The Economic and Social Structure of Russia Today
1. Reference to Previous treatments of the Subject
The current essay may be considered a direct continuation of the study presented at our party’s general meeting in Bologna held between 31 October and 1 November 1954 and fully developed in a set of articles, ranging over eleven numbers, which appeared in our fortnightly publication Il Programma Comunista (issue no.21, 1954 to issue no. 8, 1955).
Its title, Russia and Revolution in the Marxist Theory, corresponded to the aim of giving a systematic exposition of what the Marxist communist movement has asserted as regards the historical development of Russian society and its international relations.
By remaining faithful to the method which presents the task of Marxist revolutionaries not as a generic more or less sceptical waiting for events to unfold, whose unexpected novelties and changes of course indicate to the movement the new path it should take, but as a constant comparison of historical occurrences with previous “expectations” and “forecasts”; something the party, as a living organisation participating in historical events, is in a position to do (although it remains a constant challenge) by drawing on the theory which shaped its platform and its general character; we set out to present what the Marxists had established as regards the course of social history of Russia, and to compare it with the historical data we have on the past and present development of Europe and the world.
The exposition was divided into three periods. As would be expected an Introduction took up this theme and reconnected it to the many previous elaborations on this important topic that had already been made at our meetings and in our writings from just after the Second World War onwards, and it set out the problem: to obliterate all of the assertions made by our enemies, both open and hidden, about the incapacity of Marxism to arrive at a general picture of what happened in Russia, and of the so-called necessity to make revisions to our general theory in order to encompass Russian “peculiarities”.
The first part was entitled: “European Revolution and ‘Greater Slavia’”. In it was sketched out a developmental time-frame of the forms of production that typify the Russian zone today, as distinguished from the Mediterranean-classical and German-feudal forms. It set out to trace the main lines of these three processes, placing the Russian one in relation to historical data on how the first communities settled and organized themselves on the land; their arrangement into social classes and their forms of production; and the major and minor centralization of political formations and of the State. Having thus arrived in modern times, an account was given of what Marxism asserted in its early years regarding the role of Russia in the European revolutionary movement after the French Revolution, and then as regards social questions within Russia. This from the contributions of Marx and Engels in the last century.
Having paused to consider the dual Marxist interest in the impending revolutions in Russia, which would fatally intertwine the bourgeois and the proletarian ones, the second part gave an account of the particularly rich and complex views about this future-historical question which were expressed by the mainly Marxist, but also pre-Marxist, movements inside Russia, with particular attention paid to the debates and the solutions put forward in the various congresses of the Bolshevik Party before the 1914 war. Here also we set out to demolish the extremely persistent idea that in Russia one is obliged to use a special historical yardstick.
2. Plan of the Present Report
On the basis of the material set out and elaborated in suchlike manner we come directly to the topic under consideration here: study of the historic way in which the great revolution occurred, and evaluation of the events and of the situation that came after it.
We therefore come to the essential issue, one which not only gave rise to the particular differentiation of our group from so many others, but which stands at the centre of every struggle, of every political dispute in the contemporary world, that is: what is Russia today? And indeed since far off 1917 taking a position on the Russian situation, condemning or exhalting the extent to which Russia has its own stage, and the coups de theatre it has presented to an astonished world, form the touchstone for the warring movements and parties, even in countries far removed from what goes on there, in their various battles.
Today the political horizon is entirely obscured and suffocated by an interpretation which is essentially the same in both sectors, shared despite being the bitterest of enemies, and between which stands in today’s troubled world an almost completed physical wall; a forbidding sight for all to behold. Russia, with its powerful leading State and a bunch of satellites and hangers-on, is supposedly on the side of the global proletariat and represents a socialist form of social organization – while the other countries, at whose head stands a number of other monstrous State powers comparable in size to Russia, supposedly represent the defence, preservation and interests of the present capitalist economic form of society, and of the bourgeois class which controls it under the banner of democratic liberty.
Since its very first manifestation we have fought, on our own or with very few others, against this interpretation of living history, and we alone have showed the best way of opposing it, in rigorous coherence with the Marxist method of reading the social struggle of the last century. From our very first meetings we rejected the notion that Russia equals socialism and from the very first issues of our bimonthly publication (in the years up to 1951) of our review Prometeo. Our programmatic formulations were rolled out at our very first meetings in Rome, Naples, Florence, Milan, Trieste etc.
