Ray O. Light
Newsletter #46
November-December 2007

The Revolutionary Significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution on its 90th Anniversary

The October Revolution has been one of the greatest events in humanity’s history. Overcoming capitalism, it demonstrated once for all, to all the oppressed peoples, to the entire world proletariat, that the capitalist relations of production are not natural and so they are not eternal and unchangeable.”

Senator Fosco Giannini
Speech in the Italian Parliament, October 2007


For approximately the past fifty years of the ninety years since the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, the international communist movement has been dominated by revisionism in state power, first in the USSR and then in China as well. A key characteristic of revisionist rule has been their rapprochement with the main bulwark of world capitalism, United States imperialism. The justification for such a relationship is “American Exceptionalism”, the idea that U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism is an exception to Lenin’s teachings on imperialism, its unceasing drive toward war and need to seek maximum profits based on the exploitation of the majority of the toiling peoples of the world. According to this revisionist theory, U.S. imperialism can be cooperated with for the benefit of humanity. 

Consequently, in the USA in particular, for at least a generation, opportunists, from right social democrats in the trade union bureaucracy, to sycophants for the Soviet and Chinese revisionists, to wild-eyed Trotskyite sects on the outer edges of sanity, were able to project a political line that omitted any mention of imperialism. This ability to avoid the word and the concept was substantially strengthened by the emergence of non-governmental organizations or NGO’s. These numerous foundation-funded groups are now omnipresent on the left in the USA and internationally and continue to promote the illusion that a peaceful world can be built in co-existence with imperialism.

Unfortunately, for the opportunists of many stripes, life continually asserts itself and Lenin’s teachings on imperialism could not have imagined a more appropriate caricature than the arrogant and ignorant dandy, George W. Bush, and his current regime of cutthroats, warmongers, religious zealots and crusaders, and cold hearted oilmen and bankers. From the undeclared and unprovoked wars launched against the sovereign states of Afghanistan and Iraq, to the rendition and torture of military and political prisoners in blatant violation of international law, to the illegal and arbitrary round up and detention in the USA of thousands of Arab and Muslim men, to the PATRIOT Act and massive unlawful surveillance of millions of U.S. citizens, to the criminal neglect of the victims of Hurricane Katrina—before, during and after, and still today, to the massive immigration raids, seizure of parents and children and their forced separation, the blatant criminality and unrelenting cruelty of the Bush Regime, with its Democratic and Republican enablers in Congress and on the Supreme Court has compelled even the most crass opportunists, social democrats, Trotskyites and revisionists, to utter once again the word “imperialism”, even as they continue to bury its revolutionary implications.

Lenin’s teachings make it clear that imperialism is not merely an economic phenomenon capable of being evaded, avoided, or transcended by a superior economic idea or organizational form such as envisioned by the World Social Forum motion, Monthly Review pundits et al. Nor is it solely a political entity that can be altered on the basis of public policy changes regarding issues of war and peace, etc. such as proposed by petty bourgeois pacifists, left Democrats and the like. No, imperialism is a political-economic force that emerged about one hundred years ago as the dominant form of the capitalist system at a certain historical stage. It remains today as the highest and last dying stage of capitalism. Consequently, regime change is not enough; system change is necessary.

*More than a generation ago we had already raised “that the imperialists and monopoly capitalists have ‘upped the ante’ now to where if you allow them to continue for another generation or two they’re going to destroy the whole earth.” (1980 October Revolution Anniversary Speech of Ray O. Light leader, published in Newsletter #13 (October 1982), The Spirit of the October Revolution: Ever Young! – Never So Needed!) Today this global ecological disaster has reached the tipping point.

It is no accident that the gloves-off openly repressive character of the Bush Regime of U.S. imperialism with its Nazi-like doctrine of “preventive war” has come to the fore in a period when the Socialist Camp has been dismantled and the revisionists in state power have been largely overthrown or otherwise replaced by open servants of monopoly capitalism and imperialism. For there is no current alternative system being presented to the international working class and the oppressed peoples, since the alternative system of socialism provided by historical development appears to have largely disappeared.* 

*Though the triumph of monopoly capitalism and imperialism over the former socialist camp provided some temporary rejuvenation to the world capitalist system, the extreme desperation and decay of the imperialist system is today reflected in the Bush Regime’s “preventive war” doctrine and its policy of tolerating no challengers, even at the regional level, as well as its unprecedented series of political crises and scandals – from Enron to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo to Hurricane Katrina to Rumsfeld to Libby to Dubai Ports World to Gonzales to Rove to “immigration reform” to Blackwater mercenaries to the current “uprising” among the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Officers about being forced to deploy to Iraq.

