Ninety Years On: The Lessons of the Russian Revolution for Today | Leftcom

Ninety Years On: The Lessons of the Russian Revolution for Today

This article is based on the introductory talk given at the CWO Public Meeting in London on November 10th 2007

"If the Russian Revolution were overthrown by violence on the part of the bourgeois counterrevolution, it would rise again like a phoenix; if, however, it lost its socialist character and by this disappointed the working masses, this blow would have ten times more terrible consequences for the future of the Russian and international revolution." (Karl Radek in Kommunist, journal of the Russian Left Communists No. 1 (April 1918

Why Do the Bourgeoisie Hate the Russian Revolution?

A decade ago, and seven years after the collapse of the USSR, we reached the eightieth anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917. You might have expected that, with its imperialist adversary gone, and the Cold War won, the ruling class in the West would have no reason to even notice it. On the contrary, a flood of publications attacking the October Revolution had already been prepared. Most acclaimed amongst these (especially by anarchists looking for any kind of critique of this proletarian event) was Orlando Figes A People’s Tragedy. Figes’ 900 page tome is a curious combination of tittle tattle (1) and tendentiousness, but is probably the best that a blatant bourgeois can come up with as historical scholarship. Figes, was at least an improvement on the Polish-born US Professor, Richard Pipes who as a member of the Freedom House, is still warning the neo-cons in Washington about the dark threats emanating from Russia. Even Figes has criticised him in reviews for his lies and exaggerations about the crimes of the Russian Revolution, and particularly, of Lenin. The Russian Revolution was not just the work of Lenin (as he would have been the first to acknowledge), but his volume of writings and his critical role at certain points, have made him a target of both hagiography and hate. Pipes and Figes are at least agreed that no trick is too unworthy to blacken Lenin’s character. Oddly too, after the fall of the Soviet Union, academics who had previously (despite no sympathy for the Russian Revolution itself) maintained reasonable scientific objectivity, such as Neil Harding and Robert Service, now wrote new works as diatribes against Lenin. Harding’s book on Leninism was a diatribe (2) and a far cry from his scholarly Lenin’s Political Thought, whilst Service wrote an informative History of the Bolshevik Party, but then followed this up with a biography of Lenin which asserted that Lenin did not mean a word of The State and Revolution, despite all the evidence to show that he wanted it to be published even if the Provisional Government succeeded in having him murdered in 1917.

Why such interest and why such vituperation? What did the capitalist class fear about this apparently passé historical event? If there was no longer a military threat from the Stalinist regime, which had claimed to be the true heir of the October revolution, what need was there to mount another attack on that revolution itself?

The only conceivable answer lies in two factors. The first is that they fear us, the wage slaves of today. They fear that we will once again find our own programme because the capitalist system constantly impels us to look for an alternative to war, famine and bestial exploitation. Which brings us to the second, related, factor. In this imperialist epoch, this epoch of “the decay and parasitism of capitalism” as Lenin called it, capitalism can only reproduce itself either by grinding down the working class through the most inhumane forms of exploitation, or by devastating whole territories as imperialist powers fight over the planet’s natural resources and new sources of investment for the excess of capital the system has produced. Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, and Somalia are only the most obvious manifestations of the continued bloody career of a system which creates obscene wealth for a ruling minority at one pole, and abject misery for half the world’s population at the other.

The continuing contradictions, on which the system by its very nature exists, throw up resistance, now hidden, now open, to the capitalist system. Most of this is unconscious, piecemeal, oriented around limited and immediate demands, but every action against the system has the potential of raising questions about its fitness to continue to dominate our lives. And if we ever raise our sights beyond the partial and the immediate we are going to need inspiration from somewhere.

Here history beckons us to the example of the October Revolution. This is why the bourgeoisie have to mount a campaign of lies and vilification against it. Why? Because in Russia in October 1917 the working class forged a revolution which uniquely in history overthrew a capitalist ruling class over an entire national territory. This is what Figes bleats about in his book. There was no strong middle class to support “democracy” and the Russian workers were ignorant. He accuses them of not having been exposed to “philosophy” therefore they fell for Marxism. In Marxism is the philosophy and the theory of action of the proletariat. What Figes is really bemoaning is that this was the one time in history when we, the working class won.

