Russia’s 1917 socialist revolution

Nearly one hundred years after it happened, on November 7th by the modern calendar, the ‘October revolution’ in Russia in 1917 is still regarded by socialists as the greatest event in human history. Under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, it brought into existence the first, and so far the only, workers-led government to hold power for any length of time. With its appeal to the workers of the world to follow suit, it set out to sweep feudalism and capitalism from the face of the earth!

Social democrats and stalinists have discredit the events surrounding the ”October” Revolution. Anti-Bolshevik socialists joined the capitalist camp in denouncing the first Soviet government. Social democrats today portray the revolution as a Bolshevik coup, like most capitalist historians. After 1924, the stalinization of October started. Joseph Stalin did not play a huge role in the event and was a minor figure in the first Soviet government. The true revolutionary leaders were Lenin and Trotsky. Lenin as the chairman of the Bolshevik Party and Trotsky as leader of the Military Revolutionary Committee. Stalin portrayed himself in the role of Trotsky, which led to the popular myth that Stalin stood by Lenin and was the second important leader during the revolution. In fact Stalin’s role was not bigger then that of Zenoview, Kamenev and the other members of the Central Committee!

After Stalin’s death, the new reformed Soviet leadership used the anniversary of the ”October” Revolution as a propaganda tool. A large parade was held in Moscow each year, while the ageing party leader stood above Lenin’s mausoleum. In 1990, the last parade was held and a year later there was no state celebration. In November 1991, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was gone, banned by the Supreme Soviet for the failed August coup. A few old stalinists paraded in Red Square with Soviet flags, but the proletariat of the collapsing USSR was no longer buying their story. Dreams of western luxury’s were imprinted on the minds of many youth. Western propaganda promised wealth and jobs if Russia accepted capitalism. Very few Russians wanted a return to genuine socialism, a result of the massive disillusionment in Lenin’s ideals.

The victory of capitalism after 1991 was a direct result of the inability of stalinism to compete with the dynamics of the world capitalist system. Stalinism is a nationalist ideology, while capitalism itself is international oriented. Also because of mismanagement and corruption, the Soviet economy stagnated since the 1970’s. Soviet leaders refused to accept this, it was Gorbachev who wanted something new. His experiments with greater freedom led to the collapse of his state, which Gorbachev never wanted. Nationalist forces benefited from the fact that no workers party took on the fight for workers and poor people. Civil wars erupted in some Soviet republics such as Tajikistan!

Heroic mass movements have developed many times into challenges for power on the part of workers and youth, taking things into their hands and removing apparently all-powerful dictators. Those that come to mind most readily are the revolutions of North Africa. Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 saw events typical of revolution – when things move so fast that every day seems like ten years previously. The masses on the streets, the organised workers playing a decisive role with their strikes in overthrowing Ben Ali and Mubarak – there were elements of February 1917.

But lacking in the situation was widespread socialist ideology and a Bolshevik or revolutionary party with broad support, making conscious the unconscious strivings of those who were making the revolution – a party whose leaders could see the need to take the revolution directly on to the task of finishing with capitalism. Without this, there has been no ‘October’ in these countries and not even any real democracy.

Read the full article about the 1917 Russian socialist revolution here


A Red Guard stands inside the throne room of the Winter Palace. Ending the reign of capitalism for almost 74 years!