We demonstrated, moreover, that they were very different from those of the Trotskyists, which defend Russia on the basis it is proletarian and socialist today, and also from the banal formulations of leftism, which lack the dialectical force to go beyond a merely verbal identification of each historical process and of each imperialism. We also considered it important to dismantle an odd construct which sees the social structure in Russia today as representing a third way in the bloody dialogue which started a century ago between capitalism and communism; an alleged rule of the bureaucratic classes.
And all of this we were able to elaborate by showing how it stems from the umbilical cord of orthodox unitary Marxism, first and foremost, and then from the robust defence of it, immediately after the Russian Revolution, by the left-wing Italian Marxist Communists and by a few other international groups, when confronted with the first symptoms of the gigantic degenerative wave which goes by the name of Stalinism, which would then sweep everything away.
It is a case now of providing a better exposition of all this; a survey which, after having covered the events of the long awaited double revolution of 1917 (be it understood in a critical way not by listing a succession of already generally well-known facts the events), will proceed to clarify the relations of production that exist in Russia today, and the economic laws to which they correspond, and demonstrate that such a society still remains within the bounds of capitalism; and in the end sum up the result obtained, not to be disparaged, of a colossal bourgeois revolution, whose epic expansion proceeds from old Europe and extends across the whole of the planet.
3. More on “Tactics”
Also omitted from the present report, although we need to remember a connection exists, is a topic our movement put a lot of work into over a number of years, building up a large corpus of documents in the process, that is: the debate on tactics and methodology which took place before our split from official communism, which bit by bit, from positions which were increasingly unacceptable and heterodox, descended to making a systematic repudiation of the initial positions which had bound us to what we had derived in common, put simply, from Marx, Lenin and the Third International. This debate on tactics took place between 1920 and 1926 and the positions adopted, as we intend to prove, were – in their rectitude and far from simplistic presentation – genuinely Marxist, and would receive, in the future, the most resounding, but least appreciated, of confirmations.
Nevertheless it is important to specify exactly what position we take on this realigning of the delicate matter of tactics, indispensible for any return to those periods – desirable but not expected any time soon – in which action and struggle take precedence over the never to be neglected and always decisive factor of party doctrine.
Without a doubt our struggle is to ensure that the movement’s “obligatory” rules as regards action are applied by the party in a practical sense; rules which are binding not only on individuals and peripheral groups, but on the party centre itself, to which is due total executive discipline, to the extent it remains strictly bound (without the right to improvise bogus ‘new courses” when new situations are identified) to the set of precise rules adopted by the party as its guide to action.
However, we need to avoid any misunderstanding as regards the universality of these rules, which are not primary, immutable rules, but derivative ones. The permanent principles, which are forever binding on the movement, since they arose – according to our thesis of the revolutionary programme forming all at once – at given, rare turning points in history, are not the rules on tactics, but the laws of historical interpretation contained within our body of doctrine. The development of these principles leads to the recognition of the great road, over vast areas and across historical periods calculable in centuries, which the party is on, and from which it cannot diverge without leading to its collapse and historical disintegration. Tactical norms, which no-one has the right to leave a blank sheet or to change in order to adapt to immediate circumstances, are rules that derive from this theorization of the great historical pathways and main tendencies, and they are rules which are in a practical sense firm but in a theoretical sense flexible, because they are rules derived from the laws of the “major courses”, and like them, since they exist on the historical level rather than that of manoeuvre and intrigue, they are declaredly transitory.
We remind the reader of the many, often cited examples, such as the famous transition in Western Europe from the fighting of defensive wars and wars of national independence, to the method of defeatism in any war conducted by the bourgeois State. Comrades need to understand that no problem will ever be resolved by resorting to a party tactical code.
The latter has to exist, but in itself it reveals nothing and resolves no queries; it is within the storehouse of general doctrine that the answers should be sought, and by keeping firmly in mind the historical cycles/zones that are derived from that doctrine.
