From 1905-2017: Echoes of the Abortive Russian Revolution

 

Below is the manifesto produced by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies at the height of the revolutionary storm which bubbled over in Russia in 1905. It is striking how many similarities there are between the autocratic tsarist regime of 1905 and the towering heights of predatory capitalism today.

The working-class shook Tsarism to the core when they felt their collective strength in 1905 and in 1917 the working-class swept Tsarism into the dustbin of history. The shaky ground which capitalism currently rests on can once again be shaken as the working-class move into action. Capitalism itself can be swept into the dustbin of history as the working-class reject the poverty, exploitation and misery that is becoming all too familiar.

As working-class people start to feel our collective strength in the face of the bourgeoisie’s fracturing system, socialism can once again be placed firmly on the order of today’s business and with the collective effort of billions of workers across the world we can achieve a society from each according to ability, to each according to need. All we need do is demand it and through collective action, strive for it.

1905

“The government is on the brink of bankruptcy. It has reduced the country to ruins and scattered it with corpses. The peasants, worn out by suffering and hunger, are incapable of paying taxes. The government gave credits to the landowners out of the people’s money. Now it is at a loss as to what to do with the landowners’ mortgaged estates. Factories and plants are at a standstill. There is unemployment and a general stagnation of trade. The government has used the capital obtained by foreign loans to build railways, warships, and fortresses and to store up arms. Foreign sources have now been exhausted and state orders have also come to an end. The merchant, the supplier, the contractor, the factory owner, accustomed to enriching themselves at the treasury’s expense, find themselves without new profits and are closing down their offices and plants. One bankruptcy follows another. Banks are failing. All trade exchanges have been reduced to the barest minimum. The government’s struggle against revolution is causing daily unrest. No one is any longer sure what the morrow will bring.

Foreign capital is going back home, ‘Purely Russian’ capital is also seeping away into foreign banks. The rich are selling their property and going abroad in search of safety. The birds of prey are fleeing the country and taking the people’s property with them.

For many years the government has spent all its state revenue on the army and navy. There is a shortage of schools. Roads have been neglected. In spite of this, there is not enough money even to keep the troops supplied with food. The war was lost partly because military supplies were inadequate. Mutinies of poverty-stricken, hungry troops are flaring up all over the country.

The railways are economically sick through the government’s fault. Many millions of roubles are needed to restore the railway economy.

The government has pilfered the savings banks, and handed out deposits to support private banks and industrial enterprises, often entirely fictitious ones. It is using the small saver’s capital to play the stock exchange, where that capital is exposed to risk daily.

The gold reserves of the state bank are negligible compared with the existing claims of government loans and the demands of trade turnover. It will be reduced to nothing if gold coin is demanded for every transaction.

Taking advantage of the absence of any control of the state finances, the government has long been issuing loans which far exceed the country’s means of payment. With these new loans it is covering the interest on old ones.

Year after year the government issues false accounts of expenditure and revenue, showing both to be less than they are in reality and robbing indiscriminately to show a surplus instead of an annual deficit. Officials are free to rob the treasury which in any case is already exhausted.

Only the Constituent Assembly, after the overthrow of autocracy, can halt this financial ruin. It will carry out a close investigation of the state finances and will draw up a detailed, clear, accurate, and certified balance sheet of state revenue and expenditure (budget).

Fear of popular control which would reveal to all the world the government’s financial insolvency is forcing it to keep putting off the convening of the people’s representative assembly.

In order to safeguard its rapacious activities the government forces the people to fight unto death. Hundreds of thousands of citizens perish and are ruined in this fight, and industry, trade, and means of communication are destroyed at their very foundations.

There is only one way out: to overthrow the government, to deprive it of its last strength. It is necessary to cut the government off from the last source of its existence: financial revenue. This is necessary not only for the country’s political and economic liberation, but also, more particularly, in order to restore the financial equilibrium of the state.

We have therefore decided:

To refuse to make land redemption payments and all other payments to the treasury. In all transactions and in the payment of wages and salaries, to demand gold, and in the case of sums of less than five roubles, full-weight hard cash (coinage).

To withdraw deposits from savings banks and from the state bank, demanding payment of the entire sum in gold.

The autocracy has never enjoyed the people’s confidence and has never received any authority from the people.

At the present time the government is behaving within the frontiers of its own country as though it were ruling conquered territory.

We have therefore decided not to allow the repayment of loans which the government contracted while it was clearly and openly waging ware against the entire people.

Signed: The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.

The Main Committee of the All-Russian Peasants’ Union.

The Central Committee and the Organization Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ party.

The Central Committee of the party of Socialist Revolutionaries.

The Central Committee of the Polish Socialist party.”

To read more about the events which surrounded this document, check out 1905 written by Leon Trotsky.

