LIE #3: The 1917 October Revolution in Russia was a "coup" staged by Lenin and the communist Bolshevik Party. They were power hungry and grabbed power for themselves.
On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution of October 1917, a flood of magazine and news articles blasts out the lie that Lenin and the vanguard party he led, known as the Bolsheviks, were manipulators: out for themselves and advancing through deceit.
Fact: The Russian Revolution was an anti-capitalist/socialist revolution that involved the determined, heroic, and self-sacrificing struggle of millions of the oppressed and exploited along with intellectuals, young people, and others. In the months leading up to October, mass protests, strikes, large-scale mutinies and mass desertions from the army, land occupations by hungry peasants, and pitched battles between workers and government forces rocked society. In October, the old order was overthrown through a mass insurrection. A new state-political power representing the interests of the formerly oppressed and exploited and the great majority of society was established.
Fact: What made the October 1917 victory possible... what enabled the revolution in power to defeat the forces of counter-revolution and their imperialist backers in the civil war of 1918-20 that followed... and what was decisive to building modern history's first society free from exploitation and oppression, was visionary, scientifically based leadership. This communist leadership, the Bolshevik party led by V.I. Lenin, guided and unleashed the masses in their millions to consciously bring a new and emancipatory world into being.
That is the crime and the example for which the imperialists and their ideologues hold Lenin responsible. That is why they detest, denounce, and distort Lenin's leadership... because this is about leading the masses to put an end to capitalism-imperialism and all its horrors, and to all exploitation and oppression. That is why their op-eds declare: "never again."I. Millions join with Lenin and the Bolsheviks to make a political and social revolution
The truth is that the Russian revolution was the furthest thing from a manipulative coup.
For centuries, Russia was a sharply divided society of haves and have-nots. The wealthy capitalists and big landowners relied on the ruthless rule of the Tsar (a kind of monarchy) supported by the Russian Orthodox Church and maintaining the old order through police terror, denial of rights, and thuggish, KKK-type violence.
By 1917, Tsarist Russia's participation in World War 1 had reaped a gruesome toll: seven million killed and wounded. The dead were mostly drawn from the ranks of landless peasants and half-starved urban factory workers. In February, in the face of mass outpourings, the Tsar was forced to "abdicate" (step down). A new "bourgeois-reformist" government came to power making all kinds of promises. But it did nothing to solve the basic problems of the people--and it continued to wage the slaughter of world war.
Under Lenin's leadership, the Bolsheviks raised the demand "peace, bread, land"--to end the war with Germany, prevent starvation, and drive out the big landowners and redistribute land to poor peasants. They were the only political force prepared and determined to lead the oppressed in Russian society to act to realize these demands. The other major parties and organized forces in Russia (including those on the "left") were working to reform, to make changes within, an exploitative, oppressive, and decrepit system--and they supported Russia's participation in World War 1.Three Bogus Anti-Communist Charges
We are told...
- That Lenin and the Bolsheviks were "manipulative." The fact is, the Bolshevik program and their vision of a new and better world resonated widely and deeply in a society in crisis, upheaval, and looking for direction. Their program expressed the urgently felt needs of millions suffering the misery and hopelessness of the old order. And the Bolsheviks, at the risk of losing short-term support, went up against reactionary popular tides--for instance, the "we-must-win-the-war" World War 1 patriotism that swept Russia. They stood up to and challenged deeply entrenched anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) prejudices.
- That Lenin and the Bolsheviks were "masters of deceit." The truth is that the Bolsheviks had been raising the consciousness of the oppressed, bringing scientific understanding to the masses, so that they could grasp the root causes of their suffering and un-reformability of the system--and consciously act in their own revolutionary interests. And in a situation of growing radicalization and discontent in 1917, the Bolsheviks were training people to see through the maneuvering and deceptions of an oppressive government, and the inadequacy of all other political programs and agendas.
Far from deceiving people and concealing his views, Lenin's whole approach was that the Bolsheviks must lead by empowering millions with a conscious understanding of the means, methods, and goals of the communist revolution. For this, the Bolsheviks relied on a daily newspaper printed and distributed throughout Russia in the tens of thousands (through legal and underground channels) in order to prepare minds and organize forces for the seizure and exercise of state power.
- That they were an "isolated clique." The Bolsheviks had grassroots strength as well as organization in factory committees, and in the armed forces. These organizations were called soviets: the illegal, anti-government representative assemblies of workers, soldiers, and peasants contesting for power. The question that Lenin posed, as a revolutionary crisis ripened, was whether the power would lead to overthrowing and defeating the old social and economic order, and establishing the rule of a new AND emancipatory economic, political, and social system.
Lenin decisively led the Bolsheviks to take revolutionary responsibility and leadership in 1917. Bob Avakian demarcates how momentous this was and is for all who crave liberation:
Lenin's argument in What Is To Be Done?--that the more highly organized and centralized the party was, the more it was a real vanguard organization of revolutionaries, the greater would be the role and initiative of the masses in revolutionary struggle--was powerfully demonstrated in the Russian Revolution itself and has been in all proletarian revolutions. Nowhere has such a revolution been made without such a party and nowhere has the lack of such a party contributed to unleashing the initiative of masses of the oppressed in conscious revolutionary struggle. (BAsics 6:1)