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Started by GreenFuture on Apr 10, 2017 1:11:18 AM
1917 And All That...

In the centenary year of The October Revolution, no opening post can really hope to do the topic justice, but here are some questions for starters:

To what extent did the Bolsheviks succeed?

Assuming things went wrong, where and how?

100 years on, with the astonishing changes to society, global politics, technology etc. is there any use in seeing the actions culminating in the storming of The Winter Palace as any kind of template for revolution today?

If not, why do some on the left, no matter how few, still to think they might be?

Please feel free to bring up your own questions, knowledge, analysis etc. in what I know could be a very fruitful discussion.


GreenFuture - 10 Apr 2017 01:14:49 (#1 of 266)

Edit: Apols for un proofed OP, but hopefully it makes sense enough.

Personally, I am very interested in anarchist critique of 1917 onwards, and find much value in it.

This is a fairly accessible primer

This talk by Ian Bone is very compelling too, one of the groups he discusses are the Left Socialist Revolutionaries who stood up to Trotsky et. al, challenging them from the left.

It probably says more about me, but I think challenging communism, soviet or otherwise, from the left is the most appropriate position.

SirHenryPercy - 10 Apr 2017 17:47:01 (#2 of 266)

"To what extent did the Bolsheviks succeed?"

They ended up creating a regime as bad, if not worse, than the Czarist regime.

Their influence corrupted all types of revolutionary socialism into a bastard creed that cannot tell right from wrong.

The result is that they have discredited Communism and Socialism for all time and ensured humanity will remain a selfish and gasping bunch of little shits for all eternity.

So as failures go, an epic one.

"Assuming things went wrong, where and how?"

Pursuit of power regardless of the cost. They became the mirror image of those they fought against. It corrupted them. As a result they quickly become dishonest and self-delusional hypocrites.

Jacob_Richter - 10 Apr 2017 20:04:17 (#3 of 266)

the centenary year of The October Revolution

It's also the centenary of the February Revolution as well. This is important because both revolutions came 'from below' - made by Russian workers, peasants and soldiers themselves.

It's that social history which interests me the most - because taken as a whole it answers the questions that you ask, GF. There is a series of talks, some of which have made their way on to You-tube, by social historians looking at various aspects of the revolutionary experience.

So far, I've listened to Steve Smith, “How Much Popular Support did the Bolsheviks Enjoy in 1917-1921?” (that's the Steve Smith who wrote 'Red Petrograd - Revolution in the Factories 1917-18' - essential reading imo) and Brendan McGeever, “Anti-Semitism and the Russian revolution”. Both have been excellent, all talks are followed by Q&A and discussions.

Jacob_Richter - 10 Apr 2017 20:09:26 (#4 of 266)

Incidentally, GF, when you ask: "100 years on, with the astonishing changes to society, global politics, technology etc. is there any use in seeing the actions culminating in the storming of The Winter Palace as any kind of template for revolution today?" then you need to unpack what you mean by that because I suspect that what you may mean by "the actions culminating in the storming of The Winter Palace" may well be different to what I or the next person may understand by it.

xbod72 - 10 Apr 2017 20:47:15 (#5 of 266)

Jacob, will I understand those talks as a noob? Or do they assume a great deal of prior knowledge?

Jacob_Richter - 10 Apr 2017 21:10:11 (#6 of 266)

I've only listened to two. I reckon that the first one by Steve Smith will be fine. I guess there are degrees on noobness.

If you are a complete noob then Smith has written a book for you -

I've not read it, but Smith is a good historian and, as I say, he's written a book for people who may not have looked at this issue since they did it at school.

I think some of the other talks assume a degree of knowledge of events and of historiographical debates.

PostmodernToss - 10 Apr 2017 21:11:49 (#7 of 266)

Looks interesting, actually.

GreenFuture - 10 Apr 2017 21:28:03 (#8 of 266)

Thanks for 3 Jacob.

And to answer 4: I wasnt too clear. Thing is back then, it was far easier to point at The Man (Czar) was and where he was to fuck him over.

This is not to belittle the enormous and courageous undertaking of the revolution, but these days I just don't think it could be done on a practical level, and the rulership is far more international.

xbod72 - 10 Apr 2017 21:29:35 (#9 of 266)

Thanks Jacob.

Jacob_Richter - 10 Apr 2017 21:43:38 (#10 of 266)

Thing is back then, it was far easier to point at The Man (Czar) was and where he was to fuck him over.

Maybe. But the Tsar was gone in the February Revolution and yet the revolutionary crisis continued. Ordinary people (I know - how do we define them?) had quite a deep understanding of the politics of their time and place and this was bound up with the concerns of 'bread, peace and land'. People elected their own representative organisations, soviets, and there really was a deep popular involvement in politics.

GreenFuture - 10 Apr 2017 22:04:53 (#11 of 266)

Yep, thanks for stressing the Feb/Oct differences. I have a communist friend who stresses that revolution often comes on the back of reform, and that 1917 (and earlier rather fake tsarist reforms not least after the unpopular loss to Japan), emphasise that.

Hang on...Japan was 1905? were there reforms in 1912?

Jacob_Richter - 11 Apr 2017 11:29:11 (#12 of 266)

There were reforms in the wake of, or designed to ameliorate, the 1905 Revolution.

These reforms by the Tsar and his supporters were around limited democracy with the formation of a Duma:

Land reforms with the Stolypin Reforms - some proposals predating the revolution:

From the Tsarist perspective these reforms were grouped under the October Manifesto:

PS - I've not read any of those wiki links so can't vouch for them.

GreenFuture - 11 Apr 2017 12:14:23 (#13 of 266)

Cool though. ta.

Jacob_Richter - 11 Apr 2017 12:18:17 (#14 of 266)

So, in the early stages of the 1917 revolutions you get figures in the last Tsarist government and in the early Provisional Governments who are described as 'Octobrists' - this means their politics is formed by the approach of the October Manifesto.

Jacob_Richter - 12 Apr 2017 17:53:36 (#15 of 266)

Tariq Ali's take on things - with 10 books he recommends.

brooklyn - 12 Apr 2017 18:58:00 (#16 of 266)

you should really take a vacation and branch out a bit, Jacob. like, read a book about the Chinese revolution or the Cuban revolution, or something.

moonriver - 12 Apr 2017 19:20:05 (#17 of 266)

The Bolsheviks modernized Russia, to an extent, economically, and socially.

It was a top-down modernization, though. They never got from state socialism to communism.

Politically, they failed. Their system never became the system of the people.

GreenFuture - 12 Apr 2017 21:02:46 (#18 of 266)

brooklyn - 1917 is the grand-daddy of them all tho.

Jacob - thanks for the Tariq Ali link. I have so much time for him

Moonriver - succinct and hard to much disagree with.

brooklyn - 12 Apr 2017 21:22:18 (#19 of 266)

<<1917 is the grand-daddy of them all tho.>>

well. 1848 gets at least an honorable mention.

Sunfish - 12 Apr 2017 21:33:21 (#20 of 266)

Interesting thread. Good link at #3 Jacob. Thanks.

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