The Great October Socialist Revolution inaugurated a new era of social revolutions

Pável Blanco Cabrera, First Secretary of the CC of the PCM and Ángel Chávez, Responsible for the Commission on Ideology of the CC of the PCM

Within Marxist theory, one of the main texts that summarizes historical materialism is the “Preface to the Contribution of the Critique of Political Economy”, in this text Marx mentions that between one mode of production and another there forms a time of transition which he denominates “time of social revolution”. For one mode of production to be replaced by another the contradiction between the level of development of the productive forces and the social relations of production (or forms of ownership) must develop.

This phenomenon is one of the laws of historical development that Marx discovered and is known as the “law of the tendency of accordance between productive forces and relations of production”. On this phenomenon and the time of social revolution Marx notes:

Upon arriving at a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society contradict the existing relations of production, or, what’s more, the legal expression of this, with the relations of property within which they have developed there. From forms of development of the productive forces, these relations become obstacles in it. And thus, there opens up a time of social revolution.[1]

The productive forces engendered by capitalism in its imperialist phase and bourgeois relations of production have reached the point where they pose an obstacle on the first, that is to say, we are in the era of social revolution that mediates between capitalism and communism. That capitalism has reached its final stage was demonstrated by Lenin in Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism in which imperialism is consider the parasitic and decomposition stage.

Within the epoch of social revolution the socio-political revolutions are necessary catalysts to generate the new social relations of production and to accelerate the transition to the new mode of production, for that Lenin affirms that “Imperialism is the prelude of the social revolution of the proletariat” and add to it “This has been confirmed on a worldwide scale since 1917[2]. Considering that the relations of production correspond to the development of the productive forces, it is necessary to abolish the bourgeois relations of production.

Thus, just as the imperialist phase of capitalism inaugurates the era of social revolution, which the material framework for the substitution of capitalism by socialism, the Great October Socialist Revolution, as the first within that period, inaugurates the transition from capitalism to socialism in the world. It is the first triumphant proletarian revolution, a continuation of the Paris Commune of 1871, which attempted for the first time the “assault on heaven”, and established some contours for worker’s power, showing forcefully the vital necessity of the exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat so that revolution can secure its victory against the counterrevolution.

The Great October Socialist Revolution has aspects in common with previous social revolutions, but it also shows unprecedented aspects, traits general to the wave of proletarian revolutions that will develop until the international triumph of socialism-communism.

The Great October Socialist Revolution is the confirmation of the positions of scientific socialism, the theory developed by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and enriched substantially by Vladimir Ilich Lenin. Moreover, the triumphant proletarian revolution on November 7, 1917, confirms the correctness of the relentless struggle of the theory and politics of Leninism against the dominant opportunism of the II International, which dogmatizing Marxism into a reformist practice.

The Great October Socialist Revolution is not only a decisive historical event for the proletariat and the oppressed, and for the whole human race; It is above all a north for the contemporary action of the working class and the international communist movement, and for the socialist revolutions that will inevitably explode all over the world.

For this reason, on the occasion of its centenary, a reflection on its lessons is now indispensable for the communist and worker’s parties.

Marxism-Leninism and social revolutions

Marx, Engels and Lenin devoted much attention to the study of revolutions, especially the English of 1640-1649 the French of 1789-1794, the revolutionary wave that shook Europe in 1848-1849 and the Paris Commune of 1871.

Such revolutionary processes brought about enormous changes in the relations of property, in the social sphere, and in the perfecting of the machinery of the state. The law of the development of the bourgeois revolutions was the inconsistency between its proclaimed objectives and the results achieved, since some demands of the whole of the exploited classes were raised but ended up imposing the interests of a minority, the new ruling class.

Leaving aside the erroneous conceptions that bourgeois thought has of revolutions and revolutionary processes, by disconnecting them from economic development and the obstacles that in a historical moment a given mode of production imposes, and which seek to situate them as conspiracies, or limit them to failures or excesses and not the intrinsic character of class oppression, it is important to recap what Marxism-Leninism states on this point:

  1. Revolutions are the locomotives of history
  2. The bourgeois revolutions have expressed a radical way of destroying outdated social relations and have also been a type of historical movement in which it intervenes the conscious goal of transforming the existing relationships at the root. Bourgeois revolutions solve the contradiction between the rising bourgeoisie and the feudal lords and lead to the establishment of bourgeois power, which is also an exploiting ruling class.
  3. Socio-political revolutions of the XVI-XVIII centuries solved the contradiction between the antagonistic social classes of the time: the bourgeoisie and the feudal lords.
  4. They are not carried out by commission, “but rather mature in the process of historical development and explode at the moment conditioned by a whole series of internal and external causes”. [3]
  5. Every revolution means a sudden change in the life of the great masses of the people. If this change has not matured properly a real revolution cannot take place... the revolution offers the people everything, in a short time the most profound teachings”. [4]
  6. There exists a dialectic between revolution and counterrevolution, it is a fierce and relentless struggle
  7. Until 1848 revolutions only considered the displacement of an obsolete exploitative dominant class by a new exploitative dominant class.

