Pantelis Pouliopoulos

In the 13th Anniversary of the Russian Proletarian Revolution

First Published: Spartakos Issue 4, October 1930
Online Version: Pantelis Pouliopoulos Internet Archive, April 2003
Re-published: Spartakos: Documents 1930-1932, Outopia Publications, Athens 1986
English Translation: H. Antonn
HTML Markup: H. Antonn and Roland Ferguson

Thirteen years of constant existence of Soviet power in the midst of a capitalist world, whose pedestal is shaking by constant social turmoil, have made obvious the absurdity, which after November 1917 the politicians and theoreticians of international reaction have counterpoised to the magnificent realisation of the Russian proletarians: That this revolution was not historically necessary. Regardless of the progressive leaps of the new socialist civilization that the revolution has achieved during these last thirteen years and regardless of the future fate of this undertaking in Russia, the October Revolution was a historical necessity of its time.

It is the grandest epoch-making event in mankind’s development, since the existence of class society in the world, and gave and still gives the greatest lesson of our century to the conscious moving force of the future progress of mankind, to the international proletariat.

Such is the nature of reactionary philosophy, that it cannot hold dialectic truth, that the Russian proletarian revolution as a necessary event, is also rational; that is, it is not due to the “manic” agitation of a handful of revolutionaries, nor to the Kaiser’s marks and the intrigues of the German General Staff, as the bankrupt of the February Revolution, Kerensky, shamelessly declared in his recent memoirs.

The logical roots of the October revolution were revealed to us with admirable scientific accuracy validated by experience, by its theoretician and political leader, N. Lenin.

The dissolution of the bourgeois state organisation in tzarist Russia and the historical weakness of the Russian bourgeoisie to complete the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution after the wreckage of tzarism — a weakness that unavoidably brought it to the camp of counter-revolution — was synchronised with the period of revolutionary crisis of international capitalism, initiated by the great imperialist war, that brought the working class as a protagonist in the scene of world history. The Russian proletariat inside such a complex of historical conditions, was the natural and logical concluder of the bourgeois democratic revolution in Russia and the initiator of the international social revolution in its country. The opening of the revolutionary period was lit in the foreground of post war history not only by the Moscow barricades, but of those of Hamburg and Bavaria and Hungary and Italy and the Baltic States and Saxony and Bulgaria in ’23 and the colonial insurrections in the East and North Africa. The transitional age we’re living in since 1914, is a period of imperialist wars, social revolutions and national insurrections. In the chain of events that we’ll live until capitalist power is at its last gasp throughout the world, the Russian Revolution of 1917 is the first link. The existence of a large Marxist party, steeled by the revolutionary experience of twenty five years, the existence of a genius leader’s staff, the delayed development of the local bourgeoisie and the long dominance of the basic economical arteries of the country on foreign finance capital that was giving in significant scale to the anticapitalist proletarian struggle a national revolutionary character, those factors combined with the classic betrayal of the revolution by the parties of the petit-bourgeois democracy (Social-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks), gave victory to the Russian proletariat, as opposed to the temporary defeats that the proletarian revolution suffered in other countries.

There is no more characteristic sign for the various political tendencies and parties today than the position they take towards the Russian Revolution of 1917. From this viewpoint, the international social-democracy revealed its total separation from Marxism and any revolutionary tradition of the workers’movement, and ended up a mere radical complement of the reactionary critique that doubted even the historic necessity of a revolutionary transition in Russia. All the wisdom of official social-democracy, in relation to the question of the Russian Revolution, is summed up today in the following: “The Russian Revolution should not have proceeded in socialist tasks, but should finish only the bourgeois democratic transition of the country. A proletarian revolution never occurred in Russia. The Soviets must be substituted with a bourgeois democracy.” But if someone observes the development of the viewpoint of today’s social-democratic theoreticians, from the first years of our century up to now regarding the Russian question, will be truly astonished in front of the greatness of their tragicomic palinode. In 1902, Karl Kautsky, the most powerful mind of the Marxism in the International, making [1] a historic parallel of the revolutions of the previous century with the gigantic workers’insurrections that the 20th century forewarned even at its threshold, was establishing the moving of the centre of the International Revolution to Russia, as opposed to Western Europe, becoming “the fortress of reaction and authoritarianism".[2] In 1908, when Leon Davidovich Trotsky formulated in Kautsky’s theoretical organ Neue Zeit, in a magnificent theoretical vehicle, the potential of the International proletarian revolution whose prologue began since 1905 in Russia (theory of the “permanent revolution"), pointing out that “under the force of historical necessity, the Russian revolution overthrowing the narrow limit’s of bourgeois democracy, would force the proletariat after its triumph to break also the framework of nationality, that is, to guide consciously its efforts in such a way for the Russian revolution to become the prologue of the international revolution";[3] when he formulated these, he found in further agreement not only Franz Mehring and Rosa Luxembourg, but also Kautsky and his followers. In 1917 and ’18, Otto Bauer, the most clever and “most left”leader of modern social-democracy, saluted the Russian proletarian revolution and justified Bolshevik tactics (naturally to limit the admittance of its correctness only within the particular conditions of authoritarian Russia).[4]

