A century has passed since the Great October Revolution. But the Revolution still stirs debate – one camp defending it while another condemning the historical development. It’s the normal within a class-based reality. Only a stupid and a lunatic will feel hurt with the condemnations of the Revolution the bourgeoisie carry on a regular basis as the Revolution harmed the bourgeois class interest.
The fencing with the Revolution is a reflection of irreconcilable hostile contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The Revolution’s class position – proletarian – makes its class enemies – the bourgeoisie – eternally hostile to the act that ushered a new era in human history.
The bourgeoisie steadily claim that the Revolution was a seizure of power by a small group of brutes having no mass support, and efficient enough to exploit a political crisis. To others, it was an act by the despicable class.
“In St. Paul’s Cathedral a Bishop repeated the same accusation [made by Lloyd George and Churchill]: ‘Labor is governing one of the greatest Empires of the world, Russia …’” (Richard Lee, Bolshevik Materialism and British Idealism: Lenin v Lloyd George, Richard Lee, Dundee, 1920) It sounds like a lament as the labor has committed a “sin”: governing one of the greatest empires!
Kerensky, with his “unhistorical objectivity” as he claims in the “Introduction” of his The Catastrophe: Kerensky’s Own Story of the Russian Revolution, bombards his readers with his comments on the Bolsheviks at the book’s concluding part, a few of which are cited below:
“[A] long, most cruel and extremely bloody armed struggle of the Bolsheviki for power […]”
“The forcible seizure of the machinery of government by the Bolsheviki in November […]”.
“[T]he Bolsheviki have been able to deceive public opinion abroad”.
“[T]he unpardonable crime committed by Lenin: the violent coup d’état carried out in the name of a minority dictatorship”.
“[R]eactionary coup d’état of November seventh”.
“[D]emocratic enthusiasm on the part of Lenin and his lieutenants was mere demagogic play on the sentiments of the people”.
“[T]he Bolsheviki executed their reactionary coup d’état”.
“Bolshevist attack on the sovereign will of the people”.
“[B]ayonets of drunken Bolshevist sailors. Over the telephone from Smolny Institute Lenin demanded the shooting of the chosen representatives of the people.”
“[R]ifles of Lettish Sharpshooters, brought into Petrograd for the defense of the Bolsheviki against the people.”
“[T]he Bolsheviki justify their dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by asserting that the assembly was composed of the ‘class enemies of the workers and peasants.’ […] [T]he number of such enemies in the Constituent Assembly did not exceed fifteen.”
“[T]he Bolshevist dictatorship”
“Leninism represents the most complete political, social and economic reaction, unprecedented in the history of Europe. And like all reaction, the dictatorship of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Bolshevist party is utterly incapable of any gradual, evolutionary and peaceful readjustment of its substance.”
“Russia has during the ten years returned from the complete economic paralysis of the period of integral Leninism (1918-20), styled shamefacedly by the Bolsheviki as ‘military communism,’ through the ‘Nep’ [NEP] to purely capitalist forms. But this capitalism represents a most backward, primitive, avaricious and poorly productive order, based upon the most cruel exploitation of the workers and peasants.”
“Social welfare, popular enlightenment, domestic order and international security will not be assured to the Russian people as long as the Bolsheviki continue to hold Russia in the grip of their party dictatorship.” (Kraus Reprint Co., New York, 1977; the first edition came out within years after the Revolution.)
Kerenskys like to make believe: “drunken” sailors succeeded in seizing power, organized a “primitive” productive order with “capitalist” forms, which, years later, demolished the Nazis possessing one of the most powerful war machines in the world although the Russian tsarist-bourgeois-imperialist military might was crumbling down in the First World War!!! Romanovs and their finance capital-friends echo the same “rational” mind! Were not the trembling bayonets held by the drunkards missing their targets?
Lloyd George unwraps a fact: “There was throughout the Allied countries, especially amongst the propertied classes, an implacable hatred, born of a real fear, of Bolshevism”. (The Truth about the Peace Treaties, vol. I, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1938)
Only a few sentences ago, he admits: “The evidence that came home from our own most trusted and best informed agents in Russia convinced me that although the vast majority of the people were not Communists, they preferred Bolshevik rule to that of the supporters of the old regime, and that they certainly were not prepared to join in any military enterprises designed to restore the old conditions.”