Feel free to share, like, comment and subscribe to help spread the ideas and methods of socialism in these interesting times we live in.

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Building the Revolutionary Party – CWI Speech

CWI

For those of my readers who don’t already know, I’m a member of the Socialist Party of England and Wales. This is part of an International known as the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) made up different sections of the Socialist Party from around the world. Recently I attended the CWI school in Leuven, Belgium and had one of the most intense but enjoyable experiences of my political life so far. Here is the speech I gave during a commission on building the revolutionary party:

“Comrades,

In the England and Wales section we are growing slowly at the moment but in Plymouth where I am based we have grown very quickly from about 8 to around 30 in less than 6 months and I have identified four things which I would posit help to build our respective revolutionary parties

Firstly, a healthy perspective is needed. Lenin once said that Capitalism will always reform itself over the bones of the working classes and I personally think this can be interpreted in two ways. Looking at the poverty, austerity, repression and wars going on around the world today the truth of that statement is revealing itself frighteningly quickly.

However, I also see this statement as a challenge; after seeing and hearing some of the grotesque horrors that Capitalism can bring I say that Capitalism can only be allowed to reform over my dead body! I see that same passion and determination driving the CWI forward particularly in sections with only a handful of comrades who stand defiant nonetheless.

It is this passion and determination that serves as our most powerful tool of recruitment. It is hard to recruit to a revolutionary party if we ourselves do not first believe that revolution is possible and it is hard to recruit to a revolutionary party if we do not believe that we can recruit. But when we do believe, others will see our conviction and will want to join us and that is simply changed by a change in perspective.

I would next say that organisation is key. We have a giant task ahead of us with the implementation of socialism across the globe. It requires us to be ambitious and dream of a better future for all. However, as a part of that we cannot allow ourselves to forget the small things which will make the big changes.

We should set realistic targets for recruitment, we should organise so that we never lose a contact that we’ve met by misplacing their contact details and make sure we follow them up, not just once but regularly until it is clear that they have lost interest or are ready to join. We should always prepare in advance to ensure that we have the relevant papers and flyers with us for each situation or action, overall we need to be efficient and organised.

Next ,I would say we can recruit through persistent action. By remaining at the heart of struggle and showing solidarity with workers as they take action they come to identify with us. They may not join us at first, but unlike bourgeois parties we are not out only for ourselves and we are not like sectarian left-wing parties or ultra-left elements.

We do not arrogantly believe we are the leaders of the revolution and expect to drag working-class people kicking and screaming through the revolution. When people see that we stand in solidarity with workers time and time again and do this not just for ourselves but for all sections of working class people across the world, which they will see for themselves through our cooperation and discussions with them, and we should always try to engage in discussions with people by the way, they will join us.

Finally, I would say that the endless opportunities Socialism has to offer will inspire and encourage people to join not just after the revolution, but even right now. I, like many people and particularly youth across the world have suffered from depression as austerity has killed any prospect of a prosperous future.

With youth unemployment rates in some countries reaching up to 60% many people have, in their despair turned to suicide as they feel constrained, worthless and without hope caused by the failing capitalist system. On the other hand, the party offers hope, productivity, worth and eventually liberty for all working-class people. In the short time I have been with the party I have been a leading organiser, a budding young journalist, a public speaker, even a tourist to Leuven! As well as many more things and that is just me, I’m by no means alone in experiencing these opportunities.

I have seen comrades use their creativity to both build the party and express themselves in original and inspiring ways. I have seen this creativity snuffed out far too often by the tyranny of Capitalism but by conveying the opportunities that people can seize through the party, people see their potential and their power. By learning about and building for socialism through struggle and solidarity they grow in themselves and transform, rejecting the worthlessness and failure felt by many and realising that it is in fact the system that has failed them.

By helping to change people’s perception from hopelessness, despair and no opportunity to a world full of hope, solidarity and limitless potential, people will be inspired and encouraged to make the revolution their own and by doing so comrades will want to contribute more, whether it be by helping to recruit, contributing to campaigns or increasing their subs when they can afford it.

To sum up, my contribution is to say that building the revolutionary party is all a matter of changing people’s perceptions from crushing despair to limitless, defiant hope and acting on that hope with:

Healthy perspective

Organisation

Persistent action

Endless opportunity

Now onwards to our collective proletarian revolution!”

If you would like to know more about the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) you can find us online at:

http://www.socialistworld.net/

or on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/5593681554/10151528030381555/

The Transitional Programme

Image

Leon Trotsky was a key figure in the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 and later went on to become leader of the Red Army. He also formed the left opposition against Stalin. He was exiled in February 1929, however he continued to oppose the policies of Stalin which were highly repressive and led to the deformed workers’ state which Soviet Russia descended into.

One of Trotsky’s key works, the Transitional Programme: The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International has remained a key text of many Socialists since it was first published in 1938. This is for a number of reasons.

