2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.

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Webgear

Let's not forget the USSR were allies with the Nazis and invaded Finland in 1939/40 for no reason.

Mr. Magoo

Quote:
Let's not forget the USSR were allies with the Nazis and invaded Finland in 1939/40 for no reason.

Not true.

They invaded in the hope that plenty of ethnic Russians would settle there so that 75 years later, ikosmos could whine about the sorry fortunes of ethnic Russians in Finland.

"But what of them?  Should they all just be killed, because freedom??"

lagatta4

No reason to resist that. At least it was funny, unlike the shitstorm of abuse of a leading progressive site and its participants.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Being a brainwashed consumer, I am waiting to see what kind of memorabilia goes on sale. I wonder if the Bradford Exchange is putting out a "Lenin at the Finland Station" plate, and if the Royal Canadian Mint is going to be putting out a limited edition collector's set featuring scenes from the storming of the Winter Palace. Perhaps one of the cruise lines will offer trips to Vladivostok --- oh wait, that anniversary is the following year... never mind.

ygtbk

THere's always this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_(And_Other_Rogue_States)

"Vladivostok baby in the midnight sun..."

6079_Smith_W

There probably is a market for that.

I wonder if there will be heat-activated mugs of Sverdlov Square that will disappear Trotsky and Kamenev when you pour coffee into them.

Bad joke. Couldn't resist.

Rev Pesky

Mr. Magoo wrote:
...Did/do they similarly support national liberation struggles in their own former colonies?

Because it seems like if Lithuania stages a big "show of force" military parade with their five tanks, that's some huge slap in the face to Russia.  If they can support the independent dreams of The Congo, why not Latvia too?

Let us not forget the Baltic states are in a military alliance with the United States. The last time the Soviet Union tried to do what the USA is doing in the Baltics (the arming of Cuba), the United States threatened nuclear war.

Given the USA response to anyone messing in their back yard, I would say the Russian response to NATO in the Baltic states is...restrained.

 

Mr. Magoo

Very well.  I was only replying to the claim that Russia was supportive of self-determination struggles in the world, and the implication that they were somehow more progressive or more human because of it.

If you're saying that their support was dependent on what they stood to gain or lose then OK.  I'll adjust my excitement accordingly.

Rev Pesky

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Very well.  I was only replying to the claim that Russia was supportive of self-determination struggles in the world, and the implication that they were somehow more progressive or more human because of it.

If you're saying that their support was dependent on what they stood to gain or lose then OK.  I'll adjust my excitement accordingly.

Actually, what you said was:

Magoo wrote:
...Because it seems like if Lithuania stages a big "show of force" military parade with their five tanks, that's some huge slap in the face to Russia.

As a full participant in NATO, Lithuania has a lot more than 'five tanks'. So what you said was a deliberate mischaracterization of the situation.

Here is the reality:

NATO flexes it's muscles in Lithuania

Quote:
Troops from 11 NATO countries including the United States rehearsed battle skills in a snowy Lithuanian forest on Friday, and the leader of the Baltic state voiced confidence that U.S. commitment to Europe's defence would survive the election of Donald Trump as president.

...Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite...inspected some of the 4,000 allied troops taking part in an exercise in a pine forest — near the town of Pabrade and the border with Belarus — including Canadian snipers, U.S. infantry and German soldiers with missile launchers.

...U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Anne Hall stressed U.S. commitment to the NATO treaty clause that commits its members to each other's protection.

"This is a clear demonstration of NATO's interoperability, its resolve and its commitment to the collective defence. And the U.S. commitment to NATO's Article 5 is iron clad, and this exercise is a good demonstration of that," she said.

...Just 15 kilometres from Lithuania's frontier with Russian ally Belarus, NATO soldiers in green camouflage and face paint set off simulated explosions and fired automatic weapons to retake a mock village from an unidentified enemy, ending the last major exercises before next year's deployments.

To me, that sounds rather more agressive than 'five tanks'.

So what did the USA 'have to gain' by threatening nuclear war over the Soviet arming of Cuba? I think their case was that it was an offensive military maneouvre, so what they stood to gain was the absence of a military threat on their borders. That could very well be the same thing the Russians feel they 'have to gain'.

Unionist

Rev Pesky wrote:

Mr. Magoo wrote:
...Did/do they similarly support national liberation struggles in their own former colonies?

Because it seems like if Lithuania stages a big "show of force" military parade with their five tanks, that's some huge slap in the face to Russia.  If they can support the independent dreams of The Congo, why not Latvia too?

Let us not forget the Baltic states are in a military alliance with the United States. The last time the Soviet Union tried to do what the USA is doing in the Baltics (the arming of Cuba), the United States threatened nuclear war.

Given the USA response to anyone messing in their back yard, I would say the Russian response to NATO in the Baltic states is...restrained.

 

Thanks for reminding some people here of some real history, Rev Pesky.

