Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, delivered the keynote address for the launching assembly of the campaign to celebrate the Great October Socialist Revolution. The launch was held in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Quezon City, the Philippines on May 5 and 6, 2017. This is the full text of his speech. PDF files of the original speech, and translations into other languages as well, will be posted as downloadable files on a separate page on this site.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE, GLOBAL IMPACT AND CONTINUING VALIDITY
OF THE GREAT OCTOBER SOCIALIST REVOLUTION LED BY LENIN
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
May 5, 2017
Introduction: Welcome the Launch of the Campaign to Celebrate the Great October Socialist Revolution
It is an honor and privilege for all of us to participate in this conference to launch the Campaign to Celebrate the Great October Socialist Revolution. We thank the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) and the People’s Resource for International Solidarity and Mass Movement (PRISM) for choosing the Philippines as the starting point of the campaign. We thank ILPS-Philippines, Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Gabriela and many other organizations for co-organizing this signal event and for inviting this speaker.
ILPS and PRISM are undertaking the global campaign to celebrate the centennial of the Great October Socialist Revolution in cooperation with Marxist-Leninist, socialist and anti-imperialist organizations. The campaign will culminate in the holding of global mass actions on November 7. The steady core of the campaign is a series of conferences, forums and seminar-workshops in various continents and countries to generate papers and discussions for book publication on the history and continuing legacy of the October Revolution.
The campaign also encourages all participating forces to produce and disseminate papers, study guides, essays, news and feature articles, short videos and dramatic works, songs, poems, commemorative items (posters, banners, postcards, buttons, pins, etc.) relevant to the centenary, and to commission progressive writers, researchers, artists, multimedia workers, and grassroots activists to help out in producing, compiling, publishing, and disseminating such work.
All of us welcome the call of the ILPS and PRISM: “Let us celebrate the historic gains and continuing validity of the Great October Socialist Revolution for the proletariat and people. Let us draw and share lessons from its revisionist reversal, continue its legacy, persevere in leading the masses, and advance the struggle for democracy and socialism against imperialism and all reaction!”
Let us discuss today in this conference the historic significance of the October Revolution, its global impact and its continuing validity for current and future revolutionary movements of the proletariat and the oppressed peoples and nations against monopoly capitalism and all reaction. Despite or because of the betrayal of socialism by the modern revisionists, we are still in the era of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution. We confront today the ever worsening general crisis and wars of aggression of monopoly capitalism and we are engaged in contributing the best we can to the resurgence and advance of the world proletarian revolution.
I. Historic Significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution
Marx and Engels formulated the fundamental principles of the theory and practice of Marxism in the era of free competition capitalism. They availed of the highest development of philosophy, political economy and social science in their time in order to arrive at the the proletariat’s vantage point of dialectical and historical materialism, the laws of motion in capitalism that lead to socialism and the general political line, strategy and tactics for defeating the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and winning the socialist revolution.
In their time, the most that Marx and Engels could observe was the Paris Commune of 1871 as the sprout of the proletarian revolution that the bourgeoisie soon crushed. They were not dismayed by the massacre and defeat of the communards. They studied the strong and weak points of the Paris Commune for the guidance of succeeding revolutions. The most crucial lesson learned was that that the proletarian revolution must wield the class dictatorship of the proletariat to smash the military and bureaucratic machinery of the bourgeois state.
Lenin assumed the task of inheriting, upholding, defending and further developing the fundamental principles of the Marxist theory and practice in the era of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution. In philosophy, he fought against the subjectivist idealist philosophy of the bourgeoisie and grasped the unity of opposites as the most fundamental law of contradiction and explicated the law of uneven development. In political economy, he critiqued monopoly capitalism or imperialism and laid the foundation of the socialist economy in correspondence to the extent of proletarian power and took into account the transitory measures necessary to realize democratic reforms and cope with the exigencies of war and foreign intervention.
