People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 44

October 31, 2010

November Revolution &  Socialist Consciousness  



 Sukomal Sen


OCTOBER Socialist Revolution, which occurred in Russia on October 17, 1917 is now more known as November Revolution occurring on November 7, 1917 according to the revised Russian calendar. This first socialist revolution in Russia is obviously, a world shaking event and its significance is assuming more and  more  relevance in today’s world – a world passing through the tremor of an unprecedented crisis of world capitalism, grave recession and cruel imperialist offensive. The latest world crisis of capitalism completed its second anniversary on September 15 this year and its unbearable impact on the working class and the poor of any capitalist country and the dimension of worldwide struggles of the working class against the offensive is unforeseen. Thus, this catastrophic world crisis has added further practical importance to November socialist revolution.


Imperialist hegemony and its destructive war machine have got sharpened recklessly today, threatening the entire world by its hegemonistic devices, either by sheer force or by shrewd diplomacy. The imperialist-designed neo-liberal economic model seeks to dominate the entire world market in ruthless pursuit of profit and consequent exploitation of the working class and the common people.


It is Russia, a backward country ruled by medieval  Czardom, which in 1917 broke the “weakest link” of the capitalist chain, as Lenin explained,  and it succeeded as the first country in the capitalist world to establish rule of the working class. It is the most important aspect of the Russian Socialist Revolution that it was the first revolution in the world which dared to put an end to exploitative rule of this or that section of the bourgeoisie continuing to establish their class rule.  


Ultimately Soviet Socialist State came to an end in 1991 for numerous reasons, mostly grave distortions and deviation from the revolutionary theory of socialism. That is a separate study and the causes are still being investigated by the Marxists all over the world.




The Soviet socialist revolution vividly put the question of socialist consciousness on line agenda. But to achieve the agenda is not an easy one, rather it is a historical process. The human race is the most important treasure in the world. And yet historically, most of humanity has developed under con­ditions of antagonistic social classes, under social relations based on exploitation. These conditions have encouraged human qualities that are less than propitious for building and strengthening socialism: heightened individualism, hyper-consumerism, egotism, apathy, alienation, greed, and cynicism. Many bourgeois thinkers and coun­terrevolutionaries argue that such traits are innate, that we cannot and should not expect anything more from people. This however is a belief, not a conclusion based on science. It is similar to the belief that "ability" and "intelligence" are discrete, quantifiable, geneti­cally based individual traits that have little to do with differences in history, culture, and environment. Yet to the contrary, there is much scientific evidence that disputes the notion that individuals have a fixed, immutable, essence. Human beings are subject to changes, including changes related to social context. Human potential is thus largely an unknown, as is the potential of the social environment to condition behavior. 


The current complex and contradictory context, in particular, neo-liberal globalisation driven by imperialism in many devel­oping countries, reflects a fierce ideological struggle between two fundamentally different worldviews: Marxist-Leninist and bour­geois. These two opposing frameworks compete to influence the consciousness of the majority, their ideas, habits, and points of view, for example about what the main problems are today and how best to resolve them, even criteria for being "happy." Powerful imperial­ist forces are dedicated to producing and distributing propaganda promoting selfishness, insatiable desires for material goods, etc. Many of these pressures are sophisticated: promoting ideas that on the surface appear progressive, but instead are reframed so as to be reactionary. In the phase of neo-liberal globalisation  diversified social interests and class contradictions produced thereby, two phenomena that can easily encourage careerism, opportunism, a lack of solidarity, and weak commitment to building socialism. For example, many urban pro­fessionals, making good money, maintain lifestyles that isolate them from the concerns of those who are less privileged, eg, factory and rural workers, stay-at-home parents, pensioners. Just as it would be a mistake to underestimate the power of capital and its ability to expand - no matter who is in control of it, would be a grave mis­take to underestimate the negative effects, including ideological, of accelerating economic development.




Though Soviet Union does not exist any more, the ever lasting effect of construction of socialism in Soviet Union will remain an agenda not only now, but in the distant future also.