 

swallow swallow's picture

There's no question in my mind that NATO actions in eastern Europe are aggressive. I will say, though, that it was entirely proper for the USSR to "meddle" in the US "back yard" by supporting Nicaragua's independence when it was under US attack. No country has the right to dictate to its neighbours. And the annexation of the Baltic states by the USSR was a tragic and cynical betrayal of Lenin's principles on self-determination. I think they make a mistake by aligning with NATO, but I can see (given historical events) why they amde that choice. 

6079_Smith_W

Ah, right. Molotov Ribbentrop isn't real history.

And none of us know the difference between 4,000 troops and nuclear missiles.

If I recall that history, Moscow DID freak out - over missiles in Turkey. That's why they sent the missiles to Cuba in the first place.

 

 

Rev Pesky

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Ah, right. Molotov Ribbentrop isn't real history.

And none of us know the difference between 4,000 troops and nuclear missiles.

If I recall that history, Moscow DID freak out - over missiles in Turkey. That's why they sent the missiles to Cuba in the first place.

Oh, I think I know the difference between 4000 troops doing a show of agression and nuclear missiles. At the same time, I also know the NATO agreement Lithuania is part of requires the USA to defend it, with nuclear weapons, if necessary.

So let's not get so sophisticated in our arguments that we forget reality. The reality is that Lithuania is in a military alliance with the USA (not 'aligned' with them, as swallow would have it), and as I presented evidence, they invite other countries in to display military aggressiveness and play some war games.

Now, we'll imagine for a moment that Mexico joins a military alliance with Russia, and the next thing Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean troops start showing up within sight of the US border, practising their little games just to show the USA what they're capable of. At the same time, the Russians decide to start putting their 'Star Wars' missiles in Tijuana, strictly a defensive measure, of course.

 

6079_Smith_W

To be honest, I think that is more of a concern to the Baltic states themselves (and Poland). If the U.S. has any prime interest, it is most likely to keep NATO together by keeping them happy, not some grand plan for a ground assault on Moscow. But what ever the motive, if a nuclear response is at stake they had better not step over that line then, eh?

And much as we might want to equate the two situations, they aren't the same, and most importantly, the history between Russia and its neighbours, and the U.S. and its neighbours is not the same.

Do keep me posted on how things are developing on the Baja Front.

 

 

Bec.De.Corbin Bec.De.Corbin's picture

Rev Pesky wrote:

Now, we'll imagine for a moment that Mexico joins a military alliance with Russia, and the next thing Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean troops start showing up within sight of the US border, practising their little games just to show the USA what they're capable of. At the same time, the Russians decide to start putting their 'Star Wars' missiles in Tijuana, strictly a defensive measure, of course.

Yeah and in one week half thier shit would be stolen and across the boarder being sold in the USA... Wink

swallow swallow's picture

Yes, Lithuania is in a military alliance with the USA. And again, given their history, I can understand why they made that choice - even though [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Aligned_Movement]non-alignment[/url] and [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_defence]social defence[/url] would be, in my view, better choices. (They'd be better choices for Canada too, I think.) 

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:
And much as we might want to equate the two situations, they aren't the same, and most importantly, the history between Russia and its neighbours, and the U.S. and its neighbours is not the same.

Do keep me posted on how things are developing on the Baja Front.

 

What a worthless contribution. The US regime absorbed an enormous part of Mexico in the 1840's, re-instituted slavery, and all the other "blessings" of Yanqui civilization.

If you don't even know the basics of US history, maybe stay out of the adult conversations.

6079_Smith_W

Mmm. Right.

That's why Mexico wants to build a wall to prevent an invasion.

And why Obama has cranked up the rhetoric about the ethnic American minority there.

Oh yeah, and there's the American enclave and ice-free port surrounded by Mexico that they really want to have better access to, because of its importance to the U.S. Navy.

 

 

Rev Pesky

6079_Smith_W wrote:
...If the U.S. has any prime interest, it is most likely to keep NATO together by keeping them happy, not some grand plan for a ground assault on Moscow...

Wow! A humourist too! The good ol' USA just wants to keep 'em happy.

Did I say anything about a ground assault on Moscow? I don't think so.

The USA plan really has only one objective, that is, to confine Russia. That has been the objective for a hundred years, and it's no different now. One of the things the USA has plenty of, and Russia little, is year-round ports. One of the things the Baltic states do for the USA is limit Russia's access to the Baltic Sea. That is their primary function, in the view of the USA.

As far as the USA trying to keep them happy, I'll just point out what has been said many times before, the USA doesn't have friends, they have interests. The minute the Baltic States were no longer in the USA interest, the USA would be gone from their soil.

As far as the independence of the Baltic states, if one reads up, one will find that all three became independent in 1918. Up to that point they had been subject to a variety of occupations by Germany, Poland, Czarist Russia, etc.

Now what was it happened in 1918 that allowed them to become independent states. Must have been something...

Yes, Stalin removed that independence in 1940, and then continued the occupation post war. I'm not defending Stalin, but by comparison with the USA in Central and South America, the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states was practicaly liberal.

6079_Smith_W

Rev, I said keep NATO together by keeping them happy, "happy" being a euphemism for relieved that there are troops there to make an invasion less likely.