Thus, while the need to overthrow the imperialist system is now clearer than it has been in a long time, the question has arisen whether socialism is the answer for the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples; or is it a “failed project” as the imperialist bourgeoisie and many opportunists now assert? Connected to this question is a second one: whether or not the international working class and the toiling masses of humanity are capable of smashing the old and dying capitalist system of exploitation of man by man and replacing it with a system based on cooperation among all, socialism leading to communism?

The 90th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution provides an occasion for addressing and answering these two important questions.

The Undeniable Accomplishments of the Russian Revolution of 1917

“They said ‘comrade’ to the world.
They made the carpenter king.
No camel shall pass through this needle’s eye.
They cleansed the villages.
Divided the land.
Elevated the serf.
Eliminated the beggar.
Annihilated the cruel.
Brought light into the deep night.”

(Let the Railsplitter Awake, Pablo Neruda, 1948)

1. The October Revolution was the work of the workers, the peasants and the soldiers and sailors themselves. “It’s very important to realize that not every worker and not every peasant in Russia was ready to storm the heavens; not everyone had the confidence that we can rule ourselves. But what they did have was the confidence that they could win peace, that they could win the land, that they could win bread for their families. And the leadership that was provided there, by the Bolshevik Party under Comrade Lenin, was able to demonstrate to the working class in particular and to enough of the peasantry to make it happen that the only way that these things could be accomplished was for the workers to take power into their hands.” (1980 October Revolution Anniversary Speech of Ray O. Light leader, published in Newsletter #13 (October 1982), The Spirit of the October Revolution: Ever Young! – Never So Needed!)

John Reed, U.S. communist and great chronicler of the Russian Revolution in his eye-witness account, Ten Days that Shook the World, reported in detail some key debates taking place as the revolution hung in the balance in Petrograd, where virtually all the other anti-Tsarist political parties ---the bourgeois party, the petty bourgeois and peasant parties, the anarchists, opposed the Bolshevik seizure of power from the “left” coalition bourgeois government. As participants in the “provisional government”, all these opportunist parties had exposed their compromised and corrupt character. Hence, the workers and then the soldiers and increasing numbers of poor peasants, gathered in the capital, voted to support and did indeed defend the new Bolshevik government against all the might of its foes, domestic and foreign.

Reed states: “Imagine this struggle being repeated in every barracks of the city, the district, the whole front, all Russia. Imagine the sleepless Krylenkos, watching the regiments, hurrying from place to place, arguing, threatening, entreating. And then imagine the same in all the locals of every labor union, in the factories, the villages, on the battleships of the far-flung Russian fleets; think of the hundreds of thousands of Russian men staring up at speakers all over the vast country, workmen, peasants, soldiers, sailors, trying so hard to understand and to choose, thinking so intensely --- and deciding so unanimously at the end. So was the Russian Revolution….” (Page 163)

On this genuinely mass democratic basis the actual seizure of power by the Bolsheviks and the working class was remarkably bloodless.

2. The mass character of the October Revolution was based on the ruthless and consistent Bolshevik struggle against opportunism waged by a disciplined and responsible vanguard party among the toiling masses and among the working class in particular and on the Bolshevik mobilization of the masses around the urgent concrete demands for “peace, land and bread.” The masses were undergoing a rich experience in class struggle. This was especially true regarding their bitter and sorrowful participation in World War I. This experience proved to them the correctness of the Bolshevik political line, including the fact that the Bolshevik Party was the only political party that was sufficiently independent of the feudal and capitalist rulers to satisfy the mass demand for “peace”, that is, for withdrawal from the imperialist war. The Bolsheviks also immediately carried out their promise of land to the tillers. After Lenin read the Decree on Land, “the leader of the Maximalists, the Anarchist wing of the peasants: ‘We must do honor to a political party which puts such an act into effect the first day, without jawing about it!’” (Page 135, Ten Days that Shook the World)

3. One of the keys to the Bolshevik-led victory in the October Revolution and the subsequent civil war and imperialist intervention was the implementation of the Bolshevik policy toward the nations oppressed by Old Russia. This was based on the Lenin-Stalin position on the national question. The First Congress of Soviets proclaimed the right of the peoples of Russia to self-determination in June 1917. After the workers took power, one of the first acts of the new Soviet government (signed by Lenin and Stalin) was a special edict entitled “Declaration of Rights of the Peoples of Russia.” This law now provided every nation formerly oppressed by Tsarist Russia the right to self-determination up to and including the right to a separate and independent existence as a state. In the immediate situation this deprived the counterrevolutionary White armies and imperialist expeditionary forces of a potential reserve for their reactionary war. In the long run, Bolshevik encouragement of the free flowering of the many nationalities formerly suppressed under the Tsarist Autocracy laid the basis for the economic, political, cultural, and, ultimately, military prowess and success of the voluntary Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR.

