100 Years Later

The Great October Socialist Revolution was ‘an event of planetary scale’ which opened for people the way to space. But the Soviet Union is no more. It has disappeared. The hard reality is that the Soviet legacy cannot be killed so easily—the legacy continues to inspire and influence a large number of social movements across the world. The critics on the Marxist left, not to speak of rightists who dismiss socialism as utopia, are discussing still the positive and negative aspects of October (or November) Revolution 100 years later despite the sad demise of Soviet Union. The most contentious point of debate is whether it was a socialist revolution at all! As per their evaluation—or re-evaluation—it was not. They would like to label it as a kind of bourgeois democratic revolution and its front-ranking leaders, including Lenin, captured power through their party—Bolshevik Party—in a conspiratorial way. They are too harsh to dismiss this historic episode as not so historic while continually highlighting the oppressive character of the Bolshevik regime. Controversies are there and they will remain because it was the first conscious attempt to break the medieval cruel system and liberate the people who used to groan under severe bondage before revolution.

During the seven decades, the Soviet Union altered world history, much to the dismay of its critics, both present and past, by defeating fascism in World War II, while projecting the alternative model of social management which was practicable. And their model successfully provided social welfare and equal opportunities for all, even for a brief period.

It’s yet another debate that the collapse of the actually existing socialism in USSR and eastern bloc was due to fundamental defects in the socialist system. Whether they like it or not, the Marxist critics of ‘Great October’ (or November) are essentially strengthening the rightist idea of ‘capitalism in the end is more adaptive than communism’. The fact is that there has been no ‘adaptation’ in its basic nature which is exploitative to the core. The Soviet Union put out a different definition of ‘nationalism’ as it declared equality of all nations and ‘all nationalities within a country’ in no uncertain terms.

There are Russians who are celebrating the ‘Great October’ with a purpose, to review their glorious as also bloody past. But there are Russians who want to disown their own past. In recent weeks, vandals reportedly cemented the Eternal flame of the movement at the Tomb of the unknown soldier in Kiev.

A turn to the ‘left’ is generally followed by a turn to the ‘right’—almost a business cycle like phenomenon. The major impact of dissolution of Soviet Russia is a world-wide swing towards the ‘right’. Nearer home the rise of Hindu right is not an isolated phenomenon. The reactionaries always target wrong ‘enemies’ to poison public mind and divert public attention from the real issues. In pre-World War II Europe it was Jews. Then non-Muslims are ‘enemies’ in Pakistan while Muslims in India.

About a dozen communist outfits in India marked the centenary of the ‘Great October’ (or November) in their own way without offering any new message to the poor and downtrodden. The year-long celebration by them just ended in metropolitan cities but ‘October’ was just another month for the vast majority of people in rural India. It was business as usual and most celebrations were ritualistic devoid of any sound content. Next year they will observe the 101st anniversary almost with identical cliches and political jargons only to show the world that they are still alive. People will have to wait another year to hear their ‘October’ (or November) sermons which will never translate into any kind of revolution, let alone socialist revolution, in foreseeable future.

In the final years of Soviet Union’s existence, the far-leftists, including all shades of Maoists, owing allegiance to the Chinese line of ideological and political onslaught on ‘Soviet social imperialism’, were no less responsible for accentuating the disintegration of Soviet Union and creating world-wide public opinion against the Soviet system. The Chinese party—CPC—was the world leader in popularising this ‘social imperialist’ theory. Ironically, the Chinese today are themselves in a position, to be described as social-imperialists, in relation to their client states in Asia and Africa. Marxist-Leninist movements across the world rallied behind China’s ‘ideological battle’ against Soviet social imperialism but Beijing’s crusade actually stemmed from their national interests—plain and simple.

In contrast, the ‘Great October’ created a sense of internationalism, a sense of international solidarity, that galvanised national liberation struggles and toilers’ movements across the world. Today there is no communist internationalism—what China, rather China’s communist party preaches—is sheer nationalism. Not that only Russians need another ‘Great October’, it could be the rallying point of the oppressed of the world. The enemies of ‘October’ have succeeded in dismantling the mighty Soviet Union but they have so far failed to kill the very essence of ‘Great October’ as the centenary celebration throughout the world shows.


Vol. 50, No.21, Nov 26 - Dec 2, 2017