So of course it is all a matter of mutual self interest. Did I really need to clarify that?

 

 

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Everything is settled now, The Guardian has spoken.

sherpa-finn

bagkitty wrote:

Everything is settled now, The Guardian has spoken.

A nicely crafted article, showing the layers upon layers of historic, cultural and political complexity that the Russian people (s) must process in trying to make sense of it all. Kind of refreshing when compared to all the certainties being expressed from afar.      

KenS

The closing of that piece,

Quote:

“It is going to be very interesting to see how the official narrative explains the events of 1917. It will be portrayed simultaneously as a great event and a terrible tragedy. Who knows, in our times when there is a complete absence of historical truth, maybe they’ll even blame it on the Americans.”  

Because, you know, that is just so 2017.

Ken Burch

BTW, the Russian Communist Party(KPRF) is not "left" in ANY recognizable sense.  You can't be "left" and STILL defend the decisions to send in the Red Army to crush movements for socialist democracy in East Berlin(1953), Hungary(1956), and Czechoslovakia (1968).

And this passage from the Kagarlitsky article in Green Left(discussing the role the KPRF played in the Yelstin period, which also I think reflects the KPRF's current relationship with Putin, is telling, indeed:

The wise Yeltsin knew perfectly well that the surest way for him to retain his dictatorial powers was to create the appearance of democracy. There was, indeed, democracy in Russia, only it did not extend to the Kremlin. The opposition could speak, the press could criticise, the citizens could vote, and everything was wonderful — except that none of this had the slightest bearing on the question of power.

For the system to work properly, it required an opposition that was incapable in principle of taking office. Zyuganov's party coped with this role to perfection. In this sense it has always been one of the system's fundamental political elements. The KPRF has also been assigned another task, no less important and perhaps even more so: to struggle against any attempts at founding a political alternative to the regime. Zyuganov and his associates have fought consistently and with determination against anyone who has tried to attack the regime from the left. The Communist leaders have denounced such people as extremists, as "traitors", or simply as "unserious individuals".

Moreover, the KPRF is still committed to the delusional notion that socialism requires a police state, rigid censorship, severe restrictions on the right of citizens of a "socialist" state to travel to other countries, and a massive war budget.

jjuares

In Harper's magazine this month Alexander Cocburn has a great article about the inflation of the Russian threat. He argues it is about keeping the military industrial complex going. Parts of it are quite funny. He tells many examples of how the American military is always constantly exaggerating Russian military strength. The funniest example is the alarm that the American military spread about a new type of Russian submarine. Apparently the Americans claimed that the Russians had a number of these submarines. It turns out that it took the Russians two decades to produce this submarine, it wasn't that impressive and the" number" of this type of submarine in the Russian arsenal turned out to be one. Hilarious and sad, at the same time.

montrealer58 montrealer58's picture

Who are you to decide who or what is "left" or not? Isn't that a bit arrogant?

Jacob Richter

Ken Burch wrote:

Here's what I would say we should take from the October Revolution:

The original transformative spirit of 1917, the example of the "popular organization" and the initial emphasis on workers' control are the main things of value, coupled with the original support of freedom of expression and artistic innovation.

After 1921 and the suppression of the Kronstadt Uprising, everything turned towards bureaucracy, reaction, repression, anti-intellectualism and the replacement of the original internationalist vision with Great Russian Nationalism.

While we can hail the heroism of the Red Army in the Great Patriotic War, everything else that happened in the USSR after 1921 was a betrayal and should be discarded by any future socialist revolution.

Yes, the Revolution was under external and internal threat.  But were repression, centralization, closed borders and "preserving the leading role of the party" the only way to protect it from overthrow?

And was it absolutely necessary to force every CP in the rest of the world to unquestioningly defend everything the USSR did, including the purge trials and the executions?  And to reduce the defense of the Revolution to preserving a regime for the sake of preserving the regime?

The need is to get back to the original Bolshevik vision...and discard most of what was done after 1921.  That is the only way make anything of value from the legacy of October.

1) Check out the Canadian historian Lars Lih.  He wrote some awesome things about "Old Bolshevism."

2) Blaming bureaucracy after 1921 is attacking a strawman.  Old Bolshevism's "party of a new type" was none other than the "bureaucratic" pre-war SPD (bureaucratic because the German worker-class movement had solidarity networks, alternative culture, etc.).  They knew that real parties were real movements and vice versa.  The later Comintern's "party" model was far from this and crap.  The Orthodox Marxist concept of the party-movement is more pervasive and organization-heavy than today's electoral machinery, political sects, or even the loose "social movements."

3) Small-s soviets / workers councils. like loose "social movements" are overrated.  There were the Russian revolutions of 1917, the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, and then the anti-soviet Bolshevik coups d'etat of 1918.  Soviets that didn't return Bolshevik majorities in 1918 elections were disbanded by local Bolshevik thugs.  The question of government during a revolutionary period is best addressed in the form of a "class war" cabinet, which is what Sovnarkom was.  Besides, small-s soviets / workers councils did not meet in permanent session, the one and only saving grace of modern parliamentarism.