Even bourgeois experts grudgingly admitted that, “…the USSR within the framework of the over-all Soviet system seemed to have found a constructive solution to its nationalities question, and is the best example afforded by the twentieth century of a multinational state.” (Our emphasis, A History of the Modern World, R.R. Palmer, Second Edition, 1956, page 732)

4. In contrast with the almost bloodless initial proletarian victory, the forces of the old and dying privileged classes of Russia, backed by all the world’s imperialist powers, were not going to give up their heaven on earth without a bloody struggle. They attempted to take back the riches of oil, timber and other abundant resources and the opportunity to exploit the millions of toilers there and to crush the new Soviet power before the people could begin to thrive.*

*For example, Herbert Hoover, then the American Food Administrator, and destined to become U.S. President a decade later, was the most notable U.S. citizen to identify himself with the anti-Soviet war. Hoover had already secured an interest in eleven oil companies in Russia, when in 1912, in association with the British millionaire, Leslie Urquhart, Hoover became involved with three new companies set up to exploit timber and mineral concessions in the Urals and Siberia. The value of Hoover’s investments skyrocketed with the establishment of the Russo-Asiatic Corporation whose share rose from $16.25 in 1913 to $47.50 in 1914! While Hoover had sold his Russian holdings in 1917 before the October Revolution, it is no wonder that he became one of the world’s bitterest foes of the Soviet Union for the rest of his life. (See The Great Conspiracy, Sayers and Kahn, 1946)

The ferocious and bloody civil war and imperialist intervention that ensued from 1918 until 1920 caused terrible human and material damage to the new Soviet society. An estimated seven million Soviet citizens lost their lives in this conflict. Nonetheless, the toilers successfully defended their own newly won state power against the Tsarist and bourgeois Russian armies and the military expeditionary forces of fourteen imperialist countries. The Bolshevik-led victory in the civil war and imperialist intervention and thus the Soviet Union’s survival was a remarkable accomplishment.

5. At the same time, the Bolsheviks boldly and quickly initiated the establishment of a new Communist International with which to not only defend the Soviet Union but also utilize the Soviet victory “as a means of standing up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world, and helping the proletarians of all countries in their struggle against capitalism.” (Stalin, Selected Works, Volume 9, page 120) This proletarian internationalist orientation was key to building up a socialist rather than a bourgeois nationalist economy and society in the Soviet Union.

6. Lenin and the Bolshevik Party skillfully, openly and honestly led the new proletarian government in implementing the New Economic Policy (NEP), a strategic retreat economically in order to provide the Soviet regime some stability in which to consolidate the victorious seizure and defense of state power. The confidence that Lenin and the Bolshevik Party had in the working class was clearly reciprocated, for only a revolutionary army or society has the capacity to retreat in such an orderly, disciplined and confident way.

7. The first two five year economic plans, beginning in 1928, both of which were fulfilled ahead of time, were so successful that virtually all bourgeois experts, even during the McCarthy Period in the USA, had to admit that, “No ten years in the history of any Western country ever showed such a rate of industrial growth…” (A History of the Modern World, R.R. Palmer, Second Edition, 1956)

As Professor Palmer observed: “By 1939 it was clear that a new type of economic system had been created. However one judged the USSR no one could dismiss its socialism as visionary or impracticable.” (Ibid., page 751)

8. By this time the fascist powers of Germany and Italy and Imperial Japan united against the Soviet Union and the Communist International in the so-called “anti-Comintern Axis.” Stalinist Bolshevik diplomacy enabled the Soviet Union to gain enough time to prepare for the mightiest invasion in human history, the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union. The heroic Soviet people, especially the Soviet Red Army and Communist youth, under the leadership of Stalin and the CPSU (Bolsheviks), were the decisive force in the defeat of world fascism.

Lest the contemporary reader think that we are exaggerating the role of the Stalin and Bolshevik-led Soviet Union, listen to tributes from two of the twentieth century’s biggest foes of the Soviet Union and communism.

