Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Lessons of the October Revolution: build the proletarian vanguard party

Martin O’Malley, former State Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (SA Branch) spoke at an event at the Semaphore Workers Club in Adelaide to mark the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. His speech follows:​

What a momentous occasion today is, celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

In 1848, 46 years prior, Karl Marx described the Paris revolution as the “first major battle between the two classes in which the modern society is divided”. This was the beginnings of modern class warfare.

The 1870-71 Paris revolution led to the first attempt at setting up proletarian revolutionary power, the Commune. Though very short lived (two months) the lessons developed and built on each day by the working class of Paris were invaluable. Unfortunately, the Paris revolution ended in defeat with the harshest lessons of all, absolute destructive reaction from the ruling class. Quelling the first attempt at proletarian control there was no mercy, no forgiveness, no justice, just slaughter to all and sundry whether involved or not, for challenging the absolute right of the bourgeoisie to rule.

The defeat in 1870 was the embryo of future success for working class battles, no more so than the Russian Revolution.

In 1917 Lenin led the revolutionary forces required to win working class control. He had studied the history of working class struggles and understood the fundamental lessons of the past. Through the application of Marxism, applied to the concrete conditions at the time and without sacrificing principles, Lenin shifted ground as required to meet the circumstances of the day, refusing to become bogged down in polemics when it was time for decision. He understood Marxism is a guide to action and all the conditions required were at hand. This was the key to success of 1917 and a fundamental lesson for all future battles including today.

While Marx declared the Paris revolution as the first battle between the working class and the ruling class (the proletariat and the bourgeoisie), the October Russian Revolution took a step further, which reverberated around the world, advancing the rule of the working class in a country consolidating a socialist state never before achieved.

100 years ago, the working class took total power and maintained it for decades, changing the world forever.

Huge changes for the working class were taking place not only in Russia but elsewhere in the world due to the achievements of the 1917 revolution and the USSR.

- Withdrawing Russia from the imperialist 1st world war. - Expropriated the big industries and made them public property. - Established 8 and 7 hours of working day and was about to make it 6 and 5. - Established free healthcare and free education, filled the schools and the universities. - Banned child labour -Established women’s rights, not only institutionally but in practice. - Guaranteed a complete welfare system for the helpless. - Created terror to the bourgeoisie all over the world forcing them to apply elements of social welfare and rights. - Pointed out people’s right in self-determination and fought against chauvinism and nationalism. - Clarified in practice just and unjust wars. - Won WW2 essentially losing 30 million people doing it. - Crushed fascism and Nazism.

The power and absolute rights of the ruling class had been shaken as never before. The fear of socialist contagion spread from country to country to the delight of the world wide working class. The vulnerability of the ruling class was open for all to see; they are forever more, “surplus to requirement”.

Since the 1917 revolution, China and other countries have also travelled the socialist road, some more successful than others, some reverting back through corrupt leadership divorced from the working class and the people. Capitalism is very resilient and has had the ability to reinvent itself time and time again through corruption and greed.

Historical facts about the revolution can easily be found in books and on the internet, but defining those historical facts will require more than the ability to read. To really make sense of it, we need to be part of the inevitable journey leading to the ultimate destiny of the working class as described by Karl Marx and continued by Lenin and many others.

Just knowing the history means nothing, unless we are prepared to participate and make our own history. We must concentrate on building a Proletarian Vanguard Party, which Lenin made very clear, is a prerequisite for the working class to successfully challenge the ruling class. This is a party for the most advanced and active working-class leaders to learn and teach and put into action lessons from the past tempered by current concrete conditions.   

In Australia we have a number of organisations which call themselves communist, socialist or other names, suggesting progressive politics. Each organisation has its own views as to what is required to combat capitalism (if that is their goal). Some of these organisations have working relationships with others, while some do not or will not. Some agree with Lenin, others do not. Those who do agree must continue working closer together and resolving issues which may cause division.

There is no longer a place for the ruling class or its system of capitalism, which, must be replaced with a system which shares the wealth produced by the working people and protects the fragile environment we all live in, ridding ourselves of exploitation and destruction of the earth. We need a Party untainted by the rules and the corruption of the ruling class, we will make our own working-class rules to benefit the masses of people not just the few.

The working class is not interested in what it sees as petty squabbles, it wants an organisation which will lead when it is required. It will not be led by pretenders or charlatans. The working class fully understands the consequences of getting it wrong. It is learnt at an early age through the workforce to keep one’s head down until the right time when workers are united with competent leadership.

The lessons of the past are good indicators of how we should organise. Listening to the working class is a good step in resolving these differences and is part and parcel of building a Proletarian Vanguard Party, showing the working class we do listen and understand what must be done.

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