4) "The leading role of the party" is a very complicated question.  Historian Moshe Lewin called the later Soviet system a "no-party state" because the CPSU became an administrative machine and wasn't the leading source of public policymaking.  I'll put forth an outspoken viewpoint: I have no objections to a genuine one-party system in which the worker-class movement has a class-based monopoly on all public policymaking.

5) On international fan clubs (your second-last point): the early Communist International tried to do what the original Socialist International (Second International) could not do, which was to enforce resolutions across all member parties.  The most important ones dealt with the question of participating as minority partners in bourgeois coalition governments and with the question of war and peace.  The central bodies actually resolved against participating in such sellout governments, and also against supporting jingoist war efforts.  But what happened next, hmmm?  Resolution enforcement remains important today.

Jacob Richter

ygtbk wrote:

You've got admit that it was pure marketing genius to call the smaller faction of the RSDLP "the Bolsheviks".

http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/bolshevik-menshevik-split

That's not marketing genius.  Both factions agreed with Lenin's party membership criteria after the Russian Revolution of 1905.  A more balanced and contextual account of the factional split can be found in the works of Canadian historian Lars Lih.

Later on, the Bolsheviks secured more Duma representatives than the Mensheviks, and quite a number of Mensheviks tried to liquidate the party itself in 1912.

lagatta4 wrote:

The problem is, I agree about the historical importance of the October Revolution (hey, useless degrees in labour and migration history) but I can't abide that kind of rhetoric.

That's not a useless degree to me.  I see it or a degree in a really related discipline (labour economics) as having more value to reinvigorated left politics than the stereotypical degrees in fine arts, sociology, philosophy, languages, etc.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

OK, some remarks from Lavrov's piece and my comments.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Federation Foreign Minister wrote:
Notably, back then Russian diplomacy also advanced ideas that were ahead of their time. The Hague Peace conferences of 1899 and 1907, convened at the initiative of Emperor Nicholas II, were the first attempts to agree on curbing the arms race and stopping preparations for a devastating war. But not many people know about it.

The First World War claimed lives and caused the suffering of countless millions of people and led to the collapse of four empires. In this connection, it is appropriate to recall yet another anniversary, which will be marked next year – the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Today we are faced with the need to develop a balanced and objective assessment of those events, especially in an environment where, particularly in the West, many are willing to use this date to mount even more information attacks on Russia, and to portray the 1917 Revolution as a barbaric coup that dragged down all of European history. Even worse, they want to equate the Soviet regime to Nazism, and partially blame it for starting WWII.

Without a doubt, the Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing Civil War were a terrible tragedy for our nation. However, all other revolutions were tragic as well. This does not prevent our French colleagues from extolling their upheaval, which, in addition to the slogans of liberty, equality and fraternity, also involved the use of the guillotine, and rivers of blood.

So the first group of facts:  that the Russian Revolution fits into the unrelenting Western narrative of Russian "barbarism,  and, very, very importantly, equating the subsequent Soviet regime to Hitlerite genocide. Lavrov also notes that (without fleshing out all the detail) this political pathology also aimed to blame the Soviets for WW2 (Exaggerated role of 1939 Non-Aggression Treaty and obtuse avoidance of Western "encouragement" of Hitler, etc., etc.) in part at least.

Sounds remarkably like the current fetid Western narrative around the glorious victory in Aleppo of the Syrian Arab Army and her Allies against the NATO Axis of Evil and their terrorist spawn. The more things change the more they stay the same!

However, I think his last remarks though, might best hit home even to the virulent Russophobes and pathological anti-communists. The French know about the rivers of blood following 1789, but they also manage to honour Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as still noble goals of social life. So, unless one wishes to jettison any claims of a revolutionary perspective, and wallow, forever, in the fetid swamp of milquetoast "reform" or capitalism with a human face, then one has to acknowledge the noble goals, still to be accomplished across the world, of the Great October Socialist Revolution. And I see, in fact, some babblers giving a grudging sort of recognition of this kind.

Now for the second section from Lavrov.

S Lavrov wrote:
Undoubtedly, the Russian Revolution was a major event which impacted world history in many controversial ways. It has become regarded as a kind of experiment in implementing socialist ideas, which were then widely spread across Europe. The people supported them, because wide masses gravitated towards social organisation with reliance on the collective and community principles.

Serious researchers clearly see the impact of reforms in the Soviet Union on the formation of the so-called welfare state in Western Europe in the post-WWII period. European governments decided to introduce unprecedented measures of social protection under the influence of the example of the Soviet Union in an effort to cut the ground from under the feet of the left-wing political forces.

Good on Lavrov for pointing this out. Serious scholars agree on this across the globe. The "terrible" example of the Soviet regime ... forced concessions, particularly in trend-setting Europe, for improved living and working conditions of the working class across the globe. This is very, very well documented. The very same reformists, NDPers, etc.,  who re-gurgitated the missives of the US State Department about the terrible perils of communism happily ignored the benefits that they, and all the "pork choppers" in the trade union movement enjoyed as a result of the "terrible" Soviet example. Funny how that is, huh?