In 1942, U.S. General Douglas McArthur stated: “The world situation at the present time indicates that the hopes of civilization rest on the worthy banners of the courageous Russian Army. During my lifetime I have participated in a number of wars and have witnessed others, as well as studying in great detail the campaigns of outstanding leaders of the past. In none have I observed such effective resistance to the heaviest blows of a hitherto undefeated enemy, followed by a smashing counterattack which is driving the enemy back to his own land. The scale and grandeur of the effort mark it as the greatest military achievement in all history.” (The Great Conspiracy, Sayers and Kahn, page 138)

In 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill admitted: “No government ever formed among men has been capable of surviving injuries so grave and cruel as those inflicted by Hitler on Russia. … Russia has not only survived and recovered from those frightful injuries but has inflicted, as no other force in the world could have inflicted, mortal damage on the German army machine.” (Ibid., page 139)

9.  The world historic victory over fascism in World War II represented a general weakening of the imperialist camp (though a strengthening of U.S. imperialism). At the same time the popular forces were strengthened throughout the world in their struggles for national independence and socialism. On this basis, the fruits of the October Revolution had led directly to a new period of victories for independence movements throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Southern and Eastern Europe. In particular, the victory of the Chinese national democratic revolution in 1949, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and its Chairman Mao Tse-tung, represented the liberation of one-quarter of humanity! With Leninism, in spite of an objective situation that had been unfavorable to the proletarian revolution on a global scale, the Soviet Union had led the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples from one victory to another. Now, finally, thanks largely to those who had carried out and consolidated the October Revolution and its fruits, the proletarian revolutionary movement had shifted the balance of forces in the world in favor of socialism.*

*The October Revolution and the war-weary Soviet masses had taken our movement a long way forward indeed. Now it was time for others to lead. The new main contradiction facing world capitalism was the contradiction between the majority of humanity in the oppressed nations on the one hand, and, on the other, imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism. The Chinese Communist Party, reflecting this contradiction, was the new leading party. Would the Chinese party and people acquit themselves as well as the Soviet party and people had done?

This remarkable record of the accomplishments of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to which it gave birth makes it unmistakably clear that capitalism is not “the end of history”, as the imperialist propagandists have claimed. Nor is socialism the “failed project”, condemned by the social chauvinists, social pacifists and social imperialists of our time. It is the social system whose time has come. It is up to us to continue this forward march of history in our own time.

90th Anniversary Celebrations Represent a Step Forward for the International Communist Movement

The fact that there is little hoopla on a world scale surrounding the 90th anniversary of the October Socialist Revolution and, more importantly, the fact that the powerful Soviet-led Socialist Camp of the post World War II period exists no more might lead one to the conclusion that the legacy of Great October is at a low ebb just now. The fact that there has been virtually no commemoration of this revolutionary anniversary by any political party currently in state power certainly limits the scale and grandeur of the celebrations that have been taking place this month. But, for decades, grandiose celebrations in the former USSR, Eastern Europe and elsewhere have been mostly pro forma, official and lifeless events, totally lacking in revolutionary zeal. (As the great Soviet President and former revolutionary factory worker, Mikhail Kalinin observed, “…where there is much ceremony, there is frequently little content.”)

This year, by contrast, at least two important meetings of Marxist-Leninists (with which we have strong connections) each made a collective call on those vanguard parties and organizations that they influence to hold celebratory activities on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Great October Revolution. The International Seminar on Problems of the Revolution in Latin America, hosted by the Marxist-Leninist Party of Ecuador (PCE-ML) and its affiliate, the electoral coalition, the Popular Democratic Movement (MPD) resolved to “organize meetings … marches and diverse events with popular participation to promote these celebrations.” The Seminar declared: “At the completion of 90 years of this historic occurrence in the revolutionary struggle, it is our duty to publicize this event, promoting it in diverse ways among the youth, the working class, and the peoples, using it as the example of the historic realization in the struggle for the emancipation of humanity.” (Unofficial translation from the Spanish original.) Likewise, the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO, based in Western Europe) officially called on its affiliated vanguard organizations on the 90th Anniversary of the October Revolution to take “an international initiative… that may take the form of meetings, debates, celebrations, etc.”

It is noteworthy that the Ecuador-based meeting includes a core of vanguard parties that in the early and mid 1960’s took a stand against Russian revisionism on the side of the Chinese and Albanian Communist Parties and ten or fifteen years later took a pro Albanian stand in opposition to Chinese revisionism, including opposition to the concept of Mao Tse-tung Thought. By contrast, though they are critical of the current Chinese CP leadership that they agree is leading China on the capitalist road, most of the organizations affiliated with the European-based ICMLPO, including the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD), a number of Latin American and Indian M-L parties and groups and, most notably, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), have remained pro-Chinese adherents of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and of Mao Tse-tung Thought.