It will therefore have to be left to a subsequent exposition, using as historical material the polemical dialogue between the Italian left and Moscow, to throw light on the question of tactics, and to put right the serious errors that are still doing the rounds. For example, as regards the question of the relationship between the international proletarian movement and the movements of the colonial peoples opposed to antiquated domestic regimes and white imperialism, which is the most extreme example of a historical rather than a tactical problem, not a question of providing support, because it is necessary first of all to give a full explanation of why the purely classist movement of the metropolitan proletariat has totally collapsed, and only then will we know what kind of relations this post-capitalist level revolutionary force can establish with the pre-capitalist level revolutionary forces which are powerfully alive in the East today.
In such cases, to respond by citing some rigid tactical formula or, worse still, by inventing a new one, is banal. To defend the right to invent on the spur of the moment flexible tactical rules as convenient, this is opportunism and betrayal, yes; and we will always ruthlessly oppose it, but with much harsher, less innocuous condemnations of infamy than that.
4. Results Obtained
Since the results established in our previous treatise are merely our point of departure, we need only record the most important points.
The doctrine of historical materialism confirms we are entirely right in opposing the superficial notion which claims that Russian history is somehow exceptional. The various processes by which free nomadic tribes were transformed into an organized settled people is set in relation to the physical nature of the territory; to the climate; to the poor fertility of the soil; to the vast expanse of land far from the coastal regions; to the different rate of evolution with respect to the peoples of the hot Mediterranean shores; to the different manifestation of slavery related to the latter, and to the formation of a unitary State. Different destinies awaited those peoples from the East who reached the borders of the collapsing Roman Empire, and whose accumulated wealth and endowment of an advanced production they exploited – allowing them to form a civilization based on landed property, a decentralized order akin to that of the feudal lords – and those who remained closer to the vast Asian heartland, exposed to fresh waves of nomadic hordes in search of prey and a base camp, whose stability would remain precarious for as long as it was entrusted to local chieftains, and which only became permanent after the formation of a large, centralized State organization, powerful enough to organize not only wars but also peace-time production.
From the earliest times the State is therefore an essential component of Russian society, and thanks to it, and the military and administrative organizations centred around it, it is able to withstand the continuous attacks from Asia and Europe and become increasingly powerful. But its function is not merely political but also directly economic: to the Crown belongs around half the land and the rural serf communities, and thus the class of nobles controls only half of the territory and the population and is subordinate to the central dynastic power: the king is not, as in the decentralized Germanic system, elected by the nobles, who remain the effective holders of the real economic and legal control of society.
This typical “State Feudalism” survives into modern times and Marx sees it as the lynchpin of the “Holy Alliances” and as the power, from the time of Napoleon onwards, which is most committed to subjugating the bourgeois revolutions in Europe, as well as being prepared to lend its support to both monarchies and bourgeoisies to help them combat the first proletarian movements.
We recorded Marx’s keen interest in each of the Tsar’s military defeats, from which might emerge the collapse of the Slavic bulwark of reaction, whoever the enemy might be.
We then aligned the data from the first analyses of the social forces inside Russia, and the responses, for which Engels had laid the basis, to the famous question of the possible “leap over capitalism” to which Marx had also made dialectical allusions, eventually discarding such a possibility. Engels follows the early formulations of the Russian revolutionaries which underestimate the importance of emerging industry and rely on the peasant movement, and he engages them in discussion, also concluding in his final days that the Slavic agricultural community would be unable to transform itself into full-blown socialism, before a complete capitalist and mercantile form had emerged.
the second part, as mentioned, we looked at the extremely important
work of the nascent Russian Marxist movement, supported by the
industrial proletariat, and recorded the following historical theses
attributed to it, which may be summed up as follows:
- Progressive development of capitalism in Russia and formation of a large urban proletariat.
- Negative conclusion as regards the revolutionary competence of the Russian bourgeoisie to conduct the overthrow of Tsarism.
- Analogous conclusion as regards the capacity of the movements based on the peasantry, such as the populists, the trudoviks and the socialist revolutionaries.
- Condemnation of the position taken by some Marxists on the right, later termed Mensheviks, which, based on the false claim that the bourgeois revolution was of no interest to proletarians and socialists, proposed leaving it to the democratic and popular parties to lead it, thus, to all intents and purposes, abandoning the political struggle against the Tsarist power.
- Further unmasking of this counter-revolutionary thesis, disputing the notion that one could support a version of the democratic revolution based on constitutions bestowed by the Tsar, or even on the preservation of the dynasty, id est an insurrectional and republican formula for the bourgeois revolution.
