ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN ROL, USA NEWSLETTER
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN ROL, USA NEWSLETTER
|V. I. LENIN|
The October Revolution and the
by RAY LIGHT
“Lenin never regarded the Republic of Soviets as an end in itself. He always looked on it as an essential link for strengthening the revolutionary movement in the countries of the West and the East, an essential link for facilitating the victory of the working people of the whole world over capitalism. Lenin knew that this was the only right conception, both from the international standpoint and from the standpoint of preserving the Republic of Soviets itself. Lenin knew that this alone could fire the hearts of the working people of the whole world with determination to fight the decisive battles for their emancipation. That is why, on the very morrow of the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, he, the greatest of the geniuses who have led the proletariat, laid the foundation of the workers’ International. That is why he never tired of extending and strengthening the union of the working people of the whole world — the Communist International.” (Stalin, Works, Volume 6, p. 52) (My Emphasis)These powerful words were proclaimed by comrade Stalin as he was coming to the end of his speech at the opening sitting of the Second All-Union Congress of Soviets on January 26, 1924. This keynote speech highlighted a day devoted by the Soviet Congress to the memory of beloved Lenin, who had died just five days earlier.
The Great October Socialist Revolution was generated out of the objective conditions of the First World War, the subjective leadership of Lenin and the Bolsheviks and the courageous struggles of the Russian proletariat, peasantry, soldiers and sailors. This great achievement, in turn, inspired proletarian and peasant masses throughout the world to “make history” as well.
As the Italian comrades from the Communist Platform correctly observe: “The huge ideological, political and moral impact of the October Socialist Revolution, in the concrete situation of the imperialist war, acted as a powerful catalyst that accelerated the unity of the genuine communists.” (“Red October and the Founding of the Communist International,” Communist Platform — for the Communist Party of the Proletariat of Italy, p. 159-160, Unity & Struggle #34, June 2017)
They continue: “During the last year of the imperialist war (1918), the revolutionary storm spread over all of Europe, also reaching other continents”: From Finland in January, to Japan in July, to Bulgaria and the Ukraine in October, to the revolution in Germany and the fall of the German Empire in November, to “the rebellion of the soldiers and sailors of the Allied Expeditionary Corps in the Russian Soviet Republic;” the general strike of the Czech, Swiss, Iranian and Canadian workers; and the development of the solidarity movement in England and the USA with Soviet Russia; “the development of a large movement of national liberation in China, India, Korea, Indochina, Turkey, Persia, Egypt, and other countries of Africa and Asia; the speedy growth of the trade unions; … and the formation of new parties that took up the name of communists.” (ibid, p. 160)
The Italian comrades conclude: “The victory of the proletarian revolution in Russia sped up the solution of the problem of the founding of the Third International.”
Lenin’s emphasis on and confidence in the Communist International (Comintern) was fully vindicated.
1) “From the standpoint of preserving the Republic of Soviets itself”: In the midst of the Civil War and Imperialist Intervention (1918-1921), the Communist International was established on the soil of the Soviet land under attack from all sides, and under the leadership of the Bolshevik-led government that was the main target of the attack! What Leninist boldness and vision! As the authoritative History of the CPSU(B) recounts: “The Red Army was victorious because the Soviet Republic was not alone in its struggle against Whiteguard counter-revolution and foreign intervention, because the struggle of the Soviet government and its successes enlisted the sympathy and support of the proletarians of the whole world. While the imperialists were trying to stifle the Soviet Republic by intervention and blockade, the workers of the imperialist countries sided with the Soviets and helped them. Their struggle against the capitalists of the countries hostile to the Soviet Republic helped in the end to force the imperialists to call off the interventions.”
2) “From the international standpoint”: The pivotal role of the Comintern was evident in the rapid global advance of proletarian organization and power and the upsurge in national liberation movements against imperialism for a full quarter of a century from its founding in 1919 until its dissolution in 1943. All these achievements and advances internationally contributed to the Soviet-led defeat of global fascism in 1945. This immortal accomplishment, in turn, paved the way for the explosive growth of national liberation movements against imperialism throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East which took form as bourgeois democratic governments among one-third of the world’s population in the so-called “non-aligned movement between capitalism and socialism.” And it led to the creation of a socialist camp in which approximately another one-third of all human beings lived. The world-wide victory of socialism over the capitalist system then seemed imminent!
