Workers Vanguard No. 1055

31 October 2014


The Russian Revolution Showed the Way

(Quote of the Week)

Led by the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, the working class in Russia overthrew the rule of the capitalist exploiters and seized power on 7 November 1917 (25 October 1917 by the Julian calendar used in Russia at the time). In marking the 17th anniversary of the Revolution, the U.S. Trotskyists explained how that world-historic victory gave flesh and blood to the program of revolutionary Marxism.

The Bolshevik revolution was the decisive factor in taking the disputes between the Left and Right wings in the labor movement out of the realm of academic discussion and bringing them down to the solid soil of practical reality. If it is true that the establishment of the first successful workers’ state revived and reinforced the undistorted doctrines of Marx and Engels, then only because it demonstrated in life that far from being obsolete and applicable only to the middle of the last century, they were the indispensable weapons of the modern proletarian struggle for emancipation from wage slavery. The revolution, taking place as it did in a backward agricultural country, underscored the fact that the only consistently progressive class in modern world society is the proletariat. By what the latter accomplished for formerly oppressed racial and national minorities, and for the peasant millions—freedom and development immeasurably greater than that ever effected for similar groups by the bourgeoisie even in its most revolutionary period—it confirmed all previous theoretical affirmation that no section of the population can free itself and be guaranteed a progressive evolution save under the leadership of the working class. The October victory brought forward sharply the tremendous importance of the revolutionary party as the leader of the working class, without which it is a headless, inchoate mass, condemned to spontaneous but finally futile assaults upon its class enemy.

In the broader social sense, the contributions of the Bolshevik revolution are equally deathless. Under a thousand handicaps, it nevertheless refuted the bourgeois canard that the working class is unable to manage the affairs of society, that the scrubwoman must wash floors and the banker direct the government because of qualities inherent in each of them. The veritable torrent of initiative, resourcefulness, talent released from the midst of the “dark masses” when the revolution broke down even the first few barriers of traditional class repression, shows that a new Golden Age undreamed of by Pericles is held in store for humanity under communism. Shut off from the advantages of world intercourse enjoyed by capitalism, the Soviet state nevertheless established the fact that only in a socialist order is security and plenty possible for all; that even in the transitional period leading to socialism, crises and economic difficulties are due not to a plethora, to an overproduction of the means of life and comfort which the masses cannot share—a condition which is the distinguishing mark of capitalism—but to a shortage in production attendant upon the growing pains of a new order hemmed in by stifling capitalist walls. With all the vast technical superiority and advantages of experience on its side, capitalism still is unable to produce in any way but anarchically, whereas only the working class in power has been able to undertake and carry through planning in economic life with a success which is grudgingly acknowledged even by its astonished foes.

—“The Russian Revolution 17 Years After,” New International (November 1934)