|The history of the October Revolution November 7th, 1917 VOL.2|
|ساعت ٤:۳۳ ب.ظ روز سهشنبه ۱۸ مهر ،۱۳۸٥ کلمات کلیدی:|
The Serge-Trotsky Papers: Correspondence and Other Writings between Victor Serge and Leon Trotsky,
Edited by David Cotterill (Pluto Press, 1994). 275 pp., $44.95 (pb)
Reviewed by Phil Shannon, 20 November 1995
Victor Serge and Leon Trotsky, two of the most outstanding and talented socialists of the Russian Revolution and the international socialist movement, had, by 1939, parted from each other in a mood of acrimony and estrangement, much to the delight of inveterate anti-Marxists eager to darken the "anti-democratic" Trotsky, and the Bolshevik political tradition, against the libertarian light of the freedom-loving Serge.
But was it as simple as this? The recently published Serge-Trotsky correspondence, though a useful study in the personal and political chemistry of life on the left, does not ultimately contribute much to resolve the matter.
In 1917, Victor Serge had shed the anti-Marxism of his anarchist circles in
Serge arrived in
Serge deplored any infringements on liberty and the early symptoms of bureaucratic sclerosis, yet he recognised that the dominating element of the revolution during the harsh civil war years was "the danger of [the revolution's] death" and the victory of an incalculably worse capitalist counter-revolution.
Serge concluded that, though deplorable, it was necessary at that particular time to take actions such as outlawing the Mensheviks and anarchists after they had carried out assassinations and attempted insurrections, to suppress the revolt of the Kronstadt sailors in 1921, which would have opened the way to a successful military and political counter-revolution, and to establish a security police.
"The Revolution has the right and the duty to defend itself against those who, even with the best intentions, try to shoot it in the back", wrote Serge. The struggle for power brooked no half-measures. If the Bolsheviks had not fought to defend working-class power, wrote Trotsky, then fascism would have been a Russian word instead of an Italian one.
Trotsky and Serge were also at one during the struggle against the Stalinist cancer which fed off the revolution's battered working-class social base. The working class was physically decimated and weakened by the exhaustion involved in defending a revolution from a hostile environment of isolation, material poverty, counter-revolution and imperialist invasion and blockade.
When the revolution was in mortal peril, Serge and Trotsky were driven together, and the underlying differences between anarchism and Marxism were submerged. When the revolution was lost to Stalin in the late '20s, however, Serge and Trotsky began to drift apart. They fell out, from 1936 onwards, over the Spanish revolution and the role of the Fourth International, the Trotsky-inspired global revolutionary body which never had the numbers to match its ambition to challenge the Stalinist Third International.
Serge supported the POUM, an "independent Marxist" party in
The timing, the social base and the revolutionary consciousness of the European working class, Serge argued, were not right for Trotsky's vanguard international to lead the struggle in
Serge was clearly too naive about the POUM, whereas Trotsky was too optimistic about the prospects for the Fourth International. Their differences over
Political differences over the suppression of the 1921 Kronstadt rebellion, which resurfaced at this time, also led Serge to emphasise abstract libertarian principles over material context and the hard political decisions posed by the practical issue of class power. Serge began to stress the negative "germs" of Bolshevism. Trotsky, for his part, rather too brusquely tended to dismiss his critics as dilettantes and fair-weather socialists.
Personality differences did not assist in clarifying their political differences. Trotsky's letters reveal traces of what one of Trotsky's sons, Sedov, described as his father's "lack of tolerance, hot temper, inconsistency, even rudeness, his desire to humiliate, offend and even destroy", characteristics which were heightened during his exile and political isolation. To Trotsky's often petulant mood, Serge appears the more reasonable and generous person.
Yet it is not enough to blame Trotsky's personality (although it did play a part) for their estrangement. Nor can it be explained by the shenanigans (though real) of Stalin's agents in sowing misunderstanding and discord between the two. For Trotsky was, on political essentials, right - on Kronstadt, on the Popular Front and the POUM in
Serge was gradually shifting away from a classical revolutionary politics. He was under pressure from the big working-class defeats during the '30s and his isolation both from the working-class left currents which were predominantly loyal to Stalin and from Trotsky's band of revolutionaries. Serge declared, shortly before his death in 1947, that "proletarian revolution is no longer to be our aim". He began to take refuge in a primitive libertarianism, adopting the most un-Serge-like view that fear of liberty and of the masses "marks almost the entire course of the Russian Revolution".
The earlier Serge would never have subscribed to such silly right-wing drivel as the original sin theory of Stalinism - that Lenin ate of the Bolshevik apple and democratic socialism was forever damned.