Of course, at that time of Lenin’s death in 1924, the Comintern was new and rising, and a rapidly gathering force to be reckoned with — with strength, influence and prestige throughout the world, as the Bolshevik-led Soviet Union emerged victorious from its early battles for survival.*
*By late 1922 the Soviet Republic had survived the civil war and imperialist intervention and then quickly expanded to lead in the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The USSR was initially made up of the Russian, the Transcaucasian, the Ukrainian and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republics. Later three independent Union Soviet Republics were formed in Central Asia – Uzbek, Turkmen and Tadjik and joined the USSR on a voluntary and equal basis. All the Republics reserved the right of freely seceding from the Soviet Union.
Thus it is perfectly understandable that Stalin does not mention in this 1924 speech that the Communist International was already present in 1917 in Lenin’s leadership of the initial victorious Great October Socialist Revolution itself. There was no urgent need to reflect upon how valuable the struggle to build the Comintern had been prior to the October Revolution. For the road ahead for the Comintern and its dialectical interconnection with the revolution in many countries was then bright indeed.
The knowledgeable reader may reasonably respond: “But you are mistaken, comrade Ray Light, for the October Revolution achieved victory on November 7, 1917 (new calendar). The Communist International was only established in March 1919, almost one and one-half years later!*
*Indeed, the first world conference of communist parties and social-democratic organizations began with Lenin’s opening speech on March 2, 1919. In the course of the four days that followed, a proposal was put forth by several European parties to transform the conference into a constitutive congress of the Communist International. Accordingly, there was an unanimous vote by 35 parties and organizations to establish the Third International, with the name of the Communist International. The vote’s outcome was announced with the Congress’ response of the singing of the Internationale. On March 6, 1919, the constituent assembly of the Communist International concluded its work. (See “Red October and the Founding of the Communist International,” Communist Platform — for the Communist Party of the Proletariat of Italy, pp. 162-164, Unity & Struggle #34, June 2017)
While this is formally correct, nevertheless, a closer examination of the historical process that led the Russian working class, peasantry and soldiers and sailors to “storm the heavens” reveals the existence of an organic Communist International under Bolshevik leadership.
On August 4, 1914, as the First World War broke out, both the German and French social-democratic deputies voted for war credits for “their” respective bourgeois governments. From that day onward, whatever proletarian internationalism had previously existed among the Parties of the Second International was ripped asunder.
On November 1, 1914, the organ of the Bolshevik Party (Sotzial-Democrat #33) published an important declaration by Lenin: “At this time of supreme and historic importance, most of the leaders of the present Socialist International, the Second (1889-1914) are trying to substitute nationalism for socialism ... . The leaders of the International committed an act of treachery against socialism by voting for war credits, by reiterating the chauvinist (‘patriotic’) slogans of the bourgeoisie of their ‘own’ countries, by justifying and defending the war, by joining the bourgeois governments of the belligerent countries, … . The collapse of the Second International is the collapse of opportunism, ... . The aims of socialism at the present time cannot be fulfilled and real internationalist unity of the workers cannot be achieved, without a decisive break with opportunism, and without explaining its inevitable fiasco to the masses ... The proletarian International has not gone under and will not go under. Notwithstanding all obstacles, the masses of the workers will create a new International.” (Lenin, “The War and Russian Social-Democracy,” Collected Works, Vol. 21) (My Emphasis)
Accordingly, Lenin led the “decisive break with opportunism” on a global basis during the years of the First World War. At the Conference of Zimmerwald, Switzerland in September 1915, Lenin was able to organize the internationalist Marxists and obtain a split from the social-chauvinists laying a foundation for international unity under the leadership of the “Zimmerwald Left.” Yet at Zimmerwald, the Kautskyan delegates triumphed with their centrist line of “peace” with the social-chauvinists and re-establishment of the opportunist Second International. Nevertheless, Lenin observed that the common Manifesto approved at Zimmerwald which included a number of revolutionary Marxist theses “signifies a step towards an ideological and practical break with opportunism.” (“The First Step,” Collected Works, Vol. 21) Moreover, during that conference, a Socialist International Commission (ISK) was formed that assisted in the ultimate founding of the Third International.
At the Second International Conference of Zimmerwald (Kienthal) in April 1916 a further step forward was taken. The resolution on war and peace was adopted unanimously and contained many Bolshevik positions, including the need to overthrow capitalist rule and build socialist society in order to put an end to capitalist wars. However, while there were severe criticisms of the leaders of the Second International, the majority of Kienthal delegates still resisted the break with the opportunists and hoped for a reconstitution of the collapsed Second International after the war.
