Russia 2//photo courtesy of Google Images

By: Ian Hartman, Contributing Writer.

This month marks the centenary of The Russian October Revolution, when an alliance of farleft political parties led by the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky in a nearly bloodless coup.

Over the past 100 years, the revolution and its aftermath have become ground zero for debates about social change, collective political action and revolution itself.

Critics point to the horrors of Stalinism as the inevitable outcome of a foolhardy attempt to transform human nature, while proponents admit to the ultimate failure of the Bolshevik project while also pointing out that much good also came from the storming of The Winter Palace.

The Bolshevik-led uprising was the second revolution to shake Russia in 1917. Nine months earlier, the February Revolution had deposed the Tsar and set up a provisional government which was composed of moderate socialists and liberal intellectuals in power.

From the moment of its formation, The provisional government was locked in a situation of “dual power” with The Soviets. Soviets (council or committee in English) were elected assemblies of representatives of soldiers, workers and peasants that had originally appeared in the failed 1905 Revolution. The Soviets carried a democratic legitimacy that the self-selected provisional government lacked.

Initially, the moderate socialist leadership of the Soviets agreed to support the provisional government insofar as it advanced the cause of the revolution.

However the far left, most notably The Bolsheviks, believed that the “craven bourgeois” who dominated the PG would never go far enough. Most damningly, The Provisional Government refused to sign a separate peace with The Central Powers.

The masses of Russia were incredibly war weary, especially the rank and file of the Red Army. Soldiers committees had arisen that acted as a counter power to the authority of the aristocratic officers class.

The Bolsheviks were able to harness these feelings of discontent and anger with two slogans “All Power to The Soviets” and “Peace, Land and Bread.” “Land” referred to demands among the serfs and peasants for the breaking up of the big feudal estates among those who actually worked them while bread simply referred to the starvation that prevaded all of Russia.

Between February and October, the Bolsheviks engaged in an intensive propaganda war among the urban workers and the army to convince them that only a Soviet government could finish the revolution.

Finally, after months of failed insurrections, Tsarist coup attempts and repression, they succeeded in gaining a majority in the Soviets for their program.

Russia 1//photo courtesy of Google Images

The Bolshevik strategy assumed that by taking power in Russia would spark a European socialist revolution.

Marxist theory stated that only advanced capitalist countries, where the organized working class made up a majority of the population, could successfully implement the socialism (defined as a society where the workers democratically planned production and the focus of industry was meeting human needs)

Industrialized Germany, where the Marxist Social Democratic Party acted as “a state within a state,” which involved running labor unions, worker’s education societies and controlling a vast media empire.

This was supposed to be where the revolution was to kick off, not backwards, peasantdominated Russia. However, while October did kick off a wave of socialist and national liberation uprisings from China to Ireland, none were able to take power.

With the world’s revolutionary wave receding, the degeneration of the democratic Soviet state into a bureaucratic dictatorship began.

Stalin was able to become the absolute ruler of The Russian state and Communist International after a brutal, factional struggle between his Center Bloc, Leon Trotsky’s Left Opposition and Nikolai Bukharin’s Right Opposition.

The degeneration of the revolutionary state and international communist movement was complete when The Soviet dominated Spanish Communist Party worked to crush the anarchist inspired Spanish Revolution of 1936-37.

After the fall of The Berlin Wall in 1990, capitalists around the world celebrated their triumph over communism. However, 20 years on it seems that the celebrations were premature.

Global climate change, born out of capitalism’s need for constant growth on a finite planet, threatens us with an extinction event of such magnitude the only comparison is the end of the dinosaurs.

Automation, which under socialism would represent the liberation of humanity from drudgery, seems poised to drive millions into out of the productive process altogether. The answer of our rulers to these threats appears to be bigger prisons, higher walls and more militarized police.

German Marxist theorist Rosa Luxemburg warned that the choice facing humanity in 1917 was “socialism or barbarism”  it now appears that we face the choice between socialism and apocalypse.