Lenin was the grand master of social science who established the first socialist state in accordance with the principles of scientific socialism. He learned comprehensively, profoundly and meticulously, with all the necessary hindsight, insight and foresight to solve problems and set the program of action and line of advance and subsequently bring about the seizure of political power by the proletariat in concert with the broad masses of he people, especially the peasants who constituted a large part of the population. He understood that on a global scale, by the law of uneven development, imperialism can engage only in the inadequate and spasmodic development of capitalism for the purpose of grabbing superprofits and that the proletariat and the people could be mobilized to rise up and establish socialism at the weakest link in the chain of imperialist countries.
Even as he focused on the practical tasks of the Bolsheviks in the accelerated revolutionary upsurge in Russia amidst the complex contradictions of World War I, he attended to theoretical work during those years. A large number of items in Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks relate to 1914-16 and involved a thorough review of dialectics. In the first half of 1916, he wrote Imperialism: the highest Stage of Capitalism and defined imperialism’s decadent and moribund character and five features of dominance in industrial capitalist countries: merger of industrial and bank capital to constitute finance capital, the great importance given to the export of capital than to that of commodities and the growth of cartels, syndicates and other monopoly combines on a global scale. He described imperialism as the eve of the socialist revolution and urged the proletariat and people to turn the imperialist war to revolutionary civil war. In the summer of 1917 he wrote State and Revolution to to stress the necessity of the proletarian class dictatorship in overthrowing the bourgeoisie and building socialism.
After the overthrow of Tsarism in the February revolution of 1917 and the installation of the Kerensky-led provisional government predominantly of Liberals and Social Revolutionaries, he anticipated the sharpening and complexity of the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and exerted all efforts to be in Russia as soon as possible in order to participate directly in the revolutionary process. He was certain that the Kerensky government and the bourgeoisie were on the way down because they wished to stay in the inter-imperialist war, motivated as they were by social patriotism (chauvinism in “socialist” garb) and revolutionary “defensism”; they did not nationalize the land for the land-hungry peasants and they could not fix the economy which was in shambles.
On April 16, 1917, upon his arrival at the Finland Station in Petrograd, Lenin called for all power to the soviets (revolutionary councils) of workers, peasants and soldiers away from the bourgeois Kerensky government. He observed the passing of the first stage of the revolution which placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie to the second stage which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants. He stated all the major points that needed to be done. He clarified that circumstances and events were moving in transition to socialism even as socialism was not yet the immediate task.
He called for a party congress of the Bolsheviks to change the outdated program and name of their party (from Russian Social Democratic Labor Party to All-Russia Communist Party) and differentiate themselves from the social chauvinists of the Second International and social democratic parties of Europe that supported their respective countries in World War I. He also called for a new International of communist parties. The Communist International (Third International) would be formed in 1919.
Events moved in the direction anticipated by Lenin. The Provisional Government sent a diplomatic note on May to the Central Powers, signifying its desire to continue the war to a victorious conclusion. Tens of thousands of workers and soldiers of Petrograd and subsequently those of other cities under the leadership of the Bolsheviks raised the slogans, “Down with the war!” and “All power to the Soviets!” On July 1, hundreds of thousands of workers and soldiers assembled in Petrograd with the same slogans. They expressed the people’s opposition to the war and their hunger for bread and freedom.
In the entire month of July, the Provisional Government became stricken by a severe crisis upon the collapse of its offensive against the Central Powers. It sought to repress the Bolsheviks and the masses. It raided the offices of Pravda (the official Bolshevik daily newspaper) and the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks and ordered the arrest and trial of Lenin who had to go underground. It fired on the demonstrations of workers and soldiers demanding the end of the war and all power to the soviets. It became even more isolated politically. When commander-in-chief General Kornilov tried to make a coup, Kerensky sought the help of the Petrograd Soviet led by the Bolsheviks to thwart the coup. After the defeat of Kornilov, the revolutionary prestige of the Bolsheviks rose ever higher.
In September and October 1917, workers’ strikes spread on a wide scale beyond Petrograd and Moscow, with more than a million workers rising up and taking control over production and distribution in many factories and plants. More than 4,000 peasant uprisings occurred against landowners. The peasant masses became more enraged when they were attacked by government troops, police and thugs of the landlords. The soldiers and sailors refused to recognize the authority and carry out the commands of the Provisional Government.
