Russian Revolution (re: Ten Days That Shook The World)

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radicalchains
Russian Revolution (re: Ten Days That Shook The World)
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I would like to start a forum topic on the Russian Revolution because I am seriously reading about it for the first time. I have previously read bits and pieces here and there, of course heard versions and perpectives about it and follwed interesting discussions on libcom.org. But finally, I will try and come to some of my own conclusions hopefully with the help of others. I have only just finished reading Reed's Ten Days That Shook The World but plan to read The History Of The Civil War In The U.S.S.R volume 2 The Great Proletarian Revolution and Trotsky's History Of The Russian Revolution. Probably in that order. Where I go from there I am not sure but Victor Serge's account  seems to get recommended quite a lot.

The Goverment of the Russian Republic sometimes reads as a representative body (an elite) in the bourgeois sense. What is the difference or connection to the soviets? Especially with regard to decrees. Are they purely of the mind of the members of the government, Lenin in particularly. Or are they the result of discussion and debate within the soviets and class?

Were the soviets mostly Bolshevik and on what scale within Russia?

Apart from programmatic differences what was the main reason for opposition to the Bolsheviks from other socialists etc?

Regarding sabotage and hoarding (bourgeois, middle class etc) versus inefficiency of organisation and individual corruption (soldiers, workers, bolsheviks etc) in relation to supplying the front and beyond. Was there anything genuine in the proclamations or were they outright lies?

Lenin as dictator? Sometimes it comes across as he is using (not manipulating) the masses or directing them. Yes, there were soviets but were they superficial and simply at the command of congress and ultimately Lenin as head of state?

Right of Nations to Self Determination seems to have been a total disaster. Why does this idea and practice exist today?

Lenin tries to get peace via the bourgeoisie. Why doesn't he go directly to the workers, the class to make peace with enemy workers in uniform - though he suggests this only after his former efforts fail. Was it always his plan to go to the workers anyway?

This touches on an earlier question about decrees. Are Lenin's decrees in particular simply of his own mind or are they questions previously debated, discussed etc within the soviets, party or wider class?

Those questions basically came up in order as I was reading the book.

Alf
Where to begin

A very good idea for a long term thread - the subject is huge. One small point about your first paragrph. Reed is a very good place to start but I would recommend reading Trotsky's History next. It's his masterpiece. 

internasyonalista
some need details

Some questions of radicalchains (RC) need detailed knowledge of the History of Russian Revolution. I read and re-read in my younger days (when I was in the maoist movement) John Reed's 'Ten Days That Shook The World'.

I'll try to contribute my opinion of some of RC's questions:

"Lenin as dictator?" - I don't think so. John Reed's account was a witness that the Russian proletariat through their soviets were conscious and actively participating in the discussions and debates without waiting directives from the parties involved in the revolution.

After the revolution, espcially in its degeneration, the Bolshevik Party was increasingly became dictatorial, claiming that it was the representative of the entire working class (party = class). But this was not because Lenin was a dictator. However, even in its degeneration, there were tendencies/factions within the party that resisted the degeneration.

Stalin might be dictatorial in real sense but not Lenin. But Lenin made major mistakes is out of the question because while that is true, it does not mean that he was dictatorial.

"Right of Nations to Self Determination seems to have been a total disaster. Why does this idea and practice exist today?" - Nationalism/patriotism is a very strong ideology among the backward countries because it is also real and concrete that foreign capitalists exploit those countries. Though we all know the counter-revolutionary nature of nationalism/patriotism in the era of capitalism's decadence, still many workers in backward countries believe that it is an expression of being "anti-capitalist". Thanks to the left of capital and their alliance with the national bourgeoisie this ideology is still strong in those countries.

In my opinion, the proletariat in Western Europe have a big responsibility to expose this bankrupt ideology among their brothers/sisters in backward countries.