The Historical Significance of the Russian Revolution

This alone is an inspiration but the Russian Revolution did more than this. In the course of the revolution the working class discovered for itself a new principle for a governmental system which really did involve the mass of the citizenry. The soviet or workers’ council was made of delegates who were responsible for explaining directly to their electors exactly why they voted as they did, they were mandated to vote in certain ways and they could be instantly recalled. What a contrast with the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in which MPs are elected to a parliament where the electors have no control over them for years before the next general election. But the soviet did more than this. It solved practically the theoretical problem of how the state would wither away as class society was abolished. Once there were no classes there would be no need for a state and with all represented in the soviets they would pass from dictatorship of the proletariat to becoming the organs of cooperation and administration of a stateless society. But the soviets were not the only mass organisations which came into existence in 1917. Trades unions (which had been illegal until then), factory committees (which began life as a means to stimulate war production) and a host of workers clubs and societies all gave expression a to new-found desire to create a better and more cooperative society.

The Russian Revolution Can Only be Understood as an International Revolution

However heart-warming all this mass activity is it is not the most significant point we take from the October Revolution. The events of 1917 cannot be understood properly simply as a Russian affair. Many of the criticisms levelled against the Bolsheviks in the revolution are based on a purely national approach to the question. Figes, to take one example among many, spends a third of his book discussing the life under Tsarism and only mentions the Third International once. He just does not get it. In its inception, its execution, and its demise, the October Revolution was at the heart of the international fight against capitalism. And this fight goes back well before 1917.

For us the revolution’s opening shots occur not in St Petersburg but in Switzerland. At the Kienthal and Zimmerwald conferences international socialists met to try to repair the damage done to the Second International at the start of the First World War. In 1914 the leading Social Democratic parties all abandoned the resolutions they had passed at Stuttgart and Basel to oppose war by class struggle, and voted war budgets for their respective rulers. In these two small Swiss towns however the socialists were divided between those calling only for a return of the Second International and those who recognised that Social Democracy had passed over to the other side of the barricades because the First World War was an imperialist war which could only be fought by class war. The major driving force of the so-called Zimmerwald Left was the Russian Bolshevik Party. If they had done only this they would be celebrated. Yet despite the isolation and persecution it brought them, the Bolshevik Party courageously stuck to this line until March 1917.

There was one exception and that was Kamenev. He not only had not defended revolutionary defeatism at the trial of the Bolshevik Duma deputies, but now, on return from exile in Siberia took over the editorship of Pravda with Stalin and Muranov. These three stupefied the Bolshevik rank and file not only by accepting the need to carry on the imperialist war but also by agreeing with the Soviet Majority to support the unelected, self-appointed bourgeois Provisional Government. Lenin opposed this in the April Theses. In complete consistency with the Zimmerwald Left project he argued that the task was to bring down the Provisional Government, end the war, dissociate the Bolsheviks from their connection with Social Democracy by taking the name Communist and be part of the founding of a new Third International. Lenin returned to Russia proclaiming this policy from the first day he arrived even though this was not yet universally popular. There were some Petrograd soldiers who thought they should put a bullet in his head. Trotskyists like Tony Cliff portray Lenin as if he was on his own here, and he came back to “rearm the Party” as he put it, but this is a distortion. Lenin had the bulk of the rank and file on his side - the problem was the Social Democratic hang-ups of the intelligentsia in the leadership like Kamenev. At first only Kollontai spoke up for Lenin’s April Theses but within a matter of a few weeks the Bolshevik Party had returned to unequivocal revolutionary defeatism.

We will return to the question of the party, and how it was really formed in the heat of the struggle in 1917, below, but let us first complete our discussion of the international theme.

By September 1917 it was clear that the Provisional Government of Kerensky was finished and lacked support from any sizeable sector of the masses of Russia. Kerensky could not even find a body of troops to defend the Government. The question then was posed about the takeover of power. Inside the Bolshevik Party the usual suspects like Zinoviev and Kamenev opposed it. One of their arguments was that the Russian proletariat could take power but that they would not be able to build socialism in Russia. The reply from the majority of the Bolsheviks was that the Russian Revolution could not establish socialism alone, however they could break the capitalist chain and send out a beacon to the rest of the world’s working class, who they knew were facing the very same privations as the workers in Russia had in February 1917. A living example of proletarian power would give far greater impetus to workers in the west to rise up themselves and follow the Russian example.

This wasn’t just fancy theory dreamed up by intellectuals but responded to the evolution of the class consciousness of the Russian working class. John Reed tells us that in a Obukhovsky factory a meeting was discussing the seizure of power and a soldier from the Rumanian front shouted out:

We will hold on with all our might until the peoples of the whole world rise to help us.