Ever since the experience of bloody struggles in Western Europe, America, Japan and the colonies came to verify plangently the conclusion of the Russian Marxists that if “finally it is advantageous for the proletariat to conduct its own class struggle, and even its dictatorship, within the framework of democratic institutions without this meaning that history always offers the proletariat the possibility of such a combination”,[5] the increasing bankruptcy of bourgeois parliamentarism, and the day-by-day fascistisation of bourgeois democracies prove incontrovertibly the international value of the Bolshevik tactics and the new type of state that the Russian experience gave us. This state having as its basic cell the council of representatives of the workers on the place of production on one hand surpasses the oppressive bureaucratic and pseudorepresentative forms of bourgeois democracy with the corruption of its officialdom and with the separation of the legislative, executive and judicial functions and on the other hand increasingly raises the last worker and peasant, “the last cook”to use Lenin’s phrase, to the role of active vehicle of all the state functions together, that is, it ensures the highest grade of democratic participation of citizens in directing the common affairs.

And since then, for social-democracy, what a tragic irony! Until 1921 the Georgian social-democrats were pushing forward the betrayal of the socialist banner up to the point of organising a mercenary counter-revolution to “liberate”their country from the “yoke” of the first proletarian democracy and surrendering its wealth-producing sources to the exploitation of English imperialists. In 1921 Kautsky salutes the end of war communism and the beginning of the NEP, not as the beginning of a systematic and gradual socialistisation of the country, on the basis of economic set-up, that the ruined, through strife of the civil war, Russian capitalism bequeathed to the Russian proletariat, but as a cleaning up of the proletarian revolution and progress of Russia to “correct bourgeois democratic institutions”. Even today Kautsky himself, who twenty five years ago foretold the erasure of bourgeois influence within social-democracy, thanks to the contribution of the Russian revolution, in his last book evangelises, alongside Chamberlain, open counter-revolution against the “red dictators”!

The deep crisis of socialist rebuilding in the USSR and Communist International, has pointed out even more the negative side of the proletarian dictatorship in Russia. It is well known that the crisis manifested itself from the time of Lenin’s illness, since the dominance of the National-Bolshevik group of Stalin-Bukharin, and the expelling of the communist opposition under Trotsky (Bolshevik-Leninists).

The October Revolution was the first victorious proletarian revolution in the world. But it was obvious from the start, that throughout the proletarian dictatorship in Russia, new class variations with a new form of internal class struggle would surely end up being very dangerous for the new regime, if the proletarian revolution in other industrially advanced countries wouldn’t follow the Russian revolution.

The passage to socialism and the corresponding state form of the proletarian dictatorship fills a whole transition period. These can be realised when the political supremacy of the proletariat is consolidated, when the separation of the industrial city from the farming village is slowly reduced with the help of economic development and the great socialised and mechanised production, and when class differences are increasingly leveled and gradually, along with these, the state itself disappears. This transition requires an entire historical epoch.

It is without doubt that the USSR, surrounded by capitalist states and left without the support of a victorious proletarian revolution in another large country, presents phenomena and tendencies completely opposite, although the development of the socialist section of the economy progresses steadily. History wanted to begin the socialist reconstruction in a vast country with backward industry and agricultural composition, flooded by remnants of even pre-capitalist economic forms. The influence of the neo-capitalist and peasant environment (Nepman-Kulak) upon the ruling communist party, manifested itself with tendencies of gradual degeneration of the soviet and party bureaucracy and their separation from the masses. On the other hand, the delay of the International revolution and the successive defeats of the agricultural proletariat, increasingly empowered the bureaucratic elements of the party, and capitalism influenced by the neo-bourgeoisie of the NEP, the tendencies of national self-confinement, and blurred the internationalist perspective on which the makers of the October Revolution based their work. But the basic proletarian nucleus of the party, living with the experience of three revolutions, could not but preserve their unerring class instinct in these dangerous class differentiations of the post-revolutionary period, and all the conscious possibilities to save the revolution from danger.

