Today, November 7, is the centennial of the Russian Revolution. Actually it is the centennial of the second of two revolutions in Russia.
The first one, occurring earlier in the year, resulted in the abdication of Nicholas II, who was succeeded by the Provisional Government headed by Alexander Kerensky. The second, occurring in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) resulted in the people storming the Tsar’s Winter Palace, the last holdout of the Provisional Government troops. The next day Vladimir Lenin declared that power was transferred to worker cells known as Soviets. “All power to the Soviets” became the new slogan.
Today Communism does not exist in Russia, although there is a Communist Party, which is virtually powerless. It does exist in only a handful of countries, notably China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam.
The Communist movement of international revolution no longer exists. You don’t see any more movements to overthrow existing governments with Marxist, Leninist or even Maoist ideas. Why is this? What happened?
The basic reason is that the Communist idea never really worked.
In his Communist Manifesto, Marx envisioned a “dictatorship of the proletariat “or laborers. In every instance, this dictatorship of the proletariat gradually morphed into just a dictatorship, run by the bureaucracy with workers being told what was best for them. All power to the Soviets became, in reality, all power to the central government. American revolutionary Emma Goldman was present in Russia in this formation period. She went there with revolutionary zeal, but left disillusioned with the increasing suppression of speech and dissent. There were arguments within the Bolsheviks whether to take an ideologically correct direction or one that was more practical. Within a month of the Revolution, there was an election for a Constituent Assembly with multiple parties on the ballot. The Bolsheviks managed to get less than half of the delegates. Well, in their first meeting the Assembly adjourned and never regrouped, having been dissolved by Bolshevik troops.
Something I also found odd is that this Revolution was directed not by workers, but by intellectuals wearing three piece suits. Lenin and Trotsky were frequently photographed and painted wearing them. The only prominent Soviet leader of that time that did not wear one was Stalin. And like many musicians and entertainers, all these folks (Stalin included) went by alias names. Some, like Trotsky, had Jewish heritage they wanted to suppress. The Russian word for steel is stal, and Stalin is someone “of Steel”
The Russian Revolution is not being prominently recognized in Russia today. Putin is choosing to focus on the commemoration of the exit of Nazi troops from Russia. The Communist Party exists in China today, but it is really a Nationalist party glorifying the works of Xi Jinping. It is not exporting Marxist ideology throughout the world, but Chinese laborers, financiers and businessmen to support their own self interest, something leftists for decades accused “capitalists” of doing. In fact, the economic aspects of communism are all but abandoned in China. In North Korea, there is the Communist Party, but it is basically a monarchy, with power being transferred from one generation of Kim to the next. Vietnam has embraced capitalism and Cuba may be implementing some form of it in the years to come, albeit slowly.
The dictatorship aspect of Communism still exits, and there doesn’t seem to be any large-scale desire in any of these nations to change it. Communism today isn’t “dead”, but, thank goodness, it is not growing. Instead of fermenting worldwide revolution, it is now used as a tool to promote internal nationalism, with political ideas being supplanted by strong personalities. We have also seen this last point being implemented, to a certain extent, by the Republican Party here.
A final point. Communism started out as a one-party dictatorship. Where it is in power today it is STILL a one-party dictatorship. Despite all the capitalist trimmings that exist in China today, this should NEVER be forgotten. In the months to come, business people should not be surprised one bit if Chairman Xi continues to embrace more of the aspect of a dictator while maintaining the profit-making machinery.
If you would like a quick, three-minute summary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, I have provided a link to a You Tube video.