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(en) Australia, Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG) journal The Anvil #4 - HAIL THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION!

Date Fri, 23 Nov 2007 17:23:25 +0200

This month marks the 90th anniversary of the overthrow of the capitalist Provisional Government in Russia in October 1917 and the establishment of the power of the workers' Soviets. It was a triumph of working class strength and organisation and, for a few short years, was a beacon of liberation to the workers of the world. Tragically, it was all to end in catastrophe.
Russia under the Czar was a byword for reaction (even the calendar was out of date - it was November in the West during the October Revolution). In February 1917 the Russian people arose, furious at the carnage of World War I and centuries of oppression. The Czar was overthrown and a new Provisional Government came to power. The new government, however, continued the war
and dithered about reform. Cabinet reshuffles failed to stem the mounting anger of the workers and peasants. Previously popular workers' parties like the Mensheviks lost support, while the Social Revolutionaries, the main party of the peasants, split.

The Bolsheviks, the only significant party
opposing the war from the outset, were weak
in February 1917, but grew swiftly. The
Anarchists at first were insignificant and
disorganised, but their strength improved at
a growing pace as Russia descended into
crisis. The great revolutionary force,
however, was the working class itself.
Factories and other workplaces elected
delegates to a Soviet (i.e. council) for their
city, first in the capital Petrograd and then in
Moscow and elsewhere. As the year wore
on and the Provisional Government dashed
the hopes of the population, the Soviets grew
in strength and spread from city to city,
federating first provincially and then at a
national level.

By October 1917, the Bolsheviks had
displaced the Mensheviks and Social
Revolutionaries as the strongest party in the
Soviets. They were calling for "All power to
the Soviets". The Second All-Russia Soviet,
with a new Bolshevik majority, was due to
meet and Petrograd was rife with rumours
that the Provisional Government would
impose emergency rule. The Petrograd
Soviet acted first. Armed workers'
detachments composed of Bolsheviks,
Anarchists and others took the Winter
Palace and other key buildings with very little
resistance and dissolved the Provisional
Government. The All-Russia Soviet
convened the next day as the new power in
What followed was both inspirational and
tragic. The Bolsheviks, heroic advocates of
workers' control in opposition, sabotaged it
in power. They progressively suppressed all
opposition, both from capitalist counter-
revolutionaries and from revolutionaries who
wanted to defend Soviet democracy. A State
was formed above the Soviets and sucked
the life out of them.

Meanwhile, in the Ukraine, a separate
revolution unfolded at the same time as the
Russian one. The Bolsheviks took longer to
get established and events were strongly
influenced by an Anarchist peasant army led
by Nestor Makhno. The Makhnovists were
unfamiliar with urban economic problems,
however, so had little strength in the cities.
After they had defeated the counter-
revolutionary armies, the Makhnovists were
crushed by the Bolsheviks.

The other tragic lesson comes from the
Kronstadt uprising. Kronstadt was a naval
garrison on an island facing Petrograd and was
the bastion of the strongest and most
committed revolutionaries. In early 1921, after
the final victory over the counter-revolutionary
armies, the Kronstadt Soviet publicised its
support for the demands of striking Petrograd
workers. They called for new elections to the
Soviets and freedom for Anarchists and Left
Socialists. The Bolsheviks replied by crushing
the uprising with great bloodshed. They then
adopted economic compromises with the
peasants which went beyond the Kronstadters'
demands - but retained their one-party

Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks, died in
1924 and under Stalin, things got even worse.
He abolished the already flawed internal
Bolshevik (now "Communist") Party democracy,
eliminated many social gains of the Revolution,
particularly those of women, and betrayed revolutions
outside Russia for diplomatic advantage.
And the massacres and purges which made Stalin's
tyranny one of the worst in history have
been a stain on the reputation of communism ever

While the so-called "Communist" Party eventually
drowned it in blood, the Russian Revolution
stands as both an inspiration and a lesson for
all workers. Hail the October Revolution!

Great idea - But who do we vote “for”? --- John Howard, Liberal Party Prime
Minister of Australia, is on the nose with workers and could very well lose the
election on 24 November. Like the rest of the working class, we'd be delighted
to see the back of him. And if the Liberal Party can be demolished in a
landslide, so much the better. --- There is a problem, however, with the
strategy of voting Howard out. You have to vote “for” a given candidate or
party, not against, so to vote Howard out requires voting for somebody else -
and this means endorsing them as the appropriate government of Australia. So
let's think this through. --- First cab off the rank, of course, is the ALP.
Rather than recount its appalling history, we'll just concentrate on the present
and warn against viewing the past with a rosy nostalgia. The present, however,
is ugly enough.

What is Kevin Rudd, ALP leader, doing? Acting like the leader of an Amateur
Liberal Party, that's what. Apart from a selected handful of policies, he
completely lines up with Howard. Virtually every time Howard says something
reactionary, Rudd stands up immediately and says “We totally agree. Our policy
is identical”. Support for rich private schools? Totally agree. An
environmentally destructive pulp mill? Totally agree. Locking up refugees?
Totally agree. Invading Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory,
stealing their land, garnisheeing all welfare payments and smearing the entire
Indigenous population as child molesters? Totally agree. And the list goes on.

The most unpopular policy of the Government is Work Choices and the ALP is
promising to keep most of it. Virtually the only changes they propose are a
phasing out of AWAs and a partial re-introduction of protection against unfair
dismissal. Crucially, our right to strike remains so restricted as to be
virtually useless and the union-busting Australian Building and Construction
Commission remains in place. Finally, on the Iraq War and on climate change, the
differences between Liberal and Labor are far less than the similarities - they
both support the imperialist “War on Terror” and rely on free markets and “clean
coal” to save the planet from global warming.

Many workers, disgusted by the ALP, are turning to the Greens. While they are
better than Labor on the policies above, however, the Greens have problems of
their own. Because they still support capitalism, their solutions to the world's
problems will have to be paid for by the workers. The massive reductions in
greenhouse emissions necessary to stop global warming, for example, will have to
be paid for somehow. Under capitalism, the working class will pay the bulk of
the bill, since business has the power to evade or pass on the costs. Thus
capitalism can play no part in a sustainable future, so the Greens, despite
their intentions, are peddling dangerous illusions.

And finally, voters in some electorates might be able to find a socialist on
their ballot paper. In terms of practical policies, they are mostly similar to
the Greens. The most obvious exception is foreign affairs, where they are more
consistently anti-war. Their major difference is that, unlike the Greens, they
put forward socialism as an ultimate solution. The problem with voting
socialist, though, is that you can't get it through Parliament. A “socialism
from above” would be no socialism at all. The new bosses would wear a government
uniform - double the authority and accountable only to themselves.

What, then, is to be done? We have to recognise that “Who should we vote for?”
is the wrong question. The ruling class will never let itself be voted out of
power. Capitalism and its masters are global and will continue to attack wages,
rights and conditions and tear up the planet in endless pursuit of profits. And
finally, whoever we vote for will use those votes against us, claiming
legitimacy for their anti-worker agenda.

Workers should instead ask “What should we do?” We need to build grassroots
resistance to the Government (whichever party is running it) by organising in
our communities, our streets and, most importantly, our workplaces. Further, we
need to learn the law of solidarity, that an injury to one is an injury to all,
and to organise on the basis of federalism and direct democracy.

We, the working class, are the alternative. In the short term, our grassroots
struggle is the only thing that can extract real gains under any government. In
the long term, the movement we build will make a revolution and the values on
which we build it will become the values of the new world, a stateless society
of liberty, equality and solidarity.

Let's vote for ourselves.

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG)

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