In order for socialism to be constructed and maintained, indi­viduals who understand the value of cooperation for universal aims, who demonstrate genuine concern for the common good (including clean air and water, sanitation, and an equitable allocation of natu­ral resources),  and solidarity with working people throughout the world are essential. At the same time, the transformation of society into a mature socialist society requires individuals with these perspectives. Revolutionary consciousness is both required and cre­ated under socialism. Marx, Engels, and later Lenin demonstrated the relationship between change in social conditions and change in people themselves, through socialist education and socialist prac­tice, guided by scientific socialist theory. Still, it is not uncommon to hear some misguided socialists and Marxists argue that ever-expanding economic development will, by itself, result in the establishment of socialist relations of production and therefore socialism. The achievement of socialism is, from this perspective, largely a technical issue. From this viewpoint, revolutionary consciousness, if considered at all, is presumed to result once a certain level of economic development has been attained. The assumption is that if the proper political party is in power, thereby guiding the building of a socialist society, then the destructive contradictions of bourgeois society will be over­come. This perspective also typically maintains that (a) developing consciousness is secondary to expanding the forces of production, and (b) mobilising people in support of State policies is sufficient for developing socialist consciousness. This notion betrays a degeneration of revolutionary ideology among those individuals who claim themselves as socialist or Marxist.


History has demonstrated, however, that economic develop­ment can continue to evolve and expand, using highly advanced, science and technology, without either the establishment of socialist relations of production or socialist consciousness. Even as the material foundation for socialism exists in the United States in so far as capitalist development is concerned,  for example, socialist ideological development is far from prevalent in that country. It is true that social life creates consciousness and not the reverse. It is also true that we cannot will social relations of production into being. The notion that socialist consciousness automatically results from advances in production, however, is mistaken. New relations of production create only the possibility, not the inevitability, of  socialist consciousness. 


A transition from capitalism to socialism occurs intention­ally, that is, by people who understand what they are creating and why. People with particular perspectives, habits, customs, beliefs, criteria, attitudes, relationships with others, in addition to specific abilities and knowledge, are critical in order for socialism to advance. In What Is to Be Done, Lenin addressed how the working class becomes conscious as a class, for itself. Such understanding was necessary for him in order to argue and develop revolutionary strategy. Lenin argued that the widespread development of revolutionary, scientific consciousness was necessary in order to trans­form the existing socioeconomic system into one that functioned in the interests of the majority of the population, enabling individuals to fully realise their human potential. While attaining socialist con­sciousness is a long-term process, postponing systematic attention to this process until a certain level of economic development has been attained, undermines the ability of the masses to learn, to plan and manage society in all its aspects. It also fails to increase the number of individuals who identify themselves with socialist aims. Thus while developing the economy is essential to building socialism, those who treat economic growth as the sole objective of socialism via developing productive forces fail to grasp the essential role of ideology in the class struggle and its critical importance during all stages of economic development and social transformation. 




Socialist transformation implies not only a society where politi­cal power rests in the hands of working people but also the mainte­nance and constant strengthening of socialist gains. Securing social­ist gains and continuing to realise further gains can only be a diffi­cult, lengthy, contradictory, and often dangerous effort. History has demonstrated as such. New policies, laws, institutions, and orga­nisations are continually subjected to the influences of new (and old) bourgeois, revisionist, and other opposing forces. This effort requires the dictatorship of the working people, meaning that social, economic, and political systems ensure the interests of the vast majority of a population  with popular participation itself.


While the Communist Party aims to represent the interests of the working class and to be the primary vehicle that enables and sup­ports the working class to fulfill its political functions, at the same time, the workers' dictatorship or in other words – proletarian statehood is not something that can be carried out by any group or the other than the working class itself. The dictator­ship of the proletariat is a dynamic process effectively exercised by   the working class. Indeed, a Marxist view of democracy is ensured when the vast majority of the population exercises state power of itself and for itself, assuming its role and rights in directing and managing society. Structuring broad popular participation into political, eco­nomic, cultural, and social decision-making at local, regional, and national levels of society is essential to guarantee that the State indeed functions in the interests of the majority of ordinary people. State power therefore poses the question of participation. Popular struggles around concrete issues, especially when guided by communists and their allies, also help the interests of the majority are ensured by leading to confronting abuses of power and by demanding justice. Grassroots self-organisation, promoting the interests of the working  classes, where leaders are held accountable to those common aims, help raise consciousness, may result in real victories, and can help lay the groundwork for broader, long-lasting changes. The issue is also how to get ever closer to the popular masses, in order to under­stand their issues, their dreams, their forms of resistance, and to work with them towards common goals. By this, the ideological battle is won in practical work, not at the level of ideas.

(To be continued)