Nevertheless, what these two international formations have in common are: 1. strong political origins and/or roots in the struggle against Russian (Khrushchevite) revisionism; 2. current commingling of some participant organizations in both venues; 3. seriousness about the  revolutionary process, reflected in general support for the Iraqi Resistance, the cutting edge struggle against the current main enemy, imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism; and, finally, 4. agreement on the importance of reaffirming the great revolutionary significance of the October Socialist Revolution that took place in the same country where modern revisionism later reared its ugly head. These common points of agreement reflect the fact that the parties and organizations of both international formations view the issue of the October Revolution, not from a bourgeois nationalist perspective of country and state loyalties but from a proletarian internationalist class perspective.

This is an important step forward for an international communist movement that has been crippled by bourgeois nationalism for two generations. The fact that two international formations containing serious revolutionary parties and organizations, including many with strong connections to the masses in their own countries, have recognized the importance of keeping the faith with the legacy of Great October is a reflection of the fact that this revolutionary event of ninety years ago points the way forward for humanity.

As comrade Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and arguably the most prominent Maoist and one of the leading Marxist-Leninists in the contemporary world, has declared:

“The October Revolution has come to signify all the great revolutionary achievements of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Stalin in establishing the proletarian dictatorship as a requisite of socialist revolution, overcoming civil war and foreign military intervention, reviving the economy through transition measures, building socialist industry, collectivizing and mechanizing agriculture, developing the educational and cultural system of the working class, supporting the international communist movement, fighting and defeating fascism and further pursuing socialist revolution and construction in the face of the threats of U.S. imperialism after World War II.

“These achievements can never be belittled. Socialist revolutions in Eastern Europe, Asia and elsewhere have been inspired by the October Revolution, the achievements of the Soviet Union and the work of the Third International. The Soviet Union was unquestionably a socialist country for decades from 1917 to 1956.”  (Validity and Relevance of the October Revolution in Response to the Challenges of the 21st Century, contribution to the International Communist Seminar, Brussels, May, 2007)

Who are the adherents of the “Failed Socialist Project” Theory and What are they after?

Most of the current “Left” movement in the USA stands in opposition to the legacy of the October Revolution. In a brief editorial in the November 8th edition of the People’s Weekly World (PWW) newspaper, the CPUSA, whose creation was inspired by the October Revolution, and some of whose current octogenarian membership still harbor nostalgia for more revolutionary times, actually says positive things about what the October Revolution accomplished in the twentieth century. The CPUSA leaders, openly reformist, right revisionists that they are, gently suggest that the aspirations of the Soviet masses then and the U.S. masses today are similar. However, the PWW editors never mention the Bolshevik Party, the CPSU (B), that had led the Soviet peoples and the world’s peoples in making these great gains. The editors make it abundantly clear that the CPUSA is not at all about making any effort toward a socialist revolution in the USA at any time in the foreseeable future. While they acknowledge that the October Revolution opened “a new chapter in the struggle for a better world”, true to the CPUSA’s decades-long support for the imperialist Democratic Party’s Presidential candidates, the editors proclaim that, “our urgent political task today is to defeat the ultra-right….” Thus, while paying lip service to the October Revolution, the CPUSA directly opposes its legacy of seizure of power by the proletariat and the establishment of proletarian dictatorship over the bourgeoisie.

Among the more subtle opponents of the October Revolution is the Workers World Party (WWP). For the most part, this party has tried to keep its Trotskyite origins and principles hidden from the many opportunist, revisionist and revolutionary forces internationally, among whom this party has gained some currency in recent years. But the anniversary of the momentous events of Great October helps flush out the Trotskyite essence of WWP.

WWP is holding its Party Conference on November 17th and 18th in New York City. Despite being held so close to the ninetieth anniversary of the October Revolution, the Conference call failed to even note the historic event. A brief article in Workers World newspaper on the eve of the anniversary, however, announces the conference and even mentions the anniversary. Among the hodge-podge of “hard questions” raised in the article is the following: “Is any revolutionary society doomed to repeat the problems and mistakes of the Soviet Union in the 20th century, or do different material conditions and class relationships point the way toward a different outcome?” (“Answering the hard questions”, Workers World, 11/8/07, ROL emphasis) While raising as fact, the issues of “problems and mistakes”, the article makes no mention of any of the great accomplishments of the Russian Revolution for the Soviet peoples as well as for the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples, accomplishments that bourgeois professors such as Palmer and even anti-communist ruling class spokesmen of the Soviet period such as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. General Douglas McArthur had to acknowledge!