Of course, now that that example does not exist, and decades of neo-liberal assault on the working class has brutally denuded the trade union movement and workers' rights generally right across the Western world, they're "too busy" to identify this factor of their current predicament. So criticize the Soviets and blandly ignore their merits. Sounds like today's NDP to me. And look where it's got them.

Thirdly.

Quote:
The role which the Soviet Union played in decolonisation, and promoting international relations principles, such as the independent development of nations and their right to self-determination, is undeniable.

Lavrov knows this. The rest of the world knows this. But in the Western citadels of imperialism, this claim is treated as "dubious" ... just as it is by far too many participants on this very discussion board. But the level of anti-imperialism knowledge here is very, very, low.

Fourthly, let's just put to rest the monstrous claim of Hitlerite Germany = Stalinist Soviet Union

Quote:
I will not dwell on the points related to Europe slipping into WWII. Clearly, the anti-Russian aspirations of the European elites, and their desire to unleash Hitler's war machine on the Soviet Union played their fatal part here. Redressing the situation after this terrible disaster involved the participation of our country as a key partner in determining the parameters of the European and the world order.

In this context, the notion of the "clash of two totalitarianisms,” which is now actively inculcated in European minds, including at schools, is groundless and immoral. The Soviet Union, for all its evils, never aimed to destroy entire nations. Winston Churchill, who all his life was a principled opponent of the Soviet Union and played a major role in going from the WWII alliance to a new confrontation with the Soviet Union, said that graciousness, i.e. life in accordance with conscience, is the Russian way of doing things.

Fifthly

Quote:
The post-war world order relied on confrontation between two world systems and was far from ideal, yet it was sufficient to preserve international peace and to avoid the worst possible temptation – the use of weapons of mass destruction, primarily nuclear weapons. There is no substance behind the popular belief that the Soviet Union’s dissolution signified Western victory in the Cold War. It was the result of our people’s will for change plus an unlucky chain of events.

This goes beyond claims about the events of 1917, I understand, but the revolution did divide the world into capitalist and socialist blocks, such as they were, and provided a period of reamarkable development post 1945 that can be partially attributed to the balance of power achieved.

Finally

Quote:
Speaking about Russia's role in the world as a great power, Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin said that the greatness of a country is not determined by the size of its territory or the number of its inhabitants, but by the capacity of its people and its government to take on the burden of great world problems and to deal with these problems in a creative manner. A great power is the one which, asserting its existence and its interest ... introduces a creative and meaningful legal idea to ​​the entire assembly of the nations, the entire "concert” of the peoples and states. It is difficult to disagree with these words.

A nice finish, any time. And this, from a conservative Russian public figure.  Our conservatives are busy re-loading their guns, dragging their knuckles along the floor, reaching for their sidearm when they hear the word "culture", telling women to get back in the kitchen, denying science, extolling a fundamentalist version of religion, trying to re-live the "glorious" 1950's and its brutal conformity, and so on.

6079_Smith_W

ikosmos wrote:

one has to acknowledge the noble goals, still to be accomplished across the world, of the Great October Socialist Revolution. And I see, in fact, some babblers giving a grudging sort of recognition of this kind.

... just as it is by far too many participants on this very discussion board. But the level of anti-imperialism knowledge here is very, very, low.
 

No one is being grudging. People are making an honest assessment of what was a very complex event.

 

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Russian FM Sergei Lavrov, arguably one of the greatest diplomats in the world today, comments on the issue.

See Russia’s Foreign Policy: Historical Background" for "Russia in Global Affairs" magazine, March 3, 2016

[I've put Lavrov's remarks in a separate entry down-thread.]

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

One thing I did not mention, and should be, is Lavrov's emphasis on the importance of learning from history.

Quote:
It is an established fact that a substantiated policy is impossible without reliance on history. This reference to history is absolutely justified, especially considering recent celebrations. In 2015, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of Victory in WWII, and in 2014, we marked a century since the start of WWI. In 2012, we marked 200 years of the Battle of Borodino and 400 years of Moscow’s liberation from the Polish invaders. If we look at these events carefully, we’ll see that they clearly point to Russia’s special role in European and global history.

etc. Lavrov, understandably, goes into Russian history, including diplomatic history, etc.

This is important for the left and of the kind of conservative he is. Not so much for liberals, who know everything and hold the past in contempt. We also get the misuse of the past, as unionist noted in another thread ...

Quote:
Our politicians - from Justin Trudeau to Cheri DiNovo to Peggy Nash (and I won't bother with the rest of the list) - need to be held to account for their support for these collaborators with Nazism and falsifiers of history and of the present. Those politicians who can honestly plead ignorance, deserve to be informed.

... but this does not undermine its critical importance. In paying attention to the GOSR, in an honest way, we pay attention to history. And that's still important. The right wants only their lies, and, generally, silence about history. 

swallow swallow's picture

I would not say that liberals ignore history. They simply treat it differently from conservatives and socialists. They often see an arc of progress towards things getting better, towards competetive nationalism fading away, etc. If they can't see it, they often seek it. Then we get the violence of (neo-)liberalism trying to impose itself on all. 