 

radicalchains
"Right of Nations to Self

"Right of Nations to Self Determination" - I can see how nationalists would use it as a defence or parrt of their bourgeois ideology. A classic example being the recent IRA in Ireland - they were much more radical with regard to the Limerick Soviet and early Russian Revolution period. But why amongst nearly all left groups (supposedly for working class revolution and internationalism) in this day and age do they rigidly adhere to it? I suppose what I am saying is why is the 'left of capital' the left of capital'.

radicalchains
I was going to read the

I was going to read the Soviet History before Trotsky because I could not face over a thousand pages and I wanted to read something which might contradict what I have already read i.e Stalinized version of the revolution? Then read Trotsky to see the difference. It probably doesn't matter either way though.

radicalchains
I came across this excellent

I came across this excellent film on the Revolution: 

Tsar to Lenin (От Царя к Ленину)

http://vimeo.com/49517285

mikail firtinaci
the government -- sovnarkom

About the soviet government (sovnarkom) and its relations with the soviets etc. I recommend this book:

 

http://books.google.com/books/about/Lenin_s_Government.html?id=rBEGeXg_HBsC

Fred
I think recommending books,

I think recommending books, films, pieces of music, art exhibitions etc. without adding a comment as to why you think they're good, is a poor substitute for real communication. Just providing links only shows how deeply bourgeois ideology has penetrated the Internet, even this site! It is alienation raised to new heights. It's a way of avoiding genuine communication between human beings. You might have thought that as people at least appearing to be curious about "communism" as a new way of living, we would see being "open" - in so far as bourgeois ideology allows us to understand what being "open" actually is, in a society where everyone in fact appears "closed" and tends to avoid any closeness with anyone else - we would grasp the idea of "openess" as essential to solidarity and the whole communist endeavor.

Surely the great thing about the Russian Revolution was the way it opened everybody to everyone else, specially workers, soldiers, sailors and so on. That was how they were able to join together, to learn from each other, to educate each other, to build the soviets, to see realizable visions and begin to grasp how to get there. This was (is) the movement of communist consciouness. John Reed and Trotsky are ecstatic in their rapturous descriptions of this, aren't they? It is one of the things that struck them most. Previously seemingly dumb and stupid people, repressed and crushed by capitalism, are suddenly gifted with tongues - it was a sort of proletarian version of the Apostles receiving the holy spirit to make a slightly far-fetched analogy - these workers suddenly understood their power, and who they were, and how together, in solidarity, they were about to change world for the better. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Nothing like it has happened since! This is the message of the Russian Revolution.

As for Lenin, as a proletarian revolutionary he was closely in touch with developing proletarian consciousness and grasped what the class was achieving by building the soviets. To announce ALL POWER TO THE SOVIETS at a time when many were confused and bewildered, was to point the direction forward for the revolution, both at that time and for all time. Probably! At that moment he was no dictator. Far from it. He had helped open the gates to a new and full democracy, for ever condemning bourgeois forms of it to times' dustbins.

Let's hope we're all going to get another chance at doing this. Otherwise we're toast!

radicalchains
I welcome Fred into the

I welcome Fred into the discussion, but like I've already said I really need to do quite a bit of reading before I can discuss too much. Though I would have liked some more discussion on some of my questions which I have asked elsewhere without too much success either. I thank mikail for the recommendation too. I have no problems with 'links' and recommendations. I also recognise that some people have discussed the Revolution nearly to death, over and over again so I am not that dissapointed if too many don't want to go down memory lane once more. Good point about being "open". I imagine revolutionary  moments are kind of like being able to see more clearly for the first time - everything 'falling into place', feeling like you are in control and have a strong purpose - feelings and experiences difficult to put into words.

Fred
radical chains wrote: Good

radical chains wrote:

Good point about being "open". I imagine revolutionary  moments are kind of like being able to see more clearly for the first time - everything 'falling into place', feeling like you are in control and have a strong purpose - feelings and experiences difficult to put into words

.

This is well said radicalchains. I like! Feelings and experiences difficult to put into words, are probably some of the very things we must try and put into words: (a) if only to understand them better: (b) in order to share them: and (c) to frustrate the bourgeosie who don't want us to see clearly; nor for us to see things as falling into place (this challenges their ideology); nor for us to acquire a strong sense purpose.

