The beacon of October 1917 illuminates the way to the revolution of tomorrow
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 14; Autumn - Winter 2017)
One hundred years after this gigantic upheaval which caused the whole world to tremble, the commemorations of the revolution in Russia have not been lacking, and are not diminishing, even in the bourgeois media. Of course, these commemorations are critical and the main reproach addressed at the Bolsheviks, even among those who call themselves the «far left», is that they have not respected the universal and irreproachable canons of democracy. In general, however, the Russian Revolution is treated as an event of a distant past and a past without any real bearing on the present and future situation. For true Communists, on the contrary, the October Revolution is a living, ever-present motif; it affects all the central questions of proletarian emancipation, the revolutionary struggle for socialism, the indispensable role of the class party in this struggle, and so on. We shall content ourselves here with mentioning a number of them.
No revolution takes place in a single day, contradicting the old anarchist myth of the «One big night»; it occupies a period which, depending on the conditions of the moment at the national and international level, may be more or less lengthy, and it has been prepared by a whole maturation, often imperceptible to contemporaries: it is the period when, as Marx said , twenty years do not count for more than a day for great historical developments, before a revolutionary period where every day concentrates twenty years within itself.
A hundred years have passed since October 17 and we are obliged because of an always unfavorable situation to recall the lessons of a revolution passed instead of preparing for the next revolution. It is also a fact that we cannot escape the mania for observation of «mathematical» dates...
The great proletarian revolution that brought down the bourgeois power in October 17 after defeating the Tsarist government in February is still today called the October Revolution because it occurred on 26 October of the «Gregorian» calendar then in force in Russia (corresponding to 7 November of the current calendar) the proletarian insurrection took over the Winter Palace in Petrograd, which had been the seat of the Kerensky government after being the residence of the Tsars.
With this assault the revolutionary movement of the Russian proletariat, leading the revolutionary movement of the peasants and the poor masses, signaled the end of the power of the young Russian bourgeoisie. This in the midst of full-blown world war, where Tsarism was part of the Triple Entente alongside Great Britain and France, which clashed with the Alliance of the Central Empires (Germany and Austria-Hungary, with Turkey joining them, while Italy joined the Triple Entente (followed later by the USA).. The bourgeois Russian government formed after the February revolution remained faithful to the military commitments of Tsarism, demonstrating in fact that it had no intention of breaking with the previous imperialist policy, even though it claimed in its speeches that the war had changed its nature.
VICTORY OF THE INSURRECTION
In recalling the date of the insurrection we wish to emphasize a first historical lesson: one that was contained in the letters of Lenin (then in hiding), which called for neither a day nor an hour to be lost to overthrow the government of Kerensky. This great truth, that is to say that the party must know how not to miss the moment when the collective will of the party becomes the determining factor of a historical turning point (what we call the «reversal of praxis»), although the struggle will continue long after the fateful date; on the one hand because of the immense distances in Russia, but above all because after the victorious capture of power in the capital which reverberates throughout the country, it will be necessary to maintain this power against external invasions and internal enemies not only for several weeks, but for several years.
The conquest of power by the proletariat and the establishment of its dictatorship exercised by the Communist Party were the jolt which inaugurated the unavoidable tasks of the revolution, such as the liquidation of the war and the rejection of any imperialist policy of conquest, of annexation, of national oppression. There was also the task of eliminating all the obstacles of the previous state administration and democratic formalisms (including the Constituent Assembly) which corresponded to the needs of the ruling classes, of depriving the latter of all possibilities of organizing themselves to fight on all terrains (cultural, political, military) for the defense of their interests, the proletariat’s task of preparing itself to fight against the insurrections they fomented and against imperialist military interventions by arming and organizing into a Red Army workers’ and peasants’ detachments.
Let’s stop to examine the question of the bourgeois democratic revolution and its Constituent Assembly. In his «April Theses» Lenin asserted that the republic should not be parliamentary, but based on the system of the Soviets; we are still at this time in the midst of an anti-feudal revolution, therefore a «bourgeois», «democratic» revolution, according to Marxism; but this bourgeois-democratic revolution will be able all the more quickly to realize its aims, it will be able to go all the farther in the liquidation of the feudal and semi-feudal remnants when it is led by the proletariat without using democratic methods! As for the bourgeoisie, it would prefer to renounce «its» revolution or at least to curb it to the maximum and to compromise with the forces of the old regime for fear of being carried away by the revolutionary flurry.