On this socio-economic background, the giant struggle between the two camps of the Communist International, Stalinism and Opposition, manifested itself and still continues. The Stalinist group, after taking in its hands the whole of the bureaucratic mechanism of the C.I. and the USSR, initially with mechanistic organisational measures, with administrative and judicial persecution of its opponents, imprisonments, exiles and systematic distortion of the views of the opposition, after adopting the right-wing Bukharinist views, led the party from ’25 until the end of ’29 to unacceptable concessions to the new Russian bourgeoisie, and crowned its anti-Marxist deviation with the notorious theory of socialism in one country -a theoretical utopia and at the same time an abandonment of the revolutionary marxist principles, of internationalism and the world revolution-, now, since last year, turns towards the left and tries in a mechanistic way to implement the program that the opposition formulated in the 15th congress of the party, and for which it had been expelled from the party, a program of methodical industrialisation and gradual collectivisation of agricultural companies. But while on one hand the oppositionists are still under persecution, on the other it was natural for the centrist group of Stalin to reduce the implementation of the oppositionist program to a kind of economic adventurism, ignoring in an anti-Marxist manner the objective capabilities in every sector of the economic life of the country. Thus we saw in the beginning of this year Stalin confessing the unsettlement that the mechanistic collectivisation brought, dumping the responsibilities, as always, to the local organisations. Thus we heard the monstrous statement that the Kulaks will be abolished as a class in a few years, that is, the classless society will be established in the villages, through the five-year plan. The practical mistakes of the ruling group of epigones of Leninism, being incompetent to continue the work of the leader! s of the revolution because they never assimilated their spirit and method, despite the regurgitation of Leninist excerpts, these mistakes, it is inevitable that they won’t lead to new class differentiations and therefore to new dangers for the revolution. If the pretty descriptions of the regime of the NEP were criminal mistakes, with the claim that the NEP is almost socialism and the kulak himself would “pass into" socialism (Bukharin), it will be today an equally deadly mistake for the revolutionary marxists to stand by and watch the clerks of the Stalinist bureaucracy pointing out the successes of the five-year plan of socialist reconstruction, while at the same time closing their eyes of the revolutionary vanguard throughout the world to the dangers that threaten the Russian revolution from a centrist policy of ultra-right and ultra-left zig-zags, a policy that comes now to correct spasmodically its old mistakes, to make even worse ones in the future, fatal for the revolution, if there is no reaction by the healthy proletarian nucleus of the party.

From that point of view, the historic role of the International Left Opposition, organisationally defeated but politically and morally victorious, is under the current historical conditions a truly basic and sine qua non function of the Russian revolution, a revolution that started as a prologue, and finish as the fulfillment of the International social revolution. Thirteen years have now passed from the October revolution, and the one remaining from its two leaders,[A] is not now at the head of the task of the socialist reconstruction in Russia, which alongside Lenin he began in 1917. Exiled by the bureaucracy of the epigones, he is now concentrating from a shore in Bosporus the forces of the fighting revolutionary Marxism in the whole world. The true followers of Marx and Lenin are with the exile of Principo as if they can hear him say: “You will not succeed in detaching us from the Communist International, our ideas will penetrate its bossom and find their expression in the program of the Communist International”.

Salonica, October 1930
P. Pouliopoulos

[A] Meaning of course Leon Trotsky, exiled at the time in Principo, outside Istanbul in Turkey.

1. In the organ of the Russian social-democratic immigrants “Iskra" in his article entitled “The Slavs and the Revolution", No 18, March 10th 1902

2. In the same article: “The revolutionary movement of Russia will be probably the most powerful medium to make the spirit of the bourgeoisie and bleak parliamentarism, which began to spread within our ranks, and will light again with a bright flame the militant thirst and the fervent devotion to our great ideal... The Slavs are probably destined today to become the storm that will break the ice of reaction and bring headily with it a new spring for nations”.

3. Trotski: “Nos differends 1905 La reaction et les perspectives de la revolution”in his work “1905" French trans. Paris 1923 p. 256

4. O. Bauer: “Bolchewismus oder Sozialdemokratie? ” Wien 1921

5. L. Trotski: “Von der Oktoberrevolution biszum Brester Friedensvertrag” Berlin, 1919 s. 95


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