Revolutionary wave, 1917-1923


By marking the entry of capitalism into its decadent phase, World War I showed that the objective conditions for the proletarian revolution had ripened. The revolutionary wave, which arose in response to the war and which thundered across Russia and Europe, made its mark in both Americas and found an echo in China, and thus constituted the first attempt by the world proletariat to accomplish its historic task of destroying capitalism. At the highest points of its struggle between 1917 and 1923, the proletariat took power in Russia, engaged in mass insurrections in Germany, and insurrections in Germany, and shook Italy, Hungary, and Austria to their foundations. Although less strongly, the revolutionary wave expressed itself in bitter struggles in, for example, Spain, Great Britain, North and South America. The tragic failure of the revolutionary wave was finally marked in 1927 by the crushing of the proletarian insurrection in Shanghai and Canton in China after a long series of defeats for the working class internationally. This is why the October 1917 revolution in Russia can only be understood as one of the most important manifestations of this class movement and not as a ‘bourgeois’, ‘state-capitalist’, ‘dual’, or ‘permanent’ revolution which would somehow force the proletariat to fulfil the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ tasks which the bourgeoisie itself was incapable of carrying out.

What is the Communist Left? (Part 1)

We are re-publishing here the first part of an article written in 1998 for the Russian journal 'Proletarian Tribune', the aim of which was to give a brief history of the Communist Left for those who may not be well acquanted with the political tradition the ICC draws its heritage from. 

What are workers' councils? (Part 5) 1917 – 1921: The soviets and the question of the state

 In the previous article in this series we saw how the soviets, having seized power in October 1917, gradually lost it to the point where it was no more than a facade, kept alive artificially to hide the triumph of the capitalist counter-revolution that had taken place in Russia. The aim of this article is to understand what caused this to happen and to draw lessons that will be indispensable for revolutionaries in the future.

The Communist Left in Russia: Manifesto of the Workers’ Group of the Russian Communist Party (Part 3)

We saw in the previous part of the Manifesto (published in International Review n°143) how it violently opposed any united front with the social democrats. In contrast, it called for a united front of all genuine revolutionary elements, among which it included the parties of the Third International as well as the Communist Workers’ Parties (KAPD in Germany). Faced with the national question that arose in the soviet republics, dealt with in the third part of this document, it advocated making a united front with the CPs of these republics which, according to the CI, “will have the same rights as the Bolshevik Party.

The Communist Left in Russia: Manifesto of the Workers’ Group of the Russian Communist Party (Part 2)

We published the first part of the Manifesto in the last issue of the International Review. To recall, the Workers’ Group of the Russian Communist Party, which produced this Manifesto, formed part of what is called the communist left, constituted by the left currents that appeared in response to the opportunist degeneration of the parties of the Third International and of soviet power in Russia.

Revolution and counter-revolution in Italy (1919-1922)

There is a whole theory which, beginning from a national framework, attempts to study modern Italy with reference to the imbalance, the uneven development between the industrial north and the Mezzogiorno, an area characterized by agricultural production based on a system of great landed estates and tenure, a region which at the beginning of the century produced an income less than a half of that of the northern provinces. This is the thesis of that notable pupil of B. Croce; that pro-interventionist of 1914; that revisionist who decreed

100 years of the IWW: The Failure of Revolutionary Syndicalism

A century ago on June 27, 1905, in a crowded hall in Chicago, Illinois, Big Bill Haywood, leader of the militant Western Miners Federation, called to order “the Continental Congress of the Working Class,” a gathering convened to create a new working class revolutionary organization in the United States: the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), often referred to as the Wobblies.

Understanding October 1917 and the factory committees

The defence of the October revolution has always been a central duty for revolutionaries. The task takes on renewed importance con­fronted with the international campaign about the ‘death of Communism’, since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. This defence is not confined to combating the official lies of the bourgeoisie. Since 1917 Communists have also had to defend the revolution and the Bolsheviks against the attacks of anarchists and modernists, who, while claiming to support the revolution re­gurgitate the capitalist lies about Bolshevism leading to Stalinism.

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.;

Historical lessons of the Kronstadt revolt, Part II


This is the second installment in our two-part series on the historical lessons of the Kronstadt revolt, presented in response to a pamphlet published by the Chicago Revolutionary Network (CHIREVNET) that takes an anarchist perspective on Kronstadt and at the same time seriously misrepresents the ICC's analysis of the events. As we wrote in the introduction to the first part of this article, we have never claimed-contrary to the assertions of CHIREVNET's pamphlet-that the Bolshevik repression at Kronstadt was in any way a "tragic necessity." In sharp contrast, the ICC has always maintained that the repression was a "tragic mistake" that hastened the worldwide counter-revolution against the global revolutionary wave of 1917-1927, and was a major step into the abyss for the Bolshevik Party, a process which led to its eventual betrayal of the working-class and its integration into the state apparatus as the manager of the Russian national capital.