The article then refers the reader to “an important contribution to this discussion” entitled “Challenges in Organizing the U.S. Working Class in the Post-Soviet Period” “originally presented by WWP at the International Communist Seminar in Brussels last May.” (Ibid.)* The theme of May 2007’s Brussels Seminar was “The Validity and Current Relevancy of the October Revolution of 1917 for the 21st Century.” So one could reasonably expect the WWP paper presented there to cast some light on the subject, one way or another. Consequently, it was shocking to read the speech and find no mention of any Soviet practical experience at all! Equally shocking is the self-congratulatory trumpeting of WWP’s own practical “revolutionary” (?) work in the USA today. At its best, WWP’s work represents no more than a tiny dot compared to the magnificent role of the Soviet Union over decades.

*It is worth noting that this Brussels Seminar is hosted and controlled by the right revisionist Belgian Workers Party (PTB), which invites participants on the basis of its own short term petty bourgeois bureaucratic interests. Currently, this includes inviting forces as divergent as the Trotskyite WWP, the revisionist Communist Party of Greece, and the Stalinist-Maoist and genuinely revolutionary Communist Party of the Philippines.

Just the opposite of the WWP “contribution” is the speech at the same Seminar written by Jose Maria Sison, the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), whose address, quoted earlier in this piece, clearly lays out the magnificent contribution of the October Revolution to the global struggle for socialism. Comrade Sison’s forty years of revolutionary leadership has included periods when his party has seriously contended for political power in the Philippines. Yet he omitted any mention of the accomplishments of the CPP under his leadership (or in the decades since) that are so much more significant than the role of the Trotskyite WWP in the USA. Likewise, in stark contrast to the WWP’s negativity toward the legacy of the October Revolution, comrade Sison greeted us on the eve of the 90th Anniversary, as follows: “I appreciate the initiative of the Ray O. Light Group in upholding and propagating the legacy of the October Revolution. The significance of the proletarian revolution and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship continues to shine and inspire the working class and the oppressed peoples to fight for liberation from imperialism and reaction and aim for socialism.”

The WWP clearly promotes the idea that there are no positive accomplishments of the October Revolution. Their line is in support of the U.S. bourgeois line projected by the recent fifteen-hour television documentary, “The War” by Ken Burns. While the TV show’s subtitle refers to “the American experience in World War II”, the U.S. audience is being taught that the Soviet Union’s role in this war was peripheral and that it was largely won by the sacrifices of the people of the USA. Indeed, more current U.S. citizens believe that Germany was the U.S. ally in World War II and that the Soviet Union was our enemy than believe what really occurred.

In truth, as many as twenty-nine million Soviet citizens perished in the Soviet-led defeat of fascism in World War II. The tremendous difficulties that the USA had in coping with the less than half a million U.S. military deaths in World War II pale in comparison to the Soviet losses in human life which were made even more grievous by the fact that most of the war and devastation took place on their homeland. The quotes from McArthur and Churchill cited above should suffice here. (Also, see the excerpt from Pablo Neruda’s Let the Railsplitter Awake, addressed to the working people of the USA that concludes this document.) *

*In Europe, where the population is much more savvy about the history of World War II, the attacks on the October Revolution in this anniversary period have evidently been even more intense. For example, Italian comrades from the Party of the Committees to Support Resistance – for Communism (CARC) sent word to us that an Italian Senator, Fosco Giannini, (of the Party of the Communist Refoundation – European Left) took the floor of the Italian Parliament to defend the legacy of the October Revolution. The CARC comrades consider this all the more significant because of the “widespread anticommunist campaign and the attacks all the Italian bourgeois forces from the right and the left raise against everybody who defends the precious inheritance of the October Revolution and the history of the international communist movement.” Among Senator Giannini’s courageous remarks were the following: “The October Revolution has been one of the greatest events in humanity’s history. Overcoming capitalism, it demonstrated once for all, to all the oppressed peoples, to the entire world proletariat, that the capitalist relations of production are not natural and so they are not eternal and unchangeable.”

The legacy of the October Revolution is so rich that one’s attitude toward the cutting edge struggle of the time, the Iraqi Resistance currently waging a liberation war against U.S. imperialism, is dialectically interconnected with the approach to the October Revolution. Our experience with a Labor-Left Conference held in Atlanta, Georgia in early 2002 is instructive on this point. The political leadership of this conference was an unholy alliance of petty bourgeois revisionists, reformists and youthful anarchists, led by Bill Fletcher and including Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Committees of Correspondence (COC), League of Revolutionaries of North America, and, of course, the CPUSA. Most participants were professional staff of trade unions, social welfare agencies and NGO’s.

