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An October for us, for Russia and for the Whole Worl

English
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An
October for us, for Russia and for the Whole World

(Appeal of
17 Russian Intellectuals and Artists)

It is no
surprise that the imminent ninetieth anniversary of the October
Revolution in Russia has become the object of widespread attention.
The events of October 1917 were, indeed, an earthquake that shook the
world, altering its economic, social and cultural foundations.

Many media
sources depict this world-historic phenomenon as a mere coup d“?tat,
carried out by a handful of conspirators and adventurists with the
help of Western security services. All sorts of things are circulated
 — outright lies, distortion of the facts, and malicious slanders
about the participants in and leaders of this mighty event. The old
fables to the effect that the «October coup» was provoked by the
«German agent» Lenin and the «Anglo-American spy» Trotsky are
still being repeated, despite having been rejected by distinguished
scholars from various countries. Meanwhile, the Russian people are
portrayed as unwitting toys in the hands of «revolutionary
extremists», even though the revolution could neither have begun
nor triumphed without the population playing a decisive role.

Not a
Conspiracy, but a Social Revolution

The October
Revolution was not sparked by conspirators or by agents of foreign
powers. It was a social earthquake, a hurricane, a tsunami, which
no-one could ever have called forth by mere appeals. The revolution
arose out of the internal logic of events, when a multitude of
sources of popular discontent converged into a single, all-powerful
stream. To interpret it as the product of a conspiracy is strange, to
say the least. If this were true, why was a new governing authority
set up in place of the old in a gigantic country and in a short time,
and why did the Russian people not only support this government, but
defend it with arms in hand during the Civil War?

For some
reason, the critics of the «October coup» forget the profound
crisis into which Russia had been plunged by the tsarist monarchy and
the Provisional Government which succeeded it. Mesmerised by the
slogan, «War until Final Victory!», the authorities refused to
take account of the real needs of the population. Critics also forget
the spontaneous disintegration of the monarchy on the eve of the
revolution, despite the direct evidence in the form of the endless
intrigues and conflicts within the tsar’s court, the military
defeats at the front, and finally, the outright abdication of Nikolai
II, the autocrat and commander-in-chief of the Russian army. The
bourgeois government that replaced the monarchy also proved impotent,
failing to meet the great challenges of the time — stopping the war
and giving land to the peasants.

October
1917 marked the culmination of the great Russian social revolution of
the twentieth century. It was led by revolutionary social democrats
who earlier than others, had recognised the needs and hopes of
ordinary people — the pressing problems to which the Russian
society of the time required solutions. Among the leaders, it was of
course Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin and his closest collaborators who
played the key roles.

None of the
leaders of the October revolution were flawless, but it is just as
wrong to demonise as to idolise them. The calumnies that are heaped
on them nowadays have no real basis. They were not in the service of
anyone, only of their revolutionary ideals. None of the earthly
temptations, such as money or the other accompaniments of a
philistine prosperity, had any meaning for them. They measured their
lives against the supreme standard of selfless service to the freedom
and happiness of the oppressed and dispossessed.

Revolutions
Cannot be Reduced to Violence

The October
Revolution is often termed a «violent overthrow». Yet the actual
«overthrow» in Petrograd passed off almost without human victims.
While we are not advocates of violence, we recognise that it is
inevitable at particular stages of historical development, when it is
bound up with the presence of class and national antagonisms.
Revolution is indeed associated in many respects with violence, as
was clearly evident, for example, in the bourgeois revolutions in the
Netherlands, England, France and so forth. The ending of slavery in
the United States was accompanied by the bloodiest conflict of the
nineteenth century, the American Civil War. In Russia, the ending of
feudalism was also accompanied by wars and revolutions.

These
developments, meanwhile, were not called forth by the machinations of
political intriguers, but by the crisis of the old system and by the
impossibility of solving age-old problems by evolutionary methods.
People resort to revolutionary violence in specific circumstances,
when the ruling classes, blinded by thirst for their own enrichment
and for the maintenance of their privileges, neglect the well-being
of the population. The dispossessed classes then have no choice
except to take their fates in their own hands. This is the main
lesson of the Russian Revolution of the twentieth century.

