100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution - Leicester discussion meeting

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irwellian
100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution - Leicester discussion meeting
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Here's the details of this month's Libertarian Socialist Discussion Meeting organised by the Leicester Group of the Anarchist Federation. Hope to see some of you there!

As February 2017 marks one hundred years since the start of the Russian revolution, we ask what we can learn from it and what its effect has been on revolutionary ideas and action and the wider workers’ movement from 1917 to the present.

Wednesday 22nd February
7pm at the Regent Sports & Social Club
102 Regent Road
Leicester LE1 7DA

NB: the venue is a short walk from Leicester train station

Alf
thanks

thanks for posting this. Unlikely that any ICC members will be able to attend but we certainly welcome the invitation. And it's a very important question - we will be writing a lot about it in the period ahead and will also be holding a meeting ouselves later in the year. 

irwellian
I'm sure you will be writing

I'm sure you will be writing on it!

Alf
and "republishing"

But also drawing attention to what we have already written, to some extent in the order of events. We have put up an article on February, and the next one will be April: 

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/089/April-theses

In any case, let us know how the meeting goes

irwellian
Here you go... Though

Here you go...

Though attendance was a little smaller than last month due to an unfortunate clash with a Leicester Social Forum event at the same time, the meeting nevertheless went well. The discussion was led off by a left communist friend of the local AF, who gave a solid background to the 1917 events in Russia. Key points in the ensuing discussion were:

  • 1917 was a seminal moment in world revolutionary proletarian history
  • it is perhaps mistaken to think of it as the "Russian revolution" as it was a catalyst for uprisings, mutinies and revolutions in many other places (e.g. Germany, Hungary, Italian factory councils, etc.)
  • its failure, and the subsequent failure of revolutionary movements elsewhere were ultimately a failure of "socialism in one country" (or more accurately, state capitalism in one geographical location)
  • the workers councils (soviets) were a major contribution to revolutionary movements (although to be fair, the councils go back to 1905)
  • the taming of the soviets by the bolsheviks, the repression of Kronstadt and the makhnovschina were all mentioned

The massive influence of the Russian revolution on the years between 1917 and now are unquestionable. It led to:

  • the bolshevisation or leninisation of the more revolutionary wing of the international workers' movement
  • this bolshevisation/leninisation included revolutionary groups and movements of various tendencies (including anarchists)
  • the dominance of the Comintern and Stalinist tyranny, etc, led to the deformation of revolutionary politics and has left concepts such as socialism or communism as tainted, damaged
  • pro-revolutionary ideas, groups and movements are still recovering from this
  • the apparent death of class consciousness, the general lack of collective working class awareness and the dwindling of revolutionary groups and ideas is a probable repercussion of the failure of 1917 and after
  • the dire state of the world we see today is ultimately evidence of the failure of 1917
Alf
bolshevisation...

Thanks for this account. Many points to agree with, not least that the defeat in Russia, and the form it took, has been a kind of trauma for generations of proletarians, a major barrier to the development of class consciousness. I would think that a key question of debate between libertarians and left communists would be on the nature of the Bolshevik party: for us, of course, there is a gulf between the Bolshevism which stood against imperialist war in 1914 and for soviet power in 1917 and the degenerating Russian party and Comintern which imposed 'Bolshevisation' on the communist parties, against opposition from the left. 

irwellian
Differences

Alf wrote:

I would think that a key question of debate between libertarians and left communists would be on the nature of the Bolshevik party: for us, of course, there is a gulf between the Bolshevism which stood against imperialist war in 1914 and for soviet power in 1917 and the degenerating Russian party and Comintern which imposed 'Bolshevisation' on the communist parties, against opposition from the left. 

Differences between libertarian communists and left communists was touched on in the meeting, especially given that the discussion was led off by a left communist. And speaking as an AF member, I'd not disagree on the marked difference between that earlier Bolshevism and what it was to become (although obviously I'd still have political differences).

Alf
Bolshevism and the working class

I think the fact that there is some agreement here about the evolution of the Bolsheviks is important. In general, and perhaps now more than ever, Bolshevism is demonised by the ruling class everywhere, and revolutionaries have to fight against this, because Bolshevism did once stand for the world revolution.

There is also the point that we can't understand the degeneration of past workers' organisations without recognising that they were indeed workers' organisations, i.e. part of us. The counter-revolution is full of organisations that once belonged to us, but no longer do; thus, to really understand the counter-revolution, we have to accept that part of it comes from the failures of our movement, from weaknesses that still linger on among today's revolutionaries. 

A related example would be on the question of morality. The Bolsheviks did not clarify this problem, and had a strong tendency towards the ideology of 'the end justifies' the means, which justified the Red Terror, and thus paved the way towards the triumph of the Stalinist counter-revolution. But how much further have today's communist minorities advanced on this problem of the difference between bourgeois and proletarian morality? 

jk1921
Morality

Alf wrote:

A related example would be on the question of morality. The Bolsheviks did not clarify this problem, and had a strong tendency towards the ideology of 'the end justifies' the means, which justified the Red Terror, and thus paved the way towards the triumph of the Stalinist counter-revolution. But how much further have today's communist minorities advanced on this problem of the difference between bourgeois and proletarian morality? 

 

What is the "material basis" of bourgeois and proletarian morality? Why were the Bolsheviks infested with the kind of morality that made a Red Terror seem an appropriate response to the weakening of the revolution? Was this a function of something like a moral failure or was it a reflection of the failure of the revolution itself, which in turn says something about the material conditions of capitalist society at the time?

I think these kinds of questions are also present when d man asks about why it was that the executive committess during Occupy did exactly what we said they couldn't do. If they did it, that means they could do it. Our plea for them not do it, rings more like a normative (i.e. moral) commandment rather than an explanation or description of some material moment of the revolutionary process. This raises genuine questions about politics as human praxis and its relationship to material forces. Did the soviets degenerate because human actors made political mistakes of judgement or because there really was no objective way for them not to. Something from Hegel comes to mind here, "What is real is rational; what is rational is real." etc.