The forces associated with Ray O. Light, including a prominent leader of New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), attempted to get this Labor-Left Conference to take a stand against the Bush-led, U.S. imperialist-led war on the people of Afghanistan. Almost unanimously, the Conference participants upheld social chauvinism, refusing to take an anti-war stand that would have brought them into sharp conflict with John Sweeney and the AFL-CIO trade union bureaucracy. Lenin had characterized earlier versions of Sweeney as “labor lieutenants of the capitalist class” and referred to earlier versions of these Labor-Left folks as “the extreme left wing of the imperialist bourgeoisie.”

At the banquet held at this Labor-Left Conference, the keynote speaker was a Canadian professor, Sam Gindin, who had done work with the Canadian Auto Workers Union. To our surprise, the theme of his keynote address was that socialism is a “failed project” and that he was seeking a worthwhile new project. Gindin and the Labor-Left Conference leadership wanted the rest of us to join them in this search. Gindin had based his conclusion about socialism on the fact that the Socialist Camp had been dissolved.

In the brief question and answer period, a Ray O. Light comrade had the opportunity to make the following point: At the time of World War I, Lenin had faced a similar situation to the one that Gindin and today’s socialists face. The “socialist world”, as it existed then, i.e. the seemingly formidable Second International, had collapsed. The basis of this collapse had been the social chauvinist practices of almost every party in the Second International in supporting “their own” bourgeoisie against the workers of the other countries in the imperialist war. Unlike the pragmatic professor Gindin, Lenin had not used the collapse of the socialist world to abandon the fight for socialism and indeed to take up a social chauvinist position as Gindin and almost the entire Labor-Left Conference had just done with regard to the U.S. imperialist war against Afghanistan. On the contrary, Lenin drew the opposite conclusion: in order to win the socialist revolution, a more disciplined, more militant and more internationalist party and international communist movement needed to be built with stronger ties to the proletariat and to the poor peasant masses. Within a few years, Lenin’s conclusion was born out by the victory of the October Revolution, followed quickly by the establishment of the Third (Communist) International.

There is a telltale postscript to this anecdote. Less than a year after this Atlanta Conference, after John Sweeney and the AFL-CIO bureaucracy had taken a position in opposition to the Bush-led threat of war on Iraq, the core forces in the Labor-Left Conference, well funded and well connected to the Democratic Party as well as the AFL-CIO, jumped ahead of NYCLAW into the leadership of the anti-war motion within the U.S. labor movement with the creation of U.S. Labor Against the War (US LAW). These included two key Labor-Left operatives in the AFL-CIO hierarchy, Bruskin and Muehlencamp, who became the co-chairs of US LAW. Taking their cue from George W. Bush’s declaration that he and U.S. imperialism had won victory in Iraq by May 1st of 2003, US LAW, under the leadership of these revisionist and reformist social-chauvinists, issued a major paper entitled, “Profile of US Corporations Awarded Contracts in US/British-Occupied Iraq.” As they stated, the paper was based on the assumption that, “Despite our best efforts and those of millions of trade unionists around the globe, the war on Iraq is now an accomplished fact.”

Directing itself to the working class of Iraq, US LAW advised the proletarian forces there to resign themselves to U.S. military occupation of their country and to focus on their own narrow economic struggles to get a better deal from the U.S. occupation corporations. Fortunately for the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples, the Iraqi oilfield workers trade unions did not listen to US LAW. They have waged such sharp strike struggles over the past six months in particular that they have forced the puppet Iraqi government to resist passing a law that would give U.S. oil companies ownership of Iraqi oil, a major reason for the U.S. invasion in the first place and for the so-called “surge” of U.S. troops “in spite of” the new Democratic Party control of the U.S. Congress. Even more importantly, the Iraqi Resistance did not heed the words of these so-called “friends” in the USA. The Iraqi Resistance has grown into the cutting edge struggle today against international capital, headed by U.S. imperialism.

Please note: The same petty bourgeois revisionists, reformists and anarchists who promoted the idea in the USA that socialism is a “failed project”, a futile effort, at their Labor-Left conference where they refused to oppose Bush’s war on the people of Afghanistan, soon after also promoted the idea that Iraqi resistance to U.S. imperialism is futile. The heroic Iraqi proletariat and people, with their powerful and rising national liberation struggle, and the people of Afghanistan as well, have already exposed the social chauvinist lie that struggle against U.S. imperialism is futile. It is up to the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples to wage struggle against imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism, in solidarity with the Iraqi Resistance, that will give the lie to the social chauvinists on the question of the future of the socialist revolution as well.