Characteristics of the Socialist Revolution

With the Manifesto of the Communist Party the proletariat establishes its worldview, the materialist conception of history and its program for struggle. It is established that the world has already entered fully into bourgeois development in which there is an irreconcilable contradiction between capital and labor, between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, between private appropriation of wealth and the social character of production; It is emphatically demonstrated that the real revolutionary class is the proletariat whose historical mission is to end the domination of the bourgeoisie and all forms of exploitation, in order to emancipate the working class it needs to emancipate all the oppressed classes. [5] As Engels writes:

The revolution to which contemporary socialism aspires, consists, briefly, in the victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie and the organization of a new society, eliminating all class differences. It is indispensable for this, the existence of the proletariat, called to carry out this revolution, as well as that of bourgeoisie, in whose hands the social productive forces have reached such a degree of development so as to make possible the definitive suppression of class differences.[6]

These ideas are always reiterated by Marxism, and on them, Engels himself brilliantly recapitulates in the Introduction to Marx's work The Class Struggle in France 1848 to 1850; Stalin, Kirov and Zhdanov in writing the Observations on a Compendium of a Manual of Modern History note very well what is the basic difference between the bourgeois revolutions and the Socialist Revolution “the French bourgeois revolution (and any other bourgeois revolution) after emancipating the people from the chains of feudalism and absolutism imposed new chains, the chains of capitalism and bourgeois democracy, while the socialist revolution in Russia destroyed all and all kinds of chains and emancipated the people from all forms of exploitation…[7]

Another key issue underlined by Marxism-Leninism has to do with the role of the state, of the state machine, which Marx already expresses in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis NapoleonAll revolutions perfected this machine, instead of destroying it. The parties that fought alternately for domination considered the taking of possession of this immense state building as the main booty of the victor”. To destroy, to demolish the state is a task of the revolution, it is more so emphasized with meridian clarity on the eve of the October Revolution: “The revolution consists in the proletariat destroying the “administrative apparatus” and the whole apparatus of the state, replacing it with a new one, constituted by armed workers”. [8] The important experience of the Commune of 1871, nurtured Marxist-Leninist theory on the socialist revolution and nurtured the program of the Russian communists.

Now then, Lenin enriches scientific socialism by studying the development of capitalism to its imperialist phase which accelerated and created the inevitable conditions for the outbreak and triumph of the Proletarian Revolution, by inaugurating the era of social revolution that will give way to communism.

It is necessary to cite to a great extent materials on the revision of the program of the party written by Lenin after exposing the April Theses, that influenced decisively in the VII Party Conference as well as in the strategy and tactics of the communists of the period:

World capitalism has now come, more or less, from the beginning of the twentieth century to the phase of imperialism. Imperialism or the epoch of financial capital is the highest developed capitalist economy in which the capitalists monopoly unions - industrial unions, cartels and trusts - have taken on a decisive importance, highly concentrated banking capital has been merged with the industrial sector, the export of capital to other countries has developed in colossal proportions, the territory of the whole world is already divided among the richest countries and the economic distribution of it has begun among the international trusts.

In this situation, imperialist wars are inevitable, that is to say, those waged by world domination, by the conquest of markets for banking capital and to overpower small and weak peoples. And, precisely, that is how the first great imperialist war of the years 1914-1917 is.

The extraordinarily high degree of development of world capitalism in general; The substitution of free competition for monopoly capitalism; The preparation by the banks and the unions of capitalists of a special staff for the social regulation of process of production and distribution of products; The increase of shortages and the oppression of the working class by the monopolies and the gigantic complication of the economic and political struggle of that class due to the growth of the capitalist monopolies; The horrors, the calamities, the ruin and the brutalization generated by the imperialist war: all this makes the current degree of development of capitalism signify the era of proletarian socialist revolution.

This era has begun.

Only the proletarian, socialist revolution can pull humanity out of the impasse created by imperialism and imperialist wars. Whatever the difficulties of the revolution and its possible temporary setbacks and waves of counterrevolution, the definitive victory of the proletariat is inevitable.

That is why it is set as the order of the day, for the age in which we live, given the objective conditions, the immediate preparation of the proletariat in all its aspects for the conquest of political power, in order to carry out the economic and political measures which form the content of the socialist revolution”.