Indeed, the revolution was not only of a bourgeois nature, it was «double»: the proletarians who mobilized were fighting against the old regime, but they were also fighting against their bosses, against the capitalists, against the bourgeois. The Constituent Assembly in the hands of the bourgeoisie would have stopped the revolution, as the Provisional Government had done since February 17. It was dissolved by the revolutionary forces which had seized power through the success of the insurrection.
Three days after the drafting of the «Declaration of the Rights of the Working and Exploited People», which the Constituent Assembly had refused to approve, Lenin signed the decree of dissolution of the latter on 7 January.
As our text «Economic and Social Structure of Russia Today» explains, citing excerpts from Lenin’s text, the decision was based on the fact that the Russian Revolution had created the Soviets from the beginning, had developed against the illusions of collaboration with the bourgeois parties and against the «deceitful forms of bourgeois democratic parliament» and «came to the conclusion that the liberation of the oppressed classes without breaking with these forms and with any kind of conciliation is impossible». This rupture «took place with the October Revolution, which restored all power to the Soviets» (1).
This led to the reaction of the exploiters, and in the repression of their desperate attempts, the October Revolution showed that it was the beginning of the socialist revolution: «The working classes,» Lenin continues, «had to persuade themselves on the basis of experience, that the old bourgeois parliamentarism had had its time (including in Russia, where it had just emerged - Editor’s note), that it was incompatible with the objective of the realization of socialism; that it is not general national institutions but only class organizations like the Soviets that can overcome the resistance of the propertied classes and lay the foundations of the socialist society».
The greatness of this text, again remarked upon in our text «Economic and Social Structure of Russia Today», is that it is not based on particular contingencies of concrete Russian development, but on the principle arguments drawn from the very history of the proletarian and world communist revolution, on the incompatibility between parliamentary democracy and the realization of socialism which will follow the violent overthrow of social obstacles, traditional forms of production, as it is written in the «Manifesto».
«Beyond ten frontiers,» writes Bordiga, «the partisans of uncorrupted Marxism have not read this text, but it was enough for them to learn of the outright news, that the minority had left the assembly and ordered that the majority be silenced, to celebrate one of the most striking encounters between doctrinal prediction and living history. The mass of exploited proletarians, whom war had led to the revolutionary struggle, understood the magnitude of the event, though in a less scientific manner. They cried with millions of voices that once again enlightenment (call to her, O philistines, who spit out your venom, messianic, in our lexicon it is not the Word that makes itself Flesh but the Theory that is made Reality) had risen resplendently on the horizon of the East» (2).
The lesson contained in these historical facts is all the more grandiose as the content of these enterprises is entirely classist; and it allows the name of Socialist and Communist to be given to the October Revolution and the State of the Soviets under the Bolshevik Party, because in all its political action it has a central foundation, which does not lie in a set of measures intended to govern and administer Russia, but in the relentless struggle for the communist revolution in Europe.
The fundamental value of the October Revolution lies precisely in the fact that the policy of the Bolshevik Party and the new government was directed entirely towards the European and world revolution.
DESTRUCTION OF THE IMPERIALIST WAR
From April to October the Bolsheviks had put forward the international situation, the imperialist war, to explain their formidable historical formula for the Russian revolution: It is a bourgeois anti-feudal revolution. That it is of interest to the proletariat, we know it since 1848; at the time, in this situation of nascent capitalism (which, according to historical determinism, means socially useful and beneficial, the only one capable of increasing labor productivity and rate of growth of consumption, and propelling forward proletarian class capacities), there was open alliance, common struggle, solidarity, not only for the overthrow of feudal serfdom and absolutism, but also for the foundation of the national state and the wars that had this objective. By the time of the Russian Revolution, capitalism in the world was parasitic, it was no longer an impetus but it had become a hindrance to the productive economy, no longer generating wars geared towards the most modern forms of national, but of wars of rapine and pure brigandage.
In this case too, we must fight for an anti-despotic revolution, even if it must remain in the capitalist phase; but there can no longer be any war alliances with the bourgeoisie, there can no longer be solidarity not only in the (anti-tsarist) civil war but in the external war. In short, we will not tire of repeating it, the proletariat is in charge of making the bourgeois revolution, it is in charge of directing the peasantry in this revolution, but it does not ally itself with the bourgeois parties, it tends to take all power against the local bourgeoisie, its opportunist allies and international colleagues.
