Today marks the 103rd anniversary of one the most pivotal moments in world history: The October Revolution of 1917. Against all odds a powerful united Working Class and conscious political organisation drove a stake into the heart of reformist politics and oppressive feudalism. The actions of the Bolsheviks at that time would have a profound effect on the course of world events, and has greatly shaped our history.
Volumes have been written on the October Revolution, but a key aspect to draw from it in practical terms on its anniversary is an ideal behind it which has been carried on by the IRSP: the idea of Class Struggle. This is based on the recognition that true emancipation would mean the ending of systemic exploitation and oppression, that this could only be achieved with the ending of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. Getting ‘the brits out’ or a change of political masters will not free us from exploitation in the workplace, homelessness or poverty for example- that can only be achieved through endeavouring to end class differences.
This key theme in the October Revolution demonstrated the correctness of the position which had been espoused by Marx and Engels, and shared in Ireland by Connolly and Costello: the need for the unity of the oppressed to overthrow the oppressor. Throughout modern revolutionary history this has been an issue of contention between those who recognise this necessity, and those who believe that through, for example, political manoeuvring and activism isolated from the masses, that they can ‘liberate the people’.
The October Revolution proved the supremacy and necessity of class struggle. Prior to the Bolsheviks many efforts had been made to achieve a revolution in Russia, often centring on scattered symbolic actions, isolated acts and distant sloganising of the people. The Bolsheviks cast this futility aside. As a force on the ground they were relentless, whilst unmatched in the analyses and professionalism of their policies and planning. Avoiding the traps of aimless academic pontificating or futile showmanship, they built a formidable force the actions of which have resonated throughout the world.
The need for class struggle was a fact recognised by Costello when he said “I owe my allegiance to the working class”. This sentiment was at the core of setting the IRSP apart from the dogmatic, futile traditionalism and the ideological somersaults of reformists. This necessity too had been recognised by Connolly in noting that ‘traditions may, and frequently do, provide materials for a glorious martyrdom, but can never be strong enough to ride the storm of a successful revolution’.
The lessons of the October Revolution are as relevant as ever, as we too find the course of events in Ireland changing and offering unprecedented opportunities for the prospects of Socialism. As capitalism is once again crushing itself under the weight of its own contradictions, and imperialism is writhing in agony from prolonged self-destruction, adhering to the ideals of Marx, Connolly, Lenin and Costello is imperative. While grand events may provide a facade of great progress, the absence of a united working class will render such events redundant. The Bolsheviks provided a valuable lesson in this regard: Scientific economic and political planning, whilst present on the ground with the people.
The strength of the Revolution of 1917 is not only in what was achieved at that time, but in what grew from it. It has been continually mischaracterised and attacked by those who fear the ideals at its core. This has been massively successful, with many people who have little or no understanding of the events of 1917 and the subsequent actions of the USSR (or indeed China, Vietnam, Cuba, DPRK, Venezuela etc) content to believe propaganda about its ‘oppressiveness’. This has been so well ingrained that people who have never read so much as a word of balanced history on the USSR will scoff at those with an intrinsic knowledge of it who diverge from their history-for-dummies positions.
Ironically this narrative has been spoon-fed to them by the books and media of nations which, for example, routinely drone strike innocents, keep children in cages (at the US-Mexico border), shoot people of colour, imprison a huge percentage of their population and have their people queuing at food banks despite having all the wealth and resources to feed them. They will never see on their biased media feeds the growing desire in the former Soviet Republics for a return to the USSR, they will never read of it being the 2nd fastest growing economy of the 20th century; or of its 0% homelessness, 0% unemployment, and its contributions to science and space travel, all of which was achieved despite it having began in an economically stagnant, impoverished country, constantly under attack and having sacrificed so much to stop the nazis.
This propaganda has been absorbed and regurgitated too by others ‘on the left’ who believe Revolutions begin with ‘once upon a time’ and end with ‘happily ever after’. They epitomise what it means to abstain from what Ta Power described as ‘Politics in command’. Aside from the organisational aspect of such a position, it applies also to the fact that Revolution is to be carried out with scientific examination and precision, not on the basis of a whim or what suits individual predispositions. We do not proceed with revolutionary politics based on what sounds good, or what is likely to bear immediate fruits, but on what must be done.