At the same
time, social revolution cannot be reduced to violence, and especially
armed violence. Its ultimate goal is to lay the basis for a new
world, to create better conditions of life for everyone, not just the
social elites. In this sense, such revolutions really are the
locomotives of history, accelerating its progress.

What the
October Revolution Yielded

The history
of different countries has always included numerous struggles by
workers against capitalism. Only in Russia, however, have these
actions taken on so far-reaching a character. This made
twentieth-century Russia the epicentre of world development, where
all the main questions of the contemporary world intersected, and
where the fundamental sickness of capitalism, the conflict between
labour and capital, was resolved. It was only the Russian workers who
had the will and decisiveness to find a way out of this conflict, not
only overthrowing capitalism, but also beginning the transition to a
more progressive social system - socialism.

Like the
Paris Commune before it, the October Revolution placed power in the
hands of the lower orders of society — the workers and peasants,
and those elements of the intelligentsia that reflected their
interests. The revolution affirmed the soviets as the most democratic
form of political power, granting the war-weary population the
long-awaited peace and land, along with the opportunity for national
self-determination. By raising millions of workers to the point where
they could exercise social creativity, the revolution showed clearly
that it is not only the «elites» that are capable of being the
subject and demiurge of history.

As a result
of the October Revolution two socially counterposed systems appeared
in the world, a circumstance which did much to determine the
subsequent development of humanity. Thanks to the influence of
October, national liberation movements arose, and reforms began to
the capitalist system itself. Under the impact of the Russian
Revolution the colonial empires disintegrated, while long-outdated
monarchical regimes suffered total collapse.

The October
Revolution set in motion a supra-national and supra-confessional
unifying idea, the idea of social liberation and justice. On the
basis of this idea, there arose for the first time in history a
voluntary union of peoples with equal rights, the USSR. The ideas and
initiatives of October were in accord with the goals and vital
purpose of many titans of science and the arts — of Timiryazev and
Vernadsky, Platonov and Mayakovsky, Sholokhov and Eisenstein. The
progress toward the socialist future that was instigated by the
October Revolution was actively supported by such outstanding
twentieth-century figures as George Bernard Shaw, Picasso, Einstein
and Tsiolkovsky.

 

Soviet
History was Diverse

The October
Revolution marked the beginning of Soviet history, which did not take
the form of advancing along a smooth Nevsky Prospekt. Soviet history
included both great achievements and appalling tragedies. We know
very well that after the peaceful transfer of power to the workers in
most of the provinces of Russia, a bloody civil war began,
accompanied by foreign intervention and by White and Red terror.

Lacking the
relevant historical experience, the Soviet authorities naturally made
many mistakes. One particular error was the policy of «war
communism», a product of the general national crisis. To their
credit, the Bolsheviks decisively rejected it, and made a deliberate
shift to the New Economic Policy — the first historical model in
which the principles of socialism and capitalism were successfully
combined. Many features of NEP were later reproduced in the context
of the development of several European countries and of modern China.
NEP also allowed the wounds of war to be rapidly healed, and
production in the Russian economy to be raised to its pre-war level.

Relying on
the experience of the New Economic Policy, Lenin worked out a plan
for the further development of the Soviet state, a plan which
included radical economic and political changes. These
transformations were aimed above all at achieving breakthroughs in
the development of energy generation, culture and education — areas
which were decisive in the twentieth century and which remain so in
the twenty-first. These changes presupposed democratising the
political system through drawing workers into running the state, and
through the renovation of the party. Here, one of the moves which
Lenin projected was removing Josef Stalin from the post of general
secretary. Even then, Stalin was manifesting his traits of
disloyalty, boorishness and the abuse of power.