Bolshevism assumed this hard task, however terrible the stakes were. A rapid offer of global negotiations: the allies are silent; immediately after the unilateral offer to the Germans who are hurrying to the border.
First delegation Ioffé in December 1917. Unacceptable conditions. Second delegation Trotsky in January 1918. Grim conditions, which include the annexation of Slavic peoples. Three formulas: Lenin (ferocious enemy of the annexations): accept and sign peace; Bukharin: revolutionary war against the Germans; Trotsky: neither peace nor war, not to sign. The Congress of Soviets is for this thesis. The delegation withdrew without signing treaties. The German army launched itself forward. Trotsky proposes to the Central Committee to call on the allies for military aid. On 23 February Berlin dictated an aggravated ultimatum: at the CC, 7 votes for Lenin (acceptance), 4 for Bukharin (refusal), who then resigned, 4 abstained with Trotsky. 3 March: signature of the treaty. The Party Congress approves, and condemns the «Left Communists» of Bukharin. The Communist Party breaks with the Revolutionary Socialists, its last allies.
The party is alone. War is destroyed.
This overview of such a great event is enough. Let us note only that the revolutionary left of the Italian Socialist party adopted all the positions of October: conquest of power, dictatorship, dispersion of the Constituent Assembly, rupture with the RS, terrorist strategy; it would be enough to go through a series of the «Avanguardia» (organ of the young Socialists), with the comments, which we would say are very excited, week after week. In the «Avanti!» An article of the same origin, unconditionally for Lenin’s thesis: «The Russian Revolution in a decisive phase», was intended to combat the uncertainties of the comrades who believed that the position was too rightist, too conciliatory (3)
CREATION OF THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL
The «April Theses» (1917) written by Lenin, returning from exile, to guide the party’s action in the new situation created by the fall of Tsarism and the establishment of the provisional government, are the program of the proletarian revolution in Russia (and not the program of building socialism – impossible in economically and socially backward Russia). But they are not limited to a national framework, to the framework of Russia alone: how could this be possible when Russia is engaged in the world war? On the other hand, the Russian revolution itself is not an isolated, purely national fact. It is part of an international revolutionary wave that will affect all countries. If, in Lenin’s words, the imperialist chain has broken down in its weakest link – Russia – this whole chain is rattled and threatens to break down definitively. It is therefore right that the Theses of April end with the tenth: «Transform the International. Take the initiative to create a revolutionary International, an International against the social-chauvinists and against the ‘center’».
It will take more than a year after the seizure of power to form this International; but it is nevertheless the legitimate daughter, not only of the revolutionary thrust in Europe, but of the victory of the October Revolution.
Its fate was, moreover, closely linked to the destiny of the latter: as soon as the revolutionary power was forced, by reason of the failure of the proletarian revolution in Europe, to retreat into the properly Russian tasks of the development of capitalism wanting at first to control it, before camouflaging its development later under the false label of «construction of socialism»), the International, incapable of resisting opportunistic pressures, began to degenerate. It then went on to counter-revolution by becoming the tool of Russian state capitalism, after having expelled all those who opposed this fatal involution.
* * *
One hundred years after the illumination of the October Revolution still shines despite all those extinguishers; it always indicates the path of the future revolution: the violent seizure of power, the destruction of the bourgeois state, the dictatorship of the proletariat exercised by the single-class party and the international extension of the revolution.
Tomorrow, on a much broader scale than a hundred years ago, the proletariat will have to fight again, if only to escape the inevitable destiny imposed upon it by capitalism; it will have to oppose class war again imperialist war, it would have to launch again «the assault to sky» and exclaim like Lenin in his famous speech improvised before a delegation of workers gathered to welcome him on his arrival in Russia in April 1917: «... the dawn of the world socialist revolution has already risen (...) Long live the World Socialist Revolution!»
(1) See «Economic Structure of Russia Today» a series of reports by Bordiga at meetings of our party under this title. Ed. Il Programma Comunista 1976, p. 231.
(2) Ibidem, p.232.
(3) Here we follow the text : «The great historical questions of the revolution in Russia» (Genoa, 1955), published in Programme Communiste n°96. The articles of Bordiga are in the «Storia della Sinistra Comunista», volume 1.
International Communist Party