Lavrov's treatment of history is typically conservative, in identifying for his own country a "special role" and in linking events that were socialist and internationalist, to Russian nationalism. Lenin actually abolished the Russian national state, creating an international federation of republics (the USSR) in its place. The implementation of the USSR ideal turned out to be Russian and nationalist, but its formative ideals - if you take a socialist rather than conservative view of history - were an attempt to break away from the arc of past Russian history and create something new, something "not nationalist." In theory, the USSR could be the Comintern expresed in state form, just as much as it was "Russia" expressed in state form. I see this as one of the unique aspects of the 1917 Revolution - it sought in some ways to sweep away nationalism and imperialism by sweeping away the nation-state in favour of Marcist internationalism.

Lavrov (following Stalin in some ways, I guess) aims to re-integrate that 1917 break away from Russian history, reading it back into a single arc of national greatness, ascribing to his country a unique role, then linking that role to the salvation of the nation -- indeed of civilization itself -- from threats, even from barbarism. Again, a typical conservative view in seeing the importance of history (which is laudable). Much the same case could be made by French conservatives about their countries "unique role" in European history, though they'd use different events to make their case, starting with their own great revolution. British conservatives also value their national history and the "unique role" it's given their country in Europe and the world. 

The more dangerous side of the conservative view of history is that it glorifies the nation and the state apparatus that underpins it. This can simply be patriotism, as perhaps it is in Lavrov's case. Arguably. It can also mutate into a hatred of other nations. That's when the misuses of history become truly dangerous. Make Germany great again, as Hitler might have said, by crushing others. 

lagatta4

Jacob, I also have a useless degree in (Italian) language and literature, and have studied several other languages. I've also studied fine arts (I'm a painter and have worked as an illustrator) but didn't complete my degree.

Without language studies, I have no idea what I could do for a so-called living...

Ken Burch

Jacob Richter wrote:

Ken Burch wrote:

Here's what I would say we should take from the October Revolution:

The original transformative spirit of 1917, the example of the "popular organization" and the initial emphasis on workers' control are the main things of value, coupled with the original support of freedom of expression and artistic innovation.

After 1921 and the suppression of the Kronstadt Uprising, everything turned towards bureaucracy, reaction, repression, anti-intellectualism and the replacement of the original internationalist vision with Great Russian Nationalism.

While we can hail the heroism of the Red Army in the Great Patriotic War, everything else that happened in the USSR after 1921 was a betrayal and should be discarded by any future socialist revolution.

Yes, the Revolution was under external and internal threat.  But were repression, centralization, closed borders and "preserving the leading role of the party" the only way to protect it from overthrow?

And was it absolutely necessary to force every CP in the rest of the world to unquestioningly defend everything the USSR did, including the purge trials and the executions?  And to reduce the defense of the Revolution to preserving a regime for the sake of preserving the regime?

The need is to get back to the original Bolshevik vision...and discard most of what was done after 1921.  That is the only way make anything of value from the legacy of October.

1) Check out the Canadian historian Lars Lih.  He wrote some awesome things about "Old Bolshevism."

2) Blaming bureaucracy after 1921 is attacking a strawman.  Old Bolshevism's "party of a new type" was none other than the "bureaucratic" pre-war SPD (bureaucratic because the German worker-class movement had solidarity networks, alternative culture, etc.).  They knew that real parties were real movements and vice versa.  The later Comintern's "party" model was far from this and crap.  The Orthodox Marxist concept of the party-movement is more pervasive and organization-heavy than today's electoral machinery, political sects, or even the loose "social movements."

3) Small-s soviets / workers councils. like loose "social movements" are overrated.  There were the Russian revolutions of 1917, the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, and then the anti-soviet Bolshevik coups d'etat of 1918.  Soviets that didn't return Bolshevik majorities in 1918 elections were disbanded by local Bolshevik thugs.  The question of government during a revolutionary period is best addressed in the form of a "class war" cabinet, which is what Sovnarkom was.  Besides, small-s soviets / workers councils did not meet in permanent session, the one and only saving grace of modern parliamentarism.

4) "The leading role of the party" is a very complicated question.  Historian Moshe Lewin called the later Soviet system a "no-party state" because the CPSU became an administrative machine and wasn't the leading source of public policymaking.  I'll put forth an outspoken viewpoint: I have no objections to a genuine one-party system in which the worker-class movement has a class-based monopoly on all public policymaking.

5) On international fan clubs (your second-last point): the early Communist International tried to do what the original Socialist International (Second International) could not do, which was to enforce resolutions across all member parties.  The most important ones dealt with the question of participating as minority partners in bourgeois coalition governments and with the question of war and peace.  The central bodies actually resolved against participating in such sellout governments, and also against supporting jingoist war efforts.  But what happened next, hmmm?  Resolution enforcement remains important today.

That was quite an informative post.  I'll check out Lars Lih(I may go to Vancouver in the summer for the Folk Festival...if the left wing bookstore on Hastings Street is still open, they may have his stuff).