On October 23, the Bolsheviks’ Central Committee voted 10–2 in favor of the resolution declaring an armed uprising inevitable, and the time for it fully ripe. On October 25, 1917 (or November 7 in the Gregorian calendar) the Bolsheviks led their forces in the uprising, according to plan, to seize the buildings of the bourgeois state and to storm the Winter Palace. The Red Guards seized the buildings and facilities as the Petrograd soldiers joined the uprising. Lenin issued the proclamation “To the Citizens of Russia”, ending the Provisional Government and installing Soviet power as the sole state after the surrender of the Kerensky Cabinet.
The Bolsheviks and the soviets under the leadership of Lenin were able to consolidate power. They prevailed over the White Armies in the Civil War and foreign intervention by 1920. The war was waged mainly in the countryside. After the war, he promulgated by decree the New Economic Policy (NEP) which the Bolshevik government had earlier adopted in the course of the 10th Congress of the All Russia Communist Party in 1921. The NEP replaced the ration system of “war communism” based on scarce production due to the war and revived the economy by adopting methods of state capitalism and giving concessions to middle and small entrepreneurs and rich peasants.
In the period of wartime ruin, the Austro-Hungarian coalition and the Anglo-French coalition, both enemies of Soviet power, were distracted from attacking it because of their mutual warfare. But in the struggle against the White Armies led by Kolchak and Denikin, the Soviet power created the Red Army to defeat them. In the succeeding period of struggle against economic ruin, it successfully coped with famine and oversaw the considerable advance of agriculture and light industry. Lenin pointed to the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) as a new framework of state existence. The Congress of Soviets ratified the Declaration and Treaty of Union of the Republics in 1922.
After the death of Lenin in 1924, Stalin assumed the leadership of the Bolshevik party and the USSR. He was loyal to Lenin and Leninism. He ended the NEP in 1928 and proceeded with the implementation of a series of five-year plans to build socialist industry and the collectivization and mechanization of agriculture. These brought about resounding success in transforming the USSR into a powerful industrial federal state in the face of the worsening global economic crisis, the rise of fascism in several capitalist countries and the looming outbreak of World War II.
The Great October Socialist Revolution has come to signify all the great revolutionary achievements of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Stalin in socialist revolution and construction. It verified the revolutionary principle that proletarian class dictatorship is a requisite for defeating the bourgeoisie and guaranteeing the socialist revolution, overcoming civil war and foreign military intervention, reviving the economy through transition measures, building socialist economy, developing the educational and cultural system of the working class, promoting the international communist movement, fighting and defeating fascism and further pursuing socialist revolution and construction in the face of the threats of US imperialism after World War II.
II. Global Impact and Continuing Validity of the October Revolution
The salvoes of the October Revolution reverberated throughout the world. The establishment and development of socialism from 1917 to 1956 on one-sixth of the surface of the earth cannot be ignored by the people of the world, especially the working class and the oppressed peoples and nations. The great achievements in socialist revolution and construction have the force of example in inspiring the oppressed and exploited masses to fight for a bright and better world in socialism. And the Communist Party led by Lenin made sure through the Third International that communist parties and revolutionary mass movements would arise and grow on a global scale, upholding the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism and applying it on the concrete conditions of various countries.
The global impact of the October Revolution can also be measured in terms of the negative reaction of the imperialist powers and the international bourgeoisie. These have always been terrified by the “specter of communism” and wanted to strangle socialism in the cradle. Right after the October revolution, from 1918 to 1920, the imperialist powers sent to Russia military forces of intervention, with Japanese forces staying on up to 1925 in northern Russia and Siberia, to aid the counterrevolutionaries. But when the Great Depression occurred and resulted in fascist rule in several capitalist countries and the outbreak of World War II, the Allied Powers could obtain victory against the Axis Powers only because of the decisive roles of the Soviet Union in defeating the forces of Nazi Germany and China under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in likewise defeating the invasionary forces of fascist Japan.
