People's Democracy

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


No. 45

November 11, 2012






95th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Sitaram Yechury


TODAY marks the 95th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.


This anniversary comes in the background of one of the severest of crises of global capitalism. In many aspects, this crisis appears more pervasive than the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The crisis enters its fifth year and there appears no light at the end of the tunnel.


Major capitalist economies, including the USA and the European Union, continue to languish in recessionary conditions. Ten countries of Europe are officially in recession today, suffering two or more consecutive quarters of negative growth.  These are Italy, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Greece, Slovenia, the Netherlands (seven out of the seventeen Euro zone countries) and United Kingdom, Denmark and the Czech Republic.  As a consequence, frightening data on unemployment is emerging.  51 per cent of the youth between the ages of 15 and 25 are unemployed in Greece and Spain, 36 per cent in Italy and Portugal, 30 per cent in Ireland, over 20 per cent in France etc.  The situation is similar in other countries. 


The unsustainability of international finance capital led imperialist globalisation is pushing global capitalism into a cycle of serious crises.  To overcome the crisis caused by the sharp shrinkage in the purchasing power in the hands of the majority of the world’s peoples due to profit maximisation and aggressive capital accumulation through the primitive accumulation methods, cheap credit was offered to boost demand. This allowed temporarily to continue profit maximisation.  This, however, resulted in the ‘sub prime’ crisis leading to the global financial meltdown.  This crisis was sought to be overcome by offering huge bailout packages to resurrect those very financial corporates which caused the meltdown in the first place.  These bailout packages, financed by the governments through borrowings led, in turn, to unmanageable governmental deficits in many countries.  Corporate insolvencies were, thus, converted into sovereign insolvencies.  When these threatened sovereign bankruptcies, it became necessary to sharply reduce governmental expenditures.  This, in turn, could only be done by imposing severe cuts on social expenditures and by imposing heavier burdens on the working people by freezing their wages, increasing the working hours, halving retirement benefits etc – ‘austerity measures’. The current wave of struggles sweeping across Europe is the manifestation of popular anger against these unbearable burdens. 


Such `austerity measures’ will lead to a further shrinkage of the purchasing power amongst the people laying the basis for yet another crisis that will deepen the current recessionary trend. This, in turn, will lead to lower governmental revenues because of lower rates of economic growth.  This crisis is bound to get further accentuated in 2014 when many of these countries currently bailed out by the European Central Bank will have to start repaying over $ 1.3 trillion worth of credit packages that they have received.  Clearly, with this continuing recession, all, if not most, of these countries will simply not be in a position to do so. 




Clearly, this is a systemic crisis of capitalism and no lasting solutions can be found within the system.  The anti-Wall Street protest movements going on the world over have questioned the system itself. Banners say “It is not faults within the system but it is a faulty system – capitalism”. The re-election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela reaffirms the continuing sweep of the growth of progressive anti-neo-liberal forces across Latin America. What is needed is a strong political force that can bring about a revolutionary replacement of the capitalist system by socialism. 


In this context, the era heralded by the Russian Revolution continues to remind us of the urgent need to bring about a social transformation by recollecting the superiority of socialism as a system as demonstrated by the first successful socialist revolution in world history. 


The Great October Socialist Revolution and the subsequent establishment of the Soviet Union marked the first advance in human history of the creation of a society free from class exploitation. The rapid strides made by socialism, the transformation of a once backward economy into a mighty economic and military bulwark confronting imperialism has confirmed the superiority of the socialist system. The building of socialism in the Soviet Union is an epic saga of human endeavour.


This remains a source of inspiration to all peoples of the world who are in the midst of struggle for social emancipation. The decisive role played by the USSR in the defeat of fascism and the consequent emergence of the East European socialist countries had a profound impact on world developments. The victory over fascism provided the decisive impetus to the process of decolonialisation that saw the liberation of countries from colonial exploitation. The historical triumph of the Chinese revolution, the heroic Vietnamese people's struggle, the Korean people's struggle and the triumph of the Cuban revolution made a tremendous influence on world developments.


The achievements of the socialist countries – the eradication of poverty and illiteracy, the elimination of unemployment, the vast network of social security in the fields of education, health, housing, etc – provided a powerful impetus to the working people all over the world in their struggles.


World capitalism met this challenge to its order, partly by adopting welfare measures and granting rights that it never conceded to the working people before. The entire conception of a welfare state and the social security network created in the post-second world war capitalist countries (which is being mercilessly dismantled today) was a result of the struggles of the working people in these countries inspired by the achievements of socialism. The democratic rights that are today considered as inalienable from human civilisation are also the product of the people's struggle for social transformation and not the charity of bourgeois class rule.


These revolutionary transformations brought about qualitative leaps in human civilisation and left an indelible imprint on modern civilisation. This was reflected in all fields of culture, aesthetics, science as well. While Eisenstein revolutionised cinematography, the sputnik expanded the frontiers of modern science to outer space.


Yet, despite such tremendous advances, that too under the most exacting of circumstances and hostile environment, why is it that the mighty USSR could not consolidate and sustain the socialist order?


There were, generally speaking, two areas where wrong understanding and attendant errors were committed. The first pertains to the nature of assessments of contemporary world realities and about the very concept of socialism. The second concerns the practical problems confronted during the period of socialist construction.




The success or failure of the forces of world socialism in this struggle for social transformation, at any point of time, is determined both by the successes achieved in socialist construction and the international and internal correlation of class forces and their correct estimation. Incorrect estimations leading to an underestimation of the enemy both without and within the socialist countries and the overestimation of socialism had created a situation where the problems confronting the socialist countries were ignored as well as the advances and consolidation of world capitalism.


Lenin had always reminded us that the living essence of dialectics is the concrete analysis of concrete conditions. If the analysis falters or the true appreciation of the actual situation is faulty, then erroneous understandings and distortions surface.


This experience of socialism in the 20th century is particularly important to underline in the present conjecture when imperialism is unleashing a new aggressiveness and mounting an all-round attack – militarily, politically, economically, socially and culturally. 


A rabid anti-Communist ideological offensive has been unleashed during the last two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union all over Europe.  The European Union and all its member States individually have adopted resolutions equating fascism with Communism. They, thus, seek to rewrite the glorious history of the Communist resistance to fascism and the decisive role played by the Soviet Union in the defeat of fascism.  They seek to erase from people’s memory the fact that it was the Soviet flag that flew over Hitler’s Reichstag declaring to the world the victory over fascism. 


It must also be recollected that one of the political reactions that emerged in the period of the great depression of the 1930s was the rise of fascism.  Such anti-Communist propaganda of today combined with the continuing crisis of global capitalism and growing unemployment is bound to feed fascistic demagogy that the people must be forewarned about. 


In the final analysis, therefore, it is only the strength of the political alternative to capitalism that can protect the people from further economic onslaughts and prevent the rise of demonic fascist forces.  The strengthening of this political alternative, both globally and domestically, is the principal lesson we need to draw from the Great October Socialist Revolution, its experiences of rise and collapse and on the basis of a concrete analysis of today’s concrete conditions. 

(November 7, 2012)