Historical lessons of the Kronstadt revolt

Recently Internationalism received a pamphlet from the Chicago Revolutionary Network (CHIREVNET), entitled "The Revolutionary Uprising of Sailors and Workers of Kronstadt, Russia, March 1921." First, we want to acknowledge the effort of the pamphlet's author to consider important events in the history of the workers' movement that have important lessons to be learned on how revolutionaries conceive of the essential problems of proletarian revolution today. The pamphlet cites our book-recently translated into English-The Dutch and German Communist Left: A Contribution to the History of the Revolutionary Movement as the source of its account of the events of the Kronstadt uprising, but it also criticizes the ICC for supposedly regarding the Bolsheviks' repression of the revolt as a "tragic necessity." In this regard, the pamphlet fundamentally misunderstands, miseads or misrepresents our analysis of the Kronstadt events. Over the years, the ICC has consistently and sharply criticized political groups that defend the incorrect view that the suppression by force of the Kronstadt rebellion was a "tragic necessity," as can been seen in the two part series we begin publishing below, or in International Review No.3, or No. 104

80 years ago - the Communist International


80 years ago, in March 1919, the Communist International held its founding Congress in Moscow. The following article, originally published in WR 122, shows why this event was of immense importance for the international working class: faced with the outbreak of a massive, revolutionary challenge to capitalism all over the world, the CI was at to capitalism all over the world, the CI was at that moment the most advanced expression of the class movement, the crucible for synthesising the political programme needed to lead the movement to victory. Today, faced with the bourgeoisie's pernicious campaigns aimed at identifying communism with Stalinism and "proving" that marxist theory has been refuted by history, revolutionaries have the duty to affirm not only that they are the heirs of the CI, but also that its most central positions remain valid for the revolution of the future. The fact that the CI subsequently degenerated and succumbed to the Stalinist counter-revolution does not alter what it had been during the most heroic phase of the revolutionary wave that made the whole ruling class shake in its shoes.

Perspective for the 21st Century: communist revolution or the destruction of humanity

A century ago we heard much the same message. In 1898 Ivan Bloch published The War of the Future in St Petersburg. He said that war was bound to become obsolete, as it was too costly, too murderous and so complicated that it was impossible to win. However, such views did not stand uncorrected. In 1901, in exile in Siberia, the revolutionary Leon Trotsky had a more accurate view of what capitalism was, and what it had in store.

How to deal with the Russian enigma?

We are publishing below a reply to one of our contacts, who wrote to defend what the comrade called "the councilist balance-sheet of the Russian revolution". There no longer exists - since the disappearance of the Dutch group Daad en Gedachte - any organised expression of the councilist current within the proletarian movement. The councilist position nonetheless continues to enjoy a strong influence within the present revolutionary movement.

October 1917: reply to the GPRC

Presentation of the GPRC’s text

Why, 80 years after the October revolution, does capitalism still dominate the world”. To reply to this question, according to the GPRC, it is necessary to use the method of historical materialism and pose another question: “was the level of the development of productive forces of mankind (first of all in the most highly-developed countries) in the 19th - first half of 20th centuries sufficient to make proletarians capable to organise the ruling over production, distribution & exchange by all the society as a whole?

Reply to the KRAS

Essentially, the purpose of the KRAS' text, is to highlight the reasons for the defeat of the Russian revolution: “For most of the 'lefts', the Russian revolution of 1917-21 remains an 'unknown revolution', as it was described by the exiled anarchist Voline, 60 years ago. The main reason for this situation is not a lack of information, but the great number of myths that have been built around it. Most of these myths are a result of the confusion between the Russian revolution and the activities of the Bolshevik party. It is not possible to free oneself from these confusions without understanding the real role of the Bolsheviks in the events of this period (...) A widespread myth holds that the Bolshevik party was not just a party like any other, but the vanguard of the working class (...) All the illusions on the 'proletarian' nature of the Bolsheviks are disproved by their systematic opposition to the workers' strikes as early as 1918, and the crushing of the Kronstadt workers in 1921 by the guns of the Red Army. This was not a 'tragic misunderstanding', but the crushing by armed power of the 'ignorant' rank and file. The Bolshevik leaders pursued concrete interests and carried out a concrete policy (...) Their vision of the state as such, of the domination over the masses, is significant of individuals without any feeling for equality, for whom egoism dominates, for whom the masses are merely a raw material without any will of their own, without initiative and without consciousness, incapable of creating social self-management. This is the basic trait of Bolshevik psychology. It is typical of the dominating character. Arshinov spoke of this new stratum as a 'new caste', the 'fourth caste'. Willy-nilly, with such a viewpoint the Bolsheviks could not carry out anything other than a bourgeois revolution (...) Let us try first of all to see what revolution was on the agenda in Russia in 1917 (...) the Social-Democracy (including of the Bolshevik variety) always overestimated the degree of development of capitalism and the extent of Russia's 'Europeanisation' (...) In reality, Russia was more a 'third-world' country, to use a present-day term (...) The Bolsheviks became the protagonists of a bourgeois revolution without the bourgeoisie, of capitalist industrialisation without private capitalists (...) Once in power, the Bolsheviks played the part of a 'party of order' which did not try to develop the social character of the revolution. The programme of the Bolshevik government had no socialist content...

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.

The marxist anatomy of October 1917

The marxist anatomy of October 1917 and the present situation

The text which we are publishing below is the complete version of a text from the Marxist Labour Party in Russia, excerpts of which have been published in the print edition of the International Review. Our reply can be read here.ICC

1921: the proletariat and the transitional state

The seizure of power in Russia inevitably posed enormous new problems for the new proletarian power, and generated heated debates within the Bolshevik party on the transitional state. The tragedy of Russia's encirclement culminated in 1921 with the Kronstadt revolt, a veritable catastrophe which saw the revolutionary government gunning down those who had been its most stalwart supporters.

Lenin's State and Revolution: Striking Validation of Marxism

Given the ruling class’ frequent depiction of Lenin as a power-hungry dictator, it is all the more ironic that during the period from April to October his "socialist" adversaries accused him of anarchism. State and Revolution is Lenin’s answer, a profound reflection from a marxist standpoint on the nature of power in the revolution. Lenin began researching the book in 1916, and brought it to fruition in June 1917. In this work, we see the fertile encounter of marxist theory and the real practical experience of the workers’ soviets in Russia, first in 1905 then in 1917.

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