- Participation of the urban proletariat in the front line of every struggle, as historically occurred in 1905; revolutionary power issuing from the armed struggle to exclude all the bourgeois constitutional parties and to be founded on the leadership of the democratic revolution by workers and peasants (democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants).
- The transition to further revolutionary struggle for the socialist program to only take place after the outbreak – always predicted by Marxism – of proletarian socialist revolution in Europe following the collapse of Tsarism.
5. Lenin’s Formula
So before the revolution, and after it for that matter, Lenin never expected the evolving revolutionary crisis in Russia to reveal a different process of international proletarian revolution that would need to be applied there. As a Marxist of the radical left he never doubted that in the capitalist countries socialism would emerge from a revolutionary insurrection of proletarians and the realization of the Marxist dictatorship of the proletariat. Since however he was having to work on the problem of a country in which the bourgeois revolution was yet to be completed, he predicted not only that the proletariat and its revolutionary party would have to invest all their efforts toward that end, but, given the delay in bringing about the fall of the reactionary and feudal Tsarist regime State, he issued the forecast and explicit program that the working class would have to relieve the bourgeoisie of this historic duty, and conduct it in its stead, also relieving it of the no less characteristic task of leading the peasant masses.
If, as an example of the bourgeois revolution, the formula was: leadership provided by the bourgeois class (although, even back then, more by its ideologues and politicians than its industrialists, merchants and bankers) drawing the proletarians of the cities and the peasant serfs of the countryside along behind the democratic revolution; the Russian formula for revolution (still bourgeois, i.e., democratic) was different: leadership provided by the proletariat, struggle against the bourgeoisie which was inclined to reach an understanding with Tsarism based on parliamentary compromises, drawing of the popular and rural masses along behind the proletariat, who, during this historical phase, elevated the poor peasants to the rank of allies during the insurrection and in the dictatorial government.
The tasks of such a revolution, not of socialism as yet, are nevertheless clear: civil war to defeat the Tsarist army and police, overthrow of the dynasty and proclamation of the republic, elected constituent assembly struggling against all opportunist and bourgeois parties, drawing on the support of the Councils – arisen in 1905 – of workers and peasants.
The objection that the latter was not a socialist revolution did not stop Lenin for one moment since the thing was clear from a theoretical point of view. It was a bourgeois revolution, in the only form in which the defeat of the Tsarist and medieval counter-revolution could be assured: and to achieve this one result (considered then and subsequently as clearly extremely important and decisive), the power of the proletarian dictatorship was consecrated: dictatorship because violent and illegal means were used, just as they had been by the great bourgeoisies in Europe at the head of the masses, but democratic because the task was to destroy feudalism and not capitalism, with the peasants allied for this very reason and because, while ultimately destined to eventually become allies of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, they are also the sworn enemies of feudalism.
Lenin (it seems indispensible to us to carry on synthesising what was said at Bologna, referring doubters to the mass of documents and evidence contained in the extended report) wasn’t, therefore, during this phase, setting his sights on the socialist revolution, such as to lead not to a bourgeois democracy, which at most would be radical and consistent, but to the dictatorship which would expropriate capital, because he was leaving this latter task to a struggle which would no longer be contained within a national framework, as would be the case for the impending Russian Revolution, but which would take place on an international scale.
He believed that, in the aftermath of a European war, which Marx and Engels had always anticipated would be between the Slavs and the Germans, the collapse of Tsarism would be sure to set the working masses of the West in motion, and that only after they had taken political power and taken control of the huge means of production concentrated by a fully developed capitalism, would the revolution in Russia also be able to acquire socialistic content.
The start of the war had been confirmed by the disastrous one with Japan. But the counter-revolution had easily crushed the forces of 1905. As a consequence, until the struggle against the forces of reaction was resolved through the use of terror (also in substance “bourgeois”, as in Robespierre’s use of it), the decisive toppling of Tsarism would always be a preliminary outcome with respect to the advent of socialism. We showed along with Trotsky that the power of the international proletariat was invoked by Lenin to support the revolutionary power in Russia against a Tsarist revival, not so much to aid collectivist social development. And in fact a revival of Tsarism would have represented the same oppressive yoke for the Russian peasants and proletarians if they had got into power by democratic means, and to Western workers risen up against the capitalist bourgeoisie.
