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.

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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/