October Revolution: A Lodestar for Intensifying Class Struggles in Today’s Conditions

Sitaram Yechury

NOVEMBER 7, 2017 will see the culmination of the year-long commemoration of the centenary of the great October Socialist revolution as decided by the CPI(M)’s 21st Congress. During this year, the Party at all levels has conducted political, ideological and cultural activities highlighting the achievements of socialism, its contributions in shaping the history of the 20th century and the irreversible imprint it has had on the future human civilisational advance. 

These observations now dovetail into the observations of the 150th anniversary of the publication of volume one of the Das Kapital (September 1867) and the bicentenary of the birth of Karl Marx (May 5, 1818).  The political, ideological and cultural activities by the Party will thus continue. 

During the course of this year, almost all the contributions made by socialist USSR and the inspiration that the October Revolution gave to the international working class movement and to the struggles of the toiling people across the globe have been documented. This inspiration continues. It was following the October Revolution that Communist parties were formed in most countries of the world and the struggle for human liberty and emancipation intensified globally. 

 

REVERSES TO SOCIALISM

The CPI(M) had undertaken an analysis of how and why the mighty Soviet Union dismantled leading to the demise of socialism there. We had concluded and continue to maintain that these reverses to socialism have not occurred because of any inadequacies in the creative science of Marxism-Leninism.  On the contrary, they had occurred primarily due to the departures from the scientific and revolutionary content of Marxism-Leninism.  Hence, these reverses do not constitute either a negation of Marxism-Leninism or the Socialist ideal. 

 

ABIDING RELEVANCE IN TODAY’S WORLD

Our detractors and anti-Communists are not tired of asking us as to why we are observing the centenary of a revolution that is now consigned as a part of history.  The October Revolution, whatever may be its achievements and contributions, does not exist any longer, so why observe its centenary?

The mighty Soviet Union may not be existing today, but the October Revolution and its experiences continue to have an abiding relevance in today’s conditions.

First, the October Revolution demonstrated the struggle for human emancipation can be practically victorious and its subsequent experience demonstrated the full potential that human beings and human race is capable of.  The confidence that it continues to inspire is this: if the October Revolution could succeed, so can revolutions in other countries, like ours. 

Additionally, there are at least four aspects of the experiences of October Revolution that  continue to remain relevant in today’s world conditions.

 

ANTI-IMPERIALISM

The October Revolution had clearly demonstrated that no revolutionary struggle can be victorious unless it steadfastly carries out the struggle against imperialism.

Lenin, by developing the Marxist understanding of the contemporary world situation on the basis of the laws of capitalist development, as laid bare by Marx noticed that the law of concentration and centralisation of capital led to the creation of monopoly capitalism and eventually reaching the stage of imperialism. Amidst all its ramifications, the one issue that stands out is that imperialism brings the whole world into the orbit of capitalist exploitation and, at the same time, releases a ferocious contradiction between imperialist centres for controlling the world’s resources.  Lenin advanced theoretically the possibility of breaking the imperialist chain at its weakest link.  That weakest link during the first two decades of the 20th century when the First World War was raging and ending was Russia. This provided the opportunity for the Russian working class to convert an inter-imperialist war into a civil war for liberation.

In today’s world conditions, as we analysed in the Ideological Resolution of the 20th Congress, inter imperialist rivalries are, to a large extent, muted with the emergence of international finance capital and the current march of imperialist globalisation under its leadership.  The current phase of globalisation, within the stage of imperialism, is leading to further higher levels of capital accumulation led by international finance capital. This international finance capital is, today, enmeshed with industrial and other forms of capital in its pursuit of profit maximisation. The international finance capital now leads the commonality of purpose to unleash fresh attacks to vastly increase the levels of capital accumulation and profit maximisation even further.

All through the history of capitalism, accumulation takes place in two ways: one is through the normal dynamics of capital expansion (appropriation) through the unfolding of its production process and the other is through coercion and outright loot (forcible expropriation), whose brutality Marx defines as the primitive accumulation of capital. Primitive accumulation is often erroneously interpreted as a historical category – primitive vs. modern. For Marx and therefore Marxists, primitive accumulation is an analytical category that historically continues to co-exist with the normal dynamics of capitalism. The process of primitive accumulation has taken various forms in the past, including direct colonisation. The aggressiveness of primitive accumulation, at any point of time, is directly dependent on the balance of international correlation of class forces which either permit or inhibit the manifestation of such capitalist brutality. In the current phase of contemporary imperialism, the intensification of such a process of a brutal primitive accumulation is assaulting a vast majority of the people of the world’s population, both in the developing as well as the developed countries.

It is this predatory capitalist character for constant profit maximisation that is sharply widening the economic inequalities globally and domestically in every country, while, at the same time, imposing greater miseries on the vast majority of global working people and the poor.  Every effort to emerge from one phase of the current systemic crisis is, naturally, leading to a newer phase of a deeper crisis because of the very nature of the laws of capitalist development. 

The struggle against today’s imperialism has to be conducted both at the level of individual countries and globally. While intensifying the anti-imperialist struggles against the present neo-liberal economic order, the Communist parties at the global level need to integrate the struggles against  intensified economic exploitation with the struggles against imperialist military aggressiveness and interventions in various parts of the world into a global anti-imperialist movement.