In fact back in 1917 and after a series of other events, Tsarism’s attempts to regain power, flanked by western forces, were far from negligible, and it would take a long time to stamp them out. Lenin’s powerful vision of a gradation of historical phases was therefore correct; and it would be an exercise in extremist stupidity to portray him as the confident prognosticator of socialism in Russia.
This apparently left explanation of Lenin’s work would be used in the treacherous game of showing that historically one arrives at socialism through forms that include democratic ingredients; and socially side by side with peasant-populist elements, which is the main form that the degeneration, and the present ignominious situation, takes.
6. Letting the Facts Speak for Themselves
The present issue is to establish if Russia did or didn’t move forward insofar as it was contained within such a perspective. If we threw a bridge between those disquisitions from between 1903 to 1917, which seemed far removed from any practical effect, and the situation as it is today in 1955, in which we find the capitalist form completely established, deeply-rooted and spread throughout Russia, and we find founded on it and intermingled with it a veritable orgy of democratic, populist and coalitionist “values”, we are entitled to conclude that Lenin’s forecast was accurate and that history arrived at the point he said it would, thanks to a gigantic effort on the part of the Russian proletariat, whose balance sheet today is: “the building of capitalism”.
And it proves all the points we have been making: that with the Marxist key ancient and modern Russian can be unlocked and read correctly; that Marx and Engels rightly prognosticated the indescribable horrors of the capitalist inferno; that Lenin produced an impeccable Marxist analysis of how to cast off the yoke of a formidable pre-capitalist regime, along with a very apt theory about the bourgeoisie’s incapacity to accomplish it and the role of the proletariat as the latter’s historical surrogate. And we are also fully entitled to say that Lenin achieved all that without adding anything new to classical Marxist theory: the birth of proletarian communism is dialectically a national and international fact: it can only arise and take shape where the form of modern production has already triumphed and this has only happened within a national framework (England, France, etc) but, in issuing forth from such national contexts, as theory and as organization and working party, proletarian communism had from the very start to take into account not only the binomial capitalism-proletariat, but also the real, living global picture which includes every class and movement that exists within human society at all stages of development.
In the Manifesto this principle is applied on a universal scale, and since that time the communists, after all other vestal virgins have allowed themselves to be seduced, have continued to tend the flame of every genuinely white-hot revolution.
This is the genuine Marxist viewpoint and sole way of formulating the problems of all societies not yet arrived at the stage of the great duel between bosses and workers, and it also applies to all the marginal and ‘mongrel’ classes in those societies which by now have the capitalist “model” of the economy as their underlying framework.
7. The Past Half Century
If all of this is particularly true at the beginning and end of the fifty year period which runs from when the theory was sketched out in 1905, and the actual physical structure as it appeared in 1955, we can’t consider only the extremes. The historical bridge that extends between these dates is best conceived of as having several arches rather than a single span; this is because it crosses the most concentrated 50 years in all of known history, including two world wars and, as far as Russia is concerned, at least three great revolutions, and a half-revolutionary, half counter-revolutionary course which, even if not unique in the history of the modes of production, must certainly be described in much more detail.
Since we will not be providing a theory in the Marxist sense to explain each of the “intermediary arches”, which together define the whole difficult cycle, an over-simplification might be helpful at this point.
Yes, the Russian party of revolutionary workers and of communist socialists set itself the historical aim of bringing about the accession of mercantile and democratic capitalism, on condition that by delivering this (and committing to it its own class forces, protagonists of another great historical task) it would guarantee the obliteration from Europe, by fire and the sword, of the monstrous construction of the Tsarist State, consigning the memory of it forever to the dim and distant past.
Yes, the momentous and far from linear struggle which then took place, it had no other result but this, and, using the same criteria we apply to the countries of the capitalist West, we must denounce the notion that in Russia today there are powerful forces at work whose aim is to achieve post-capitalist forms, for the difference between the two consists only in the distinction between a capitalism in florid growth and one in an inflationary phase which heralds its decline.