And Rosa Luxemburg from her prison cell could also write

The fact that the Bolsheviks in their policy have steered their course entirely towards the world revolution of the proletariat is precisely the most brilliant testimony to their political far-sightedness, their principled firmness and the bold scope of their policy.

This international perspective continued even after the October Revolution. Trotsky, Bukharin, and Lenin all said on numerous occasions that without a European or at least a German revolution the Soviet republic was doomed.

Some have argued that the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was an abandonment of the principle of internationalism since it materially allowed the Kaiser’s regime a breathing space to continue the war. However we now know that this was not the case. The German workers were starving and hundreds of thousands were dying from disease as a result of malnutrition. Within six months of the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, as Lenin had predicted, the Kaisers rule was over and the workers and soldiers were setting up soviets all over Germany. However in Germany, unlike in Russia, the leftwing of Social Democracy had made no decisive organisational break with the Right wing (which we could accurately describe as national socialist). This same right wing of Social Democracy came to the defence of the German bourgeoisie. They signed secret deals with representatives of the Kaiser’s Army and, due to the organisational weakness of the Spartakists, in 1919 were able to murder their leaders, Luxemburg and Liebknecht. This turned out to be the critical international turning point for the advance of the revolution into Europe rather than Brest-Litovsk. The isolation of the Russian Revolution, despite the Biennio Rosso in Italy, the founding of the Third International in 1919 and the short-lived Soviet republics in Hungary and Bavaria in the same year, sounded the death-knell of the Russian Revolution. As Trotsky said in his speech in the Second All Russian Congress of Soviets

Either the Russian Revolution will raise the whirlwind of struggle in the West or the capitalists of all countries will strangle our revolution.

And the Bolshevik leaders were right but they could not foresee that the “strangling” of the revolution would come about through the policies that they were increasingly forced to pursue as a result of the war with imperialism

In March 1918 Lenin stated that the only reason the Bolsheviks had been able to hold on to power was because the imperialists in the West were too busy fighting each other so that it gave Russia a breathing space. Lenin spoke too soon. No sooner had the peace of Brest-Litovsk been signed than imperialist intervention began in Russia. Many bourgeois writers claim that the Bolsheviks started the civil war when they led the proletariat to power in October 1917 but this is not true. Either the civil war can be interpreted as all out class war, and the bourgeoisie had been fighting this all throughout 1917 against the workers and peasants; or the civil war is the one that began after Brest-Litovsk, and this was an intentional war, entirely sustained by imperialist intervention. In November 1917 the Bolsheviks were so sure that they had no serious forces against them inside Russia that they released Tsarist generals they held in prison if they would sign a paper saying they would not take up arms against the Soviets. They promptly went off to Cossack territory and recruited armies to fight. At this point the Soviet Regime only had the Red Guard militias (who were factory workers and thus the least trained in military skills) but the threat was not so great for them to feel that they needed to restore the standing army. Brest-Litovsk however changed things. The Soviet power may have got out of the imperialist war but the imperialists decided to bring war to Russia. At first Allied intervention aimed only to keep Russia in the war but without their material support for the so-called “Whites” there would have been no lengthy and horrendous civil war such as was visited on Russia over the next two and a half years. If you consider that the economic situation was dire (Prof Edward Acton in Rethinking the Russian Revolution compares it to the impact of the Black Death on medieval Europe) then it is no surprise that the outcome of three years of civil war was famine. The tragedy was that the Soviet power won the military victory. International imperialism had failed to crush it. But from the proletarian point of view it did not have to as the military victory was the most pyrrhic in history. (See the quote from Radek at the top of this text). Here we would want to re-emphasise that it was the ability of the imperialists to quell the working class in their own territories that was the main motor of the counter-revolutionary process which began to engulf the October Revolution during the civil war.

Hanging on but Overseeing the Counter-revolution

We can see the impact of this by contrasting the period of six months or so after October with the period at the end of the civil war almost three years later. In the first period - sometimes referred to as “the heroic Period of the October Revolution" - there was an extension of mass activity. At least 400 more soviets were formed across Russia and everywhere they began to take over the functions of the old bureaucracy. Lenin at this time was convinced that what he had theoretically written about in The State and Revolution was taking place. The old state had been smashed and the proletariat were constructing a new state which already exhibited tendencies to “wither away”. Contrary to anarchist and councilist fantasies, the Bolsheviks had no grand economic project to centrally plan the economy. They published the decree on workers control because reality demonstrated to them that the capitalist were on strike and that the workers were responding to lock-outs by taking over factories. The banks were nationalised when they refused to finance workers and Soviet activities. Far from being dismayed at the spontaneity Lenin was going round encouraging it.