In April 1917, after the Bolshevik-led workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors overthrew the three hundred year old Russian Tsarist monarchy, the bourgeoisie with cooperation from the petty-bourgeois opportunists (and taking advantage of the great joy, relief and political inexperience of the masses) was able to take power, ahead of the Bolsheviks. In this setting, while even many Bolsheviks were similarly disoriented, Lenin issued his famous April Theses. The tenth and last of these was: “10) A New International. “We must take the initiative in creating a revolutionary International, an International against the social-chauvinists and against the ‘Centre’ ...” The same month the Seventh Conference of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (Bolshevik) resolved that the party undertake the task of taking the initiative in creating a Third International.
In the Draft Party Program written in May 1917 Lenin analyzed the three trends in the international workers’ and socialist movement (the social-chauvinists, the centre and the internationalists) reasserting the need for a resolute break with the vacillation of the Zimmerwald organization and for the founding of the Third International. Said Lenin, “The thing is not to ‘proclaim’ internationalism, but to be able to be an internationalist in deed, even when times are trying.” And further, we “must found, and right now, without delay a new revolutionary proletarian International, or rather, we must not fear to acknowledge publicly that this new International is already established and operating ...” (“The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution,” Collected Works, Vol. 24) (My Emphasis)
Thus, from his “April Theses” on, Lenin functioned at the head of the Bolshevik Party and the Russian proletariat as if there already existed a new Communist International. And, it was on this basis, that the Bolshevik Party was able to lead the Russian industrial working class and the peasant and soldier masses, through their own experience to the revolutionary overthrow of the Russian bourgeois government, tied as it was to French and British imperialism and the First World War slaughter. The presence of the Third Communist International in the form elaborated above was a necessary ingredient on the path to the victorious Great October Socialist Revolution.
Shortly after Lenin’s death, Stalin wrote the masterful Foundations of Leninism and dedicated it to the 240,000 Soviet workers who came forward in the Lenin Enrollment. In “Chapter 3 Theory,” comrade Stalin taught:
“Formerly, it was the accepted thing to speak of the proletarian
revolution in one or another developed country as of a separate and self-sufficient entity opposing a separate national front of capital as its antipode. Now, this point of view is no longer adequate. Now we must speak of the world proletarian revolution; for the separate national fronts of capital have become links in a single chain called the world front of imperialism, which must be opposed by a common front of the revolutionary movement in all countries.
“Formerly, the proletarian revolution was regarded exclusively as the result of the internal development of a given country. Now, this point of view is no longer adequate. Now the proletarian revolution must be regarded primarily as the result of the development of the contradictions within the world system of imperialism ... .”
“The front of capital will be pierced where the chain of imperialism is weakest, for the proletarian revolution is the result of the breaking of the chain of the world imperialist front at its weakest link ...” (Foundations of Leninism, p. 26)
As long as the Comintern existed and was guided by the Leninist understanding that the proletarian revolution is “primarily” “the result of the development of the contradictions within the world system of imperialism,” and it requires “a common front of the revolutionary movement in all countries,” Leninism and proletarian internationalism were dialectically interconnected. Indeed, they were an unbeatable combination.
But that was long ago.
In April 1968, I observed: “Since the death of Stalin, the two main characteristics of the international situation have been 1) the intensification of the contradiction between the oppressed nations and U.S. imperialism; and 2) the development of a policy in most socialist countries of betrayal of the oppressed nations based on the ascendancy of the national bourgeois class in the socialist countries.” (“The Role of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the International Marxist-Leninist Movement — The October Revolution vs. the ‘Cultural Revolution’” by Youth for Stalin, p. 33, January 1978 Reprint)
Moni Guha, an outstanding veteran anti-revisionist comrade from Bengal, similarly observed: “... the post-Stalin developments took a different turn. The proletarian movement fragmented badly and could present no anti-imperialist front. Anti-imperialist wars were indeed fought and fought valiantly and covered themselves with glory and triumph. But alas there was no single front to oppose imperialism. The link between the world proletarian revolution and national liberation struggles was lost. They were not seen as reserves, as parts of a whole, part of a single world front of socialism. The whole question was posed abstractly, from the point of view of formal democracy, as one of abstract rights. No wonder then that the national liberation movements stopped short in their tracks and did not go over to socialism for there was no world front of socialism, no effort to build a world dictatorship of the proletariat. Victories turned into defeats and advantages into disadvantages. If today imperialism gloats over its triumph of being smuggled back into formerly liberated countries it is in no small measure due to the failure of the various communist contingents in their internationalist duties.” (“The National Liberation Movements in the World Proletarian Revolution,” Proletarian Path, New Series, Volume 1, Number 5, September 1994)
About eight or nine years ago, a half-day session of the different parties and groups assembled at the Western Europe-based ICLMPO five day International Seminar* discussed the experiences of the international communist movement with international organization, with a focus on the Third International. I had made the initial proposal for this subject as most of the organizations had at best a lukewarm approach to the Third Communist International. It was at the end of this very Seminar that Stephan Engel, then MLPD Chair, presented the MLPD plan for what became ICOR. And most of the organizations there responded quite favorably, evidently having been surprised by how positive most of the experience shared there on the Comintern had actually been.