These
plans, however, were fated to go unrealised. While declaring
socialism to be its goal, the authoritarian regime which consolidated
itself after Lenin’s death did a great deal that was incompatible
with socialism. The political liberties of citizens that had been
proclaimed by the revolution were comprehensively violated. The price
paid for industrialisation and forced collectivisation was
exorbitant. In sum, the popular power of the initial years of the
revolution degenerated into rule by the bureaucracy and its leader
Stalin. We consider the massive Stalinist repressions, along with the
violation of the rights of the individual and of whole nationalities
in the USSR, to have been a crime. All this discredited the ideals of
the revolution and of socialism.

While
acknowledging these facts, we do not accept scholarly-sounding lies
and stupefyingly one-sided propaganda with regard to the whole of
Soviet history. This history was diverse; within it, democratic and
bureaucratic tendencies engaged in conflict with and replaced one
another. Hence, the freedoms of the NEP years were replaced by
Stalinist totalitarianism, which in turn gave way to the Khrushchev
«thaw». Later, the Brezhnev authoritarianism was replaced by
perestroika, which proclaimed as its goal the creation of a humane,
democratic socialism.

The history
of every country is subject to argument and debate. The cruelties of
the British and French colonial wars, and of slavery in the US, were
scarcely better than the Soviet gulag. However, this did not negate
the social and cultural achievements of these countries. Why then
should such achievements be denied in the case of the Soviet people,
who achieved a great victory over fascism, created an inimitable
culture and literature, set up a broadly accessible system of social
welfare for the population, and were the pioneers of space travel? It
must not be forgotten that October unleashed an unprecedented
creative energy. It set in train the founding by masses of people of
a new society; it brought to realisation many of the ideas of
internationalism; and it acquainted the formerly most oppressed
layers of Russian society with the heights of national and world
culture. Nor should one strike out from Soviet history the enthusiasm
of the masses that was demonstrated in the mastering of the newest
achievements of science and technology. The revolutionary romanticism
and heroism of millions of Soviet citizens was clearly manifested
here.

Why the
Soviet Model Collapsed

It should
be noted that we have a range of views on the nature of the social
system that existed in the USSR. We are agreed, however, that neglect
or rejection of the principles of popular power, internationalism,
justice and humanism that were born out of the October Revolution
will sooner or later result in catastrophe for a society that is
building socialism. This is what happened in the Soviet Union.

The fetters
placed on the creative initiative of the population under the
totalitarian regime dramatically restricted the opportunities for the
growth of the Soviet economy. A shortage of consumer goods was one of
its characteristic features. As a result, we did not manage to raise
the level of well-being of the working people to that found in the
world’s developed countries, and this served as one of the causes
of the downfall of the Soviet system. Another vital cause was the
lack of real economic and political democracy, which became
especially intolerable when technological and information revolution
was unfolding in the world. One of the consequences of this was the
complete alienation of the bureaucratic authorities and the ruling
party from the workers. The attempt to overcome this alienation
during perestroiks did not yield the required result. In sum, the
collapse of the USSR and of the Soviet government became a reality.
This was seized upon by the political forces which dissolved the USSR
and directed Russia along the road of installing a savage oligarchic
capitalism, marked by mass joblessness, falling living standards for
the population, profound social stratification, rampant nationalism
and growing crime.

The failure
of the Soviet model of society does not signify that the ideals of
October were false. Just as the ideas of Christianity were not to
blame for the practices of the Inquisition, Stalinist totalitarianism
could not destroy the ideals of the revolution. Socialism as a
historic cause cannot be brought to realisation all at once. A new
generation of young people is now appearing, people who do not accept
capitalism as a system. There is every reason to hope that this
generation will be able to breathe new life into the ideals of the
October Revolution.

What the
Greatness of Modern Russia Depends on

The ideas
of the October Revolution united not only proletarian
internationalists, but also supporters of strengthening and
developing the Russian state. These ideas opened the way for people
who wanted to bring the national culture of Russia to the country’s
borderlands and to other countries — for people who shared in
patriotic sentiments and who were prepared to defend the Soviet
homeland from potential aggressors. The strength of this feeling was
shown clearly during the Great Patriotic War, when the sovereignty of
the USSR and the conquests of October were defended.