But it would be wrong to dryly conclude from this that, given the correspondence between what the party mapped out, and what history presented us with, that in Russia there was only a bourgeois revolution, because bracketing together Kerensky’s and Lenin’s revolutions and describing them both as bourgeois fails to fully explain the situation, the two of them standing in the relation to one another (so to speak) of Mirabeau’s revolution to Robespierre’s.
As we develop this point, setting it in the context of economic and social factors, classes, parties and political power relations, we will assert that whilst the form of production in Russia is bourgeois, October was not bourgeois, but proletarian and socialist.
Such a treatment of the subject is only achievable by placing it within the international framework of the last few decades, and at the end of this introduction we will recall the three historical characteristics which are contained within October itself and which confer on it much greater significance than having “just” destroyed Tsarism forever; which with only the results of the February revolution to contend with would probably have regained power, as it desperately attempted to do, and as a large part of the global bourgeoisie would encourage it – and encouraged in a practical sense – to do, until it was soundly beaten by the Bolshevik’s integral dictatorship.
8. The Destruction of War
The strict relationship established between defeat of the Tsarist army and political revolution, which Marx and Lenin were keen to identify in all of the wars which European history records – we could say a lot more about the purely indicative use we make of the named persons who became associated with the coalitions from the early eighteen hundreds to the First World War – was proven in the policy conducted, without shrinking from its more tragic consequences, by the October power, namely: favouring the breaking up of the military units, dismantling the front and overcoming any infatuation within the party, even unfortunately by some of its best members including those definitely on the left, for a national, patriotic version of the war, which instead, in a truly major success, was ruthlessly crushed.
This totally revolutionary policy, which left no room for hypocrisy, which pushed through to its most extreme consequences, which was inspired by the demand for a no holds barred defeatism, of turning the war to defend the country into a civil war, was magnificently vindicated by the collapse of the German military power, brought low not by an offensive from the West but by a capitulation and fraternization to the East.
For a bourgeois revolution to have such content as this is not possible, intrinsically linked as it is to the promotion of values and institutions of a national and patriotic character. This we have already explained at great length (in the treatise at the Trieste Meeting of 29-30 August 1953 for example, the written account of which, entitled “Factors of Race and Nation in the Marxist Theory”, appeared in issues 16 -20/1953 of Il Programma Comunista). We showed on one occasion how Robespierre, speaking from the Parliamentary Tribune, reproached his sworn enemies the English for taking action against Louis XIV and XVI to redress French influence on the other side of the Atlantic. The bourgeois revolution doesn’t break the thread of national history, only a proletarian revolution can dare as much. Today yes, now that the line the Russian power takes is patriotic, glorifying its defeated armed forces at Port Arthur and Tsushima who Lenin had worked to hamstring, and not less the defenders of Sebastopol who made Marx sick to the stomach, and even the conquests of Peter the Great.
9. Liquidation of the Allies
Another distinguishing feature of Bolshevik revolutionary policy is the progressive struggle against the transitory allies of the preceding phase, who one by one are put out of action until finally an undiluted party government is achieved. It is not enough here to draw an analogy with the bourgeois revolutions and the struggles of the various parties from 1789 and 1793 in France, because the analogy holds only as regards the methods of action. We would not say, for example, that a distinguishing proletarian feature of the Russian Revolution was political terrorism. Terror was involved in the revolutions of the bourgeoisie in England, France and in many other countries; and in Russia, because it was a question of destroying the parties which supported the Tsar, such a method was decisively invoked also by non-Marxists, such as the left populists and the social revolutionaries.
But the dialectical position assumed by the Bolsheviks over the whole course of this development, beginning with the assumption of the tasks of the bourgeoisie and then disbanding their parties, and accomplished by temporarily marching alongside semi-bourgeois and peasant allies until finally driving them out of the government and from any right to participate in the State, responds to the original Marxist position, which even before 1848 clearly proposes an initial struggle fought alongside bourgeois, liberal and democratic allies, followed by a decisive attack against them and against the petty-bourgeois factions. Such a forecast is firmly anchored in an unrelenting, pre-existing critique of the distinctive ideologies of these strata, which make them implacable enemies of the proletariat.
