October Socialist Revolution:
This Era Belongs to the Working Class and Socialism
February 5, 2016
Ahead of the centennial of the October Socialist Revolution, The Worker will be printing a series of articles about the great watershed of human history which began the era of the transition from capitalism to socialism on a world scale.
Despite the decades which have passed, despite the twists and turns of world politics, the very words “October Socialist Revolution” still invoke the most intense passions. To the capitalists and their hirelings, these words produce fear and hatred and an inevitable display of mindless invective. For the workers, the October Socialist Revolution remains a profound inspiration and a red beacon illuminating the goal of emancipation from capitalist wage-slavery, the goal of socialism and communism.
And why? Because the October Socialist Revolution marked the beginning of a new era – the era of the ascendancy and victory of the working class. The October Socialist Revolution ushered in the period of transition from capitalism to socialism on a world-scale. Since 1917, the working class has won many victories and also suffered temporary defeats. But on every continent it continues to strengthen its consciousness, organization and independent struggle guided by the goal of socialism. Despite the temporary defeat of socialism in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere, the character of the era has not changed and cannot change precisely because all the contradictions which gave rise to the October Revolution continue to exist and develop. This is why in commemorating the anniversary of October, we study this world-historic experience as a starting point, a compass, for orienting the contemporary struggle of the working class and people.
What Gave Rise to the October Revolution?
The October Revolution broke out at a time when the fundamental contradictions of capitalism, not only in Russia but on a world-scale, had matured and reached the bursting point.
To begin with, the 20th century ushered in a new stage in the development of capitalism, when, in Europe and America, the early period of so-called “free competition” was being replaced by the era of monopoly capitalism.
This new period was marked by the emergence and growth of giant corporations and industry-wide trusts and the merging of industrial capital with banking and finance capital. Monopoly capital and the new financial oligarchy – which from the early 20th century to date have only further extended their domination over the capitalist economies – sought to increase the exploitation of the workers to the maximum and subject the whole population to their economic and political dictate. In short, the era of monopoly capital sharpened the class struggle, reflecting the intensification of the basic contradiction of capitalism between the socialized productive forces and private capitalist appropriation. The economic contradictions of capitalism had matured and demanded the transition from capitalism to socialism.
But this was not all. By the turn of the 20th century, capitalism had grown into a world system of imperialism and colonialism.
The biggest monopolies and capitalist states, having conquered their home markets, began an intense, global struggle for new markets, sources of raw materials, spheres for the investment of capital, etc. The “Great Powers” not only carried out an economic division of the world but a real territorial division as well, carving Africa, Asia and Latin America into colonies.
But while the colonies were conquered by fire and sword, the 20th century also saw the rise of the great movements for national independence and liberation from imperialism and colonialism. The contradiction between imperialism, on the one hand, and the oppressed nations and peoples was also brought to the bursting point and was one of the fundamental historical conditions which gave rise to the October Revolution and which marks the contemporary era as the era of the proletarian revolution and the national liberation movements.
In addition, the emergence of present-day capitalist-imperialism intensified to the extreme the rivalries and contradictions between competing monopoly groups and imperialist states. Once the whole world was divided up, these international robbers, impelled by the inexorable capitalist law of “expand or perish,” were forced to use every means possible, including war, to grab colonies and spheres of influence from their rivals.
In sum, the emergence of monopoly capitalism brought to a head 3 fundamental contradictions – 1) the contradiction between the working class and the capitalist class; 2) the contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed nations and peoples; and 3) the inter-imperialist contradiction between rival monopoly groups and capitalist states. Analyzing the development of these 3 contradictions, Lenin reached the conclusion that “imperialism is the eve of the proletarian revolution.” He pointed out that “capitalism has become reactionary; it has developed the forces of production to such a degree that mankind is faced with the alternative of adopting socialism or of experiencing years and even decades of armed struggle between the “Great” Powers for the artificial preservation of capitalism by means of colonies, monopolies, privileges and national oppression of every kind.”
These are the objective conditions which gave rise to the October Socialist Revolution and the whole course of this century has shown that the struggles for national and social liberation and the emancipation of the working class are the main content of this era.
Just before and just after the victory of the Russian revolution, revolutions also broke out in Ireland, in Germany and Hungary. As the Russian workers embarked on the road of building and consolidating socialism, as the international working class strengthened itself and brought the program of socialism to the fore in every country, capitalism spawned fascism. The open struggle between monopoly capitalism and socialism was irrevocably put on the agenda in all the “advanced” capitalist countries. And the result of the great Anti-Fascist War was the victory of socialism in several countries; even in the West, capitalism was barely able to prevent the victory of socialism.
So too, the history of this century is the chronicle of the forward march of the oppressed nations, of the world-shaking deeds of the African people, the Chinese people, the people of Vietnam, of Cuba, etc., etc., etc. in the struggle for national liberation against imperialism and colonialism. And because these great national democratic movements took place in the modern era – the era of the working class – they have been, to a greater or lesser extent, closely linked with the proletarian movement for emancipation and socialism, bringing to the fore, not only the question of national sovereignty and independence but a broad range of social questions.
