Proletarian revolution

February 1917: The workers’ councils open the way to the proletarian revolution

The bourgeoisie has made no mistake in spending decades concocting the shabbiest lies about the revolution in Russia in 1917. 100 years after the soviets took power in Russia, the propagandists of the ruling class continue to sing the same hymn to the virtues of bourgeois parliamentary ‘democracy’ and spew out the worst falsifications about the reality of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia.

The period of transition


Part I Political


The State

First, a few qualifying remarks. Historically speaking the State has appeared as an organ of class rule though, as Engels wrote in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (Moscow, 1968, p.65), it often appeared as standing above society, as a mediator between classes:

Basic Texts 5: Problems of the Period of Transition (December 1974)


We consider this text to be a tool for further work and not a complete and final statement. Certain positions are simply affirmed, others are traced in outline. However we are convinced that it can constitute a basis for a correct discussion of ‘the period of transition'.


In German Ideology Marx wrote:

100 years ago: the Russian revolution of 1905 and the Soviet of workers' deputies

In this issue, we continue the article begun in International Review n°122, where we highlighted the change in period which formed the backdrop to the events of 1905 in Russia, as capitalism entered the watershed between its ascendant and decadent periods. We also described the conditions that had favoured the radicalisation of the struggle in Russia: the existence of a modern, concentrated and highly conscious working class confronted by the attacks of a capitalism whose situation had been worsened by the disastrous effects of the war with Japan. The working class was thus led into a direct confrontation with the state in order to defend its living conditions, and organised in soviets to undertake this new historic phase in its struggle. The first part of this article recounted how the first workers’ councils were formed, and what needs they answered. This second part analyses in more detail how the soviets were formed, how they were linked to the movement of the whole working class, and their relationship with the trades unions. In fact, the unions – which already in 1905 no longer corresponded to the organisational needs of the working class in the new period, only played a positive role inasmuch as they were pulled along by the movement’s dynamic, in the wake of the soviets and under their authority.

October 1917, beginning of the proletarian revolution (part 1)

The bourgeoisie has celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the proletarian revolution of October 1917 in its own way:

  • in Moscow, by parading its thermonuclear weapons and its latest tanks past the mummy of Lenin and a huge portrait of Brezhnev;

  • in the ‘Western’ countries by making a vast cacophony on television and in the newspapers, hailing the ‘great economic advances’ in the USSR, the ‘exemplary courage of its people’ in the fight against Hitlerism — with of course the usual reserves about Gulag, etc.;

ICC public meeting in Calcutta: The only revolution possible is the proletarian revolution

In October the ICC held a public meeting in Calcutta attended by a large number of people from a diverse milieu. Their participation was testimony to the ICC's success in pushing for discussion and reflection. The debate that unfolded in the meeting took this process of clarification further.

You can't change the world without workers' revolution

In 50 facts that should change the world journalist and BBC television producer Jessica Williams has written a book that hints at the scale of suffering across the planet. The proliferation of wars, poverty, hunger, disease, repression and the threats to the environment are evidence of the state of the world in the early 21st century. Any alert reader, concerned about the picture painted in this book, will be disappointed by the means proposed for changing the situation. The approach of 'alternative worldism' is served up here, another variation of the 'anti-globalisation' activism that is no challenge to the capitalist order of things.

The Proletarian Revolution

The Specific Nature of the Proletarian Revolution

The urgent necessity for communists to fight for maximum clarity and coherence concerning the revolutionary tasks of the proletariat derives from the unique nature of the proletarian revolution. Whereas the bourgeois revolution (England, France etc.) was fundamentally a political confirmation of the bourgeoisie's economic domination of society, which grew steadily and progressively out of declining feudal society, the proletariat has no economic power under capitalism, and in the period of capitalist decadence has no permanent organisations of its own. The only weapons available to the proletariat are its class consciousness and its ability to organise its own revolutionary activity; having wrested power from the bourgeoisie it has the immense task of consciously constructing a new social order.

The Russian Revolution and the Italian Left 1933-46

The "communist left" is to a very large extent the product of those sections of the world proletariat who posed the greatest threat to capitalism during the international revolutionary wave that followed the 1914-18 war: the Russian, the German, and the Italian. It was these "national" sections which made the most telling contribution to the enrichment of marxism in the context of the new epoch of capitalist decline inaugurated by the war. But those who rose the highest also fell the lowest. We saw in previous articles in this series how the left currents of the Bolshevik party, after their first heroic attempts to understand and to resist the onset of the Stalinist counter-revolution, were almost completely wiped out by the latter, leaving the left groupings outside Russia to carry on the work of analysing what had gone wrong with the revolution in Russia and of defining the nature of the regime which had usurped its name. Here again, the German and Italian fractions of the communist left played an absolutely key role, even if they were not unique (the previous article in this series, for example, looked at the emergence of a left communist current in France in the 1920s-30s, and its contribution to understanding the Russian question). But while the proletariat in both Italy and Germany had suffered important defeats, the proletariat in Germany - which had effectively held the fate of the world revolution in its hands in 1918-19 - had certainly been crushed more brutally and bloodily by the interlocking efforts of social democracy, Stalinism and Nazism. It was this tragic fact, together with certain vital theoretical and organisational weaknesses that went back to the revolutionary wave and even before, which contributed to a process of dissolution hardly less devastating than that which had befallen the communist movement in Russia.

Understanding Kronstadt

Eighty years ago in March 1921, four years after the successful seizure of power by the working class in the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, the Bolshevik Party forcibly suppressed an insurrection at the Kronstadt garri­son of the Baltic Fleet on the small island of Kotlin in the Gulf of Finland 30 kilometres from Petrograd.

Response to the Marxist Labour Party

Response to the Marxist Labour Party on the 'Anatomy of October'

First of all, we want to salute the seriousness of this text, the efforts of the Marxist Labour Party to translate it and circulate it internationally, and the invitation to other proletarian organisations to comment on it. The nature of the October revolution, and of the Stalinist regime which arose out of its defeat, has always been a crucial issue for revolutionaries; and it is a problem which can only be approached by using the Marxist method. As the title of the text suggests, this is an attempt to uncover the "Marxist anatomy" of the October revolution, and it does so by referring to and seeking to elaborate some of the classics of Marxism (Engels, Lenin, etc). As we shall see, there are a number of points in the text with which we agree, and others which, although we do not agree with them, raise important points of debate. Nevertheless, we feel that the text does not succeed in its fundamental aim - to define the essential nature of the October revolution; and it is for this reason that we will focus mainly on our most important disagreements with the text.

Anarchism or communism?

In the last article in this series we looked at the combat waged by the marxist tendency in the International Workingmen's Association against the reformist and "state socialist" ideologies in the workers' movement, particularly in the German party. And yet according to the anarchist or "anti-authoritarian" current led by Mikhail Bakunin, Marx and Engels typified and even inspired the state socialist tendency, were the foremost proponents of that "German socialism" which wanted to replace capitalism not with a free stateless society but with a terrible bureaucratic tyranny of which they themselves would be the guardians. To this day, Bakunin's criticisms of Marx are presented by anarchists and liberals alike as a profound insight into the real nature of marxism, a prophetic explanation of why the theories of Marx led inevitably to the practises of Stalin.

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