These characteristic developments, which occur in all struggles between the classes, have led on numerous occasions to the defeat of the proletariat and the ruthless destruction of its forces and organizations, as in the classic events in France. For the first time the proletarian party in Russia achieved victory in the final episode of the civil war phase, freeing itself from its soon-to-be ex-allies, who bit by bit passed to the side of open counter-revolution, leaving the victory achieved in the final battles in the hands of the party. Whatever happened next, which saw no setback in the Civil War, but another process entirely, this historical experience was truly original and it remains a permanent legacy of revolutionary potential, which would later be dissipated in other ways, and through the shameless use of alliances and cliques which lacked any of the original dialectical autonomy of the class party or of intransigent positions it adhered to.
On many occasions we have rolled out the Marxist concept that counter-revolutionary experiences are precious nourishment on the tough road ahead, as in the case of the Paris Commune so fundamentally invoked by Lenin.
These results therefore, even if later buried or cast aside, are valuable to us in showing that after October, before the new government had a chance to take on those tasks of an economic, productive and social nature which we will examine later on, political power was indeed in the hands of the proletariat, which due to the international situation went beyond the bounds of the democratic dictatorship, clearly if not definitively, and beyond the bounds of the alliance with the populist-peasant parties, and crossed over therefore into the historic sphere of the socialist political revolution, which then missed out on the contribution which only the revolution of the workers of the West could have brought to it.
10. Demolition of the State
The passage from the purely democratic revolution, even though with various socialist parties in its front ranks, to the Bolshevik October, would not have been possible unless the whole question of the ascent to power of the workers’ party in the advanced countries had been highlighted, and along with it the comprehensive Marxist theory of the role of violence in history and of the nature of the political State. This great battle was not just theoretical, such as occurred in the pages of State and Revolution and during the controversies that claimed the attention of the entire world in the post-First-World-War period, and it was not just organizational, inasmuch as a radical split was achieved between the revolutionaries of the Third International and the revisionists and traitors of the Second. It was a real political battle with armed force used during the worst incidents, when we saw social-democrats become capitalism’s executioners and stab the revolution and the red dictatorship in Germany and Hungary in the back, and the same battle developing and spreading throughout Europe.
Suppose we had only got as far as implementing the insurrectional, and terrorist, democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants, the one possible historical inheritor of power in Russia, but no further. There would remain just one experience, one legacy to bequeath to revolutionary history, namely: that insurrections, civil war and terror are necessary, but only in order to emerge from the mediaeval form; not necessarily in order to successfully emerge from the capitalist and bourgeois form.
However in the subsequent advance of the Bolshevik proletarian power in Russia the latter was able to merge its struggle with that of the advanced forces of proletarian communists, who in the European countries were no longer faced with a forgotten Middle Ages, but with the modern democracy of capital, and who had learnt, in a historical phase which was much further on with respect to the conquest of bourgeois liberty, that violence and the dictatorship of the class oppressed by capital was a necessary requirement. This they had learnt alongside their comrades in Russia, who had also had to “slit the throats” of the so-called socialists, who were influenced by bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas, and notions of class democratic pacifism, which maintained that, following the collapse of the feudal regimes, the struggle should be conducted by legal means; thereby revealing themselves to be completely counter-revolutionary, some of them even with ill-concealed links to Tsarism which was still hatching its plots.
Although the classic bourgeois revolution necessarily involved the dismantling of the previous State structure, because it was founded on the old Estates, on the privileges of those Estates, and on the different juridical powers of society’s various components, only the Russian revolutionary struggle in its October phase was able to provide the positive, historical basis for the statement that even the modern, constitutional juridical State, proclaiming equality and freedom for all and based on universal representation without distinctions of Estate, even such a State, as Marx and the Manifesto established from the very beginning, was still an organ of class rule, and that one day History would smash it to pieces.
Nobody can therefore say that the October Revolution stayed within the limits of a bourgeois revolution. Social development within Russia had to stay within the limits of the capitalist forms and modes of production, and it is a historical fact that the proletariat fought for the installation of a bourgeois form – and had to do so. However its political struggle would not be so limited.
Acting as an inseparable part of the political struggle of the international proletariat, which in order to organize itself as ruling class must first organize itself as the party of its own exclusive and distinctive revolution, the forces and the arms which indisputably won the October battle won for world socialism and the global proletariat; and their victory in the historical and material sense will serve to achieve the global victory of communism, which will arise on the ruins of all types of capitalism in every country, and that includes present-day Russia.