Lessons of October
The revolutionary idea of liberation from exploitation continues to inspire.
The idea of the October Revolution was so powerful that it instantly caught hold of the imagination of the most oppressed people of all lands. The idea of the Revolution is one of the liberation of humanity from all kinds of exploitation and enslavement. It negates the capitalist system and constructs a new social order of socialism, which ends the exploitation of one human being by another, ensures harmonious relationship between nature and humans and empowers every one in every sphere of life.
The October Revolution changed the historical and ideological map of the world. It not only changed the fate of the Tsarist empire but also the world at large. The impact of the Revolution on national liberation movements across the world, including in India, was huge.The historical implications of the October Revolution to Indian conditions remain the same even today. Its influence stretched beyond the communists and Marxists in India. Great political leaders including Gandhi, Nehru, Netaji Subhas Bose, Tilak, Ambedkar, Lajpat Rai, Acharya Narendra Dev, Periyar, Bhagat Singh and great poets like Subramania Bharati, Tagore and other innumerable personalities appreciated the ideas of the Russian Revolution.
Lenin, leader of the October Revolution, advised the communists of Asian countries that every country should make its own contribution to the theory of revolution on the basis of the experience and needs of that particular country. He did not ask the communists to imitate the experiences of the Russian communists even when they were the most revolutionary. On the other hand, he proposed to learn the specific reality of each and every country and apply Marxism appropriately to local conditions. “Concrete analysis of concrete conditions” is Lenin’s definition for dialectics.The Asian reality was and still is much complicated. It has historically accumulated socio-cultural patterns, as Marx once mentioned, one kind of social relations superimposed on another. Marx referred to this complex reality as the Asiatic Mode of Production. Lenin asked the eastern Marxists to analyse afresh the given conditions and work out their strategy. Questions regarding the caste system and caste-based discrimination as well as gender discrimination are critical to understanding the Indian reality.
Lenin’s idea of imperialism also immensely contributed to the original studies of eastern societies. The role of capitalism is complicated in eastern conditions. The advice that eastern countries must repeat the western path of capitalist development has proved destructive in eastern conditions. Capitalism in the east under globalisation has destroyed biodiversity, natural resources, the aboriginal people, peasantry and many eco-sensitive production systems. The Indian people are already confronting the crude implications of capitalist type of development. Pollution of air, water and soil, pauperisation of peasants leading to suicides, excessive use of chemical fertilisers leading to the pollution of foodgrains, milk and vegetables, the widespread expansion of killer diseases, road and construction site accidents India is witnessing is a fallout of the country pursuing the capitalist way of development.
Neoliberalism is the current stage of capitalist-imperialist development. It has created unprecedented inequality in the society. Social contradictions and conflicts have intensified. The ruling classes, in order to protect their political power, are adopting more and more right-wing and fascist positions, undermining democracy and democratic institutions including Parliament.
The October Revolution teaches us to have a better understanding of capitalism in eastern countries. In India, the situation demands the unity of all the oppressed and exploited sections to strive for a secular democracy, social justice and socialism. It is imperative that the communists apply Marxism as a science and ideology to Indian conditions and intensify class struggle while taking into account the non-class contradictions of our society. Humanity needs many more Octobers.
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100 years of the Russian Revolution
When and where?The date of October 25 follows the Orthodox Julian calendar which was in use at the time in Russia. It corresponds to November 7 in the Gregorian calendar which is used in most of the world. Russia switched to this calendar after the Revolution. Petrograd was the name given to Russia’s imperial capital St. Petersburg at the beginning of World War I, with the aim of making it sound less Germanic and more Russian.
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The rebellion is known as October Revolution because it was launched on October 25 of the Orthodox Julian calendar, which was followed in Russia at the time. The date corresponds to November 7 in the Georgian calendar.
Although the events had started unfolding months ago. Led by labour class, the February Revolution had resulted in Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication and removed the Romanov line of succession.
However, these changes were simply insufficient to quell the outpouring of popular disaffection that had accumulated under an antiquated system of governance, rampant economic and social inequality, and decades of civic and military turbulence. Further political upheaval was inevitable.
Initially headed by nonpartisan Prince Georgy Lvov, the Provisional Government was plagued by its lack of political legitimacy and popular support, and by its “bourgeois” image.
In April 1917, Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia in a sealed train. Known for his fervent opposition to the war and incitement of violence against the ruling classes, he had previously been exiled to Switzerland by the Tsarist government.
On November 7, the Bolsheviks launched a coup against the Provisional Government. Supported both by the Petrograd Garrison and a newly docked fleet of marines, the Bolsheviks seized key government facilities with virtually no resistance. The next day, a final assault was launched on the weakly defended Winter Palace – the seat of the Provisional Government and the former home of the Tsar.
The resonance of the October Revolution was felt across the Russian Empire, including Kiev, which saw its own uprising. The ensuing Ukrainian War of Independence (1917-1921) involved numerous internal and international players. Among the latter were France, Germany, Poland and Romania.
Impact on India
India remained a close ally of Soviet Russia throughout the communist period. The country's ideology impacted Indian lives since the day of the revolution.
In the pre-independence era, when the country was plagued with hunger and poverty, the news of the Russian Revolution gave hope to the poorest people. They saw the possibility of political justice and economic prosperity, and it strengthened their resolve to continue their own struggles.
A senior Congress leader then, Jawaharlal Nehru noted later: “The Soviet Revolution has advanced human society by a great leap and has lit a bright flame which could not be smothered, and it has laid the foundation for that new civilisation towards which the world could advance.”
Indian farmers and Adivasis have long drawn inspiration from the Russian revolution and the communist example set by Lenin continues to aspire the Left ideology in India.