In fact, the course of the decline of the Revolution is often mirrored in quotes by Lenin. In November 1917 he was arguing:

Creative activity at the grass roots is the basic factor of the new public life. Let the workers set up workers’ control at their factories. Let them supply the villages with manufactures in exchange for grain...Socialism cannot be decreed from above. Its spirit rejects the mechanical bureaucratic approach: living creative socialism is the product of the masses themselves.

And Lenin told the Third Congress of Soviets in January 1918:

It is important for us to draw literally all working people into the government of the state. It is a task of tremendous difficulty. But socialism cannot be implemented by a minority, by the Party. It can be implemented only by tens of millions when they have learned to do it for themselves.

At the same time the death penalty was abolished, prisoners were released, the press was free, apart from the Cadets and ultra-reactionary papers of the bourgeoisie, and even the Cheka was only set up as on offshoot of the Petrograd Soviet to deal with sabotage and food hoarding The Constituent Assembly was disbanded when the Right SRs, who dominated it, refused to endorse Soviet power so the Soviet Constitution was drawn up by the Soviet parties in June 1918. It did not mention any ruling role for the party and recognised the Vee tsay Kah or Executive Committee elected by the Soviet Congress as the summit of government.

However the reality of the economic disaster facing Russia was to rapidly undermine this early confidence. As the fighting with international capitalism opened Lenin was writing

Without the guidance of experts in the various fields of knowledge, technology and experience, the transition to socialism will be impossible, because socialism calls for a conscious mass advance to greater productivity of labour compared with capitalism... And the specialists, because of the whole social environment that made them specia¬lists, are, in the main, inevitably bourgeois...
Now we have to resort to the old bourgeois methods and to agree to pay a very high price for the “services” of the top bourgeois experts...
Clearly this measure is a compromise, a departure from the principles of the Paris Commune [1871] and of every proletarian power...

As famine began to sweep through urban areas in 1918 Lenin’s vision was restricted to the survival of the working class

THE PRIMARY TASK IN A RUINED COUNTRY IS TO SAVE THE WORKING PEOPLE. THE PRIMARY PRODUCTIVE FORCE OF HUMAN SOCIETY AS A WHOLE, IS THE WORKERS, THE WORKING PEOPLE. If they survive, we shall save and restore EVERYTHING... We must save the workers even if they are unable to work. If we keep them alive for_ _the next few years we shall save the country, save society and socialism.

By the end of the civil war the picture was not so rosy. If the economic situation was like the Black Death when the Bolsheviks had taken over it was now worse. A million were dying of starvation to add to the seven millions who are estimated to have died mainly of typhus and typhoid during the war. Cannibalism was becoming widespread. At the same time in order to fight the civil war against imperialism the revolution had gone into reverse. Lenin’s two yardsticks of a proletarian state, a workers militia and the absence of bureaucracy had been abandoned. Instead of the Red Guards there was now a Red Army of 5 millions and a civil service of less than 120,000 had become a bureaucracy of at least 4 millions.

On top of this the soviets which still had some life in 1920 (and still had Menshevik, anarchist and some SR delegates) were often reduced to empty shells. Lenin was forced to agree with Martov, the Menshevik-Internationalist leader in late 1919 that the proletariat was now apathetic in the soviets. Indeed by December 1920 Lenin was now justifying party rather than soviet rule

... the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of that class, because in all capita¬list countries (and not only over here, in one of the most backward) the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded and so corrupted... that an organisation taking in the whole of the proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard that has absorbed the revolutionary energy of the class.

