We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

From the dream to a nightmare

Click here to access article by Patrick Nielsen from Socialist Review (Britain). 

Many writers have been trying to explain why the Russian Revolution of 1917 ultimately failed to create a workers' run society, instead it devolved into rule by a bureaucratic class headed by a paranoid dictator. Bourgeois writers, of course, argue that it was fated to be this way.
The argument goes: “Look what happened in Russia. Doesn’t Stalin’s rise show how revolution, however well-intentioned people are, always ends in a despotic leader and tyrannical rule?” In other words, they argue that there is a straight line from the October Revolution to the Stalinist regime of more than a decade later. 
Nielsen injects his own explanation partly favoring the Bolsheviks' valid argument that a militant international worker's organization was required to thwart attempts by capitalists in all the advanced industrial countries who would have of necessity back numerous attempt to crush this worker's revolution. However, Nielsen resorts to the old capitalist argument that leadership is required to bring about success, and that Bolsheviks' failure was caused by a lack of leadership.
For a brief period it looked like the Russian workers would be joined by the European proletariat. However, one by one these struggles were beaten. What was lacking was not the Europe-wide crisis, nor the willingness of workers to fight, but revolutionary leadership armed with political clarity and organisational experience which could lead the mass of workers in the way that the Bolsheviks had done in Russia. It was a weakness the Bolsheviks recognised and laboured to overcome. Though they didn’t succeed, this doesn’t mean it was a struggle that was doomed from the start, as modern day critics from both right and left argue.
I think that we should recognize that "good guys" don't always win (even with good leadership), and instead recognize the reality that numerous conditions, like famine, disease epidemics, the horrific WWI causalities, backing of Russian counter-revolutionary armies by capitalist countries, and the invasions of numerous capitalist countries after the end of WWI, all took a tremendous toll on the Bolsheviks and resulted in the Stalinist faction taking control.

In the 1930s the Western capitalist countries supported the rise of fascist parties all over Europe which led to the rise of Nazi Germany and its long-held plans to conquer the Soviet Union. Because the Soviet bureaucratic central planning enabled the economy to grow at a great pace plus the Soviet citizens' awareness that the Nazi's racist-fascist victory would turn the Soviet Union into a colony of Germany and its citizens into slaves, the Soviet Union was able, with a little belated help from the West, to break the back of the German armies.