Thanks comrade rc.

redbean
lars t lih

hey i will just recommend the work of Lars T Lih if you want to understand lenin, he rescues him from all the revisionist history thats been written on his role in the party.

Alf
welcome Amir

Hi Amir, welcome to this forum. We would be very happy to discuss the Russian revolution with you. Do you mean Serge's Year One of the Russian Revolution? It can be bought here:

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=victor+serge+year+one+of+the+russian+revolution

 

In the meantime, it would be interesting to ehar what you think about the books you mention, or about the numerous articles the ICC has published on the question (try typing 'Russian revolution' on our search engine)

Amir Javadi (not verified)
hello again ,there is no

hello again ,

there is no translation of victor serge books in Farsi . I suppose i am looking for revolution in danger from Victor serge , unfortunately i just read it  through internet and if it is free .

anyway  for remaber what I read before , I took the book of Jon Reed again to read .  As Jon Reed describe the event of revolution  you should need to know about history of revolution  and one of the best book  as  alf  in above said is Trotsky's History Of The Russian Revolution.

 The description of  Jon Reed is  in respone to whom that say the October revolution was not revolution .

Fred
Perhaps we spend too much

Perhaps we spend too much time reading and thinking about the Russian Revolution. - the greatest achievement yet of the organized proletariat. But it was a century ago, and things are different now. The working class does not exists on the same terms that it did internationally then, and it is much more difficult now for the working class to recognize itself. We are no longer herded into great factories as before, but more split up into smaller units: more "privatized". We no longer even have the privilege of being forced and bound together in great slums, and having a kind of poverty stricken solidarity forced down our throats. Of course, we have the technically modern slums; the government owned housing estates of tower blocks, misery and crime; and the isolation that is engendered by living on top of each other, rather than next door to each other as in a street. I don't know how much difference this kind of existence makes to the possibilities for neighborliness and class solidarity, or even to being aware of each other as members of suffering humanity. But "fings ain't
wot they used to be" and perhaps we shouldn't get too tied up with the
Russian model for revolution too closely. In fact the lessons of the
revolutionary failure in Germany may be more relevant to us today;
where the failure to have built a communist party was such a disaster.

And modern accounts of proletarian attempts at self-organization, such as those connected to to the Tekel struggles in Turkey two years ago, may have more to teach us now, about the way forward.

For don't we have to move forward? Surely the never-ending argument about whether what happened in Russia was actually a revolution or not can be put behind us now. Have we not moved on? Should we not be moving on? And I like Alf's point where he invites Amir, red bean, radical chains and others, to give us their responses to their readings, and maybe try and connect these to our different situation now, and to movements like the Occupiers, Indignados, and what was done during the Tekel strikes. We have to move on!

d-man
From reading about the

From reading about the experience with assemblies of the Occupiers-Indignados I'm strengthened in my doubt that even the soviets were places of clarification. For instance it is a problem that one can't even put it into words what exactly it means that "everything falls into place".

Regarding "moving on", there still could emerge a situation in which there is a revolution intially in a country during war. There is a short interesting text by Kautsky which in advance already warns for failure, without the existence of an International which does its duty; http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1917/11/russian.htm 

Quote:
The fight for peace, the question of questions in these times, is intimately associated with the problems of the Russian Revolution and the revival of the International. ... The revolution in Russia is but undergoing the various stages through which every revolution must go. The glorious, most hopeful, most exalted stage is the first, when the power that has threatened to crush and choke everything is swept aside. ... co-operation of classes may be kept up, yes, may even increase during the second period of the revolution, in which the new regime first takes the place of the old. They are held together by a common fear, the dread that the power just overthrown may again raise its head. ... But it must be born in mind that this can be only a short transition period. On the other hand, it would be senseless to attempt to curtail this stage artificially or by force. ... And so, of necessity, the third stage of the revolution must come: the revival, yes the intensifying of the struggle between the classes which united in overthrowing the old government. Through this stage, too, the Russian revolution must inevitably go. No cleverness of tactics, no terroristic recklessness can prevent it. It will be the deciding stage of the Russian revolution, albeit not its most joyous one. It lacks the glad joyousness, the unfounded hopes of the first stages. But it is the most important period, that period which will determine its historic character, in which the significance that coming generations will ascribe to it, will be decided.