This sorry statement of defeat was less than three months before the Kronstadt Revolt signalled what we have called elsewhere the beginning of the counter-revolution. (3) The failure of the March Action in Germany in the same month was another hammer blow to the prospects of the Bolsheviks, and this led to the realisation that “hanging on” was now a longer term issue. The adoption of NEP meant the abandonment of the proletariat in favour of the peasantry, and the banning of factions within the Party in March 1921signalled the onset of the counter-revolution although, in fact, the ban on factions was not very well enforced and discussion continued, but it had set the tone for the later silencing of all oppositions to the Political Bureau’s line. The Cheka, needless to say, and despite at least two attempts to rein it in, was now virtually a state within the state. However, until the late 1920s there was still no imprisonment of activists and members of the Communist Left, although expelled from the Party and facing harassment from the Cheka, continued to find some hearing inside the working class. No-one at the time saw the full consequences of the rise of Stalin. Indeed some Trotskyist Oppositionists like Preobrazhensky and some of the Communist Left like Sapronov of the Democratic Centralists initially welcomed it because Stalin brought NEP to an end and he thought this was the revolution becoming more proletarian again. They were soon to be disabused. The victory of socialism in one country was just the clearest expression that the internationalist ideals of October were dead. Stalin’s police state and Show Trials saw the arrest not of counter-revolutionaries but the best communist elements in their hundreds of thousands. In the economic sphere the consequence was the most centrally planned state capitalism in history. Lenin, in his last article began to see that the state had taken on a life of its own. At the Eleventh Congress of the Russian Communist Party in March 1922 Lenin stated

... and if we take that huge bureaucratic machine, that gigantic heap, we must ask: who is directing whom? I doubt very much whether it can be truthfully said that the Communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth they are not directing, they are being directed.

And in his final article, in March 1923, he made a last desperate appeal.

We must reduce our state apparatus to the utmost degree of economy. We must banish from it all traces of extravagance, of which so much has been left over from Tsarist Russia, from its bureaucratic capitalist state machine.

The Proletariat Gives Birth to Its Class Party

These quotes demonstrate that the Bolsheviks did not plan a counter-revolution as anarchists and councilists maintain. The counter-revolution is a process which is determined by the objective factors in any situation and the isolation of the Russian working class is the one material fact that cannot be got around. Indeed so many people are obsessed with the counter-revolution that it affects their ability to consider how a revolution will ever be made. Most notable amongst these are the councilists who take the view that, as the Bolshevik (later Communist Party) presided over the process of counter-revolution that led to Stalin’s horrors, then the real cause of counter-revolution was the Party.

However we need to be careful about how we see the emergence of the Bolsheviks as the revolutionary party in 1917. To portray the Bolsheviks as a mere general staff jumping to the will of Lenin is to do violence to the facts. The Bolsheviks did not begin 1917 as the unambiguous expression of the will of the Russian working class. On the contrary they were relatively small, and uninfluential, in the February Revolution. However they had existed as a clear political tendency since at least 1912, and they also had strong roots inside the working class. Although the Bolsheviks tended to boycott organisations which started off as initiatives of the ruling class, they did establish cells and groups in factories which in the aftermath of the February revolution often became the leading lights in the factory committees and newly legal trades unions. In this way the potential for party and class to become closely fused already existed before the class became more revolutionary as 1917 wore on. Thus when you analyse the process of revolution in 1917 you also see that virtually the entire revolutionary consciousness of the working class coalesced in the Bolshevik Party.

And amongst the myriad of socialist and other tendencies inside the working class it was only the Bolshevik Party which came to encapsulate the revolutionary aspirations of the class. It was only the Bolshevik Party which saw the Soviets as the repository of class rule whilst all the other political organisations only saw the Soviets as temporary nuisances which had to be put up with until the Constituent Assembly would establish a parliamentary regime.

Bolsheviks had also fought against the war for so long that it was they who benefited from the great anti-war sentiment that engulfed the working class, especially after May 1917 (and even before the June Offensive had ended in a rout of Russian forces). The myth put about by anarchists, councilists and social democrats of various stripes that soviet power would have been established without the Bolsheviks is one of the greatest lies told about the revolution because it is the exact opposite of what really happened. The Right Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries which had dominated the Soviets since March 1917 refused on several occasions to take power and instead kept offering new coalitions with the bourgeoisie. On September 28th _Izvestia _which was the voice of the Tsay ee kah or Soviet Executive announced that the final coalition of Kerensky’s SRs and the Right Mensheviks with a couple of Conservatives was “at last a truly democratic government born of the will of all the classes of the Russian people” therefore “the function of the Soviets is at an end and the time is approaching when they must retire from the stage”. It was from this point that there was no choice but for the Soviets to take power or be crushed. By this time too the Bolsheviks had 80% majorities in the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets and were even winning more than half the votes in local council elections everywhere. And at the Second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets, which was in the process of assembling when the Provisional Government was overthrown, the Bolsheviks with over 300 delegates had an absolute majority.