 

STAGES OF REVOLUTION

The October Revolution broke the imperialist chain in Russia which was a relatively backward capitalistically developed country. The till then held proposition that the transition to socialism will begin from the advanced capitalist centres did not happen with the defeat of the German Revolution.  Lenin was hoping that the advanced German working class will lead the backward Russian working class into the path of social transformation.  With its failure, the survival of socialism in Russia became a very arduous challenge.  With the conception of socialism in one country, Lenin advanced the theory of stages of revolution to prepare a backward economy in the transition towards socialism.  The democratic stage of the revolution and its transition to the socialist stage that emerged from the October Revolution experience continues to remain relevant to us in the present context. 

The CPI(M) Party Programme identifies our present revolutionary struggle as being the realisation of the democratic stage of revolution, i.e., the completion of the unfinished tasks at the time of India’s independence from British colonialism.  These are: (a) to liberate India from the bonds of imperialism, i.e., the anti-imperialist task (b) to liberate vast sections of Indian people from the bondage of feudal landlord exploitation, i.e., the task of anti-landlordism and (c) to overthrow the present ruling classes led by the Indian big bourgeoisie, i.e., monopoly capital which prevents the realisation of the above two tasks, hence, the task of anti-monopoly capitalism.

These three tasks – anti-imperialism, anti-landlordism and anti-monopoly capital – need to be achieved in order to be victorious in the democratic stage of the revolution by the establishment of a people’s democratic state by an alliance of class forces led by the working class overthrowing the present bourgeois-landlord ruling classes. 

 

WORKER-PEASANT ALLIANCE

The October Revolution demonstrated that the success of the revolution in a backward country can be achieved only by forging and strengthening the worker-peasant alliance to achieve this objective. Learning from the Paris Commune where the peasantry was successfully mobilised by the ruling classes against the Communards, Lenin clearly elucidated that the exploited classes in the agricultural sector and rural countryside, need to be firmed up as allies of the revolution.  The worker-peasant alliance, under the leadership of the working class, is the potent weapon in the hands of the present-day revolutionaries for social transformation. 

The CPI(M) Party Programme describes the agrarian revolution as the axis of the democratic revolution.  The democratic revolution will be led by the working class.  Inherent in this understanding is the centrality of forging and developing the worker-peasant alliance as the vital instrument to achieve success of the democratic revolution. 

This is an issue that has been repeatedly emphasised in our Party Congresses and under the concrete conditions of our times in India. It is absolutely vital that the worker-peasant alliance is both forged and strengthened to advance towards our goal of people’s democratic revolution. 

 

INTEGRATING DOMESTIC REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLES WITH GLOBAL ANTI-IMPERIALIST STRUGGLES

Lenin’s `Theses on National and Colonial Question’ sharply brought out the integration of the struggles of the colonial people for freedom with the global struggle for emancipation against imperialism. 

The internationalism, both of the international working class and that of the national liberation struggles in the times of the October Revolution remains relevant today in a different manner in the current context. 

As we have seen, irrespective of the various methods employed by global capitalism to emerge from the crisis that began in 2008 financial meltdown have all  resulted in a newer form of a deeper crisis.  The current phase of this crisis is sought to be overcome by imposing unprecedented `austerity measures’ on the working class and the working people negating even the existing levels of incomes and livelihood conditions. There are reductions in wages, pensions and social security expenditures in a big way.  In other words, global capitalism is seeking, as capitalism always does, of emerging from its crisis by imposing a greater intensification of economic exploitation.  In order to ensure this, imperialism requires to strengthen its global political hegemony which spurs on intensification of imperialist aggressiveness. 

In many countries, there are large-scale protests of the working class and the working people against the new economic burdens being imposed by this crisis and the intensification of economic exploitation. These struggles, however, as we noted in the 21st Congress are mainly defensive in character; defensive in the sense that they are mainly to protect existing livelihood status and the democratic rights from further attacks. These struggles however are the foundations on the basis of which future struggles against the rule of capital itself need to be strengthened and mounted.

However intense may be the crisis of capitalism, capitalism never collapses automatically. It always seeks to emerge from the crisis on the basis of intensified exploitation and the destruction of a certain amount of productive forces.  Capitalism, therefore, requires to be overthrown which decisively depends on the strengthening of that material force in society led by the working class which can mount, through popular struggles, the intensification of the class struggles to launch the political offensive against the rule of capital. The building of this material force and its strength is the ‘subjective factor’, as Lenin describes, the strengthening of which is the essential imperative. The objective factor – the concrete situation of the crisis – however conducive it may be for a revolutionary advance, cannot be transformed into a revolutionary assault against the rule of capital without the strengthening of this ‘subjective factor’.

Various intermediary slogans, measures and tactics will have to be employed by the working class, based on a concrete analysis of concrete conditions in each country, to sharpen class struggles and to meet the challenges of these real conditions in order to strengthen the ‘subjective factor’ and, thus, advance the process of revolutionary transformation in their respective countries.

The observation of the centenary by our Party and the continuation of our political-ideological activities must be based both on the concrete analysis of concrete conditions and the urgent efforts required to strengthen the “subjective factor” in Indian conditions.  The CPI(M) had identified the areas that demand our attention in order to strengthen the subjective factor in the ideological resolution of our 20th Congress. In the 21st Congress, we have decided to organise a Plenum on Organisation to reinvigorate the Party organisation.  The Plenum decided that the CPI(M) is a revolutionary political party with a mass line.  The Plenum’s direction is to deepen our links with the Indian people and through that process strengthen the subjective factor in Indian conditions.

This year long observations of the centenary of the October Revolution must substantially contribute to our efforts in this direction.  

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