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The Legacy of the Russian Revolution

There was considerable debate in Marxist circles before the Russian Revolution as to whether Russia could have a proletarian revolution or not. Whether it should limit itself to a bourgeois revolution, like the French one. Marx being the scientist that he was, was open to the possibility; as we couldn’t know for sure, in advance, that it wasn’t possible.

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However, given the fact that workers made up probably less than 5% of the population, a pure workers’ revolution didn’t seem realistic. But could an alliance with the peasants, rather than the emerging capitalist class, defeat the feudal class of landowners & continue to communism rather than stopping at capitalism? Trotsky, who was initially a Menshevik, not a Bolshevik, thought so & his theory of permanent revolution won over Lenin, who was initially sceptical. Lenin knew though that Russia could only be the ‘weak link’ in the world economy & that ‘socialism in one country’ wasn’t a possibility. The revolution had to spread, preferably to Germany, France & Britain for it to be successful. It didn’t, largely due to the reformism of the Social Democratic Party in Germany & the Labour Party in Britain. Not forgetting the involvement of British & other foreign troops in fermenting civil war.

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Historical Materialism

The problem is many people in politics have a poor understanding of what drives human history. They have a view based upon idealism rather than science. In philosophical terms, idealism rather than materialism. They think that it is purely a battle of ideas without understanding the material basis for these ideas.

Historical Materialism

If we look at the broad brush of human history we see technological change as a driver of changes in economic systems: pre-agriculture hunter-gather societies, slave & feudal systems of agricultural societies & capitalist society of industrialised societies. With these changes come changes in relations in society. With agriculture we get class based societies with those who control the land & those who work the land, e.g. landlords & serfs; with capitalism we get those who control (own) capital, whether in the form of factories or just money capital, & those who have to work – hence the class based nature of our society. All profit comes from the workers’ labour, hence the class struggle between profit & wages.

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