- The Guardian
- Issue #2078
On or around 7 November Communists in Australia and around the world commemorate the October Revolution, also known as the Russian Revolution. The October Revolution happened on 7 November under the Gregorian calendar then used in Czarist Russia). The result of the revolution was a Bolshevik victory, leading to the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the world’s first socialist nation.
The following is an edited contribution by Dr Hannah Middleton to the celebration of the Russian Revolution by the Communist Party of Australia’s Adelaide Central and Port Adelaide Branches.
The Russian Revolution was the most important political event of the 20th Century. No other event has had such a far-reaching impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people in every part of our planet.
The revolution matters because it is recent history – it took place only 106 years ago – and because there is no part of the modern world not touched by its shadow.
October 1917 is an extraordinary story which matters because it presents an alternative – that a different world was possible and can be again.
The partisans of 1917 were driven by a hunger for a new and better world, and millions today are dreaming and fighting to be part of such an October.
The Russian Revolution marked a new stage in world history. It proved that the alternative to capitalism was not just a utopian dream but a real possibility that could be achieved through the struggle of working class.
The seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in October 1917 and the establishment of the first workers’ state inspired an immense development in the class consciousness and political awareness of the working class and oppressed peoples throughout the world.
The Russian Revolution radicalised the international working class and set into motion a worldwide revolutionary movement.
It marked the beginning of the end of imperialism – a task which we have yet to complete.
Many major social gains were by-products of the Russian Revolution. They have included the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II and the process of decolonisation, of national liberation.
We need to be clear on one matter: despite all the efforts of reaction to disparage and dismiss it, dismantling the revolution is not a reason to ignore its achievements and its lessons.
I want to look briefly now at just two achievements of the revolution.
On day one of the Russian Revolution, the All Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers, Peasants and Soldiers Deputies decreed the right of Russia’s oppressed nations to self-determination – their right to decide to leave the USSR and organise their own separate state or to remain within the new socialist state. Those who chose to remain were guaranteed their right to language and culture. The oppressed nationalities were given autonomy that guaranteed their political, economic, and cultural rights.
We need to study these experiences because they can teach us so much for our struggle for Aboriginal land rights and autonomy.
The revolution in Russia showed the world that the emancipation of women is possible.
Socialist Russia achieved amazing changes for women: the abolition of discriminatory laws, attempts to overcome the unequal sexual division of labour, in opportunities for employment, education, and creativity for women.
It is essential that we remember that these were not just empty decrees but were implemented in practice. And these profound changes provide us with a wealth of experiences to help our campaigns for the rights of women workers and other discriminated and exploited women.
106 years after the Russian Revolution, capitalism is spiralling toward disaster.
There is not a single significant social or environmental problem that can be solved within the framework of capitalism.
One example: Oxfam has reported that “Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity”!
We also face the threats of nuclear war and environmental collapse – either of which can bring about the end of all life on earth.
The existence this inhumane and historically obsolete form of economic organisation is not just the principal barrier to human progress. Its existence is rapidly becoming incompatible with the maintenance of human life on planet earth.
Nothing can stop this descent into disaster except the struggle for socialism.
At time when the world is facing the challenge of the offensive of imperialism, of a right-wing resurgence, of xenophobia and racism, increased violence against women and marginalised social groups, the need for an alternative vision of human development cannot be overemphasised,
If we are to remain true to the spirit of October, we have to actively support all struggles against imperialism.
Today above all this must take the form of our active solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people, for the demand for a ceasefire in Gaza and for the liberation of Gaza and all Palestine.
The Russian Revolution embodies the dreams of people throughout the world for a better, civilised society, an end to exploitation, poverty, human suffering and war – because it turned those dreams into living reality.
October 1917 and its aftermath teaches us that the alternative to capitalism is socialism and that humanity is capable of building socialist societies. That is the relevance of the Russian Revolution.
The Soviet Union created records in wiping out poverty, backwardness and illiteracy, establishing equality among peoples and nationalities, between men and women, and so much more.
The tremendous achievements of first socialist state show us what was possible and what is possible to create today.
All this is why we say the era it established – the era of the transition from capitalism to socialism – is relevant today. Capitalism is not end of history.
The Russian Revolution is the living example of what was once achieved and the inspiration of what can and must be our future.