*Not the Ecuador-based ICMLPO.
Nevertheless, a leading comrade from Argentina, a credible comrade, shared the following: In 1972, he was a youthful member of an Argentine party delegation that met with comrade Mao in China. Their delegation had gone to China with a positive stand in favor of multi-lateral meetings of parties. Mao countered that the Chinese party would only hold bi-lateral meetings. (And, at least partly because it was Mao himself advocating bi-lateral meetings, they dogmatically changed their position.)
Moreover, Mao had argued that there was no need for a Communist International, since, according to him, the Chinese revolution [of 1949] had taken place when there was no international [the Comintern had been dissolved in 1943] and that the October Revolution had been accomplished without an International (the Second International had collapsed at the beginning of the First World War under the pressures of its own betrayal of the international working class.)
I opposed this position, stating that anyone (whether Mao or anyone else) who would claim that the Chinese Revolution that won victory in 1949 had been accomplished without the Third International was expressing a bourgeois nationalist position. Interestingly, I don’t remember anyone else, MLPD or otherwise, either supporting my position or defending “Mao’s” position, as described. This was another manifestation of the prevailing bourgeois nationalist approach of most contemporary “M-L-M” organizations.
This indifference toward the lessons of revolutions other than “one’s own,” brings to mind another apt quote from comrade Guha: “One thought that the fight of the proletariat was a world-historic one. That is, a fight that wasn’t discrete and local. … Today, we behave like the despicable leaders of the Second International, like Titos; for us the national communist movements are supposed to have platonic relations with the world socialist revolution.” (Proletarian Path, New Series, Volume II, Number 1, December 1995)
But the Mao 1972 position on the October Revolution victory is more pertinent to this current article. When the Argentine comrade cited Mao’s comment on the absence of an International from the situation at the time of Red October, I countered that Lenin and the Bolshevik Party had struggled against the Second International and therefore had an International presence there and then. However, preparation for the current article on the Comintern and the October Revolution revealed, as I reported earlier, that “the Communist International was already present in 1917 in Lenin’s leadership of the initial victorious Great October Socialist Revolution itself.”
At this historical moment, one hundred years after the Victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, one lesson we can draw from our Bolshevik predecessors who achieved victory even though there was no International supporting them is that for a proletarian party to be victorious it must carry its internationalist banner through good times and bad.
As I self-critically shared in 2005, “We and other internationalist-minded comrades have, for years, counter posed the concept of mutual support (earlier for Vietnam, current for Iraq and Afghanistan) to the bourgeois nationalist “self-reliant” concept of waging the class struggle that has dominated the world communist movement. But comrade Guha reminds us how low so-called “communist” standards have become. He reminds us that, “Our internationalism is not for ‘mutual benefit’ but the very precondition of our movement — communism is a world-historic goal.” (Document #31: “The Iraqi National Liberation Movement: Vital to the World Proletarian Revolution,” pp. 249-250, The Bush-led Global Imperialist War, From 9-11 to the Present. Originally published as Ray O. Light Newsletter #40, September 2005)
Finally, Comrade Guha’s reminder that “Communism is a world-historic goal and that internationalism is the very precondition of our movement”, leads us back to comrade Stalin’s teachings on Leninist Theory. Specifically, the proletarian revolution breaks out at the weakest link in the imperialist chain. And, to advance this cause, the vanguard of the international proletariat needs to be working on all the fundamental contradictions of imperialism in a coordinated effort, in “a common front of the revolutionary movement in all countries.” Which leads us back to the beginning of this article: Stalin’s speech in memory of comrade Lenin. Stalin concluded this famous speech with his final oath to Lenin:
“DEPARTING FROM US, COMRADE LENIN ENJOINED US TO REMAIN FAITHFUL TO THE PRINCIPLES OF THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL. WE VOW TO YOU, COMRADE LENIN, THAT WE SHALL NOT SPARE OUR LIVES TO STRENGTHEN AND EXTEND THE UNION OF THE WORKING PEOPLE OF THE WHOLE WORLD—THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL!” (Stalin, Works, Volume 6, p. 53)