The October Revolution: Its Necessity & Meaning

Mandel, David
Date Written:  2018-01-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23276

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Mandal examines the necessity and meaning of the October Revolution.



But the main legacy of the October Revolution for the Left today is, in fact, the least ambiguous. It can be summed up in two words: "They dared." By that, I mean that the Bolsheviks, in organizing the revolutionary seizure of political and economic power and its defense from the propertied classes, were true to their mission as a workers’ party: they provided the workers -and peasants too- with the leadership that they needed and wanted.

It is more than ironic, therefore, that many historians, and following them popular opinion, have viewed October as a terrible crime, motivated by the ideologically-inspired project to build a socialist utopia. According to this view, October was an arbitrary act that diverted Russia from its normal path of development toward a capitalist democracy. October was, moreover, the cause of the civil war that devastated Russia for almost three years.

A modified version of that view is espoused even by some on the Left, who reject "Leninism" (or what they believe to have been Lenin’s strategy), because of the authoritarian dynamic that a revolutionary seizure of power and a civil war unleash.

What strikes one most, however, when one studies the revolution "from below,"(1) is how little in fact the Bolsheviks, and the workers who supported them, were motivated by "ideology," in the sense of theirs being some sort of chiliastic movement with socialism as its goal.


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