90th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1917

By Armando Hart Dávalos

The disappearance of the Soviet Union in December of 1991 did not diminish, at all, the importance of the Revolution that gave it life now 90 years ago. It was precisely on November 7 of 1917—corresponding to October in the Gregorian calendar—that the Bolsheviks began the greatest social revolution of the 20th century.

The heroic days of October—as described by U.S. journalist, John Reed—shook the world. A new epoch opened up for humanity. No later event can mar the greatness of the Russian Bolsheviks.

After the tragic outcome of the Soviet system, the importance of those events and the validity of the ideas on behalf of whom they were done requires an evaluation from the point of view of the thoughts of Marx and Lenin, of the complex historical moment that began then. Until today, analyses, mostly, have been done by the enemies of socialism and by those who have abandoned the ideas of Marxism, by bits, partially or incompletely. History, looked at in this manner, reveals prejudicial results for the most noble and just aspirations of the exploited and humanity as a whole.

According to the real supposition that Marxist interpretation of society became a rigid scheme, the possibility of a scientific analysis of history is denied and, as a result, are the roots of disaster.

However, regarding the deep meaning of what happened in 1917, there is a master key to analyzing the reality of our present. The Soviet Union disappeared, but remaining is the economic and social situations that gave birth to that vast movement of social classes and exploited peoples.

In what was given the name of Third World and, even, in the bosom of developed capitalist countries, a broadened explosive combination of what gave rise to the social revolution of 1917 is present; in other words, in bourgeois economic growth (anarchic by nature) there is a progressive increase of poverty and social injustice and a presence in intellectual circles of high political and philosophical culture. Situations are being created of population explosion that presupposes extremely serious social conflicts.

With modern facilities of communication and social and human relations, migratory movements are making these problems complex. It exudes from the universal economic, social and political life that typifies it as an explosion of disorder that, even, is already growingly affecting the ecology and atmosphere. That is the real “postmodernism.”

No one can invent stories about the events. We have lived through it from the perspective of a revolutionary, anti-imperialist and socialist left that is the most profound manner to reach conclusions over these processes. And even in this manner it is not a simple endeavor. However, there are evident conclusions.

First: the feats of 1917 and the years when Lenin was in charge of the process that is a milestone of exemplary value and undying in the struggle of the peoples to conquer their freedom.

Second: for years and decades, communists and the peoples of the U.S.SR waged colossal battles and achieved prodigious advances in the economic, social, political, cultural and military fields. In a relatively short time in history they converted an impoverished and exploited nation they inherited into a first class world power.

Third, and for several reasons, this process deviated from its initial route. A serious decomposition was produced and there were errors and horrors that history cannot pass by. The enemy took advantage of this situation for its underhanded work; but it would be granting them too much power to affirm that the main reason for the disaster was in the actions of imperialism. It is obvious that the essence of the tragedy is found in the internal factors of the soviet process.

What occurred in 1985 to the present is not the cause but the consequence of evils and problems that Fidel and Che had denounced during the 1960s on the basis of solid revolutionary positions.

The events are used to go against the ideas of Marx and Lenin. Regarding this simplistic logic, we could negate the universal political culture of the Encyclopedists, because the monarchy was restored and France took a long time before establishing a stable republican system. Following this manner of thinking we could blame Christ and Christianity for the Inquisition.

Attributing the errors and crimes committed to the socialist ideals, as if these evils were inherent to it and there were not a previous and later history in socialism. It is worthwhile saying that it should not have occurred in socialism. Precisely for these reasons, what was called “real socialism” collapsed. There was an underestimation of the subjective factors that limited theoretical development of revolutionary thought and damaged socialist practice. As the Cuban Revolution warned, these subjective factors have much greater importance than what was conceived by the predominant Marxist interpretation of the past few decades. It has been confirmed that there is no socialism without a high degree of ethics.

We Cubans assume the scientific, economic and social discoveries made by Karl Marx from the spiritual and ethical culture of our America. We are guided by the thoughts of Marx because his cultural and scientific contributions and his universal humanistic sense were the basis for a socialist ethics. It served us to interpret human history; offered clarity in the study of the economic and social evolution of Cuba and Latin America; it gave us methods for a historical analysis to scientifically confirm the popular roots of our patriotism; it taught us that the contradiction between the rich and the poor—in the end—was the deep rooted cause of social tragedy and showed us that revolutionary struggle to overcome socio-economic inequalities is of utmost importance and the roots of an ethics that intends to have a universal value.

Since the 20s and through the influence of the October Revolution the immense legacy of Marx and Lenin began to unfurl, in the political culture of our country with the universal and anti-imperialist thoughts of José Martí. They were socialist and anti-imperialist currents that were exemplified in Julio Antonio Mella that resurrected him from underestimation and demonstrated the revolutionary sharpness of Martian thought. We are not going to renounce this legacy. To do so would be a betrayal, and expression of absence of culture and political realism. We need it to study and deal with our realities of today and tomorrow.

November 7 of 1917 gathered around it the highest European political intellectuality, with the revolutionary spirit of the Russian working class and the struggle of the peasants for land and their rights. What happened after the death of Lenin is another lesson for us.

To defend the interests of the working and exploited masses we must extol the history of human culture, from remote antiquity to this end of the millennium, without traumas, without ideological “isms” that since the mythical times of a chained Prometheus, discoverer of fire, imposes breaks, currently and in a dramatic manner, with imagination, intelligence, tenderness and spirit of solidarity and relationships that are potentially alive in human consciousness.

The ideas and principles they forged go beyond specific situations. From Christ and Spartacus to Marx and Lenin there is a history that goes back and forth; but still standing, upright, is the image of the great men who forged redeeming ideas. Among them are Lenin and the Russian Bolsheviks of 1917.

While humanity exists they will live in the grateful memory of the combatants for liberty.

Armando Hart Dávalos Email:

—CubaNews, November 7, 2007