The world bourgeoisie, in their evaluations of the Russian Revolution, say it “failed,” and this proves socialism can never be achieved — certainly not through a revolution of the workers and the oppressed.
Maybe a little bit of “socialism” is OK in the eyes of some of them. By that they mean giving in to mass pressure for the capitalist state to play a larger role in mitigating the suffering of the people. But it usually takes a near rebellion for a capitalist government to institute socialized medicine, for example, or even Social Security pensions, which became law in this country in 1935, during the tumult of the Depression.
But allow the masses to have their own state power? Never, say the bosses.
In this series, we have gone over some of the deep material reasons for the weakening of the revolution, which eventually led to the dissolution of the USSR and the return of capitalist wage slavery to that vast region. But we reject the idea that the revolution itself failed. It was overcome eventually, but it left a profound impact around the world.
Even while it was struggling to build up its economy after severe underdevelopment and wartime destruction, the USSR was giving aid to countries fighting imperialism.
Soviet support for other revolutions
During the 1950-53 imperialist war against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Soviet Union provided MiG fighter planes, and eventually pilots, to defend both the Chinese and Korean forces under attack from the U.S.
It supported liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. It helped the Ethiopian Revolution. It supported Vietnam in its struggles against French colonial rule and then U.S. imperialist intervention. And it intervened militarily in support of the revolutionary government in Afghanistan that was under attack from a CIA-armed and -trained reactionary army of warlords.
Yes, Afghanistan had a revolution in 1978 that set up a very progressive government which freed the peasants from debt and fought for women’s rights, sending young teachers — women and men — to the countryside. The U.S. armed and trained the counterrevolution — yet claims that its bombing of villagers in Afghanistan today is meant to promote democracy.
In supporting the Cuban Revolution, the USSR went to the brink of a military confrontation with the U.S. — the so-called “missile crisis” — in October 1962. The crisis ended when the Kennedy administration pledged not to invade Cuba again. (The CIA had organized the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961.)
For the first 31 years of its existence, the Soviet Union had stood virtually alone as the only country in the world attempting to build socialism. The one exception was the Mongolian Revolution of 1921. Aided by the Soviet Red Army, the Mongolians drove out Russian White Guards who had invaded their country. In 1924, they proclaimed the People’s Republic of Mongolia. But Mongolia was very isolated, with a small population.
In 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was founded, followed a year later by the triumph of People’s China. The common thread in all these revolutions was that they were carried out by parties based in the working class whose ultimate aim was to create a socialist society.
From day one, the main objective of the imperialists has been to break up the solidarity among these countries — just as it is doing today regarding China and the DPRK. It uses the carrot, but mostly the stick — the very big stick of threatening nuclear war.
Can nukes stave off social advance?
Take away the nuclear weapons of the imperialist powers and what do we see? A dying system, choking on its own productivity.
If capitalism continues to be the dominant system, the youth of today will inhabit a world in which the gap between the haves and have-nots will have reached even more monstrous proportions. It is in the nature of capitalism to concentrate ownership of the means of production in fewer and fewer hands. While this may be concealed in the illusion that everyone with stocks owns a part of a company, even if it’s just through a pension plan or other market-based savings accounts, the truth comes out in the wealth figures.
An amazing chart, based on recent analysis of incomes, shows that since 1982, almost the entire growth in income in the U.S. has gone to the richest 1 percent of the population. (New York Times, Aug. 7) And in the last few years, the very, very, very rich — the top 0.001 percent — have seen the largest economic growth.
And this is BEFORE the changes in taxes and government regulation proposed by the Trump administration have been enacted.
If capitalism remains the dominant system, the racism, sexism, homophobia and scapegoating of immigrants — all of which serve the interests of capital by dividing the working class and thus lowering wages — will persist despite all the struggles against them.
Changing consciousness has begun
Clearly, a day of reckoning is long overdue. Consciousness often lags behind reality, but when it comes, it comes with a bang.
Today’s generation is already reflecting the future. Capitalism is a dirty word. In a YouGov poll taken in January 2016, 43 percent of those in the 18-29 age bracket said they favored socialism; only 26 percent said it was unfavorable.
By March 18 of this year, the right-wing National Review was writing: “Socialism’s Rising Popularity Threatens America’s Future.”
If this is true in the United States, the bastion of world capitalism, it is doubly or triply true in the rest of the world. The capitalists have nothing to offer the vast majority, and instead seem intent on wrecking the planet rather than reining in their pursuit of more obscene profits.
Who is this young generation who have made what the National Review calls “a tectonic shift” in their views, compared to their elders? They are overwhelmingly young workers, whether they’ve been able to nail down a steady job or not. A large proportion are doubly or triply oppressed — because of their national origin, their color, gender and/or sexual orientation. And if they’ve tried to get a higher education in order to break into the job market, they are already debtors, tied to the financial system just as securely as those in debtors’ prisons in Charles Dickens’ times.
Speaking in Marxist terms, they represent a shift in consciousness of the workers, based on the new reality of capitalism having reached a dead end, unable to resolve its inner contradictions.
Every huge corporation now in existence wants to cut labor costs and expand its market. That’s what keeps the owners and investors happy.
They do it in several ways: eliminating jobs through automation and computerization, cutting wages and benefits, speeding up production and/or moving their operations to regions like the U.S. South or other countries where wages are lower.
While Trump blames Mexico for job losses in the U.S., the real culprits are Trump’s capitalist cronies who specialize in pitting workers against one another so they can pay the lowest wages. This was true as far back as the 1880s, when immigrant workers were being blamed (by the bosses’ politicians) for low wages (that the bosses forced on them).
Thus, the prospects for the future under capitalism are bleak indeed.
But take the same high level of technological development now achieved and put it to use raising living standards, reducing back-breaking labor, providing education and health care for all, harmonizing production with environmental protection, and liberating culture from the corrosive effects of racism, sexism, homophobia, class oppression and corporate consumerism. Then there is definitely a bright light at the end of the tunnel.
All this is sinking in as we write. Consciousness does eventually catch up to reality. And the reality is that there is no future for the workers — or the planet itself — under capitalism.
The Soviet Union showed that life for the workers could be improved enormously under a workers’ state and a planned economy. It never reached the level of full socialism, having to battle the world bourgeoisie for its entire existence, but it raised up tens of millions of workers and peasants from abject poverty and oppression. Its fall opened the floodgates of reaction and let capitalism be capitalism — unvarnished. And that opened the eyes of the new generation.
Now the ball is in our court. It will be up to the workers and politically conscious youth and oppressed peoples in the more developed, more utterly irrational bastions of rotting capitalism, to carry forward the world revolutionary struggle to break the billionaires’ grip on our planet.
That’s what the ruling class fears the most. And it should.
100th anniversary of Bolshevik Revolution
- Part 1: From Marx’s view of social evolution to Lenin’s ‘Imperialism’
- Part 2: Social gains in early years of Soviet power
- Part 3: ‘Whose state? Our state’ – meaning all nationalities
- Part 4: External and internal problems, strengths and setbacks
- Part 5: To the 0.001 percent: You are cheering too soon