The month of October is of special significance world-wide. It commemorates the overthrow of the Tsar in Russia and the first attempt to install a worker controlled state in what was then imperial Russia, which was renamed the Soviet Union.
Internal contradictions, the failure of a workers state to emerge from the ashes of imperial Russia and the imposition of a ferocious dictatorship were among the causes which ultimately led to the fall and break-up of the Soviet Union.
In 1991, the Soviet Union broke up and the Russian Federation subsequently came into existence. Russia though weakened still continues to play an important role in international politics, with the world’s most powerful nation - the United States - accusing Russia and its leader Putin of having played a pivotal role in electing present US president Donald Trump into power! The Russian President’s term of office is now coming to an end, and on March 18, 2018, the Russians will vote to elect a new President. Though eligible to seek re-election for a second consecutive term, Putin has not yet confirmed that he will do this. Sources close to to him claim he will run as an independent in order to capitalise on his widespread support among the Russian population.
In modern-day Russia, all power is concentrated in the hands of its President, a far cry from the goals of the October Revolution which envisioned power-sharing, primacy of Workers’ Rights, the Right to Education, Health Care, Women’s Rights, Freedom from Hunger and Freedom of Speech - all part and parcel of the freedoms which we often take for granted today - and which formed the basis of the October Revolution.
The October Revolution came at a time when food riots had broken out in Russia - started by women demanding more bread, but eventually spread throughout the city. It was the era in the immediate aftermath of the industrial revolution where a new middle class, sometimes referred to as the bourgeois were gaining a share of the new found wealth - an outgrowth of the industrial revolution.
A time where workers and peasants toiled seven days-a-week for long hours at the pleasure of their masters for meagre wages, were flogged for alleged mistakes and thrown into prison on the flimsiest of excuses. At a time when wages were insufficient to keep body and soul together. Left with no alternative children were forced to forego their childhood and toil with their parents.
A time when children died young and were mercilessly exploited in what were essentially sweatshops to create huge profits for their masters. A time when healthcare was non-existent to ordinary folk. Education was beyond the horizon of the children and women and girls were fair target to a predatory ruling class. This systemchurned out cheap labour for factories and fields alike and the religions of the dayupheld those beliefs and even blessed them.
It was during this exploitative era 100 long years ago, Vladimir Illich Lenin - a Marxist - and the leader of the Bolshevik party, led the people of Russia to topple the ruling class and attempt to set up the world’s first workers’ state. The dream of a workers state has not been achieved, but the October Revolution - the most explosive political event of the 20th century- had its impact worldwide.
Coming at a time when large masses of people the world over were enslaved under the suppressive yoke of imperialism, feudalism and a burgeoning capitalism, the October Revolution was an emphatic statement of the oppressed, that the world needed not to be ruled by the rich. The revolution itself inspired ordinary people to imagine the possibility of developing structures for political action and a capture of political power. It was the beginning of an era where colonial people began to mobilise themselves to overthrow the shackles of imperialism. And the newly formed Russian state itself played an important role in backing these anti-imperialist struggles world-wide.
Today, Marxism is not a governing force anywhere in the world. But, its founding principles are enshrined in the UN Charter of Human Rights. Even today, whereso- ever oppression raises its ugly head, it is the October Revolution, the principles of Marxism and the spirit of revolutionary leaders like V.I. Lenin, Trotsky, Mao-tse- Tung, Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara to whom the oppressed masses stillturn to for inspiration.