WHAT DID REVOLUTIONS ACHIEVE? – 2 (Post No.8355)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8355

Date uploaded in London – – – 17 July 2020   

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WHAT DID REVOLUTIONS ACHIEVE? – 2

R. Nanjappa

The Russian Bloodbath

There are many odd things about the third of the revolutions we are considering- the Bolshevik revolution of Russia or the Great October Socialist Revolution as it was hailed by admirers. It took place on 7 November, according to the Gregorian calendar that we follow- October  was according to the old Julian Calendar.

 It did not overthrow the Czar: it overthrew the elected democratic govt. of Alexander Kerensky, who was himself a socialist, but not a Bolshevik, belonging to the Socialist Revolutionary Party. The Russian Provisional Govt. had come to power in February 1917, and Kerensky became its head in July. Russia was then reeling from the effects of the Great War, and Kerensky was struggling.  By that time the violent activities of the Bolsheviks had increased, but being a democratic set up, there was no consensus on how to counter it- some suggesting quick, strong action and some suggesting negotiations. They lost valuable time and the Bolsheviks won by armed might, with generous support from the Navy. (Kerensky’s father had been a teacher of Lenin, and both families had been friends!)

Alexander Kerensky

He fled Russia and lived in Paris till 1940 and then went to the US eventually dying there in 1970 at the age of 89.

Bolshevik uprising was not  Marxist

Though propaganda had made it that it was inspired by Marxist ideals, it had nothing to do with Marxism, in reality. Stated very simply, Marxism is based on the view that capitalism displaces feudalism, but the profit motive which powers the  capitalist set-up would in the end make the system unworkable. A ripe capitalist society would lead to an army of unemployed, where the working class would form the overwhelming majority and they would overthrow the capitalists. The  proletariat would seize power, the State would wither away. Workers would unite the whole world, and it would be paradise.

None of these conditions was present in Russia when the revolution took place. Russia was not then a capitalist or industrial power. It was largely agricultural. It was not a ripe candidate for revolution then. Those who took active part in the revolution were not workers, but others. The State, instead of withering away became stronger and bigger, and was controlled by the party machinery, and not by the workers, who had no rights then. The so called revolution was nothing but an armed overthrow of a struggling, elected govt.

British Views on the Bolshevik rule

H.G.Wells, a British socialist visited Russia in 1920 and noted the conditions there. He noted that Lenin’s ideology was both narrow-minded and rigid, that his method was ruthless and dictatorial. He said the party members were already enjoying privileges, but he hoped things would improve. He met Lenin and Trotsky who thought of him as a bourgeois. Wells on his part noted that Lenin’s laugh was ‘grim’. His judgement of Stalin was completely wrong- shocking for a science writer considered ‘futurist’.

British socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb were blind admirers of Stalin and his regime, with the purges, famine and all. They refused to see the reality, or simply lied about what they saw.

Philosopher-mathematician Bertrand Russell also visited Russia in 1920 and was more perceptive in his observation, and candid in his views. He plainly said Bolshevism was a “tragic delusion”. He said Western socialists tended to suppress the harsher features and brutalities of the regime.

In his essay “Why I am not a Communist” Bertrand Russell provided one of the most sensible critiques of the Marxist ideology, questioning its very foundations, calling Marx “muddle headed”. He said the theory had been made much worse in practice by Lenin and Stalin, and noted the millions of peasants killed by Stalin by starvation and displacement. He called Russia ‘slave camp produced by Stalin’ and wrote:

I am completely at a loss to understand how it came about that  some people who are both humane and intelligent could find something to admire in the slave camp produced  by Stalin.


From: Portraits From Memory, 1956. Bertrand Russell.

