The centenary of the Russian Revolution, and, aside from some pretty basic counter-revolutionary propaganda hidden in the editorials, the British media has ignored one of the most monumental events of the 20th Century. Easy to understand why of course, the British Establishment knew a successful Worker’s Revolution threatened their own power base here and abroad, and fought the Bolsheviks from the start. Their hatred of the Soviet Union led to the rise of Fascism in Europe and 50 years of Cold War in which both sides propped up despots around the world; a situation we still feel the reverberations from today. As we approach Remembrance Sunday it is worth noting that Britain lost 700,000 soldiers in the First World War. The Russians lost 20 million. Almost half were civilians.
The brutality of their Generals was matched only by their incompetence. Easy to see why discontent would spread. In 1917 the French mutinied, leaving the allied lines fatally weakened and leading to the bloody diversionary attack on Passchendaele which claimed so many lives over the Sumer and Autumn. The British had mutineers too. They were met with death by firing squad until we went back to trudging through mud and slavishly going over the top to a certain death. The Russians weren’t so easily cowed. Perhaps because their suffering had been greater, perhaps because their courage took a new form; either way, it is impossible to view the revolution as separate from the war. The two are intertwined. In defeating Hitler the British lost around 450,000 men, women and children. The Russians another 20 million. The Armies of Darkness were beaten back in the East before the West.
I will not try to defend pogroms and witch-hunts, show trials and secret police; tyranny is tyranny no matter what its stated justifications; but the quest for a genuine Socialist state, a nation of ‘peace, bread and land’ founded on the principles of equality is something to be admired. And, as we live through the collapse of Capitalism, through its greed and corruption, its callousness and contempt for anyone who fails to turn a profit; we have to long for a time when people dreamed of a better way of life and a different way of tackling the world’s problems and settling our differences. So I would like to mark the centenary by raising a fist to those who would hope and dream, to those who would rise and resist. Boy do we need you now.
By Joe Solo
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