained recognition of their right to emancipate themselves from Russia’s control. Secret treaties were published for all to see. The different government ministries were occupied by workers ready to make them function, despite sabotage and resistance from former civil servants of the old regime. The resistance by the possessing classes was vanquished by the armed workers.

In a few years, despite enormous difficulties tied to the world war, despite armed intervention by imperialist troops against revolutionary Russia, and despite generalized misery, the new regime removed the feudal vestiges of Russian society and the brief power of the capitalist class.

Whatever later happened in Russia under the Stalinist dictatorship, the Russian workers proved that a workers revolution was possible and that a society run by the oppressed was viable.

This remains a fundamental lesson for all the oppressed of the world today. And it is exactly this lesson that bourgeois politicians and journalists want us to forget forever. They won’t succeed.