 

Ken Burch

jjuares wrote:
In Harper's magazine this month Alexander Cocburn has a great article about the inflation of the Russian threat. He argues it is about keeping the military industrial complex going. Parts of it are quite funny. He tells many examples of how the American military is always constantly exaggerating Russian military strength. The funniest example is the alarm that the American military spread about a new type of Russian submarine. Apparently the Americans claimed that the Russians had a number of these submarines. It turns out that it took the Russians two decades to produce this submarine, it wasn't that impressive and the" number" of this type of submarine in the Russian arsenal turned out to be one. Hilarious and sad, at the same time.

I'll read that, but I'm pretty sure it would be Andrew Cockburn who wrote it, given that Alexander has been dead since 2012. 

jjuares

Ken Burch wrote:

jjuares wrote:
In Harper's magazine this month Alexander Cocburn has a great article about the inflation of the Russian threat. He argues it is about keeping the military industrial complex going. Parts of it are quite funny. He tells many examples of how the American military is always constantly exaggerating Russian military strength. The funniest example is the alarm that the American military spread about a new type of Russian submarine. Apparently the Americans claimed that the Russians had a number of these submarines. It turns out that it took the Russians two decades to produce this submarine, it wasn't that impressive and the" number" of this type of submarine in the Russian arsenal turned out to be one. Hilarious and sad, at the same time.

I'll read that, but I'm pretty sure it would be Andrew Cockburn who wrote it, given that Alexander has been dead since 2012. 


LOL Thanks.

Mobo2000

Thanks to all for this thread, very informative and interesting.   There are a lot of people who know a lot about this here, babble can be such a cool resource sometimes.

Really like swallow's post #83, made something go 'ping' in my brain.  

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Revolutionary literature - one of the enduring gifts of the GOSR.

Russia Beyond the Headlines: How literature was used to 'temper' Soviet people

See also

Maxim Gorky: 3 must-read books by an iconic Soviet writer

I'm only now getting around to some of the revolutionary Science Fiction (e.g., Red Star: the 1st Bolshevik Utopia by A. Bogdanov) from that era; in my post-secondary university courses, only dissidents appeared on curriculums. So I know Zamyatin but not Bogdanov. And so on. It was as if Soviet Literature did not exist. And, of course, we now know how heavily subsidized, by the CIA and the US regime generally, any sort of critical writing was. 

It's a rather delicious irony today that exactly the same technique - of giving a platform to Western dissidents today - is evoking the most apoplectic rage across the political spectrum in the Western countries (accompanied by a foaming Russophobia, natch!). They just don't get it.

One of the things that the Western purchasers of, for example, Progress Books, did, after the destruction of the SU, was to burn or destroy all of the progressive books in their collection. It was a regular Nazi book-burning party (or its "liberal" equivalent). Plenty of those books are now very difficult to find.

So, I think the general point oughtta be made: the beneficial results and effects of the GOSR and the Soviet period generally, are subject to a careful, organized, prolonged effort of ... erasure. And falsification. We see it in: the equivalence of Soviet crimes with Hitlerite genocide; in the destruction of progressive literature; and so on. It's widespread. And ongoing.

The Cold War, in that regard, never ended and never will end. If the Communist regime did not exist it would be necessary to invent it. And this is true, both for those who hold those ideals dear and those who wish to see them erased from history forever.

It may in fact take decades and decades to overcome the unrelenting murderous hatred of all things Soviet, inculcated in the West since birth, of current generations, in order to benefit from the positives, and negatives, of that historical era. The prejudices are truly ingrained. The pathological anti-communists need ... to drop dead. Merry Christmas. ((grins))

 

Mr. Magoo

Quote:
The pathological anti-communists need ... to drop dead.

Sounds like the Soviet Union in the "good old days".

i.e. "We were just asking him about his thoughts and opinions on things and suddenly he dropped dead!"

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

It's a simple enough idea. I've seen it expressed in terms of language usage among more historically-minded linguists, i.e., the people who insist on using antediluvian language have to die off for the new approaches to flourish and crowd out the past practices. I think the particular context was sexist language, the male as the default, etc., etc..

There's no idea of doing harm to anyone. Just old age and voila. A new generation has its own views.

By the way, on the subject of the legacy of the GOSR, I see that the 2017 Socialist Register has already been released and this is the very topic of their new issue.

Quote:
Rethinking Revolution: Socialist Register 2017

One hundred years ago, “October 1917” galvanized leftists and oppressed peoples around the globe, and became the lodestar for 20th century politics. Today, the left needs to reckon with this legacy—and transcend it. Social change, as it was understood in the 20th century, appears now to be as impossible as revolution, leaving the left to rethink the relationship between capitalist crises, as well as the conceptual tension between revolution and reform.

Populated by an array of passionate thinkers and thoughtful activists, Rethinking Revolution reappraises the historical effects of the Russian revolution—positive and negative—on political, intellectual, and cultural life, and looks at consequent revolutions after 1917. Change needs to be understood in relation to the distinct trajectories of radical politics in different regions. But the main purpose of this Socialist Register edition—one century after “Red October”—is to look forward, to what might happen next.

