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John Passant

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November 2008



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
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Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

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The Russian revolution – despotism or democracy?

7 November is the 91st anniversary of the Russian revolution.

For me the revolution is the highest point in human history to date. Thinking that way puts me in a very very small minority of people alive today. And it gives me some strange bedfellows.

No doubt some aging apparatchiks from the old USSR will march in Moscow with photos of Stalin, and maybe the Cuban dictatorship will organise a military walk past to commemorate the event, but these demonstrations are for Stalinism, not for the spirit of democracy and liberation which, together with a mass working class movement, drove the Revolution in the first place.

How could such a liberationist and democratic revolution end up being so despotic? Surely there is a causal link between the revolution and the rise of Stalin?

Stalin was the gravedigger of the Revolution. His five year plan was in essence the first stage of setting up state capitalism in Russia and dragging the country from backwardness into the modern developed world in a decade, rather than the centuries it had taken for capitalism to develop (in a similar bloodthirsty manner) in the West. So his rise represented the defeat of the revolution, not its success. How so?

Without a revolution in Germany, Lenin said, we shall perish. The German Revolution failed and the Russian revolution perished as a consequence, destroyed from within by the forces of bureaucracy and the rise of the new capitalist ruling class – the Stalinists.

At the same time developments within Russia hastened the rise of Stalin. The working class which made the revolution became de-classed. The militant sections of the working class fought and died defending the revolution against foreign invaders (including Australian troops) and the Whites in a three year long civil war.

Without a working class there can be no workers’ democracy. The Bolsheviks began to substitute themselves for the class.

There were other pressures. The October revolution was actually two revolutions – one of workers in the city and the other of peasants in the countryside. While their interests coincided in October in winning bread, land and peace, their class interests actually clashed.

The workers wanted a collectivist society, the peasants an individualist one of private land ownership.

Stalin and the bureaucracy used the longing for peace, tranquillity and stability to counterpose themselves to dangerous elements like Trotsky who offered, so the Stalinists said, permanent revolution.

Stalin developed the theory of socialism in one country – contrary to the basic ideas of Marx and Lenin – to justify theoretically his rise to power and the establishment of state capitalism in Russia. The State became the repository of all capital, extracting value from workers and making decisions about re-investment based on military and economic competition with the West.

And so the first workers state became a capitalist state.

That does not mean the revolution was in vain. The ideas and the struggle that saw Russian workers take the first steps to liberate themselves inspired revolutions across Europe. Workers’ Councils ruled various European countries for short periods of time.  The revolutionary flame across Europe lasted till the defeat of the Spanish revolution in 1939.

Revolution in Germany ended the First World War. If that revolution had succeeded then it would have been able to provide material support to the Russians and save the first workers’ state, as well as provide inspiration to other revolutions around the globe. But the German Revolution (which played itself out over the period from 1918 to 1923), although a close run thing, failed.  And the Russian Revolution then turned on itself.

So when I celebrate 7 November, I celebrate the liberationist vision of the Russian workers who took power, setting up their own organs of democratic rule.  I remember Marx’s words that socialism is the self-emancipation of the working class.

That vision of democracy and the endless possiblities for humanity, a vision of production organised to satisfy human need, inspires me still.



Comment from RonaldLI
Time November 9, 2008 at 5:21 am

Спасибо за текст! Очень понравилось

Comment from Passy
Time November 9, 2008 at 9:28 am

Thanks RonaldLI.

I’ll bite. What does it say? Expletives deleted, of course!

Comment from ErvinTW
Time November 11, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Thanks! Nice post.

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