It is firstly useful as a historical document as it lays out some of Trotsky’s reflections on some of the challenges and conditions the Bolsheviks faced during and immediately after the revolution of October 1917. It also goes on to look at some of the developments in Russia and across Europe right up to the rise of fascism.

Even though the Transitional Programme was written 75 years ago there are a lot of similarities that can be drawn between the political and economic landscape of the 1930’s and today especially when looking at the rise of fascism in Greece right now and the economic turmoil faced by much of the Western World.

The Bourgeoisie or ruling classes face a crisis of Capitalism as it becomes more and more clear that Capitalism is displaying contradictions which will never be overcome unless there is a revolutionary change in the way we organise our economy.

The austerity measures and dismantling of the welfare state are ideologically driven attacks on the proletariat or working-classes of Britain to squeeze profits out of public services by privatising them. This is an attempt to keep extracting profits as a means to keep Capitalism going which Trotsky highlights create the prerequisites to a Proletarian Revolution. This is because, as we’re seeing in contemporary society Capitalism enters into what Trotsky highlights as a blind alley. One need only look at the rising unemployment figures, the dips into recession and the lowering of living standards to see that Capitalism is not sustainable.

Trotsky’s Transitional Programme highlights some of the problems faced by the Russian Proletariat which we can certainly appreciate today such as the crisis of Proletarian leadership. While we can see that the Trade Union movement is the most likely vehicle for a mass movement of working-class people due to their democratic and organised structure, we do not take an uncritical approach to Trade Unions.

As highlighted in the recent Falkirk incident whereby Unite influenced a Labour candidate selection and have subsequently been turned over to the police, there is a problem of Proletarian leadership. This is due to Trotsky’s notion of petty-bourgeois cowardice being exhibited in Len Mcluskey’s unwillingness to break away from a party that clearly no longer represents the class-interests of working-class people.

Trade Unions also face the problem that their leadership is generally bureaucratic in nature and trade union leaders are on wages which are closer to that of the bosses than the workers. To be the leader of a trade union which has no disputes is the easiest job in the world because effectively there is nothing to do, this coupled with their high pay often puts Trade Union leaders on opposing sides to Trade Union members when it comes to the class struggle.

I, myself have been witness to the bureaucracy of my Unite union which at best suggests incompetence and at worst suggests bureaucratic sabotage. However, that will only change by affecting change from below within the union and the formation of rank and file organisations such as the National Shop Stewards Network which can levy pressure on the leadership.

The transitional programme is also certainly worth reading as it goes into detail about the problems of famine faced by the Bolsheviks, the criticisms of the idea of Socialism in one country and also goes into detail about the formation of workers’ councils or to use the Russian; Soviets.

The other part of the Transitional Programme which is makes it a key read for any member of the Socialist Party is the Transitional Method which Trotsky developed, which the Socialist Party has adopted.  You will sometimes hear the Socialist Party being referred to as a “Trotskyist” Party and it is because we use the Transitional Method as a means to help develop the consciousness of working-class people.

Trotsky discussed the idea of a Minimum/Maximum programme and its limitations when looking at the contradiction between the objective maturity of conditions for a socialist revolution and the immaturity of the Proletariat. If one was to run out into the street shouting “Emancipate the Proletariat” most people would think one had gone mad. Likewise, if Socialism is put forward as a way to oppose the bedroom tax it probably would not get very far either as most people would not be aware of the relevance of a Socialist transformation of society unless they are educated in political theory.

It is for this reason that Trotsky developed the transitional method, to bridge the gap between the everyday struggles of workers and the goal of the Socialist Revolution. Within this framework, there are three kinds of demands that the transitional method consists of.

These are immediate demands, democratic demands and transitional demands. Immediate demands are just that, demands that can be made presently in everyday class-struggle. A good example of an immediate demand would be a call for the scrapping of the bedroom tax.

Then there are democratic demands. These challenge the accountability and openness of bourgeois democracy. A call for the opening of the books and an end to Capitalist business secrets would be an example of this kind of demand.

Finally, there are transitional demands; these are demands which would attack the bases of the bourgeois regime and expose the contradictions of Capitalism which the bourgeoisie would be unable to satisfy without relinquishing a degree of their power and wealth.

With reference to the example of the bedroom tax, calling for the building of more social housing could be considered as a transitional demand. This is because it is based in the everyday struggle of working-class people but calls upon the ruling class to build more housing which would eat into their closely guarded profits, thereby exposing the failures of Capitalism and demonstrating to working-class people their class position and need for education, organisation and mobilisation as a class against a class that is already organised and mobilises against their interests.

It is also worth noting that these demands have no set definition as an immediate or democratic demand can quickly become a transitional demand in the right circumstances. For example, demanding that the Capitalists open their books could create a great deal of anger when the obscenity of their profit extraction is juxtaposed to the meagre wages earned by the exploited Proletariat.