The October
Revolution showed the greatness of spirit of the Russian people, who
proposed an alternative, non-capitalist road to national development.
To view the revolution as a conspiracy by extremist forces is also
dangerous because it provides grist to the mill of the anti-Russian
interpretation of history according to which Russia, because of its
unpredictability, is said to pose a constant threat to the world.
From Russia, adherents of this view maintain, only unfavourable
developments are to be expected; hence, the country has to be kept
under tight rein, and its natural wealth, its energy potential and
intellectual resources, have to be controlled and exploited.

Modern-day
Russia needs to soberly assess such provocative statements, and to
hold firmly to its own course. Russia’s greatness does not lie in
the blind copying of foreign examples, still less in national conceit
with regard to other peoples, but in relying on the talents and
creative strengths of its own population, as well as in the thorough
assimilation of the knowledge and experience developed by world
civilisation and culture.

Russia is
capable of once again becoming a great power, whose adversaries will
be forced to take it into account. But this will only happen if the
country overcomes the poverty and deep social stratification of its
population, qualitatively improves the lives of its citizens,
broadens their social and democratic rights, and retains everything
that is best from its historic past.

* *
*

The
historic importance of the October Revolution is difficult to
overestimate. Its positive consequences are obvious. A third of
humanity travelled part of the way along the road which the
revolution opened up. Many countries are continuing this progress
today, drawing lessons from the defeats and tragedies of the past.
October proved that another, more just world is possible. A range of
social and political forces, countries and peoples, are now striving
for this new world. This is shown by a new wave of revolutionary
transformations, manifesting itself with particular force in a number
of countries of Latin America and Asia.

The October
Revolution was and remains our fate, and we cannot reject this
crucially important part of Russian history. Always and everywhere
there have been mistakes, and the great revolutions of the past did
not avoid them either. Nevertheless, the anniversaries of these
revolutions are celebrated in all countries, including at the state
level. Only in Russia is this not the case. In Russia, the
denigration of the country’s revolutionary past continues.

On the eve
of the ninetieth anniversary of the October Revolution, we raise our
voices against this practice. The people must have their
revolutionary holiday and the truth about October returned to them.
It must not be forgotten that we belong to a country whose history
includes its own great revolution. We can and should be proud of it.

  1. Arslanov
    V., Dr. of art, professor, Russian Academy of Education

  2. Bagaturiya
    G. Dr. of philosophy, professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University

  3. Buzgalin
    A., Dr. of economics, professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University

  4. Dzarasov
    S., Dr. of economics, Russian Academy of Science

  5. Galkin
    A., Dr. of history, professor, Russian Academy of Science Istyagin
    L., Dr. of history, Russian Academy of Science

  6. Kelle
    V. Dr. of philosophy, Russian Academy of Science

  7. Kolganov
    A., Dr. of economics, Lomonosov Moscow State University

  8. Loginov
    V., Dr. of history, professor, Russian Academy of Education

  9. Medvedev
    R., Dr. of history

  10. Rudyk
    E., Dr. of economics, Russian Academy of Labor

  11. Serebrykova
    Z., Dr. of history

  12. Shatrov
    M., writer

  13. Slavin
    B., Dr. of philosophy, professor, Moscow State Pedagogical
    University

  14. Smolin
    O., Dr. of philosophy, professor, MP

  15. Voeikov
    M., Dr. of economics, Russian Academy of Science

  16. Vorobiev
    A., academician, Russian Academy of Science

Comments

Hello. I am very happy to have found this site, and am intrigued by many of the texts I’ve read here. About this one, I am curious, you discuss how Lenin

“worked out a plan
for the further development of the Soviet state, a plan which
included radical economic and political changes. These
transformations were aimed above all at achieving breakthroughs in
the development of energy generation, culture and education”

but what abot the idea of developing a state towards the eventual dissolution of statehood? does the infamous “withering away of the state” play a role in your current ideas of a Social Democratic movement?