94 years ago, on November 7, the working class and toiling people of Russia led by the Bolshevik party of Lenin rose up in revolution to overthrow the state power of the bourgeoisie and all exploiting classes. They established in its place a totally new state power embodying the will of the toilers and, for the first time in history, proceeded to establish socialism and end the exploitation of man by man.
The nearly one hundred years that have passed since then have not diminished the brilliance of the October Revolution or its earth-shaking significance in any way. Today too, as we see unfolding before us waves upon waves of struggle by working masses everywhere against their exploitation and oppression, the key questions facing the people remain the same. How can it be ensured that the struggles and sacrifices made by the working class and people are not hijacked by the imperialists, the capitalists and other exploiters? How can the toiling masses be empowered to take control of their destiny and reorganise society in their own interests? How can their all-sided emancipation and continuous progress – political, national, economic, social and cultural – be achieved?
The October Revolution blazed a trail on all these fronts. All those fighting for the liberation of the peoples from all kinds of oppression and exploitation today must seriously study and learn from the lessons of Great October.
The October socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 followed several months after a popular uprising had toppled the hated rule of the tsars who had dragged the Russian people into the disastrous inter-imperialist war, World War I. That uprising had brought to power the republican government of Kerensky which sought to consolidate the rule of the bourgeoisie, pave the way for the further development of capitalism in Russia and continue Russia’s involvement in the war, but in a form less exposed than the tsarist monarchy. The Russian proletariat and people had fought on the barricades to bring down tsarism and win democracy, but it was the bourgeoisie that was usurping the fruits.
It was due to the farsighted and determined leadership of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party that the new bourgeois state power was not allowed to consolidate itself. The vanguard section of the proletariat, organised by the communists, utilised the revolutionary conditions then prevailing to sweep forward and rally the toiling masses of the cities and countryside to overthrow the bourgeois state. They established in its place the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers deputies – the form that the dictatorship of the proletariat took in Russia.
Following the teachings of Marxism-Leninism, the Revolution demolished the old parasitic state machinery. The talk shop parliament (duma) was abolished, and the soviets were established as a new type of political body which combined both legislative and executive functions. In other words, their job did not end with just passing laws, but they were also responsible for the implementation of these laws. The Red Army was established as a people’s army. Thus, the dictatorship of the proletariat ended the great gulf characteristic of all exploitative societies, between the officials and the people, and between the armed forces and the people.
National oppression was abolished at one stroke, as the right to self-determination, up to and including secession, of all the nations and nationalities that had been imprisoned within the old tsarist empire was given constitutional recognition. On this basis, a new voluntary association of these nations and nationalities – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – was forged.
Women’s oppression – the hallmark of all societies based on exploitation – was also combated in a way that had never been seen before. At a time when women in the so-called advanced democracies of Europe and America were struggling to get the vote, the Soviet women were given equal rights in all spheres. At the same time, to ensure that these rights and equality did not remain just on paper, they were given full support by the proletarian state to come out and work and take part in public life, to get educated on par with men and boys, and to fulfill their household, child-rearing, and other responsibilities.
For the first time in the history of mankind, the toiling masses of town and country, led by the modern proletariat, became decision makers, deciding their own destiny. They managed the factories and collective farms, they took part in the planning and execution of decisions pertaining to the economy and other spheres of social life. In a word, they transformed themselves from objects of exploitation and oppression into the rulers of society, who set the course of society.
With the victory of the Soviet proletarian state over various external and internal enemies, and with the progress and maturing of the socialist system, further measures to deepen and extend proletarian democracy were undertaken under the leadership of Comrade Stalin and guaranteed under the 1936 Constitution. These included, among other things, the right of the electors to select the candidates for election, the right to recall, and the promulgation of various freedoms.
All these measures that followed in the wake of the October Revolution established a new benchmark in the world for democracy and people’s rights. The great superiority of the proletarian democracy over the bourgeois democracy prevailing in the capitalist countries was visible and obvious to all. It was testified to by innumerable eyewitnesses from different countries. It became the model aspired for by countless people, especially working people, in both the advanced capitalist countries as well as the colonial and dependent countries around the world at that time. The democracies in the capitalist countries, on the other hand, became increasingly exposed as instruments of bourgeois power, as the ruling bourgeoisie in those countries increasingly clamped down on the struggles of workers and other toiling people, brutally crushed the fighting peoples in their colonies, and turned to fascism.
The path blazed by the October Revolution remains the path for the working class and people to secure their rights and democracy, and to end all forms of exploitation and oppression while ensuring a steadily rising standard of living for the working people. This is the path that is in conformity with both the laws of historical development of mankind as well as the conditions of the modern world in which production is becoming increasingly socialised, and capitalism and imperialism are the main obstacles to the attainment of freedom and justice for the world’s peoples.
The bourgeoisie all over the world tries to deny the validity of this path, utilising the setback caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This collapse was the result of the betrayal of socialism by Khrushchev and other leaders in the CPSU after the death of Stalin, which resulted in the emergence of a new rapacious bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie trumpets this as the “failure of socialism”, and tries to promote their own discredited forms of bourgeois democracy as the model for all societies without exception. They claim the right to declare a country as “democratic” on the basis of these criteria, irrespective of whether or not the masses of toiling people are groaning under the weight of poverty and oppression. But however hard they try, they cannot erase from the collective memory of the world’s proletariat and people the light shed by the October Revolution on the crucial question of democracy and people’s rights. In each and every country, the communists and those with advanced consciousness rely on the science of Marxism-Leninism and the example of the October Revolution to fight for the emancipation of the people.