Nehru’s visit

Nehru visited Soviet Russia in 1927. It lasted only 4 days, and Nehru visited only those places to which he was officially taken. Yet it made a lasting impression on him. He wrote that this revolution had ‘moved human society forward’ and had laid the foundations of a new civilisation. His idea of Planning was almost totally based on the Soviet model, with equally disastrous consequences. After this Russian visit, Nehru departed from the economic ideas and arrangements of Gandhiji. On becoming PM, he did not adopt or implement a single program of Gandhiji. He indeed killed Gandhiji’s spirit, while Godse merely accounted for his body. It is remarkable that by the time USSR collapsed (1991) Indian planning also faced doom! [Gandhiji was aware of Nehru’s leanings towards Russian ideas, rather than his own, and yet made him his heir!]

Keynes against Marx

One prominent British figure that we have to consider in this context is J.M.Keynes, the economist. The Right malign him as a Marxist or Marxist sympathiser. Keynes was a public figure and had to deal with individual Marxists in his long career. He did that with grace. But he has made amply clear in his public writings and private correspondence that he did not agree with the Marxist ideology or the Soviet system. He did not agree with the book authored by the Webbs praising the Soviet economics. He did not believe that the soviet exercise could provide intellectual stimulation to the democratic West.  And in private correspondence to George Bernard Shaw in 1935, expressed his disapproval of Marxism and revealed that he was himself writing a book which ‘would largely revolutionise the way the world thinks about economic problems.’ This was the famous ‘The General Theory’ (1936) and it has indeed revolutionised economics since then.

Marx as philosopher predicted that capitalism would collapse, based on dialectical dynamics. He supported the political movement to confront and quicken its end. But it failed.  The General Theory of Keynes diagnosed the most intractable malady of classical economics, and provided the most practical solution, suitable to the genius of democratic and liberal (the word used in the original British sense here) societies. Thus he gave a new lease of life to capitalism, while it was the Soviet communism that collapsed.

He had asked sharply, as early as 1922:

How can I accept a creed  which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeois and the intelligentsia who, with whatever faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement?

John Maynard Keynes.

ERA OF COMMUNIST VIOLENCE

One  of the most inhuman chapters of human history was written by Stalin with the blood of innocent millions of his own countrymen.

As early as the start of the Bolshevik regime, Red Terror had been let loose- involving oppression, torture and killings of people, on whatever grounds. In just  two months- September-October, 1918, an estimated 50,000 to 2 million people had been killed. Lenin justified the violence on the ground that the ruling class acquired monopoly of violence. Such terror and violence continued up to 1922, and involved even the mass killing of workers and civilians and hostages. But compared to what happened under Stalin, this is like a small preface.

Stalin indulged in violence only to consolidate his position. His methods included shooting at the back of the head, torture and beating to death in custody, and starvation, disease, exposure and overwork in the gulags. Starting from 1933, they continued up to the end of his regime in 1953. While about 20 million Russians are estimated to have died in the Second World War, the estimates of civilians killed by Stalin on political grounds, including the purges and starvation deaths vary from initial 20 million to up to 60 million, in some cases going up to 130 million. Alexander Solzhenitsyn estimates it at 60 million. Most of them were farmers. With the increasing availability of archival material, and intensive efforts of independent researches, a realistic picture of the horror under Stalin  is emerging, though the exact numbers will continue to be controversial.

Site of a mass murder,1941.

Site of a mass grave, Ukraine, 1943.

It is now established that Stalin killed many more people -mostly his own countrymen – than Hitler.

What Did the Revolutions Achieve? 

The American revolution resulted in a working Constitution which has provided both inspiration and example to countries around the world.

The French revolution generated hope, ended in violence and disillusion. But the ideals captured in the slogan-Liberty, Equality, Fraternity- still move millions.

The Russian revolution was nothing but mass murder and violence, when two leaders tried to establish their hold on the party and government, in the name of communism. At home it was supported by brutal repression for more than 20 years. Outside it was sustained by false propaganda. 

The communist regime was no less imperialist than the West. Many people of Eastern Europe were compulsorily bound within the USSR. Communist Parties in every other country were subject to the dictates and directions of Moscow. With the collapse of the USSR, 15 independent countries have emerged! Details are surfacing about what went on there in the name of communism.

                       ***                               concluded

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