C.L.R. James

The Gathering Forces

* * *


A three-way division of affairs among Russia, China and the United States dominates world politics today. Two nations out of these three are governed, according to their official declarations, by the theories and practices of Marxism-Leninism. The human consciousness must inescapably satisfy itself with answers to the questions: what exactly is this all about and how did it come to be? Has it always been so and, if not, where and how did such a state of affairs take place?

Prospects of war and peace, budgets, armies, parties, elections, trade and cultural exchanges, the United Nations and. the Third World of emerging nations, are all entangled. Hundreds of millions cover their eyes and, sick of the dehumanisation of civilised society, shut off news of interminable and unresolvable conflict between Russia and China on the one side, and American attempts to dominate the world on the other.

What is being awaited is a consummation of what began with the breakup of the Eastern Front in World War I: the arrival of the populace politically onto the streets of Petrograd and Moscow. The October Revolution of 1917 was the initial landmark on the landscape of war and revolution, mass initiative and class repressions, self-liberating efforts and alienating mystification. A breaking point in human existence began in October 1917 and now awaits resolution. After Stalinism, Khrushchevism and the bewildering profundities of Chairman Mao, the present generation is suffused with the desire to arrive at the terminal point of the twentieth century political upheavals.

In the same Russia today, October is celebrated by self-congratulations accompanied by displays of the latest missiles, tanks and rockets. The United States, while still declaring how it deplores the rise of Bolshevism, compares the mellowness of the present. Russian leaders with the intransigence of the Chinese. Furthermore, an event which, upon its happening, had made bright man's hopes is now used as an occasion to insist that the great majorities of the populations cannot alter or improve their conditions of life.

Fifty years ago, the October Revolution made mankind aware of the task placed in the hands of the proletariat: destroying the accepted, constantly increasing evils of capitalist society. Today there has emerged a new force to join the proletariat, comprising hundreds of millions. This force is engaged in the struggle to rid contemporary society of the incubus which weighs upon it and threatens to destroy mankind itself by fratricidal struggles for power. This force is the people of the Third World, whose liberation is possible only by the destruction of the economic and cultural domination of imperialism.

For us who celebrate the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution this political emergence of the Third World is a culmination of what emerged from theory into reality in October 1917.

What is new in our analysis will concern itself above all with the emergence of this new force which struggles to complete what the October Revolution began. But it is necessary, first and foremost, to understand what was the October Revolution, what it did and what it did not do.

Last updated on 18 October 2020