Shall we start with a classic Revolutionary character?

Tsar Nicholas II - The Russian Revolution
I am not yet ready to be Tsar. I know nothing of the business of ruling.”

Debatable, but more likely just very unlikely that Nicholas II happened to be Tsar during the 1917 Russian Revolution. He had a poorly suited personality for the autocratic rule of Tsar - himself, and everyone around him, believed him to be poorly suited to the roll. The Tsar, his wife, 4 daughters and son, were executed by the Revolutionaries in July 1918.

Clearly, not uncritical apologetics but penetrating and thoughtful criticism is alone capable of bringing out treasures of experiences and teachings. Dealing as we are with the very first experiment in proletarian dictatorship in world history (and one taking place at that under the hardest conceivable conditions, in the midst of the world-wide conflagration and chaos of the imperialist mass slaughter, caught in the coils of the most reactionary military power in Europe, and accompanied by the most complete failure on the part of the international working class), it would be a crazy idea to think that every last thing done or left undone in an experiment with the dictatorship of the proletariat under such abnormal conditions represented the very pinnacle of perfection. On the contrary, elementary conceptions of socialist politics and an insight into their historically necessary prerequisites force us to understand that under such fatal conditions even the most gigantic idealism and the most storm-tested revolutionary energy are incapable of realizing democracy and socialism but only distorted attempts at either.

Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution, Chapter 1: Fundamental Significance of the Russian Revolution

What I love about this work is that it insists history and acts serve educational purposes that permit us to continue our struggle rather than simply delineate the winners and losers of momentary struggles and so merely memorialize events and their dates, which is so much of what bourgeois historical education is all about.

Luxemburg’s history is a this is happening rather than a this happened.


11.07.16 ~ Back to school for the last half ever!

Back at school after the holidays and I am pooped already! After spending hours doing all my homework, only one of my five teachers actually asked for the homework today… and I put all that effort in to get it all done on time… Well, at least I did finish it, so I’m at least happy with that.

Aside from that school was pretty good I got a cute flow chart in Revs that I covered in highlighter :) and did a lil’ analysis on conflict woo

It’s also a kinda scary thought knowing that my entire high school education ends in just 12 weeks. I’m freaking out man!!

A revolution teaches and teaches fast. In that lies its strength. Every week brings something new to the masses. Every two months creates an epoch. At the end of February, the insurrection. At the end of April, a demonstration of the armed workers and soldiers in Petrograd. At the beginning of July, a new assault, far broader in scope and under more resolution slogans. At the end of August, Kornilov’s attempt at an overthrow beaten off by the masses. At the end of October, conquest of power by the Bolsheviks. Under these events, so striking in their rhythm, molecular processes were taking place, welding together the heterogeneous parts of the working class into one political whole.
—  Leon Trotsky - The History of the Russian Revolution
The balance of Soviet Russia is negative, cruelly negative. “Momento” weeps for it like a little calf, “Momento” suffers for it with all its Franciscan soul. Think, think: 13,700 people executed as counter-revolutionaries on the first of January 1919 … What are the one hundred and fifty million Russians exterminated by the Czarist government in the repression of the Soviets in 1905? What would the twenty million Russians do who would be exterminated if the counter-revolution of Generals Krasnof, Denikin and Kolchak triumphed, the friends of the Entente who impale and expose for three days one worker in ten in the towns they manage to reconquer, the friends of the Entente who send armoured wagons full of Soviet soldiers cut to pieces to Petrograd. What are they, what are they? Trifles, nothings, magnanimous actions compared to 13,700 executed and a deficit of 17 billion. The social revolution is a scourge, the apocalyptic monster. What is a proletarian life, what is it worth compared to a bourgeois life? You study economics, surely: a bourgeois is worth at least ten proletarians; so the 13,700 shot by the Soviets are worth 137 million proletarians and they are not 137 million proletarians which international capitalism has bled for its affairs, to fertilize its masses.
—  Antonio Gramsci, “Red Ink

The History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky (1930)

VOLUME ONE: The Overthrow of Tzarism

VOLUME TWO: The Attempted Counter-Revolution

VOLUME THREE: The Triumph Of The Soviets

Yesterday at work we had this diversity training and another Russian dude was asking the group what they thought was most shocking to Russians about America, and it was in this very room. The trainer took a stab at it - that women and men were talking to each other.