Shall not any careful reader question: Why do the propertied classes in countries get scared with “drunkards” while the vast majority of the people prefer those Bolsheviks? The propertied classes were not scared of the tsarist rule, the bourgeoisie, the bankers, the Kornilovs, the Denikins, the Kolchaks – the tin generals and the self-promoted admirals.
L Schapiro in The Origin of the Communist Autocracy (1955) presents the October Revolution as a military operation with little popular involvement and as a result a dictatorship was imposed on the Russian people. (Steve Phillips, Lenin and the Russian Revolution, Heinemann Educational Publishers, Oxford, Great Britain, 2000)
To whom ears to be lent: Lloyd George or Mr. L Schapiro even if pertinent questions on the basis of political science are ignored?
Anne O’Donnell, assistant professor of history and Russian and Slavic studies at New York University, in a zingy way described in The New York Times the opposing forces the October Revolution faced:
“Vacant offices. Barren corridors. The hush of work not being done settles across the capital city, a silence of memos untyped, papers unpushed, file cabinets sealed shut. The machine of state is not in use. This is not Washington today; it is Petrograd, Russia, 100 years earlier, where after the Bolsheviks seized power in late October, the bureaucrats of the Russian state — tens of thousands of them — locked their desks and pocketed the keys on their way out the door. They declared themselves on strike, protesting what they viewed as the Bolsheviks’ shocking and illegitimate violation of the public trust.
“Some held out a month, some lasted two, with the longest — the bankers in the former Ministry of Finance — standing firm until mid-March. In these five months, ordinary accountants, lawyers and administrators demonstrated great civic courage […]
“[T]he strike […] ultimately had little effect [….]
“The […] bureaucrats’ strike stood in contrast to their reaction to the revolution of February 1917, […] which they greeted with enthusiasm and relief. [….]
“Then, […] the Bolsheviks […] initiat[ed] […] single-party rule devoted to building a communist society. [….]
“[O]n Oct. 26, large portions of that state, outraged by the Bolshevik[s] […] walked off the job.
“[….] [A]rchival records suggest that the great bulk of offices participated in the strike in some way.
“The strike was organized by unions of administrative professionals […] In some bureaus, employees showed up to the office but performed no work. Most employees, from diplomats to schoolteachers, simply stayed home, gathering periodically in one another’s apartments to strategize. Before leaving their offices, many took important objects and documents with them, like keys to safes and bank account numbers, files and decoding ciphers. What could the Bolsheviks hope to accomplish without access to those two essential currencies of power — the state’s money and its papers?
“The Bolsheviks were numerically tiny stacked up against the bureaucracy. After seizing power, they sent delegations of five or six revolutionaries to take over ministries with thousands of employees. These delegations were generally backed by armed men, but initially, it was inconceivable — even to the Bolsheviks — that the seizure of power would involve real acts of seizure. Lenin made the capture of the State Bank a priority, sending a group of revolutionary sailors to take control of the building the night the revolution began. The bank’s workers immediately went on strike, joined the following day by the 7,000 members of the union for private bank employees. The Bolsheviks threatened all of them with arrest if they failed to reopen by Oct. 31; they opened for precisely one hour.
“A week into the revolution, the new regime still had no money. Three senior bank officials were dragged in to Bolshevik headquarters and ordered to fill out the proper forms giving the Bolsheviks’ new executive, the Sovnarkom, access to the state’s money. They refused. For a brief moment, the fate of the revolution seemed to hinge on accurate completion of a withdrawal slip. The bankers stood firm even when several days later, fed up with his comrades’ delicacy, Leon Trotsky — accompanied by armed brigade and, in true Bolshevik fashion, an orchestra — turned up at the State Bank building and threatened to storm it, before losing his nerve.
