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Mary Bell

On the Anniversary of:

The Russian Revolution

(November 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 45, 6 November 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

November 7 marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of a unique event in history – the Russian socialist revolution of 1917. Of what interest is this event to American workers today? This question is of special importance in view of the fact that, as the readers of Labor Action know, we, together with militant workers, are opposed to the practices of the Communist Party, which takes its line from Moscow, and equally opposed to Russian imperialism which in the course of this war is adding to its national prison most of the populations of Eastern Europe.

What Is a Revolution?

In a revolution, the power and wealth of society change hands. They are transferred from one class to another. In our time, there are two fundamental classes in society, the working class and the capitalist class. The minority class owns the wealth, profits from it, keeps down the standard of living of the majority class which has no wealth. In order to protect its wealth from competitors and to secure new sources, the capitalist class is compelled periodically to go to war. The workers are cajoled, propagandized and conscripted to fight the war in behalf of “their country” – whose wealth is owned by the ruling class!

The theory of revolutionary socialists is that if the enormous wealthy of society, controlled by the few, were controlled by the majority of the people under a government representing the majority, poverty could be eliminated, an end could be made to the mass murder of war, and mankind could live in peace and plenty.

To achieve its final goal, this kind of revolution would be necessary on a world scale, since, as long as a capitalist country of any importance existed, it would fight to maintain the profits and privileges of the ruling class. Also necessary is a party representing the interests of the majority, the working class, to lead the workers and intermediary masses of the people, farmers, middle classes, etc., to victory. And finally, that party must have a program which speaks the needs and desires of the class it represents.

First Workers’ State

As a party with a workers’ program and a will toward the socialist goal, the Workers Party looks with reverence toward the Russian Revolution. For it was the first successful socialist revolution of all time! No matter if it was later turned off its course, no matter if its leaders were imprisoned and shot, no matter if it is now a monstrous caricature of a “socialist fatherland.” The victory of the workers in Russia over their oppressors proved for all time the possibility, feasibility and advisability of the socialist revolution.

Russia, in 1917, had all the essential ingredients of a revolution. The workers and peasants were fighting in the trenches, suffering severe defeats and dying while the profiteers were fattening on the war profits. At home, industry was booming under government war orders, while the workers in the factories and the peasants on the land were paying the costs of the war. In addition to these things that all workers “normally” suffer in wartime, Russia happened to be more backward than the United States or England, for example. She was ruled by a Czar, mass lynchings of the Jews was an accepted thing, her standard of living was among the world’s lowest, her illiteracy rate among the world’s highest – that is, for the majority. For the tiny minority, her luxury was on a par with the most advanced countries of the world.

In the era when the capitalist class was the new, progressive revolutionary class which destroyed feudalism, it overthrew the vested powers of monarchy, clergy. But Russia’s rate of development had been so slow that its capitalist class grew up under the feudal government of the Czar without being able to overthrow. him.

Then capitalist industry brought as elsewhere, something new to Russia – a class without any land, without any property, without any stake in the old society – the working class. It was this class, that was destined to form the army to lead the assault against czarism and against so-called democratic capitalism, which lived for a day in Russia after the Czar was overthrown.

Out of the modern development imposed on the backwardness of Russia, there also developed sterling revolutionary leaders and an indomitable revolutionary party: Lenin and Trotsky and the Bolshevik Party. Lenin combined the character, talent and revolutionary insight to make him the commanding authority without peer in the revolutionary party and among the masses, to lead them to victory. Trotsky possessed the intelligence and skill to form a Red Army out of raw recruits and war-weary workers and soldiers to fight off and successfully defend the revolution from the combined armies of the rest of the world. Without these leaders and without the Bolshevik Party, it can confidently be said that the Russian Revolution would not have occurred, or, at least, not at the time it did.

Two Revolutions

In the February revolution which overthrew the Czar and which was accomplished by the workers, the slogans expressing the needs of the masses were (1) the democratic republic, (2) confiscation of the landed estates, and (3) the eight-hour day. The workers led this revolution, since the capitalists were joined with the feudal nobles and too weak to defeat czarism. The workers set up their own soviet committees, what we in America call workers’ councils, and seized the factories; the starving, land-hungry peasants took over the estates; the soldiers, sick of the war, left the front.

A provisional, “democratic” – really capitalist – government emerged, tried to stop the oppressed people, refused to divide the landed estates, continued to prosecute the war. In June 1917, the first congress of the Soviets, the workers and peasants and soldiers’ own councils, occurred. Representing millions, directly elected by and responsible to the workers, it was the most democratic parliament the world had ever produced.

This new power of the workers challenged the government of the capitalists, Who were unable and unwilling to meet any of the demands of the workers, until they toppled the old regime in November 1917 in an almost bloodless revolution. Led by the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky, they took over under the slogans of all power to the Soviets, an end to the war, land to the peasants, and bread to the people.

Capitalism was dead in Russia. A genuine government of the workers was in existence. The land belonged to the peasants who tilled it. The factories belonged to the workers who toiled in them. The people were willing and able, despite the long years of war and civil war, to fight off for several years more the internal and external enemies who took up arms against the new workers’ government.

The Degeneration

To understand how Russia changed from the workers’ fatherland to the prison of the peoples it is today, it is necessary to recall one point in the theory of revolutionary socialists. That is, socialism must be accomplished on a world scale. But the expected world revolution did not occur. Russia was isolated, surrounded by capitalist enemies. Stalin, representing this reaction, enunciated the theory of “socialism in one country.” Russia alone could not produce plenty for all which socialism should guarantee. This caused the regrowth in Russia of the “have” and “have-not” classes. It also generated a policeman, the Stalinist bureaucracy, to keep the “haves” on top and the “have-nots” in their places.

An understanding of the Russian bureaucracy explains the role of the Communist Political Association today. Believing in “socialism in a single country,” which means no socialism at all, they are the abject tools of the Soviet government. Whatever serves Stalin, the leader of Russian “socialism,” they do. That means fomenting strikes in the “imperialist democracies” in the period of the Hitler-Stalin honeymoon. Today it means carrying out the no-strike pledge more vigorously than the leaders of the labor movement or the employers themselves. Tomorrow, after Hitler is defeated and if Stalin does not get all he wants of the spoils of war, it may mean a resumption of strikes before the conclusion of the war against Japan. All in the name of “socialism.”

Socialism Today

Real socialists today rally to the ranks of the Workers Party, the bearers of the traditions of the Bolsheviks. The program of the Workers Party serves the “have-not” class, workers, poor farmers, the exploited middle classes. It stands for the abolition of the profit system, workers’ management of industry, a workers’ government, the end of wars growing out of the profit system – peace and plenty for all.

Despite the Stalinist destruction of the Russian workers’ state created in November 1917, the glorious example of the Russian heroes proves that socialism can and will be accomplished!

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Last updated: 17 February 2016