Russian Revolution, 1917-1921

Russian Revolution, 1917-1921

Libcom's introduction to the significance of the Russian Revolution on its 90th anniversary.

The Russian Revolution - 90 years on.

The Russian Revolution remains one of the most significant events of revolutionary history. The depth of expropriation of capital and working class self-organisation, it's long-term effects on the twentieth century via Stalinism and the Cold War, and it's context within the period 1905-1926 when revolution appeared to be on the cards internationally remains one of the very high points of class struggle. An understanding of the Russian Revolution, and the many questions it raises about the role of revolutionary organisations, workers' control, the development of state capitalism and counter-revolution is essential to an understanding of the dynamics of revolution and class conflict for any who are remotely interested in these subjects.

As a result of it's significance, the history of the Russian Revolution has been a site of massive ideological conflict, between anti-Communist and Communist; anarchist and Leninist; Trotskyist and Stalinist; with a whole range of differing interpretations and outright mis-representations of events. At libcom.org, although we have sympathy with the anarchist and "ultra left" positions on the revolution we have attempted to present articles which cut through many of the traditional cliches, instead focusing on the the self-activity of the working class and peasantry in seizing control of production and an analysis of the role of both Bolshevik, anarchist and other political groups; in other words attempting to avoid the common trap of picking a side and sticking with it. The failure of the Russian Revolution revolution cannot be put down simplistically to the personalities of Lenin and Trotsky (or Marx), nor the 'material conditions' of civil war and 'backwardness' relied on by Leninist interpretations, but must be situated within Bolshevism's origins in Social Democracy and the inability of anarchist and grass-roots workers' organisations to defend themselves ideologically and physically from the Bolsheviks' incorporation into a new repressive state capitalist apparatus.

Although we are presenting this feature close to the anniversary of the October Revolution, you will notice very little on this site dealing with October itself. The Russian Revolution is best understood as a process which began with mass class struggle and the fall of Tsarism in February along with an upsurge in working class self-organisation with the development of the soviets, militias and factory committees across Russia and the Ukraine, then the internal counter-revolution which the Bolsheviks launched almost immediately after October, repressing workers' organisation and political opposition, and culminating in the suppression of the Kronstadt uprising and the development of Stalinism in the '20s.

As well as the Russian Revolution itself, libcom.org also has articles dealing with the strikes and uprisings against Stalinism during the first and second Five Year Plans, the Gulag and East German uprisings of 1953, Hungary and Poland 1956, Novocherkassk 1962, Czechoslovakia 1968 and Poland 1976-82 in which the 'real movement' present in 1917 was echoed against those who claimed its name later on. We have also developed a feature on the more general Revolutionary Wave during this period, dealing with the tendencies towards revolution in Europe, North America, Asia and South America that at the time seemed to call the entirety of class society into question.

Related Forum discussions
This is a short list of some of the more detailed discussions, browsing our history forum or using the searchfunction will find you more.
libcom arrow for bullet points Kronstadt book recommendations (2007)
libcom arrow for bullet points Kronstadt (October 2006)
libcom arrow for bullet points Kronstadt again (December 2006)
libcom arrow for bullet points Culture of the Future - the Proletkult Movement (2007)
libcom arrow for bullet points Lenin's alleged crimes (December 2005)

Posted By

Mike Harman
Mar 19 2007 21:20

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