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editorial

by Martin Levy

October 25 old-style, November 7 on the current calendar. Exactly 100 years ago this autumn the workers, soldiers and sailors of Petrograd overthrew the Russian Provisional Government in the name of the Petrograd Soviet. Following the capture of the Winter Palace, all state power was transferred to the Congress of Soviets.

Is it just a coincidence that the blank shot announcing the assault on the Winter Palace was fired by the cruiser Aurora? The name means dawn, and this was a new dawn, not just for Russia, but for the world. Within a few weeks the revolution had swept Russia, though in Moscow and a number of other places it required fierce fighting.

In this issue of CR we celebrate the significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Several articles are taken from communist publications 50 years ago, most of the authors having either directly experienced – like Alexandra Kollontai – or lived through that momentous event. We include some observations written in connection with the 90th anniversary. And then we also have images and poetry from the revolutionary period and some modern-day observations.

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1917: The Socialist Revolution

FROM THE ARCHIVES

1917: The Socialist Revolution

Andrew Rothstein

 

1. RUSSIA AFTER TSARDOM

On 8 April 1917, after a week in Russia, Lenin’s trusted comrade Alexandra Kollontai wrote to him and his wife:i

“The people are still intoxicated by the great act. I say the people, because it is not the working class which holds front place but a diffuse and motley mass dressed in soldiers’ greatcoats. At present it is the soldier who dictates the mood, the soldier too who is creating a peculiar atmosphere in which the greatness of the vividly expressed democratic liberties, the awakening of consciousness of equal rights for all citizens and complete failure to understand the complexity of the moment, are all mixed up together. Amidst the feverish activity and striving to build something new, different from the past, there is too loud a sound of triumph already attained, as though the cause has been won completely. Not only is the ‘internal enemy’ underestimated – biding his time, and of course far from finished off – but undoubtedly our people, and particularly the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, lack the resolution and political judgement for carrying on what has begun, consolidating power in the hands of democracy. ‘We are already in power’ – that is the complacently mistaken mood of the majority in the Soviet. And of course this intoxication with successes achieved is taken advantage of by the Guchkovii Government, bowing hypocritically before the will and decision of the Soviet in minor details, but naturally in the main – and particularly on the question of the war – keeping the ‘reins’ in its own hands.”

“We want an End to this War”

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editorial

by Martin Levy

In CR77 (Autumn 2015), writing about Jeremy Corbyn’s successful campaign for the Labour leadership, I recalled the statement by former Labour prime minister Harold Wilson that “A week is a long time in politics.” Fewer than 80 weeks on, we have seen further dramatic transformations, including the ruling class defeat in the EU referendum, Corbyn’s second victory over the right wing in the parliamentary Labour Party, and the stunning advances made by Labour in the 2017 general election.

“Universal suffrage”, wrote Frederick Engels back in 1884, “is the gauge of the maturity of the working class.” In a capitalist parliamentary democracy such as ours, “wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely” than under a dictatorship.i

The election result therefore represents a significant growing maturity in our working class. After over 30 years of retreats, when “class” almost became a dirty word, and despite the ruling class pulling out all the stops, millions of working people voted to support a programme which puts class back at the centre of the agenda – For the many, not the few.

How did this happen? Corbyn’s campaign broke new ground in several respects – a rock concert appearance, 6 simultaneous mass rallies and the mobilisation of tens of thousands of door-step campaigners, phone bankers and social media activists. Corbyn’s own drive, integrity and approachability was also a major factor. But it was above all the policies: Labour’s manifesto offered a vision of community, public service and collectivism – a message of hope in response to austerity, privatisation, and ‘same old, same old’.

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Marx’s Capital and Capitalism Today: Part 1

150th ANNIVERSARY OF THE PUBLICATION OF MARX’S DAS KAPITAL

 

Marx’s Capital and Capitalism Today: Part 1

 

by Robert Griffiths

The first volume of Capital by Karl Marx was published in 1867, in German as Das Kapital. It was the fruit of ten years’ study, analysis and composition in the wake of the first real international crisis of capitalism.

This work began in earnest with his Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58i. In essence, these represent the first draft of Volume I of Capital.