The historians of our ruling class have always argued that the October revolution was a coup. In some ways this was irrelevant. It was a coup of the immense majority of the working class signalled for a month before by an open debate in all the papers. It was certainly no conspiracy. Lenin’s articles calling for the overthrow of the Provisional Government were serialised in Rabochii Put, and Kamenev and Zinoviev published their objections when the Bolshevik Central Committee voted finally to accept the idea of the overthrow of the Provisional Government in Gorky’s paper Novaya Zhizn. In the end although they were ready and prepared it was not the Bolsheviks who took the first steps in the life or death struggle with the Provisional Government but Kerensky who cut off the telephone to the Smolny Institute where the Soviet had met, sent troops to smash up the Bolsheviks press and shut it down (for the second time in four months). He also sent troops to raise the bridges over the River Neva to prevent the workers getting to the city centre. At this point the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, which contained both Bolsheviks and Left SRS but which was headed by Trotsky, reacted. The troops Kerensky had set to take over the bridges were in fact officer cadets who were easily persuaded to surrender and the bridges were once again lowered. The MRC then sent soldiers to take over the press of the reactionaries to use to print their own papers, and then, little by little, on the night of November 6th and 7th they took over various key buildings including the telephone exchange, thus reconnecting the phone to Smolny but cutting off the Winter Palace. By this time Kerensky could find no loyal troops in the city and was leaving in a US Embassy car for Gatchina to join the former Tsarist General Krasnov who he hoped would lead his Cossacks back into the city. To counter them the Bolsheviks mobilised the Red Guard and some loyal regiments but they did not need great numbers of troops, as the troops facing them were not numerous. Within a week however the danger had passed. In all 4 people died on the night of November 6th-7th (all with the Bolsheviks) and the order and discipline that reigned when the “dark forces” (as the bourgeoisie called the working class) took over was awesome. The lesson here is that a mass class movement consciously prepared can avoid the kind of casualties that a spontaneous movement takes. Compare the casualties on November 6th and 7th with the 1200 who died overthrowing the Tsar’s regime the previous March. Compare it too with Moscow where hundreds were killed under the Kremlin walls because the Bolsheviks there too readily believed the promises of its commander that he would surrender peacefully.

Lenin’s letter to the Central Committee of the RSDLP (B) of October 21st summed up the revolutionary position and what really happened

To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy and not upon a party but upon the advanced class. This is the first point. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. That is the second point. Insurrection must rely upon that turning point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations_ in the ranks of the enemy, and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. That is the third point And these three conditions for raising the question of insurrection distinguish Marxism from Blanquism. Once these conditions exist however to refuse to treat insurrection as an art is a betrayal of Marxism and a betrayal of the revolution.

Marxism and Insurrection p.11. Bold passages in the original

We should note well here that Lenin says the seizure of power is not a conspiracy and relies on the class and not the party (even if he is urging his party to lead the way).

To sum up, the Bolshevik Party of 1917 did not spring from the pages of What is to be Done? but from the process of revolution itself starting with that in 1905. In the course of this revolutionary process the Bolsheviks were always the closest to the working class, both in Russia and internationally, and in the course of it, they alone of all the social democratic factions, abandoned dogma to be not only a part of the process but to lead it. Revolution will not be repeated in the same form again but October 1917 remains a great inspiration.

(1) A priceless gem here is where he tells the story that Lenin consulted the behavioural psychologist Pavlov (he of the dogs fame) in order to find out how to condition human behaviour. After admitting that this story may not be true he then goes onto use it to illustrate what an authoritarian personality Lenin had! Elsewhere he continually resorts to individual anecdote when wishing to illustrate some particularly unsavoury trait of life in Russia after the Revolution.

(2) For a review of Harding’s Leninism see Revolutionary Perspectives 4: Our “Leninism” and Theirs.

(3) See 1921: Beginning of the Counter-revolution in Internationalist Communist 20. £3 inc postage from our address

(4) Because the Bolsheviks abandoned the old Russian Orthodox Church calendar which was 13 days behind the rest of Europe in 1918 we thus have the confusion that the October Revolution of 1917 is now dated to November 7th (and likewise the February Revolution took place in March ).

Revolutionary Perspectives

Journal of the Communist Workers’ Organisation -- Why not subscribe to get the articles whilst they are still current and help the struggle for a society free from exploitation, war and misery? Joint subscriptions to Revolutionary Perspectives (3 issues) and Aurora (our agitational bulletin - 4 issues) are £15 in the UK, €24 in Europe and $30 in the rest of the World.