James P. Cannon

Hail the Russian Revolution!

(2 November 1935)

Published: New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 45, 2 November 1935, pp. 1 & 8.
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November 7th is our day.

For internationalists the world over, it is the day of the great vindication of their ideas and the harbinger of their final victory on an international scale. This is the spirit in which all the authentic representatives of the great proletarian revolution in Russia celebrate its 18th anniversary. Not as a completed, self-sufficient national affair, but as a beginning of the international revolution – this is the inner meaning of the workers’ victory in Russia as its organizers and leaders explained it and as we understand it. We hail the Russian revolution as the prelude to the world “October.”

The Russian revolution represents the triumph of an idea which had penetrated the masses and become a material force. Marx transformed socialism from utopia to science; the Russian revolution developed the science into action. Since November 7, 1917 the theoretical concept of the proletarian revolution has been a demonstrated reality over one-sixth of the globe and an imminent challenge to the whole capitalist world. That is why the Soviet Union has been and remains the great magnet of attraction for the revolutionary workers in all countries.

It was the inspiring force in the regroupment of the vanguard which had been dispersed and demoralized by the treachery of the Social Democracy in the war, and also the rallying point for the masses in their struggle against capitalism on a world-wide arena. The will to defend the Soviet Union which animated every class-conscious worker in the capitalist countries was expressed – as Lenin taught – by the revival of the revolutionary fight against the exploiters at home. That is the line upon which we reconstituted the American movement. It remains our line today.

The Russian revolution demonstrated the heroic qualities of the proletariat and showed that revolutionary Marxism alone is capable of shaping leaders equal to the highest test of the historic turning point of humanity. In the persons of Lenin and Trotsky the revolution found its authentic representatives – organizers of the victory who stood on a historic level with the founders of the doctrine, Marx and Engels. In the organization of the Red Army and its magnificent and victorious campaigns against the people’s enemies in the civil war and the war of intervention the unbounded resourcefulness, creative energy and courage of the historically rising class was displayed. The working class, even in a backward country in which it constitutes but a small percentage of the total population, is capable of making its revolution and also of defending it. This is the message of the Russian Revolution to the whole class. What miracles of energy may confidently be expected from the working class in the advanced countries when the masses are fused with a Marxist leadership at the moment of the social crisis!

The Russian workers inherited from Czarism a poorly developed industry. And even that was ruined and disorganized, first by the ravages of the disastrous war of the capitalist powers and then by the civil war and the intervention. The success of the Soviet workers, deprived of all aid from the capitalist world, in reconstructing the shattered basis of pre-war Russian industry and then in expanding it on a scale and at a pace unprecedented in history, has proven for all time the immense superiority of the Soviet system over the capitalist system of private ownership. That which the Marxists always maintained has been irrefutably confirmed in practice under the most unfavorable conditions by the Soviet proletariat. The productive forces of mankind, fettered by capitalist property relations and disorganized by ever-deepening crises, will be again vastly expanded under the socialist world system. All possible doubts on this score are removed by the achievements of the Russian revolution in the field of industry regardless of eventual fate of the present Soviet state.

The true adherents of the Russian revolution do not blind themselves to its weaknesses which are fundamentally the result of its isolation and capitalist encirclement and inseparable from it. The nationalist degeneration, which has proceeded uninterruptedly since Lenin’s death and which expresses the pressure of alien classes at home and abroad, is the greatest menace to the Soviet Union and the most formidable obstacle to the extension of the revolution to other lands. Stalinism, the bearer of this nationalist degeneration, is the mortal enemy of the Soviet Union and the international revolution. He who does not see this and say it frankly is no revolutionist. Our attitude has nothing in common with those dubious “Friends of the Soviet Union” who expose their friendship in servile and uncritical support of every act and every crime of the bureaucracy. Such people, who are at best sentimental philistines serving reactionary ends and at worst wretched careerists and hired flunkeys of the opulent bureaucracy, are outside the revolution and, at the critical moment, will turn up on the sidelines or on the other side of the barricades. As for us, the Russian revolution is our own. We owe the Soviet Union our criticism which is inseparable from the real and unconditional support which genuine revolutionists have always given it. Our fight against Stalinism is a fight for the real defense of the Soviet Union and its extension throughput the world.

The October revolution and the Third International of Lenin are forever united in history as one and the same enterprise. The ideas of the Third International, forged by Lenin and his collaborators in the darkest days of the world war, came to fruition in the October revolution and made it possible. And by the same token the consolidation of the victory in Russia gave the impulse to the world movement which called the Third International into existence as a world organization. Revolutionary internationalism was the guiding idea which gave meaning to the struggle and determined its course throughout. The abandonment of this line by the nationalistic usurpers has worked exclusively to weaken and undermine the Soviet Union, to destroy the Third International and to demoralize the proletarian vanguard throughout the world. But for the revolutionary Marxists who remain true to themselves the betrayal of the usurpers is only a summons to conduct a new struggle for the old cause. The downfall of the Third International sounds the call for the creation of the Fourth.

The teaching and practice of the leaders of the Russian Revolution and the Third International, brilliantly exemplified in the greatest victory the working class has ever known, retain all their validity today. To be true to these teachings and apply them – therein lies the task of the proletarian vanguard and the assurance of its victory. To that task we dedicate ourselves again on the 18th anniversary of the Russian revolution.

In order to go forward we must return to Lenin. We must raise again the banner of revolutionary internationalism. We must revive the concept of the Russian revolution as the beginning of the international revolution and dependent on it. That is the way, and the only way, to defend the Soviet Union, to fight the impending war of the imperialists and to prepare the way for the world October. All these tasks and problems which dominate and determine the fate of the working class and of all humanity are bound together today in a single slogan: THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL!

Last updated on: 2 February 2018