This book of Serge-Trotsky correspondence, swimming in the always less than placid waters of polemic, presents both Serge and Trotsky in a partial and unflattering light. Trotsky's brilliant analytical mind (however wrong on details or on some forecasts) and his organisational genius (however mistaken on the Fourth International) are on limited display, as are Serge's psychological insight and exceptional literary skills in writing the meaning of revolution into the bones and souls of the leaders and humble makers (and betrayers) of revolution.
Too often, the impression left by the book is of two embittered old men arguing over Kronstadt. To be sure, there are lessons to be had from this - how to strike a balance between political necessity and principle without idealising the Bolshevik or any other revolutionary regime - but the Trotsky-Serge contribution to the history and living tradition of socialism has many other pages to it. Serge's novels are real diamonds of left-wing art, and Trotsky's anti-capitalist and anti-Stalinist politics are diamond-like in their strength and clarity, even with the occasional flaws of both men.
The Russian Revolution: Still inspiring after 80 years
By Arthur Perlo, People's Weekly World, 8 November 1997
"One of those great, really liberating, really revolutionary wars" - this was how Vladimir Lenin described the American Revolution.
But it also describes the Russian Revolution which Lenin led, 142 years after the "shot heard round the world" in
At the time of the Russian Revolution, most of the world's people - in Africa, Asia, Latin America and parts of
More openly than today, all the world's great powers were ruled by old nobility and rich capitalists who were contemptuous of ordinary workers and peasants. Then, on Nov. 7, 1917, Lenin's Bolsheviks took power in
The Bolshevik Party (later the Communist Party) was the party of the industrial workers in
The new government immediately implemented their revolutionary program - land to the peasants, an eight-hour day for the workers, and peace from the bloody slaughter of WWI. Equality of all nationalities was proclaimed.
Many Russian Jews, including my great-grandparents, had earlier fled the Russian empire where they were forbidden to own land, pursue professions or live in cities, and were victims of the Russian version of the Ku Klux Klan.
After the revolution, all legal restrictions were abolished, and the first Soviet President was a Jew, Yakov Sverdlov. This sent a powerful message around the world, at a time when Jews faced open and widespread discrimination in the
Setting a new standard
The American Revolution of 1776 shook the world with the idea that people should govern their own country, although these governing people were usually rich white men. The Russian Revolution had an equally profound effect, proclaiming that working men and women of all nations and races should both govern and own their country.
)From the start, the world's capitalists feared and hated the Russian Revolution because it challenged their profits and destroyed the myth that ordinary workers can't run things for themselves. Winston Churchill helped organize an army from fourteen capitalist countries (including the
But the workers and peasants of
Within two decades, the new country had an amazing list of accomplishments. Industry and agriculture were able to supply the country for the first time with its basic needs. Illiteracy was reduced from over half to almost nothing.
By the 1930s, when the rest of the world was in the grip of the Great Depression's mass misery and desperation, the
At a time when the
Twenty-four years after the revolution, the
This was only possible because of the huge advances made since the Revolution in industry, agriculture, and education; because of the unity of the many nationalities formerly oppressed by the Russian Czar, and because of the support by the people for their country and their socialist system.
Legacy and inspiration
The Russian Revolution left a rich legacy. Inspired in part by its achievements, workers in many capitalist countries won benefits like social security, unemployment insurance, shorter hours, vacations and health care. The
The Russian Revolution, and the Soviet system built on it, were far from perfect. Many things have been written about their failings - some of them are even true. Seventy years after the revolution, the unremitting diplomatic and economic warfare waged by the
This is part of a world capitalist offensive against the working class. People who never had a kind word about the
To me, the best ideals of the Russian Revolution are expressed in the words of a popular Soviet song of the 1940s, as sung by the great African American artist Paul Robeson: "To our youth, now every door is open. Everywhere, our old with honor go. Everywhere throughout our mighty union, all our people flourish free from strife. Side by side, the black, the white, the yellow, work to build a peaceful, better life."
Ideals like this inspired the Soviet people for 70 years.
They still inspire working people throughout the world.
October 1917 changed the 20th century
By Deirdre Griswold, Workers World, 20 November 1997
[The following is excerpted from a speech by Workers World editor Deirdre Griswold to a
How long would the First World War have lasted without the Russian Revolution? Would the German, British, French and American generals who sent millions to their deaths in the trenches have suddenly become pacifists and called off the war?
In 1916 in the
All the imperialists held colonies. The Russian Revolution inspired these oppressed nations to fight for their liberation. Ho Chi Minh, for example, wrote about his great excitement on first reading Lenin. When the socialist revolution spread to
There are plenty of people in the progressive movement, however, who were so disappointed at the
They look at the collapse of the
Such a view is totally subjective and shows not a shred of social consciousness. First of all, a revolution is not something manufactured from above. It is the result of a great upheaval of the masses.
