By Nipuli Gajanayake –
Collapses in political systems and rises of new political systems have been a significant trend in the Great Russian political history. In such scenarios, “Revolution” marked as a driving mode for those substantial transformations. The series of Russian revolutions dated back to1905 and were aroused against the Russian empire’s imperial rule. However it is important to mention that, the 1905 revolution did not start with the peasantry or the industrial working class but started with the middle class and professional people. The demand for political reform in 1903-4 became a reason to open-up a revolutionary front against the Tsarist rule. Union of Liberation was the forerunner of the revolutionary front and their agenda designed to end the Tsarist autocracy. The agenda included with establishment of constitutional form of government, self-determination for the nationalities of the empire, and bring out economic and social reforms. Although 1905 revolution brought no actual transform to the social, economic, and political setting of Russia, the Revolution of 1905 set the background for the revolutions of 1917.
V.I. Lenin: The revolutionary Legend
Vladimir Lenin a communist revolutionary politician emerged as a notable personality during the Russian revolutionary phase. Lenin had studied law and had taken participation in revolutionary Marxist circles. In 1895, he helped organize Marxist groups in the capital into the “Union for the Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class,” The effort had attempted to attract workers to the Marxist ideology. In December 1895, Lenin and the other leaders of the Union were arrested due to revolutionary Marxist ideologies, and it resulted to exile Lenin to Siberia for a term of three years. During his exile Lenin co-founded the newspaper Iskra (‘spark’ that ignites the flame of communism), the newspaper of Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Lenin was an active member at the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) and paid much attention to centralization approach. In 1903 the RSDLP split into two fractions of Bolshevik (Majority) and Mensheviks (Minority). Bolsheviks concerned on centralization and Mensheviks favored to a democratic approach. However, after finishing his exile period in 1900, he went to Western Europe from Siberia and “published a pamphlet entitled What Is to Be Done?. [It] argued that only a disciplined party of professional revolutionaries could bring socialism to Russia”. In 1907 he moved to Finland and then continued to travel throughout Europe. Throughout this journey Lenin participated in many socialist meetings and activities, including the Prague Party Conference of 1912 and the Zimmerwald Conference of 1915.
Lenin’s deep acceptance of Marxism had sharpened the displeasure against the Tsarist rule. This disappointment had spontaneously made Lenin to emerge as an active personality among proletariats, suppressed professionals, intellectuals, and within Communist scholarly circles. “Not only in the scholarly circles of the former Soviet Union but even among many non-Communist scholars, he has been regarded as both the greatest revolutionary leader and revolutionary statesman in history, as well as the greatest revolutionary thinker since Marx.”
Lenin believed in revolution to achieve the ultimate goal of establishing the Communist state under a Socialist rule. A Communist society which characterized by classlessness, statelessness, elimination of labor exploitation and common ownership of the means of production have mainly considered within this Communist state.
Revolutions of 1917: The February Revolution
Russia involved to the first Word War in 1914 with the hope of supporting for its Serbs, French, and British allies against the German Empire. However, the supportive involvement had created a disastrous environment within the Russian Empire and spontaneously made peasant workers’ living condition more worsen. With the Empire’s costly war effort, the situation led to produce social and economic problems at large scale. The economy disordered by the costly war effort, and consequently riots and strikes broke out in Petrograd (today St. Petersburg). Industrial and cultural backwardness of Russia had toppled the living condition for working class people and created a social disaster throughout the Empire. This harsh condition thus led to outbreak the February revolution in 1917. It is important to mention that the revolution started on 8, March 1917 but known as ‘February revolution’ as the Russian Empire used Julian calendar at that time.
However, workers’ strikes broke out in Petrograd within worsen economic and social environment. Among disturbed problems, the shortage of food became the major one to outbreak riots and strikes against the Tsar rule. As a result of the revolutionary riots and strikes, the abduction of Tsar, ending of the Empire and creation of both Russian Provisional Government and Russian Republic can be identified as outcomes.
The Great October Revolution
With the end of the February Revolution, Lenin traveled back to Russia from Switzerland on April 16, 1917 and played a significant role within the Bolshevik movement. Opposition for the newly created Provisional Government had been the most important factor to outbreak the October revolution. The power within rich and influential elite’ class had suppressed the workers hence creating an environment with poor living conditions under shortage of food.
In July 1917, workers and soldiers started demonstrations by demanding Provisional Government’s power be given to the Soviets (Worker’s Council). However, with the support of Socialist Revolutionary Party (Menshevik) leaders, the Provisional Government ordered an armed attack against the demonstrators. On 25 October (7 November in Gregorian calendar) 1917, Bolsheviks led their armed forces against the Provisional Government in the city of Petrograd. Significantly, demoralized military units of the city also joined with the Bolshevik uprising. In September and October 1917, mass demonstrations and strikes took part by workers, miners, metalworkers, oil workers, textile workers, and railroad workers throughout Moscow and Petrograd. Corollary, such workers controlled the production and distribution of production in many factories and plants at large. Gradually, Provisional Government was unable to resist the Bolshevik’s revolutionary storm and became more helpless when Red Army seized the control over key centers throughout the city. Moreover, Bolsheviks were able to capture important places and facilities (like communication) belonged to the Provisional Government.
However, as the salient outcomes of the October revolution, the ending of Russian Provisional Government and Russian Republic, creation of Soviet Russia, nationalization of all private property, nationalization of all Russian banks, control of the factories given to Soviets, fixed the wages at higher rate and introducing eight hour working duration can be mentioned.
Relevance of the Revolution on today’s Societies
The Bolshevik revolution merely not only a class struggle of working class but a political effort to seek independence from capitalist politics capitalist state power. Nevertheless, the revolution was able to provide practical decrees for economical, cultural, and national issues. As examples possibility for self-determination, promotion of social solidarity, equality and sustainable development can be identified. Furthermore, the Soviet government abolished all discriminatory laws against women, gender discrimination, and racism. Establishment of a system of free education and health care can also be named. Humanity is another major factor that encouraged through the revolution. Artists, writers, musicians, and scientists were given freedom and space to express every form of social, cultural, and scientific ideas to sharpen the humanity. According to Dr. Douglas Levesque the United Nations sustainable development is a redefinition of global communism. In other words, world communism and sustainable development is a same thing. Moreover Dr Levesque stated that, the UN’s sustainable goals are republishing of the Communist Manifesto.
However it is to mention that, thankful to the October revolution, all the working people in the world gained work rights, pension, overtime payments, and fair wage and salary systems similarly. Through an unsuppressed working condition, every society would be able to achieve the social justice, economic development, peace, and prosperity successfully.