During and after World War II, the toiling masses under the leadership of communist parties excelled in fighting against fascism and gained political power in the process. The Soviet counter-offensive against the Nazi German forces led to the establishment of states under communist leadership in Eastern Europe up to East Germany. The victory of the Chinese people led by the Communist Party against Japan in 1945 and then against the Kuomintang in 1949 meant that one more large part of the world was lost by imperialism. National liberation movements spread and flourished, highlighted by the national wars of liberation against US aggression in Korea and Vietnam. Newly-independent countries promoted decolonization and national independence in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
By the 1950s it could be said that one-third of humankind was under the socialist governance of the revolutionary parties of the proletariat and that the world was divided into the capitalist and socialist camps. However, soon after World War II, the US together with its imperialist allies girded for the Cold War against the Soviet Union and tried to use wars of aggression and nuclear blackmail. But the emergence and growth of modern revisionism, from Khrushchov to Gorbachov, became far worse and more lethal than the blatant threats and actions of US imperialism in terms of subverting and destroying socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Comrade Mao led the Chinese Communist Party in the struggle to uphold Marxism-Leninism against modern revisionism since 1956. Eventually, he put forward his theory and practice of continuing revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) from 1966 to 1976 in order to combat modern revisionism, prevent the restoration of capitalism and consolidate socialism in China. The GPCR obtained great victories but was eventually defeated by a coup, with Deng Xiaoping at the head of the revisionists and capitalist restorationists, soon after the death of Mao.
At any rate, the GPCR succeeded in posing the problem of modern revisionism, in presenting certain principles and methods for solving this problem and in generating the rich experience from which positive and negative lessons can be learned. The proletarian revolutionaries can learn from all these in order to explain the disintegration of the former socialist systems and to avert the restoration of capitalism when in the future they shall build and develop socialist societies in various countries until they can defeat imperialism on a global scale and bring about communism. The Paris Commune of 1871 won for awhile and was soon defeated but became a source of principles, methods and lessons for advancing the world proletarian revolution.
In the period of the temporary strategic defeat of socialism on a global scale, communists and revolutionary mass activists must be able to answer the questions of the proletariat and people about the past, present and future of the revolutionary cause of socialism. They must answer effectively the taunts of the imperialists and their petty bourgeois adjutants that socialism is dead and that capitalism is the end of history. They must be able to do so in terms of philosophy, political economy and social science. In this regard, the Communist Party of the Philippines is one of the parties upholding the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the torch of socialism in the transition from strategic retreat to the counter-offensive of the revolutionary proletariat.
In terms of dialectical and historical materialist philosophy, nothing is permanent but change. Social systems have come and gone, like slavery and feudalism which existed for thousands of years. Capitalist society, which first appeared autonomously in the Italian city state in the 13th century, has probably a shorter life span than the earlier social formations if we take into account the rapid development of free competition capitalism to monopoly capitalism in the cumulative advance of history. The bourgeoisie adopts higher technology and minimizes wage payments in order to increase private profit. But the proletariat and the oppressed peoples and nations can be aroused, organized and mobilized to resist and change the oppressive and exploitative relations with imperialism and the ruling bourgeoisie in every country. They have seen how national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism can be achieved.
In terms of the critique of capitalism and modern imperialism in political economy, Marx has long pointed out the laws of motion of capitalism both in his microscopic study of the commodity and his macro study of mass production and finance. The capitalist extracts the surplus value from the total value created by the workers, pushes down the wage level, overaccumulates capital and causes the crisis of overproduction, stagnation, unemployment, social turmoil and the intensification of the class struggle. Lenin laid bare how free competition capitalism leads to monopoly capitalism and how the latter brings out the worst of capitalism, goading the proletariat and people of both developed and underdeveloped countries to rebel and seek a revolutionary solution. He has described modern imperialism as the highest and final stage of capitalism. Indeed, it is at this stage when socialist states arose and developed first in Russia and then in several other countries.
In terms of fighting for and achieving scientific socialism in social science, the revolutionary party of the proletariat as the advanced detachment must grasp Marxism-Leninism-Maoism at this time and make a concrete analysis of the concrete conditions in whichever country such party operates. It must win the battle for democracy where the bourgeoisie uses fascist terror to suppress the revolutionary movement for socialism in developed capitalist countries. It must carry out the two stages of the people’s democratic revolution and socialist revolution in semicolonial and semifeudal countries. In any case, the proletarian revolutionary party must arouse, organize and mobilize the broad masses of the people to overthrow the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and install that of the proletariat as the key to socialism.