This is so false. We shut him down of course. It was an honest guess, he wasn’t meaning any harm. But its interesting how people have these preconceived notions about Russia. Its like people see it as “less civilized” and of course hyper-masculine (since they’re always saying its threatening the world). Because they think this way they assume that Russian women must be treated horribly (they basically assume women are treated horribly everywhere outside of the West, to be real).

That’s interesting because Russian women had rights before many other women around the world did, including voting rights a lot earlier than Americans. Before the revolution Russian women had positions of power, including Cossack women and female rulers (which the US has never had). After the revolution women’s liberation was a legitimate communist platform. Women not only got the right to vote, but there were quotas for women in politics and other positions, allowing many women to advance. We had “affirmative action” while many women in the US were still being pushed to the back of the bus. We also had free access to lifesaving medical care, including abortion. And while there was a minimal judgement surrounding that, it was nowhere near as bad as the US today, where people are literally shooting up clinics. Also, per communism, everyone had to work. So there was no “1950s housewife” that had no rights and had to fully submit to her husband. One big cultural difference I notice between the East and the West is that in the West women still have this expectation of being small and silent - women who raise their voice are seen as being too aggressive and judged harshly. Well Russian women don’t really have that pressure, except for maybe now coming from the West, because our culture encourages discourse.

That’s not to say that Russia is perfect, especially now. There are a lot of bad things, including for women. Just like in the US. I’m not saying one is better than the other. I could write a long article about how badly women are treated in Russia, or how badly they’re treated in the US. I’m just saying that Russia isn’t astronomically worse, that our history is actually a lot better on many women-specific fronts, and that assuming every woman outside of the West is treated horribly and a victim is racist and wrong.

Also, not every society’s progress is linear. People in the US assume that because women were treated horribly for most of US history but then our conditions improved gradually across the 20th century, every country must be like that. When actually, in many countries elsewhere in the world, women had periods of having significant rights and freedoms, only to be taken away later. And actually even across American history, you can trace how many Native American women went from being matriarchs to losing all of their rights. History is complicated.

The tacit assumption underlying the Lenin-Trotsky theory of dictatorship is this: that the socialist transformation is something for which a ready-made formula lies completed in the pocket of the revolutionary party, which needs only to be carried out energetically in practice. This is, unfortunately–or perhaps fortunately–not the case. Far from being a sum of ready-made prescriptions which have only to be applied, the practical realization of socialism as an economic, social and juridical system is something which lies completely hidden in the mists of the future. What we possess in our program is nothing but a few main signposts which indicate the general direction in which to look for the necessary measures, and the indications are mainly negative in character at that. Thus we know more or less what we must eliminate at the outset in order to free the road for a socialist economy. But when it comes to the nature of the thousand concrete, practical measures, large and small, necessary to introduce socialist principles into economy, law and all social relationships, there is no key in any socialist party program or textbook. That is not a shortcoming but rather the very thing that makes scientific socialism superior to the utopian varieties.
—  Rosa Luxemburg, The Problem of Dictatorship

Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party–however numerous they may be–is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of ‘justice’ but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when 'freedom’ becomes a special privilege.

The Bolsheviks themselves will not want, with hand on heart, to deny that, step by step, they have to feel out the ground, try out, experiment, test now one way now another, and that a good many of their measures do not represent priceless pearls of wisdom. Thus it must and will be with all of us when we get to the same point–even if the same difficult circumstances may not prevail everywhere.

—  Rosa Luxemburg, The Problem of Dictatorship
Causes of the Russian Revolution~

Russia, in the early 20th century, was massive. It stretched from Poland to the Pacific and was home to almost 170 million people. As you can imagine, running such a large country was not an easy task and it is not surprising that there was a revolution in October of 1917 (Almost a year before WWI is over). 

The causes of the revolution are as follows: 

  1. In 1916, ¾ of Russia’s population were farmers. The agriculture in Russia was harshly out of date; they used old-fashioned ways of farming and there was little hope of improving because of widespread literacy and no capital to invest. Families who owned farms often had members who had gone to town to find better work. Because of Russia’s increasing population, land for farming became scarce and by 1917, most “peasants” were totally against developments outside their villages and desired autonomy. 
  2. Because of the boom of the industrial revolution in the 1890s, many people were working in factories experiencing harsh working conditions (low pay and lack of job rights) and those who were not working in factories were living in poor, cramped houses. 
  3. At the time, Russia was being ruled by one “emperor” called the Tsar. For centuries, this position had been taken up by the Romanov family, who ruled alone with no representative bodies. Freedom of expression was limited, books and newspapers were censored and the secret police forces often executed people or sent them into exile. 

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