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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 47

November Revolution : Some Reflections

Tuesday 11 November 2008, by Hiren Mukerjee


Sixtyone years have passed since the November Revolution, “the ten days that shook the world”—in the American eye-witness John Reed’s memorable words—almost in literal fulfillment of the prophecy in the International hymn—-

The world will shake to its foundations

And we who are nothing shall be all!

Students of history will recall the exhilaration of the English radical, Charls Jams Fox, when he learnt of the fall of the Bastille (July 14, 1789) in Paris after assault by revolutionary masses: “How much the greatest event that has happened in history and how much the best.”


Such words could, with greater warrant, he said about the Great October Socialist Revolution, the creator under the dynamic direction of Lenin and his Bolsheviks, of the first state of workers and peasants in the history of man, the progenitor of a new era of historical development and of the struggle, that has taken place, of “all the imperialist-oppressed colonies and countries, of all dependent countries, against international imperialism” (Lenin), the signal indeed of a brave, new shift in world forces bursting as under the integument of world capitalism and facilitating, on a growingly global scale, the exproporiation of the expropriators.

“To the old world, the world of national oppressions, national bickering and national isolation,” wrote Lenin in those stormy days, “the workers counterpose a new world, a world of the unity of the working people of all nations, a world in which there is no place for any privileges or for the slightest degree of oppression of man by man.” With firm, closely reasoned faith in the revolutionary potentialities of the masses, Lenin averred that when toiling people “see and feel” that practical measures to transform all life along socialist lines are being taken, “our Government will be invincible”.

When the hopes, vivid and vibrant in the first post-Revolution years, of strong and sustained mass upsurges in Europe failed, the Soviets had to fight virtually alone the world bourgeoisie’s concerted effort to strangulate the infant state of socialism. Even the cruelest tests, however, saw the Soviets unvanquished—neither Civil War nor Intervention nor blockade nor engineered famines nor international quarantining could daunt the new phenomenon.

Driven inexorably to building “socialism in one country” (which dogmatists derided), the Soviets moved the mountainous obstacles in the way, built a new economy by their own sheer exertion and inspired all over the world a concrete confidence in the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism. Even the hideous trials of World War II, when the forces of fascism, earlier nursed and nurtured by imperialism, were hurled in all their fury against the Soviet land, ended in the triumph of the great historical process which the October Revolution had begun.

In the decades following World War II, the ideological-political arsenal of the monopoly bourgeoisie has displayed many intriguing anti-Soviet weapons, constantly but vainly being sharpened by Sovietologists, and one has heard of “convergence” and “the end of ideology” of “the industrial state” and of varieties of “neo-Marxism”, and of the crude bogey of a socialist “military threat” and the ballyhoo on “human rights”.


Some cardinal changes have occurred, however, in the world balance of forces and even the American Time magazine (March 13, 1978) was constrained to admit “the global advances socialism has made”. This journal estimated that “self-proclaimed” socialists of one variety or another and the supporters of socialism “rule 53 of the world’s sovereign states, controlling 39 per cent of its territory and 42 per cent of its population”. Of course, not in all these countries, power is wielded by believers in scientific socialism, but it is important that fewer and fewer people in the modern world are attracted by the capitalist path of development.

Criticism and self-criticism have always been essential to worth-while work in the cause of socialism. Warding off criticism is, for an individual or an institution, a disservice to itself. “One who is no longer responsive to criticism,” said Brezhnev the other day, “is incapable of good work.” No serious Leninist even remotely claims perfection for the Soviet achievement. There can be no bar, thus, on legitimate criticism of the USSR or of other Socialist States, provided always that it is honest and not so perverse and misguided that it distorts and damages the positive world trends in faovur of the advance of freedom and peace and their fulfilment in socialism.

Till People’s China returns to the mainstream of history where it belongs, tirades against the USSR and other Socialist countries will be heard—and even worse, imperialism will be enabled to take objective advantage of such foolish fissures in the world movement—but it is apity, a tremendous pity that a new stirring of the freedom-loving spirit alone can overcome. Meanwhile, also imperialism will exploit situations where “Right” and “Left” extremism fairly coincide and conceptions suitable to imperialism are advanced. “New philosophers” (!) as in France, and certain “Right” and “Left” opportunist “neo-Marxists” find themselves in the same boat with reactionary ideologists and question even the international significance of the October Revolution. The queer Chinese formulation about the USSR being the “main enemy” today, strangely echoed in certain Indian “Left” circles, with entirely imaginary and esoteric arguments or with none, presages danger which the anniversary of the October calls on all People of goodwill to overcome.

India and the Soviet Union are linked in a friendship that the facts of our life uphold. As Indian independence set in train the freedom of a long subjugated Afro-Asian countries, her emergence in truly popular-democratic strength would change the climate in our part of the world. It is this historicity which sustains Indo-Soviet amity.

Unless one chooses to be blind, one cannot but see that, in an often cruelly involved and intricate situation, the Soviet Union, to the full extent of its powers, befriends the forces of freedom in Africa, in the Middle East, in South and South-East Asia and in Latin America. The People’s Republic of China has, in this regard, a record which is bleak, and everything is subordinated to the perspective of China putting her own house in order and getting to her feet by 2000 AD, till when, it seems, world advance towards socialism should not be worried over and objective assistance to the US-West Europe-Japan syndrome (with dreadful consequences, specially to Afro-Asia) not grudged! It is a curious, anomalous and even vile recommendation which almost substantiates the charge that China, once a glorious component of world socialism, is turning traitor to it.

Such thoughts are unpleasant and it is the task of all friends of freedom and of socialism to see that the world picture changes and changes as soon as ever it is possible. For such change nothing is more important than the faith that Lenin had in the creative power of the working people. The October Revolution and the Soviet Union, through the ups and downs it has encountered, remain the effulgent witness and confirmation of that faith.

(Mainstream, November 4, 1978)

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