We can assert that this document demonstrates the prognosis of Marxism-Leninism in assessing the conditions and placing the tasks for the working class by understanding from a historical point of view the inevitability of the Proletarian Revolution given the historical limits of the capitalist mode of production. And this was valid for the October Revolution, but it is also valid in our days.

Another characteristic of the Socialist Revolution has to do with the conscious role of the working class and the oppressed masses, which was constituted by the organized vanguard that is the Communist Party not only during the revolution, but throughout the period of preparation. The Party is the high command of the working class, it is it that organizes and creates consciousness, it is the only one who can clarify all the problems that arise, which clarifies the material premises, the program, the role of the different classes, the question of alliances, the strategy, the tactics, the offensive, the defensive, the maneuvers, the slogans, the concrete analysis of the concrete reality. The Party builds the necessary tools, for the working class to accumulate in the direction of the seizure of power, it works in the mass organizations, especially in the unions where the communists fight from inside, to organize the working class, so that it gains ground and to weakens the opportunist, reformist line of class cooperation; And in the direction of sector specific works, theory, study of hot issues of the class, the indicators of the advance of their consciousness, their mechanisms of communication, the precise moment of the Revolution (not a minute before, not a minute later), as well as all that, when the concrete situation determines it, that has to do with the insurrectional struggle and the role of revolutionary violence. Only with the Communist Party can the working class ride the storms of the worsening of the class struggle in the deep shifts of history, with the revolution as the north and socialism-communism as the safe harbor.

The October Revolution, an example to follow

The triumphant insurrection of November 7, 1917 which assures the victory of the Proletarian Revolution has its origin in the activity of the Bolshevik Party and in the theoretical and practical work of Leninism.

In the first place, the theory of the new type of party that allows for the action of communists among the working class in conditions of harsh repression by the tsarist autocracy and that is prepared to develop its political activity in any condition, with all forms of struggle.

A Party capable of defeating all ideological trends that sow confusion among the working class or impede its political, ideological and organizational independence, such as populism, “legal Marxism”, Menshevism and all its variants arising in the flow and reflow of the struggle, such as Trotskyism.

A Party capable of assuming the defense and development of Marxism in the face of the opportunist degeneration of the II International, which distorted the proletarian theory by absolutizing reforms, distorting Marx and Engels' view of the state, the revolution, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Without the debates of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party against Bernstein and Kautsky on these issues and that of imperialism, the Party would not have been prepared to understand monopoly capitalism and imperialist wars as catalysts for the revolutionary process. The Leninism effort was colossal.

A Party forged by two Revolutions, that of 1905, that of February 1917. That forging, that learning, were decisive for the profile of the organization, and of the militants. The lessons are perennial and we consider it convenient to recap some of them:

  1. The fundamental law of the revolution is that “for revolution it is not enough for the exploited and oppressed masses to be aware of the impossibility of continuing to live as they live and demand changes; For revolution, it is necessary that the exploiters cannot continue to live and govern as they lived and governed. Only when “the bottom” do not want and “the top” cannot continue to live the old days, only then can the revolution succeed.[9]
  2. The impossibility of the Revolution without a revolutionary situation and the distinctive signs of this: Inability of the ruling class to ensure its domination; Increase above the accustomed conditions of misery and suffering for the working class; An increase in the activity of the masses that would otherwise remain passive.All this combined with a level of organization and politicization of the working class expressed in the strength of the communist party, who will always be the only one capable of specifying the revolutionary situation, the slogans to come and directing the process of taking the Power and the socialist revolution.
  3. The vanguard is essential and is the guarantee of triumph, but it alone is not a guarantee of victory, it requires the exploited masses and their own political experience; As Lenin points out, this is another fundamental law of the revolution.
  4. The role of imperialism, inter-imperialist contradictions, imperialist wars, and how to use these contradictions for the revolutionary struggle.
  5. During socialism in the stage of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the class struggle intensifies and it is necessary to push the offensive against the enemy class, starting with the strengthening of the working-class party.

It is enough to study the Acts of the Bolshevik Party from August 1917 onwards to understand the importance which communists gave to the concrete analysis of the crisis at its height and its constant evolution, to the adjustments and rearrangements of the different expressions of the ruling class and to the increased activity of the proletarian masses; Even on the initiative of Lenin, the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Communist Party created a commission to follow up on the intensification of the activity of the masses, their tendency to insubordination. [10]

Contemporary debate between reform and revolution

Of course, the October Revolution is a great learning curve for the struggle of communists, and here we are only addressing a few edges.