Portions of the Economic Manuscripts relating to the dual character and values of commodities, labour and money were then restructured and published in 1859 as ‘part 1’ of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (ACCPE)ii. The title was to become the sub-title of Capital proper. In a famous preface to the 1859 text, Marx summarised his theory of historical materialism, with its revolutionary conclusion that within each mode of production (slavery, feudalism, capitalism), society’s productive forces develop to the point where the existing relations between the exploiting and exploited classes act as an absolute barrier to their further development and so have to be ruptured: “Then begins an era of social revolution.”iii

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editorial

by Martin Levy

Britain, it is said, has the oldest ruling capitalist class in the world, and one which is therefore particularly adept at finding ways of maintaining its position.

Of course, the composition of that class has changed over time, since the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, which “brought into power, along with William of Orange, the landlord and capitalist appropriators of surplus-value.”i Throughout the 18th century, the dominant element of this alliance was the Whig financial clique, operating through the government and the Bank of England, with policies aimed at avoiding wars, and at removing taxes from merchants and manufacturers, while taxing goods consumed by the masses. It was considered dangerous to antagonise the landed squirearchy, and in any case most of the leading Whigs were landowners themselves.ii

As manufacture developed in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and capital was accumulated, that landowner-capitalist alliance became increasingly strained, and finally the 1832 Reform Act brought industrial capitalism out on top. This was followed by the period of ‘free trade’ – when Britain was the ‘workshop of the world’ – and also by colonial expansion, which developed into imperialism as production and capital were increasingly concentrated, and bank capital merged with industrial capital to create a dominant financial oligarchy.

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1917: The Overthrow of Tsardom

FROM THE ARCHIVES

 1917: The Overthrow of Tsardom

 by Andrew Rothstein

 Part I. The Gathering of the Storm

Article originally published in Marxism Today, June 1967, pp 168-176

1. Illusion and Reality

On the morning of 16 March 1917, a notice was put up in the Junior Common Room of my college (I had just come up with a scholarship) by an Irish Nationalist aristocrat, calling an urgent meeting “to consider the cataclysm”. This was not wholly undergraduate extravagance; it well reflected the utter astonishment of the British people at the shouting headlines in the newspapers that day – “Successful Russian Revolution”, “Abdication of Tsar” and (a reassuring touch in The Times) “A ‘Win-the-War’ Movement”. Such was the first intimation that the press stories, ever since August 1914, about the Russians being heart-and-soul behind their Little Father, with all political differences set aside in the cause of defeating the enemy, were poppycock, to put it mildly.

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Reflections on Cultural Identity and Revolution: Remembering Fanon, Using Fanon

  by Kevin Donnely

“[Brecht] would have been delighted, I like to think, at an argument, not for his greatness, or his canonicity, nor even for some new and unexpected value of posterity … as rather for his usefulness”.i

Introduction

I can still remember clearly the first time I encountered Frantz Fanon, and it was not the happiest of experiences. It was around 1997 and I was in my first year at university as a mature student on a youth and community studies course. As part of this, my tutor set an essay in which we were to demonstrate how radical, non-formal, education had been influenced by a number of key thinkers – we were to choose one from a list and one of the choices was Fanon.

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Editorial

by Martin Levy

15 January 2017

Writing just a few days before Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president, I recall the following quotation from Antonio Gramsci:

“If the ruling class has lost its consensus, that is, if it no longer ‘leads’ but only ‘rules’ – it possesses sheer coercive power – this actually means that the great masses have become detached from traditional ideologies, they no longer believe what they previously used to believe, etc. The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum morbid phenomena of the most varied kind come to pass.”i

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  • Literary works cannot be taken over like factories, or literary forms of expression like industrial methods. Realist writing, of which history offers many widely varying examples, is likewise conditioned by the question of how, when and for what class it is made use of.
    Bertholt Brecht Playwright and Poet (1898-1956)
  • Capitalism increasingly produces ‘culture’ as it does other commodities regardless of social need or the social good. 'Popular culture’ is thereby turned into a commercial, conservative force that promotes ideas of selfishness, greed and individualism. Read More
    Britain's Road to Socialism Programme of the CP, 8th Edition
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