Some Final Thoughts On the Occasion of the 90th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution

1. The imperialist propagandists wish for us to believe that socialism is an impossible dream. These bourgeois spokespeople have been given invaluable support in their effort by the liberals and pacifists, the social democrats, Trotskyites, and revisionists. To the extent that they have succeeded in getting proletarians and oppressed peoples to believe their propaganda in the first years following the dismantling of the socialist camp, it made it much easier for the imperialist masters to vanquish our struggles throughout the globe. As the international proletariat and oppressed peoples feel the intensified lash of imperialist exploitation and oppression, and increase their determination and resolve, they will come once again to discover the remarkable achievements of the first Socialist state, the USSR. And they will recognize the need to take the same path.

As we pointed out in an October Revolution celebration more than twenty-five years ago, “…when we compare it with the previous great transformation in history, the transition from feudalism to capitalism, which was just replacing one form of exploitation of people by another form, when we look at the main countries where that was done very sharply (Britain, France and Germany), it took a matter of about a hundred years. In all of those cases it took an average of about three revolutions, followed by defeat of the capitalist revolution by the feudal landowners, followed by the capitalist revolutionaries coming back in with the help of the new workers and the peasants. It took about three times in each one of those countries before the capitalists finally prevailed over the feudal landlords.” (1980 October Revolution Anniversary Speech of Ray O. Light leader, published in Newsletter #13 (October 1982), The Spirit of the October Revolution: Ever Young! – Never So Needed!)

“So it’s remarkable to me … that after one little brief try in Paris in 1871, that sixty-three years ago in Russia, there was this tremendous revolution, the overturning. … They were able to develop a society there that flourished for many years without being dislodged and overthrown by the previous feudal and capitalist forces, and imperialist powers. To me this is a demonstration, not only of how just our cause is, but how ripe it is for victory in the world.” (Ibid.)

How remarkably successful were the first four decades of workers power in Russia! “And if the workers in Russia could do it, the workers, the exploited and the oppressed in other lands could do it. The workers in China could do it. The workers in the United States can do it.” (Ibid.)

2. While the Nazi invasion, the mightiest military invasion in human history and the horrific sacrifices associated with winning the war against world fascism injured and weakened the leaders, the party, the class and the masses of the USSR, the Soviet Union was so well constructed and so battle-hardened that it was not and could not be defeated by its external overt capitalist, fascist and imperialist enemies. It was destroyed from within through the disintegrative role of revisionism: of class collaboration in place of class struggle, of pacifism in place of revolutionary struggle, of bureaucratism in place of responsibility for the society’s destiny remaining in the hands of the proletarian masses, of bourgeois nationalism in place of proletarian internationalism. The failure of the international communist movement to reorganize itself after the war allowed the revisionists in state power in the USSR to corrupt and corrode the body politic. This fact underscores the need for consistent struggle against opportunism and in defense of proletarian internationalism before, during and after the proletarian revolutionary victory, not only within the victorious socialist homeland but in the class stand of every party on earth toward our victorious comrades. For the socialist countries are the “public property”, the responsibility of the entire international working class in the epochal global struggle for the conquest of the socialist system over the capitalist system.

3. Clearly, a serious and honest proletarian revolutionary movement recognizes that the Iraqi Resistance is the cutting edge struggle against world capitalism today. It is no accident that those revolutionary forces who recognize our proletarian internationalist duty toward the Iraqi Resistance are the same forces which recognize the immortal role of the October Revolution in our world historic struggle to bring forth the new socialist world from the ashes of the old capitalist society in its last dying stage of imperialism.

4. We have cited on numerous occasions the profound observation of comrade Sison that “opportunism is the illusion that the struggle is easier than it actually is.” While working on this document it occurred to us that one of the main methods used by opportunist trends of the right and the “left” to promote this illusion is through the diminishment and outright burial of the magnificent achievements brought about on the basis of the Great October Socialist Revolution. By denying the large role in all the great proletarian revolutionary gains of the twentieth century throughout the world played by the forces brought forth by the Great October Revolution, the discipline, strength and sacrifices of the Soviet Party and people needed to carry them through successfully can be denied as well. And the struggles and victories appear to have been won more easily than they actually were.

Finally, on this 90th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, let the serious and honest proletarian revolutionaries of today drink deeply of the wisdom of our great communist poet of Latin America and the world, Pablo Neruda:

 “Soviet Union, if we could gather up
all the blood spilled in your struggles,
all you gave as a mother to the world
so that freedom, dying, might live,
we would have a new ocean
larger than any other
deeper than any other
vibrant as all rivers
active as the fire of Araucanian volcanoes.
Sink your hand into this sea,
man of every nation,
then withdraw and drown in it
all that has forgotten, outraged,
lied and stained,
all that joined the hundred small curs
of the Western dump-heap
and insulted your blood,
Mother of free men!”

(Let the Railsplitter Awake, 1948)
Ray O. Light
November, 2007

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