Today the essential thing is to reiterate the need for the socialist revolution for the reasons previously mentioned such as the historical limits of capitalism, already overtaken and leading to barbarism, and that should be clear, its again placed at the center of the controversy among the communist and workers' parties, for some practice a policy very similar to that of social-democracy criticized by the Bolsheviks, a policy of gradual reforms, of parliamentarism, of class collaboration, of administration of the same state machinery.

Of course, these policies have an earlier origin that have to do with the political reflection of certain objective conditions that influenced the negative conceptions that emerged in the 20th Congress of the CPSU, which absolutized the diversity of national paths to socialism, inter-class alliances, the utility of the bourgeois parliament and of bourgeois democracy itself. It should be noted that they become a delaying factor for the revolutionary tasks of the proletariat.

Faced with the serious problems of the workers of the world, in the face of inter-imperialist wars and disputes, in the face of aggression against the peoples, in the face of hunger, misery and diseases that plague the oppressed of the world, faced with the exploitation of the working class in any country, the only answer is to continue the path of the October Revolution: overthrowing the power of the capitalists, workers' power.

Some political processes in Latin America are presented as revolutions, and although they once had some of the symptoms, such as the broad participation of the masses, political crisis at its heights, objectively they have proved to be far from a true revolution, by preserving the state machinery they seek only to perfect it, without trying to destroy it, without altering the relations of production. Under the name of citizen’s revolutions, Bolivarian, and 21st-century socialist revolutions, such processes have demonstrated that independently of their social flags they strictly subscribe themselves to a framework of system reform that would invariably lead to the reorganization of the domination capitalist mode of production.

The triumph of the counterrevolution before the hope of socialism

Even the triumph of counterrevolution allows us to obtain from the experience of the October Socialist Revolution teachings for the revolutionary practice of future revolutions that communists will lead. Beyond the reflections that have already been noted in the text “Analysis and conclusions on socialist construction during the 20th century, fundamentally in the USSR. Perception of the KKE on socialism” the following points should be noted:

We live in the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolutions, Marx's era of social revolution, so that the defeat of the socialist construction in the USSR does not imply the impossibility of socialism, but a temporary defeat. Within the era of social revolution, the outbreak of numerous revolutions is predetermined, and with the advance of the productive forces that capitalism has undergone, revolutions to come will be endowed with better conditions to bury capitalism, for example, today the material conditions for the exercise of proletarian internationalism are more developed by the development of mass media and above all by the advance in the relations of interdependence of the imperialist nations and the still greater concentration of capital that has occurred.

Recall that imperialism is the prelude to the social revolution of the proletariat and that “the conservation of the old community brings with it the destruction of the conditions on which it rests, it becomes the opposite”. [11] Therefore, every act of the bourgeoisie to prevent the destruction of capitalism, to deepen exploitation, to seek social and technological mechanisms to spare exploitation, etc., including the momentary triumph of the counterrevolution suffered by the USSR, a socialist homeland born of the October Socialist Revolution of 1917, for this temporary defeat does not liquidate socialism but leaves us lessons for political practice in the revolutions that are to come.

[1] Marx, Karl. Preface to the Contribution of the Critique of Political Economy.

[2] Lenin. Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism.Editorial Progreso, 1975.

[3] Lenin, Vladimir Ilich; The teachings of the Revolution; Complete Works, Vol. 25, Editorial Progreso, Moscow

[4] Vladimir Iyich; Report delivered on July 23, 1918 at the Conference of Moscow Factory Committees; Complete Works, Vol. 27, Editorial Progreso, Moscow

[5] The German ideology is probably the first Marxist work where it is established, for Marx and Engels write together the following: “All previous revolutions left intact the mode of activity and only tried to achieve another distribution of this activity, a new distribution of work among other people, while the communist revolution is directed against the previous character of the activity, it eliminates the work and suppresses the domination of the classes at the end of the classes themselves, as this revolution is carried out by the class to which the society does not consider as such, does not recognize as a class and already expresses in itself the dissolution of all classes, nationalities, etc., within the current society”.

[6] Engels, F; Publications of the Emigrants; Works of Marx and Engels, Volume 18

[7] Cited in A. M. Pankrátova; History of the USSR, Volume III; United Nations Editions; Uruguay 1947

[8] Lenin, Vladimir; The state and the revolution; Editorial Progreso, Moscow

[9] Lenin, Vladimir Ilich;”Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder; Editorial Progreso, Moscow

[10] Proceedings of the Central Committee of the RSDRP (Bolshevik) August 1917-February 1918; Notebooks of Past and Present; 21st century Publishers

[11] Marx, Karl. Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations.México, FCE, 1987.