There were three revolutions in
That revolution put in power the most democratic form of rule yet devised--the Soviets--councils of workers, peasants and soldiers deputies. Didn't that shake the world!
But could the revolution transform
But revolutions in the West didn't succeed. Nevertheless, over decades of struggle, the
Take the role of women, for example. Just last week, the European Union released a report saying that the percentage of women in government has dropped sharply. But, on closer examination, you see that the decline has been almost entirely in Eastern Europe and
The Soviets had a much larger percentage of women than did any of the parliaments of the so-called Western democracies-with the possible exception of the smaller Scandinavian states. Soviet doctors were mostly women at a time when women here could barely get into medical school. Working women got many months of paid leave before and after giving birth. Every large workplace had a crSche or nursery. Women could retire at 55. Education was free, and women entered the sciences, sports and the arts in great numbers.
We heard only about the long lines in stores and the male chauvinism. Was there chauvinism? Sure. The chauvinists who now run
Because, no matter how badly it was deformed, it was a workers' state and both sides knew it.
We live in a society that can overproduce almost anything-food, real estate, cars, computers. Yet our work day has become longer, not shorter. Many, many people are working two jobs or more. The intensity of labor is tremendous. Shop clerks now handle hundreds of customers a day. Workers on assembly lines have every motion timed, down to the second. Phone company supervisors listen in to make sure operators don't "waste" a minute by acting human.
But in the USSR, where goods were not as abundant nor the infrastructure as advanced as in the capitalist countries, workers enjoyed earlier retirement, much longer vacations, job-related spas and holidays, free education and health care, access to sports and recreation, cheap public transportation, low-cost food and shelter, guaranteed jobs, and many other benefits. And the intensity of work was much less.
All these social benefits introduced first in the
The social democratic parties in Western Europe used to love to take credit for the so-called "welfare state"--but once the
And so was the
It has only been since the destruction of the
When the Wright brothers' plane crashed at
Doug Lorimer, Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution: A Leninist Critique
Resistance Books, 1998, 80pp. $6.95
A review by John Nebauer, Green Left Weekly, #353, 15 March 1999
However, some believe that his outstanding contribution to Marxism is the theory of permanent revolution, which he developed in conjunction with German Social Democrat Adolph Helphand (better known to history as "Parvus") prior to the Russian revolution of 1905. While the theory was initially designed to explain the unfolding of the revolutionary process in
Lorimer subjects Trotsky's thesis to a rigorous critique. He argues that Trotsky was incorrect on the main questions of the Russian Revolution, and that his theory cannot be applied to any subsequent revolution. The Trotskyist movement and its sympathisers argue that the 1917 revolution led Lenin to accept Trotsky's theory, a position Lorimer rejects.
Both the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks believed that the revolution would be bourgeois. The Mensheviks argued that the Russian capitalists would lead the revolution, with the working class playing the role of "extreme opposition."
In contrast, Lenin believed that the bourgeois revolution would fundamentally be a peasant revolution against the remnants of feudalism. His aim, therefore, was to forge an alliance between the working class and the peasants. According to Lenin, only a revolutionary government based upon such an alliance could carry through the bourgeois revolution to completion. Once the bourgeois revolution was complete, the task of the working class was to win the poor and semi-proletarian layers of the peasantry away from the political leadership of the wealthy peasants (kulaks) in order to bring about socialist revolution.
While Trotsky agreed with the Bolsheviks on the approach that the working class should take towards the liberals, he argued that the revolution would immediately break the bounds of bourgeois-democratic revolution and spill over into a socialist one. Moreover, Trotsky shared the Menshevik assessment that the peasantry was too backward and passive to be a strategic ally or a major force in the coming revolution.
Lorimer quotes from an article in the September 1915 edition of Nashe Slovo, which Trotsky co-edited with Menshevik leader Julius Martov: "Today, based on the experience of the  Russian revolution and the reaction, we can expect the peasantry to play a less independent, not to mention decisive, role in the development of revolutionary events than it did in 1905." By dismissing the need for an alliance with the peasantry as a whole, Trotsky argued that the working class alone would have to carry out the democratic revolution. In addition, he believed, events would force the proletariat to implement socialist measures alongside bourgeois-democratic measures, thus stepping over the bourgeois-democratic phase of the revolution.
For example, in his 1906 work Results and Prospects, Trotsky wrote:
"In undertaking the maintenance of the unemployed, the government thereby undertakes the maintenance of the strikers. If it does not do that, it immediately ... undermines the basis of its own existence.