The disintegration of the revisionist-ruled systems and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the years of 1989 to 1991 made the US appear as the big winner in the Cold War and as the sole superpower. Indeed, it served to expand the world capitalist system. But it has not served to strengthen it. It has served to weaken it. It has increased the number of capitalist powers as economic competitors and political rivals, and it has intensified the contradictions within and among the imperialist powers. There is little room for the imperialist powers to maneuver as these are driven by one crisis after another to redivide the world. The addition of China and Russia as big players in the capitalist world has aggravated the crisis and further complicated the problems for the original Group of 7 and the OECD countries.
The US took full advantage of its position as sole superpower since 1991 by taking the offensive in all fields, especially the economic and military ones. It pushed the neoliberal economic policy of imperialist globalization and the neoconservative policy of aggression and intervention more than ever before. It outsourced consumer manufacturing to China to keep it integrated in the world capitalist system. It then became dependent on consumer manufactures and credit from China and concentrated on producing big items for the military industrial complex and on financializing the US economy. It carried out the neoconservative policy of aggression and intervention with the use of high-tech weaponry. It has unleashed wars of aggression with impunity against the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and other countries, killing and maiming people by the millions, destroying homes and the social infrastructure and forcing more millions of people to become refugees.
But the aforesaid policies of the US have been self-defeating if we consider the high financial costs and the rapid increase of its public debt. This is far bigger than the acknowledged debt of USD 19 trillion. The neoliberal economic policy is dependent on heavy doses of debt for both imperialist and non-imperialist countries, for corporations and households as if there were no limits to the credit orgy. The limits have become conspicuous with the recurrence and worsening of the crises of overproduction and of finance capital. The strategic decline of the US has accelerated from being the sole superpower in the 1990s to one scrambling for hegemony in a multipolar world. The irony of it all is that the main instigator of neoliberal economic policy is purportedly turning to protectionism under Donald Trump.
Those who have suffered most from the neoliberal economic policy are the workers of all countries and the oppressed peoples and nations. Thus, they ahbor to hear the mantra that the key to increasing production and employment is to let the monopoly bourgeois have more capital to reinvest by being given tax cuts, and by pressing down wages, cutting back on social services and carrying out denationalization, liberalization, privatization and deregulation of economies. The concentration and centralization of capital in the imperialist countries and in the hands of a handful of monopoly bourgeois have resulted in widespread unemployment, poverty and social unrest. But the reaction of the US and other imperialist powers is to whip up national chauvinism, military production, state terrorism and wars of aggression.
The escalation of exploitation and oppression by the imperialists and their reactionary puppets in various countries is inflaming the resistance of the proletariat and people of the world. The epochal struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat continues. So do all the concrete forms of national and class struggles in various countries. The people do not wish the greed and violence of the few to victimize them without end. They fight for national and social liberation from imperialism and reaction. And they strive for greater freedom and social justice to prevail under the principles of scientific socialism.
There is an urgent need for the revolutionary party of the proletariat in many countries. Such a party must uphold the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideological line against modern revisionism and all forms of subjectivism and must be politically capable of leading the proletariat and people through the anti-imperialist and democratic mass movement. It must ensure that the general political line can bring about the victory of democracy and socialism and defeat imperialism and all forms of reaction and must not be led astray by either “Left” or Right opportunism. It must concentrate the collective will and material strength of the proletarian revolutionaries by following the organizational principle of democratic centralism.
The crisis conditions of the moment generate the immediate issues of the struggle against monopoly capitalism and local reaction. But in recruiting, training and developing their members, the revolutionary parties of the proletariat must inculcate in them the historic mission of building socialism up to the theory and practice of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship. We must counter the propaganda of the enemy that socialism is successful only up to a certain point and then fails because of the inherent selfish and asocial nature of people and their leaders. And we must assure the proletariat and the people that there is no alternative to capitalism but socialism, that modern revisionism and the restoration of capitalism can be prevented and that socialism can be consolidated repeatedly until it gains the upper hand over imperialism on a global scale and reaches the threshold of communism. ###