1917 - Russian Revolution

The Russian experience: Private property and collective property (Internationalisme, 1946)

The article we reproduce below was published by the Gauche Communiste de France (GCF) in n° 10 of their magazine Internationalisme, which came out in May 1946. Internationalisme saw itself as the continuation of Bilan and Octobre, published by the International Communist Left before the outbreak of the Second World War.

In defence of the Russian Revolution, internationalism is not negotiable

Ninety years on from 1917 we are publishing an extract of correspondence on the degeneration of the Russian revolution. An essential part of our defence of the Russian revolution is to draw a clear class line between the revolution and the Stalinist counter-revolution which abandoned the internationalism that the Bolsheviks had based themselves on.

October 1917: The proletarian revolution is a real possibility

In our discussions, especially with young people, we often hear variations of the following: "It's true that things are very bad, there's more and more poverty and war, our conditions are getting worse, that the future of the planet is under threat. Something has to be done, but what? A revolution? That's utopian, it's impossible".

The Russian Revolution (part 2): The Soviets take power

In the first part of this article (International Review 71), we saw how the Russian revolution was not, as the bourgeoisie's propaganda says, a ‘mere coup D'Etat', but constituted the most gigantic and conscious movements of the exploited masses in history - rich in experience, initiative and creativity.

Russia, July 1917: Facing the manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie, the vital role of the Bolshevik party

The events of July 1917 in Petrograd, known as the ‘July days’, represent one of the most striking episodes of the Russian revolution. In a situation of particular ferment among the working class, it fell to the Bolshevik party to see how to prevent the revolutionary process ending in a tragic defeat as the result of a premature confrontation provoked by the bourgeoisie. The lessons of these events re­main vital for the proletariat to this day.

April Theses: Lenin’s fundamental role in the Russian Revolution

It is 90 years since the start of the Russian revolution. More particularly, this month sees the 90th anniversary of the ‘April Theses’, announced by Lenin on his return from exile, and calling for the overthrow of Kerensky’s ‘Provisional Government’ as a first step towards the international proletarian revolution. In highlighting Lenin’s crucial role in the revolution, we are not subscribing to the ‘great man’ theory of history, but showing that the revolutionary positions he was able to defend with such clarity at that moment were an expression of something much deeper – the awakening of an entire social class to the concrete possibility of emancipating itself from capitalism and imperialist war.

Anarchism, Bolshevism and 'workers' control'

A recent discussion on the Libcom website has raised the question of the role of the Bolshevik party in the Russian Revolution. All the fractions of the Communist Left that broke with the Communist International examined the experience of the revolution from a marxist perspective to see what lessons could be learnt for the future struggles of the working class, and for the revolutionary party. The ICC has tried to draw on the clearest contributions from the Italian, Dutch and German Left (see for example, our pamphlet on The Period of Transition from Capitalism to Socialism.) The article that we are publishing here comes from a close sympathiser of the ICC.

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.

Just published! The Russian and British Communist Lefts

The International Communist Current traces its origins to the unyielding struggle, against terrible odds and hardship, of the Left Communist groups who refused to accept both the outright counter-revolution of Stalinism, and the inadequate resistance to Stalinism undertaken by Trotsky and the Left Opposition.

The long night of the counter-revolution that followed the defeat of the proletarian power in Russia during the 1920s, meant that the Left Communists were reduced to small groups without any influence in the mass of the working class. But their efforts to understand the conditions of both the victory of the revolution in 1917, and its later defeat, are the only foundations on which a new, world wide political organisation of the working class can be built.

The lessons of Kronstadt

The press of the ICC has recently carried a large number of articles to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Russian revolution. The central theme running through these articles has been to defend the October revolution against the bourgeoisie's monstrous campaigns about the 'death of communism' following the collapse of the eastern bloc in 1989. We are reprinting this article on the Kronstadt uprising of 1921, first published in 1975, in International Review no. 3 , for the same fundamental reason. The ruling class has always tried to make maximum use out of the Kronstadt tragedy to support its 'argument' that the October insurrection was no more than a minority putsch by the Bolshevik party, and that Stalinism was its inevitable result. The Bolsheviks' suppression of the Kronstadt revolt is presented as definitive proof of this thesis.