In this period not only the two classes will fight against each other, but tactical differences between the various groups of the same class will appear as well. ... In spite of uniform class interests, yes, in spite of absolute agreement in political theory, it may be split up by a difference in the estimation of strength of the movement itself and of the power of its enemies. ... The election of a constitutional assembly is an absolute necessity. Not because it will wipe out the differences between the classes and parties, but because it will permit a fairly accurate calculation of their relative strength, giving to their struggles a more rational basis. But even more important for the future of the Russian revolution than a constitutional assembly is peace.

... the proletariat in Russia is still too weak and too undeveloped to rule the nation, to accomplish a revolution in the Socialist sense of that term.

The significance of the present Russian revolution is, above all, political. Its aim lies chiefly in the winning of democracy as a foundation upon which the proletariat may most successfully carry on its class struggle, may develop and organize its forces for the conquest of political power.

But war and democracy are two forces that cannot easily be brought into harmony. A state of war brings, even in highly democratized nations, for the period of its duration, a certain curtailment of democratic rights. ...Furthermore, it robs the revolution of the opportunity to counteract its political sacrifices by economic gain.

An early peace is therefore indispensable for the success of the Russian revolution. But it, too, will endanger the revolution, if it is a peace at any price, a peace other than that formulated and demanded by its leaders, a peace without annexation and indemnities, a peace preserving the right of small nations to decide their own destinies in every direction. If the war should end with the rape of nations, weakening instead of strengthening this outcome, then revolution, not its aim, but its method, would be discredited for years to come, not only among the Russian people, but among all other nations as well.

Thus they stand between Scylla and Charybdis. The continuation of war threatens economic and political, separate peace, moral bankruptcy. ... Revolutionary Russia alone is not in a position to enforce a peace upon the terms it has proclaimed. It is time for the International to do its duty, at last, toward itself as well as toward the Russian revolution.

Hawkeye
Trotsky's blocking units

Trotsky organised blocking units to gun down workers who turned back from the front.

Fred
Hawkeye. Does what you say

Hawkeye. Does what you say above actually mean that Trotsky had workers fleeing the war front (a sensible thing to do) shot down? When was this? In 1917? And how do we know this? What are your sources? I am not inclined to believe it at all. Is there some confusion here with Kronstadt?

Fred
Fred wrote:Perhaps we spend

Fred wrote:
Perhaps we spend too much time reading and thinking about the Russian Revolution. - the greatest achievement yet of the organized proletariat. But it was a century ago, and things are different now. The working class does not exists on the same terms that it did internationally then, and it is much more difficult now for the working class to recognize itself. We are no longer herded into great factories as before, but more split up into smaller units: more "privatized". We no longer even have the privilege of being forced and bound together in great slums, and having a kind of poverty stricken solidarity forced down our throats. Of course, we have the technically modern slums; the government owned housing estates of tower blocks, misery and crime; and the isolation that is engendered by living on top of each other, rather than next door to each other as in a street. I don't know how much difference this kind of existence makes to the possibilities for neighborliness and class solidarity, or even to being aware of each other as members of suffering humanity. But "fings ain't wot they used to be" and perhaps we shouldn't get too tied up with the Russian model for revolution too closely.
.

It amazes me that Fred said this, because doesnt it sound rather like what jk and mhou started advocating - the reconstruction of the working class and the importance of sociological change in today's changing circumstances requires changed ideas - which actually I thought I didn't agree with. But it's just another surprise in what is proving to be a very alienating weekend.

jk1921
Don't worry Fred. I often

Don't worry Fred. I often find I don't agree with myself on some things from day to day. Somehow, its all supposed to even out in the end I suppose. You know, dialectics and all! smiley