By putting forward a mixture of these demands Socialists can chip away at the hypocrisies of the likes of New Labour who have compromised themselves by trying to reform Capitalism. It is also by putting forward transitional demands that we expose the economic wealth and power of the bourgeoisie and by working as a vanguard party willing to struggle on the front-lines with all working-class people, we can embolden working-class people not just to defend the morsel of bread which the ruling classes want to deprive them of but to demand peace, land bread and power to the soviets!

If you would like to read the Transitional Programme, which I strongly recommend you do you can purchase it from here:

 

http://leftbooks.co.uk/epages/950002679.sf/en_GB/?ObjectID=2333802

 

Alternatively you can buy it from your local branch of the Socialist Party. Here is a list of branches to find a branch near you:

 

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/17104/15-07-2013/socialist-party-branches

Fleeting Fancies, Ephemeral Encounters…

ImageI have been inspired to write this article from what would seem to many as the most trivial of things but, for me at least, it has evoked a much deeper interpretation. For tonight, I write as I journey by train up to Exeter to meet with my beautiful partner, Oona.

I’ve been sat here quietly recovering from a night of unbridled chaos, painting the town red [some might say in more ways than one if one were to consider our spreading of revolutionary red ideas right, Sam? ;-)] with some of my very accommodating, understanding and, hopefully, forgiving comrades; Glynn and Sam.

In the short moments that I’ve been sat here on the train I have been engaged in exchanging pleasantries with two fellow commuters who I have had the good fortune to cross paths with as they travel to London to meet with loved ones. I wish them all the best of luck on their journey and hope against hope that they may come across this blog of their own accord one day. If so, I would like to say a quick hello to them as I’m on the 19:55 train from Plymouth to London Paddington on a Sunday evening. Of course, they will be much more likely to see this blog with your help, reader, and so I encourage you to like and share this article widely in the hope that it reaches them. I’m well aware that I could just show this article to them right now but that would take the fun out of it and wouldn’t allow you, my audience, to contribute to this story by sharing this blog around the world to wherever it needs to go.

So, why is it that such a small exchange of pleasantries can be such an inspiration to a student of the revolution such as myself? Well, if you insist on continuing to read up to this point then I guess I shall have to reward your curiosity and satiate it by sharing my thoughts and feelings with you…

It is my belief that thanks to the prospects of hope and clarity of vision shared by my fellow comrades in the Socialist Party, I have become a much more rounded, self-actualised (if one were inclined to use Maslow’s terms, as I, for one, would be) individual. It is from this well of confidence and conviction that I have found something very useful as a source of energy for my revolutionary candour; the ability to fully engage with the moment, Seize the day (Carpe Diem!) and enjoy the sweet, fleeting fancies or ephemeral encounters of the present moment.

Moreover, I fully believe that this newly found zest for life is infectious and so I pass on the good will and positive energy that I’m feeling onto you, my audience, who I hold the utmost gratitude for, for heeding my thoughts and feelings. I hope that these carefully crafted yarns, will one day weave an enriched and revolutionary tapestry across the pages of history and I would love for each and every one of you to be a part of that tapestry. A tall order, some might say but then everything starts with a dream.

Now, to engage in the finer things that l’amour has to offer as I meet up with ma cherie with all the promise of passion, desire and whimsy.

And so my readers my task for this evening is done. I dedicate this piece to each and every one of you who has taken the time to read it and I ask but one small labour of love in return as a way of expressing your gratitude for my literary architecture and that is this: that you share this piece out in the hopes that it should find its way to the travellers who I may never have the opportunity to meet again.

P. S. In the short time that it has taken for me to get from Exeter St David’s train station to the house of my beloved, I have enjoyed yet another ephemeral encounter with a homeless woman named Mandy. I could not spare any change for her or her fine specimen of a Rottweiler rescue dog but I hope that her heart was touched tonight on the unforgiving streets of Capitalism. I did however, spend the things that I can always afford to any human being; compassion, a sympathetic ear, a hug and my time. I hope these sentimentalities keep you at least a little warmer tonight. Mandy, I wish you godspeed (or the relevant Atheist equivalent if you share my scepticism of such a force within our universe) in your harsh journey. I know that I may never see you again but again, I call upon the reader to share this article widely so that you may hear my pledge which I dedicate to you and all others who are in a similar situation to you. I pledge to you, that I will do everything in my power to ensure that we experience Socialist revolution in our lifetime, as I cannot sleep soundly at night knowing that there are those such as yourself who are still neglected by our current inadequate political system.

And now the rest I leave up to you, dear reader. Can you get my pledge to those I have vowed to fight for? I hope you can and if you share this article then you can take comfort in being part of sending out that hope to those who need to hear it most…

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