ToC includes:

Quote:

  • Bryan D. Palmer & Joan Sangster, “The distinctive heritage of 1917: revolution’s longue durée”
  • Leo Panitch & Sam Gindin, “Class, party and state transformation”
  • Jodi Dean, “The actuality of revolution”
  • Hilary Wainwright, “Radicalizing party-movement relationships: Ralph Miliband to Jeremy Corbyn”
  • Fabien Escalona, “The heritage of Eurocommunism in the contemporary radical left”
  • Andreas Malm, “Revolution in a warming world: lessons from the Russian to the Syrian revolutions”
  • David Schwartzman, “Beyond eco-catastrophism: the conditions for solar communism”
  • Patrick Bond, “South Africa’s next revolt: Eco-socialist opportunities”
  • Robert Cavooris, “Turning the tide: revolutionary potential and Bolivia’s ‘process of change’”
  • Steve Striffler, “Something left in Latin America: Venezuela and twenty-first century socialism”
  • Pierre Beaudet, “In search of the ‘modern prince’: the new Québec rebellion”
  • August H. Nimtz, “Marx and Engels on the revolutionary party”
  • A W Zurbrugg, “1917 and the ‘workers’ state’: looking back”
  • Wang Hui, “The ‘people’s war’ and the legacy of the Chinese revolution”
  • Adolph Reed, Jr., “Revolution as ‘National Liberation’: the origins of neoliberal antiracism”
  • Walter Benn Michaels, “Picturing the whole: form, reform, revolution”
  • Slavoj Zizek, “Addressing the impossible”
  • Leo Panitch, “On revolutionary optimism of the intellect”

 

Looks interesting. If anyone wants to share a reading of this, then that would be great.

Mr. Magoo

Quote:
the people who insist on using antediluvian language have to die off for the new approaches to flourish and crowd out the past practices. I think the particular context was sexist language, the male as the default, etc., etc..

There's no idea of doing harm to anyone. Just old age and voila. A new generation has its own views.

"Э" for effort.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

RT is doing a big project and "re-tweeting" the year of 1917.

Quote:
RT's large-scale #1917LIVE project, which was soft-launched on New Year’s Eve, aims to tell the story of the Russian Revolution through real-time tweeting. #1917LIVE runs dozens of Twitter accounts in the names of all the key historical figures of that time, like Lenin, Stalin, Kerensky, Tsar Nicholas and his family, Imperial generals, military, police, transitional government officials, MPs, foreign embassies, and of course, ordinary people who went through the turbulent events of 1917.

I rather expect RT to take a somewhat conservative approach. But it will still be more objective, interesting - and left-wing - than the contributions of many babblers.

Mr. Magoo

I can't wait to read Stalin's tweets.

"We have the best iron foundries, believe me.  They're YUUUGE.  Bigger than Wilson's.  Ask anyone."

Rev Pesky

For those interested in the Russian revolution there are two essential sources. "The History of the Russian Revolution" by Leon Trotsky, and "Ten Days That Shook The World" by John Reed.

Both of these are classic, and give a very real sense of the chaos and confusion that were so much a part of the revolution, as well as the politics and circumstance that led to the revolution. 

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Well, the RT "tweet version" should be interesting. It's more a "What if" version. What IF modern technology was available at the time? etc. 

I would add to the Rev's short list (they were, I think, the first two books I read about the subject) Lenin's "State and Revolution". The ending is a classic. And the short book, generally, explains the theoretical views of the founder of the first socialist/working class state in history ... before the events of October 1917 took place.

V. I. Lenin wrote:
PostScript to the First Edition

This pamphlet was written in August and September 1917. I had already drawn up the plan for the next, the seventh chapter, "The Experience of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917". Apart from the title, however, I had no time to write a single line of the chapter; I was "interrupted" by a political crisis--the eve of the October revolution of 1917. Such an "interruption" can only be welcomed; but the writing of the second part of this pamphlet ("The Experience of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917") will probably have to be put off for a long time. It is more pleasant and useful to go through the "experience of revolution" than to write about it.

The Author

Petrograd
November 30, 1917

Oh yeah. 

Mr. Magoo

Quote:
Oh yeah.

You're quoting Kool-Aid Man.  Credit where credit is due.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Never heard of him. But that's a clever segue away from the subject of this thread - the Great October Socialist Revolution - to some inane advertising/marketing shlock in one small step.

Well done, Magoo. Are you thinking maybe a shopping spree? Go for it. You ... deserve it!

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Magoo... does the Franklin mint still have your billing information?

6079_Smith_W

ikosmos wrote:

But that's a clever segue away from the subject of this thread - the Great October Socialist Revolution - to some inane advertising/marketing shlock in one small step.

Oh Yeah!

What were you thinking Magoo? I can't think of any more appropriate way to commemorate the 100th anniversary than the "tweet version". How dare you sully this groundbreaking scholarship with your marketing schlock.

 

 

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