Even as the proletarian movements and national democratic revolutions have put the questions of liberation and socialism on the agenda, the dying world of capitalism has continually been beset by ever-more intense inter-imperialist contradictions. World War I was not the “war to end all wars” but was followed by a Second World War, a war in which U.S. imperialism unleashed the horror of nuclear weapons against the peoples. For some fifty years after WW II, the “Cold War” between the U.S. and the new Soviet empire imposed countless local wars on the people as these rival imperialist powers struggled for world hegemony.
The 21st Century Working Class Prepares to Lead Humanity Forward Along the High Road of Progress and Socialism
These days, of course, the propagandists for capitalism want the peoples to believe that these 3 great contradictions which constitute the very basis of contemporary capitalism have disappeared. They insist that the socialist movement of the working class and the national liberation movements of the oppressed peoples have exhausted themselves and are no longer the principal motive forces of the modern history. The propagandists for capitalism pretend that history has come to an end, that social development is frozen and that capitalism has won permanent, world-wide victory.
But what is the reality?
The reality is that capitalism, in all-sided crisis and decay, has unleashed a most reactionary offensive against all of humankind and is pushing society backwards towards Medievalism.
The underlying economic contradictions of capitalism have become so intense, that even during the boom phase of the recurring cyclical crises which characterize capitalism, the monopolies are destroying the productive forces of society and imposing new and more intense forms of exploitation on the workers and people. In the U.S. and throughout the world, corporate restructuring and downsizing have forced tens of millions of workers into a contingent workforce based on part-time or temporary jobs which do not even provide a minimal economic existence while imposing falling wages and living standards and extreme job and economic insecurity on the whole working class. To step up their exploitation of the workers, the capitalists aim at stripping away every vestige of the collective rights of the workers and people, targeting social insurance programs – such as workers compensation, unemployment insurance, welfare, etc. – which guarantee a minimal standard. The capitalists aim at reducing the workers to individual wage-slaves, completely at the mercy of the so-called “free market.”
And the anti-social agenda of monopoly capital extends to all spheres of life. Amongst other things, war has been declared on the very idea of social responsibility and the rights of the people. Investments in vital social programs are slashed or eliminated while vital public services are privatized. The biggest monopolies are simply plundering the country while insisting that the people have no rights whatsoever except to fend for themselves in the “free market” system.
With this all-sided economic crisis at its base there is sharp and growing political crisis. Monopoly capitalism is in irreconcilable contradiction to democracy. More and more the limitations and fraud of so-called capitalist democracy are revealed as nothing but a means to marginalize and disempower the people, while the capitalist state, in fact, can rely only on the most arbitrary methods of rule – putting the whole country at the disposal of the biggest monopolies while suppressing the needs of social development and the rights of the people.
On an international scale, under such banners as “economic globalization,” “interdependence,” “neo-liberalism,” the biggest capitalist monopolies, international bankers, and imperialist states, led by U.S. imperialism, aim at putting whole countries and continents under their yoke. To fortify its most extreme plunder and exploitation of the oppressed peoples, imperialism is trying to turn the clock back to the days of open colonialism, declaring that national independence and sovereignty are “outdated” and that the Great Powers alone have the right to determine the political and economic system of every country and even to intervene militarily either through so-called multi-lateral organizations and alliances or unilaterally.
So too, imperialism's fairy tale that the end of the Cold War ushered in a new period of “peace and stability,” is exposed by the intensifying rivalries amongst all the imperialist powers and capitalist states. The present period is marked by extreme turbulence and disequilibrium, by a “multi-polar” imperialist world, not the “uni-polar” world dreamed of by U.S. imperialism. The growing contradictions between the U.S. and its European allies are seen in the horror of Bosnia, the question of NATO expansion, in growing conflicts over trade and investment, etc. So too, the contradictions in Asia – between the U.S. and both Japan and China are growing. Once again, these inter-imperialist rivalries are leading humanity down the road to new aggressive wars and even a third World War.
In short, monopoly capitalism and imperialism stand as the roadblock to social development and the forward march of humanity.
But the temporary offensive of monopoly capitalism, cannot change the fundamental character of the era. Everywhere the workers and people are not only fighting against the anti-social agenda of the world bourgeoisie, but also re-organizing their ranks and preparing for renewed offensives against the citadels of capital.
The whole of contemporary history since 1917 shows that the working class and people have irresistibly rushed into the center of social and political life. The peoples will not be turned back. Everywhere they are coming out to claim their inalienable economic and human rights and demand that society be organized so as to guarantee these rights. People are fighting for their inclusion in political life, demanding an end to the rule of the economic and political elite and the creation of a new political system which genuinely empowers the people as the sovereign decision-makers. The peoples are fighting to eliminate forever the scourges of militarism, war, colonialism and imperialism and to create a world of peace based on the sovereign equality of all nations and peoples.
In short, people are demanding enlightenment and progress, a path of social development which emancipates the people and further humanizes the natural and social environment. As we approach the 21st century, more than ever, it is the liberation of the peoples and socialism which are the practical problems taken up for solution.