For years now I've been an on-and-off reader of this website and enjoyed it's perspectives. In a world where the 'Communist' movement is regarded as something hopelessly out-of-date or worse yet, a banner upheld by unrepentent Stalinists, the analysis upheld on here seems to be one of the last bastions of 'truth' - whatever that means.
Recently I've been reading some of the work of Victor Serge, and have developed a renewed interest and desire to understand why the communist movement failed in the 20th century, particularly when Serge and many of his contemporaries still retained a great optimism in the face of unbelievable repression, violence and lies.
I plan to make an attempt at writing something of a short history of the early years of the Russian Revolution based around the below theses and was hoping that perhaps some of the contributors to this website might be able to point me in the direction of some good books which will help me understand this period:
1. The Russian Revolution represented the first ever attempt by a section of the working class to take power in their own lives and overthrow capitalism. The fact that the actual seizure of power was enacted through conspiratorial means is irrelevant because the need for a workers revolution which overthrew the Provisional Government was something openly debated and approved by the popular organs of working class power which arose in this period.
2. Though the Bolsheviks resorted to increasingly dictatorial means during the revolutionary period, this was by no means the purpose or end goal of the Russian Revolution. Despite this, some of the actions undertook by the Bolsheviks in this period were indefensible - repression of non-bolshevik revolutionaries, the crushing of Kronstadt and the Makhnovist movement. Why they done all of this is of course up for debate. As I see it, and I'm interested to know what others think, the Bolsheviks sole aim at this point was to defend the Soviet state, to 'hold the line' in anticipation of successful workers uprisings in other parts of the world.
3. The problem with of all of this, is that measures taken in the 1917-1921 period, began to no longer be viewed as 'unfortunate neccessities' but the actual fulfilment of the Communist project, thus helping to lay the foundations of what would become the horror of Stalinism.
4. Those within the revolutionary camp were acutely aware that the increasing bureaucracy and international isolation of the soviet state would be fatal to the revolution if it could not be reversed. This was manifested in the debates and struggles within the early Communist Party which still retained some semblance of democracy.
5. The significance of the 'socialism in one country' doctrine was that it essentially identified state-administered capitalism (even in a 'workers state') and real socialism/communism as one and the same thing. Where once 'communism' aspired towards a stateless society, the abolition of wage labour and the destruction of national borders, the USSR represented a totalitarian state, the continuation of wage-labour (made worse by the fact that there was essentially now only one employer - the state), and the reassertion of national identity. The rise of Stalin was the not the only cause of the counter-revolution, but was it's symbolic representation.
6. The victory of Stalinism consisted in the lie that what became of the Russian Revolution was it's fulfilment. The established Communist Parties succumbed to this lie, and this became the banner under which 'Communism' was exported throughout the world in the 20th century.