Historical lessons of the Kronstadt revolt, Part II

Introduction

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

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.

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.

Problems of the period of transition

It is always with the greatest caution that revolutionaries have raised the question of the period of transition. The number, the complex­ity, and above all, the newness of the problems the proletariat must solve prevent any elabora­tion of detailed plans of the future society; any attempt to do so risks being turned into a strait-jacket which will stifle the revo­lutionary activity of the class. Marx, for example, always refused to give "recipes for the dishes of the future". Rosa Luxemburg insisted on the fact that with respect to the transi­tional society we only have "sign posts and those of an essentially negative character".

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.

Correspondance from Russia

Following the collapse of the USSR, various individuals and small groups have emerged within Russia since 1990 to question the world bourgeoisie's lying equation that Stalinism equalled communism.

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

Lenin's Theses on bourgeois democracy and proletarian dictatorship (reprint)

The 20th century has drawn to a close to the sound of a vast concert celebrating the advance of democracy all over the world, and its supposed benefits. Throughout the century, its victories are celebrated over dictatorships both red and brown, and its heroes - Gandhi, Walesa, Mandela, Martin Luther King et.al. - are fêted for the application of its "great and generous principles". If we are to believe the propaganda, the situation since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the struggles which have taken place since to defend and develop democracy are cause for hope in a future of peace and harmony which should be thoroughly encouraging for mankind as a whole. We have been treated to regular crusades by the great democracies, to impose and defend "human rights" in countries which did not respect them, by force if necessary - in other words at the cost of the most barbaric massacres. We have been offered the sight of an International Court of Justice, set up to judge and punish those found guilty of "crimes against humanity". Let the dictators tremble! And for the years to come, we are promised the emergence of a "world-wide democracy" based on a "growing role for civil society". The recent demonstrations during the WTO negotia negotiations, with the Roquefort Revolutionary José Bové at their head, are supposedly forerunners of this "world-wide democracy" or even of a "People�s International" in struggle against the dictatorship of the market, unrestrained capitalism, and bad food. For today�s proletarians, the only worthwhile struggle seems to be for the creation of democratic regimes in every country in the world, which will bring with it equal rights for both sexes and all races, and which will defend an "attitude of good citizenship". The ideology-vendors of every description, and especially on the left, are more mobilised than ever to convince the workers that this is the good fight, and to push them into it. And for any who have doubts, or hesitate to take part, the message is: "Despite its faults, democracy is the only regime which can be reformed and perfected - and anyway there�s no hope of any other". Faced with the growing poverty and barbarism imposed on us by capitalism, there is supposedly no other possibility than to behave as a "good citizen", to accept the system because we are told there is no other choice.

The History of the Workers' Movement in Japan, ii

The debate on the means of struggle

The revolutionary events of 1905 in Russia provoked something like an earthquake in the whole workers' movement. As soon as the workers' councils were formed, as soon as the workers launched mass strikes the left wing of Social Democracy (with Rosa Luxemburg in her text Mass strike, Party and Trade Unions, Trotsky in his text on 1905, Pannekoek in several texts, especially on parliamentarism), started to draw the lessons of these struggles. The emphasis on the self-organisation of the working class in councils, the critique of parliamentarism, which was pushed forward in particular by Rosa Luxemburg and Pannekoek, was not the result of a tendency towards anarchism but was a first attempt at grasping the lessons of the new situation at the onset of capitalism’s decadence and of trying to understand the new forms of struggles.

Despite the relative international isolation of revolutionaries in Japan the debate on the conditions and means of struggles that also arose in Japan reflected the tumult in the working class and its revolutionary minorities on a world scale.

Unravelling the Russian enigma: 1926-36

Understanding the nature of the Stalinist system is a key aspect of the communist programme: without such an understanding, it would be impossible for communists to outline clearly what kind of society they are fighting for, to describe what socialism is and what it is not. But the clarity that communists have today about the nature of the USSR was not easily attained...

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