Workers Hammer No. 237

Winter 2016-2017


Quote of the issue

The Bolshevik revolutionary

The October Revolution of 1917, in which the working class took power in Russia, was the defining political event of the 20th century. Key to this tremendous victory for the workers and peasants of the Russian empire was the patient struggle led by VI Lenin and his comrades to forge a party of professional Marxist revolutionaries who committed their lives to realising the goal of socialist revolution, in Russia and around the world. Writing in 1926, when he himself identified with Leninism and its continuity in the Left Opposition of Leon Trotsky, Victor Serge described the unique qualities of these proletarian fighters.

The great Russian Bolsheviks choose to describe themselves as “professional revolutionaries”. It is a description perfectly suited to all real agents of social transformation. It rules out from revolutionary activity all dilettantism, amateurism, playing about and posturing; it locates the revolutionary irrevocably in the world of labour, where there is no question of “airs”, nor of finding interesting ways to fill up one’s leisure time, nor the spiritual or moral pleasure of holding “advanced” ideas. For those who do this work, their job (or profession) fills the best part of their life. They know it is a serious business and that their daily bread depends on it; they also know, with varying degrees of consciousness, that the whole social life and destiny of men depends on it too.

The job of a revolutionary requires a long apprenticeship, gaining purely technical knowledge, as well as love for the work and understanding of the cause, the means and the end. If, as often happens, he is obliged to take another job — in order to live — it is the job of being a revolutionary which fills his life, and the other job is only something secondary. The Russian Revolution was able to triumph because in twenty-five years of political activity it had formed strong teams of professional revolutionaries, trained to carry out an almost superhuman labour.

— Victor Serge, What everyone should know about state repression, New Park Publications (1979)