"There is nothing left for the capitalists to do then but to resort to the lockout ... It is quite clear that the employers can stand the closing down of production much longer than the workers, and therefore there is only one reply that a workers' government can give to a general lockout: the expropriation of the factories ..."
Trotsky made it clear that, when he wrote in 1906 of the socialist revolution being implemented "from the very first moment," this was not a rhetorical flourish. In his 1909 article =93Our Differences," Trotsky wrote, "I have demonstrated elsewhere that twenty-four hours after the establishment of a `democratic dictatorship', this idyll of quasi-Marxist asceticism is bound to collapse utterly."
Lorimer argues that this gave Trotsky's perspective an ultra-left character. The theory was based upon a mechanical and fatalistic conception of the class struggle. Lorimer refers to Trotsky's 1904 polemic against Lenin, Our Political Tasks, in which Trotsky wrote, "Marxism teaches us that the interests of the proletariat are determined by its objective conditions of life. These interests are so powerful and so inescapable that they finally oblige the proletariat to bring them into the realm of its consciousness ..."
Lorimer quotes from a 1970 article by Belgian Trotskyist Ernest Mandel, which argued:
"Today it is easy to see what a naively fatalistic optimism was concealed in this inadequate analysis. Immediate interests are here put on the same level with historical interests ..."
Test of events
The test of a theory is how well its predictions correspond to events as they emerge from the historical oven. Lorimer shows that Trotsky's recipe was rather lacking in essential ingredients. Trotsky projected the capitalists' lockout during the 1905 revolution, when they still commanded the support of the tsar's police and army, forward to a situation under a revolutionary government of the workers and peasants, when they would not enjoy such support.
In fact, the replacement of the tsarist police by armed workers' detachments in 1917 created a favourable political situation. Thus, on March 10, 1917, an agreement between the Petrograd Industrialists' Society and the Petrograd Soviet instituted an eight-hour day in all factories in the city. It spread to most factories throughout
Trotsky's assessment that the peasantry was incapable of playing an independent role was also wrong. The October Revolution was the victory of an alliance between workers and peasants, and was accompanied by the emergence of a revolutionary peasant party, the Left Social Revolutionaries. This alliance played a crucial role in the first stage of the revolution, when the peasantry remained united to carry through the bourgeois agrarian revolution against the landlords.
It's been argued that "socialist" measures were carried out before the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. Certainly, some capitalist property was expropriated during the months following October 1917. However, it was not part of any plan to socialise industry as a whole. Historian E.H. Carr, in volume two of The Bolshevik Revolution, said about the earlier nationalisation:
"Extensive nationalisation of industry was ... no part of the initial Bolshevik program.... The nationalisation of industry was treated at the outset not as a desirable end in itself but as a response to special conditions, usually some misdemeanour of the employers; and it was applied to individual factories, not to industries as a whole, so that any element of planning was quite absent from these measures."
Victor Serge in Year One of the Russian Revolution pointed out that in December of 1917, "The management of some of the big factories -- notably the Franco-Russian Works in Petrograd -- immediately insisted that their works be nationalised: they wanted to get out of the responsibilities of demobilising industry from war production. Belgian, Swedish and French companies made similar approaches, which were received with a categorical refusal."
Lenin himself believed that it was the Bolsheviks' recipe which carried off the blue ribbon. In his 1918 pamphlet The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (written after Lenin was supposedly converted to the permanent revolution thesis), Lenin wrote:
"Things have turned out just as we said they would. The course taken by the revolution has confirmed the correctness of our reasoning. First, with the `whole' of the peasants against the monarchy, against the landowners, against medievalism (and to that extent the revolution remains bourgeois, bourgeois-democratic). Then, with the poor peasants, with the semi-proletarians, with all the exploited, against capitalism, including the rural rich, the kulaks, the profiteers, and to that extent the revolution becomes a socialist one. To attempt to raise an artificial Chinese wall between the first and second, to separate them by anything else than the degree of preparedness of the proletariat and the degree of its unity with the poor peasants, means to distort Marxism dreadfully ..."
There is a great deal more to be sampled, including the debates that flared within the Communist Party between 1917 and 1928 on Bolshevik policy and the revolutionary process. Lorimer also charts Trotsky's return to his pre-1917 positions as revolution flared in
The debate over permanent revolution is not just a matter of history. Both Lenin and Trotsky tried to apply the lessons of October to revolutions in the colonial and semi-colonial world. Lorimer's analysis vindicates Lenin's perspective of uniting the working class and peasantry to achieve the democratic, then proceeding to complete the proletarian revolution with an alliance between the working class and poor peasantry.
Today in countries like