Workers Hammer No. 236

Autumn 2016


The legacy of the Russian Revolution

Led by a disciplined and internationalist workers party — the Bolshevik party of Lenin and Trotsky — the multinational working class of Russia seized power from the capitalists and landowners on 7 November 1917 (25 October in the pre-revolutionary calendar), erecting the Soviet workers state. Undermined by decades of Stalinist treachery and mismanagement, the Soviet Union was finally smashed by capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92. But the legacy and lessons of the Bolshevik Revolution live on to inspire future fighters for a socialist world. The following remarks are excerpted from a speech by American Trotskyist James P Cannon on 8 November 1942, amid the darkest days of the Nazi assault on the Soviet Union in World War II.

War and revolution are the most authoritative of all tribunals. It is there, in war and in revolution, that all the great questions are decided in our epoch. The outbreak of the first World War in August 1914, demonstrated that capitalism, as an economic and social system, had exhausted its progressive historic mission. The Russian revolution of November 1917 served notice that a more powerful class than the class of capitalists had come to maturity. The modern proletariat, the progressive force in modern society, the herald and representative of a new social order — this class, as demonstrated by the revolution, took the offensive in the class battle which can only end in world-wide victory.

November 7, 1917. The death sentence on the old order of capitalism and the beginning of the new order of world socialism were both proclaimed on that day. And whatever vicissitudes, whatever setbacks, betrayals or defeats may overtake the proletariat on the road to that final goal; however sharp and deep may be the zigzags in the line which charts the course of the struggle through which humanity shall pass from capitalism to socialism; whatever may befall, the starting point in the line of development will always be traced to that great day which we commemorate tonight — November 7, 1917.

— James P Cannon, “The Russian Revolution” (8 November 1942)