“The Bolsheviks were nothing if not skilled bank robbers — they actually funded party activities before the war by robbing banks in the Caucasus — which makes their initial unwillingness to take the money, their lingering, likely unwilling respect for the bourgeois rules of business, that much more striking.” (“The Bolsheviks Versus the Deep State”, opinion)
Does not the description by the learned professor corroborate the reality: baaboos [the Baanglaa word is usually spelled as babu] – bureaucrats in banks and of the old state, diplomats, and employees of the same color locked their desks, pocketed important objects, documents, files, keys to safes, bank account numbers, and decoding ciphers as the workers seized political power from an inefficient ruling machine bleeding people in a war that grew out of competition between imperialists. The “dignified” acts – stealing objects, keys to safes, etc. belonging, ultimately, to a people – of the “respectable gentlemen” didn’t make them shy, ashamed. How will today’s bourgeois states, even, the most backward state, even a single industrialist deal with similar acts by blue collar employees, by “uncouth” factory workers busy with their orchestra? A group of bourgeois scholars and a section of media love to forget the way Thatcher, the milk snatcher, dealt with striking workers defending their job, ultimately, survival of their family, the way Reagan, the great communicator, the way the mainstream media loves to dub the US president, dealt with striking air traffic controllers.
There are hundreds of October Revolution-condemnations ceaselessly flowing from the fountain of bourgeois-imperialist intellect. The torrent began since the Revolution, and is going on today as the NYT piece presents the evidence. However, a close scrutiny of all the condemnations including the condemnations/observations cited above uncover two facts: self-contradictions within the statements/observations/claims made; and, the interests the Revolution secured, and the interests the Revolution injured. Thus, class character and historic role of the Revolution is revealed. All condemnations come from the backward interests incapable of moving forward to build a humane society: monarchists, bourgeois, imperialist, big landed/property, finance capital, retrogressive, and similar in the bundle.
Is it logical and rational to expect and imagine that a revolution will be hailed by an interest the revolution is uprooting? Has not the bloomed bourgeois interest knifed its feudal foes? And, were not those bourgeois acts bloody and brutish? Has the bourgeois interest ever sacrificed its fundamental interest even while it was making compromises with its feudal foes-turned-friends? A walking back through the rugged path of history helps find out the answers. Are not, in this 21st century, the bourgeois-imperialist interests blooding its medieval friends while energizing them? Capricious bourgeois intellect loves to forget facts at opportune moments, and fears facts that stand against its class interest although it’s well known that collective and common interests of a class are fundamentally different from interests of other classes. The October Revolution does not deny the fact as it does not resort to deception.
The Revolution stood against bourgeois-imperialist interest as the Revolution was by the exploited, as it was organized to secure interests of the exploited, the working classes; and the political party, the Bolshevik party, declared this program since its inception. The party was pressing forward with this program through its years of political struggle. And, interest of the “working class […] are diametrically opposed to the interests of the bourgeoisie.” (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 5, “What Is To Be Done?”, Progress Publishers, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1973) The Revolution, hence, is condemned by bourgeois interests.
On the issue of class interest, Arthur Child writes, “if there is any difference between the Marxist and non-Marxist applications, I shall take the Marxist one as decisive, for the Marxist application possesses the weightiest claim, both practically and theoretically, to the first importance.” (“The concept of class interest”, Ethics, vol. 80, no. 4, July 1970, The University of Chicago Press) The reason making the application decisive and weightiest is its scientific basis. The October Revolution proved it.
Despite differentiation in areas of geographical location, industry by type and size, wage, working condition, job security, color, gender, etc. over short- and long-term class interests of the proletariat ultimately, and at phases and decisive moments in class struggle, get concentrated into single interest making interest of all members of the class the same class interest as this interest unites the entire class while it faces opposing interest.
Similarly, despite competition in areas of geographical location, profit, sources of raw materials and labor, size, power, network, etc. over short- and long-term class interests of the bourgeoisie ultimately, and at phases and decisive moments in class struggle, get concentrated into single interest making interest of all members of the bourgeoisie the same class interest as this interest unites the entire bourgeoisie while it faces opposing interest.
Opposing interests are embedded within and centering status quo – existing property and power structure, system of social production and social wealth, relation to the means of production. The October Revolution stood for one interest – the exploited – while dealt blow to the opposing. So, the condemnations by that interest that had to take the blow – the exploiters.
The article, part of a series composed on the occasion of the Great October Revolution Centenary.
Farooque Chowdhury, a Dhaka-based freelancer, has not authored/edited any book in English other than Micro Credit, Myth Manufactured (ed.), The Age of Crisis and What Next, The Great Financial Crisis (ed.), and he doesn’t operate any blog/web site.