100th Anniversary of the October Revolution - Lessons (Part 4)

 

16.          Another important lesson of the October Revolution is that the socialist revolution must be led by the working class. The working class is the modern class that epitomizes the negation of capitalism. It is – and must be – the leading class of the revolution, even if it constitutes a relatively small force in society. In Russia in 1917, for example, the proletariat accounted for no more than 10% of the population, while the huge majority of Russians were peasants. There is hardly a country in the world today where the working class is smaller in relative terms. Nevertheless, the Bolsheviks rightly insisted that the city leads the countryside and the workers lead the peasantry, because of the former’s central role in the process of production. This lesson remains fully valid today.

 

17.          However – and this is another crucial lesson of the socialist revolution of October 1917 – the working class cannot succeed in its struggle to topple capitalism without an alliance with other oppressed classes and strata of the population. This is especially so regarding the poor peasantry which faces barbaric exploitation in the semi-colonial countries and which constitutes a substantial part of the popular masses in these countries. Another important sector is the growing layer of urban poor. In the old imperialist countries (North America, Western Europe and Japan) special importance must be given to the struggles of the socially oppressed layers of the popular masses – women, migrants, youth, national minorities.

 

18.          The experience of the Russian Revolution, the early Soviet Union and its Stalinist degeneration offer rich lessons for our programmatic vision of the kind of society we want to build. Our Socialism – in contrast to its Stalinist caricature – will be revolutionary and free! Our struggle for the Socialism of the 21st century is inspired by the revolutionary spirit of the young Soviet Union at the time of Lenin and Trotsky, but which was subsequently annihilated by the Stalinist bureaucracy. We are fighting for socialism where the working class, the peasants, the urban poor (including both those still in being educated as well as those who are already pensioners) rule the society via popular councils which are present in all enterprises, schools and universities, and in the slums and villages. The Socialism of the 21st century – in contrast to the Stalinist dictatorship – is bottom up and not top down. All important issues are discussed in these councils and delegates are elected to represent the viewpoint of the rank and file in higher bodies; local, regional, national and international. These delegates must be recallable if the rank and file no longer feel that they are being adequately represented. The Socialism of the 21st century must not be a socialism where a caste of bureaucrats rule society as was, and is, the case in the Stalinist countries. It is an important lesson of the 20th century that socialism must never be a dictatorship of bureaucrats against the workers. Nor can the Socialism of the 21st century be one in which only a single party exists and rules. Rather, the working class and the popular masses will express their views in different parties which will compete democratically for a majority in the councils. Neither must the Socialism of the 21st century be one in which a caudillo rules over society as a combination of a parliamentarian and bonapartist system (as is the case in Venezuela). The Socialism of the 21st century we are fighting for will be characterised by a global planned economy and a world federation of socialist republics. It will move towards the creation of general wealth for the whole of humanity and, in this process, state structures and classes will gradually whiter away, to use Marx’s analogy. However, in the period of socialist revolution and in the transition period following it, when the old ruling class will try to hold on to, or to take back, power by any means, the working class must do everything necessary to win what will be a long and bitter civil war. In such a period of transition, it is clear that only the dictatorship of the proletariat and the popular masses can smash and suppress the resistance of the old ruling class. Otherwise they will smash us.