Armando Hart on the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution

November 7, 2007, was the 90th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Here Armando Hart Dávalos, one of the historic leaders of the Cuban Revolution, assesses the 1917 Russian Revolution in the light of historic experience. In a commentary of obvious timelessness for Cuba’s own revolutionary people and leadership, he argues that the pressures of the imperialist blockade were not the decisive causes of the fall of the Russian Revolution, but rather errors made within the country by its own leadership and institutions. Essential reading for Cubans, and for everyone who looks to the ideas of Marx and Lenin for guidance in our epoch. – Walter Lippmann

From Juventud Rebelde, November 7, 2007

By Armando Hart Dávalos

A CubaNews translation by Ana Portela. Edited by Walter Lippmann.


The disappearance of the Soviet Union in December of 1991 did not

diminish, at all, the importance of the revolution that gave it life

now 90 years ago. It was precisely on November 7, 1917 --

corresponding to October in the Gregorian calendar -- that the

Bolsheviks began the greatest social revolution of the 20th Century.

The heroic days of October -- as described by US journalist, John Reed

-- shook the world. A new epoch opened up for humanity. No later event

can mar the greatness of the Russian Bolsheviks.

After the tragic outcome of the Soviet system, the importance of

those events and the validity of the ideas on behalf of whom they

were done requires an evaluation from the point of view of the

thoughts of Marx and Lenin, of the complex historical moment that

began then. Until today analyses, mostly, have been done by the

enemies of socialism and by those who have abandoned the ideas of

Marxism, by bits, partially or incompletely. History, looked at in

this manner, reveals prejudicial results for the most noble and just

aspirations of the exploited and humanity as a whole.

According to the real supposition that Marxist interpretation of

society became a rigid scheme, the possibility of a scientific

analysis of history is denied and, as a result, are the roots of


However, regarding the deep meaning of what happened in 1917, there

is a master key to analyzing the reality of our present. The Soviet

Union disappeared, but remaining is the economic and social

situations that gave birth to that vast movement of social classes

and exploited peoples.

In what was given the name of theThird World and, even, in the bosom of

developed capitalist countries, a broadened explosive combination of

what gave rise to the social revolution of 1917 is present; in other

words, in bourgeois economic growth (anarchic by nature) there is a

progressive increase of poverty and social injustice and a presence

in intellectual circles of high political and philosophical culture.

Situations are being created of population explosion that presupposes

extremely serious social conflicts.

With modern facilities of communication and social and human

relations, migratory movements are making these problems complex. It

exudes from the universal economic, social and political life that

typifies it as an explosion of disorder that, even, is already

growingly affecting the ecology and atmosphere. That is the real


No one can invent stories about the events. We have lived through it

from the perspective of a revolutionary, anti-imperialist and

socialist left that is the most profound manner to reach conclusions

over these processes. And even in this manner it is not a simple

endeavor. However, there are evident conclusions.

First: the feats of 1917 and the years when Lenin was in charge of

the process that is a milestone of exemplary value and undying in the

struggle of the peoples to conquer their freedom.

Second: for years and decades, communists and the peoples of the

USSR waged colossal battles and achieved prodigious advances in the

economic, social, political, cultural and military fields. In a

relatively short time in history they converted an impoverished and

exploited nation they inherited into a first class world power.

Third, and for several reasons, this process deviated from its

initial route. A serious decomposition was produced and there were

errors and horrors that history cannot pass by. The enemy took

advantage of this situation for its underhand work; but it would be

granting them too much power to affirm that the main reason for the

disaster was in the actions of imperialism. It is obvious that the

essence of the tragedy is found in the internal factors of the Soviet


What occurred in 1985 to the present is not the cause but the

consequence of evils and problems that Fidel and Che had denounced

during the 1960s on the basis of solid revolutionary positions.

The events are used against the ideas of Marx and Lenin.

Regarding this simplistic logic, we could negate the universal

political culture of the Encyclopedists, because the monarchy was

restored and France took a long time before establishing a stable

republican system. Following this manner of thinking we could blame

Christ and Christianity for the Inquisition.

Attributing the errors and crimes committed to the socialist ideals,

as if these evils were inherent to it and there were not a previous

and later history in socialism. It is worthwhile saying that it

should not have occurred in socialism. Precisely for these reasons,

what was called "real socialism" collapsed. There was an

underestimation of the subjective factors that limited theoretical

development of revolutionary thought and damaged socialist practice.

As the Cuban Revolution warned, these subjective factors have much

greater importance than what was conceived by the predominant Marxist

interpretation of the past few decades. It has been confirmed that

there is no socialism without a high degree of ethics.

We Cubans assume the scientific, economic and social discoveries made

by Karl Marx from the spiritual and ethical culture of our America.

We are guided by the thoughts of Marx because his cultural and

scientific contributions and his universal humanistic sense were the

basis for a socialist ethics. It served us to interpret human

history; offered clarity in the study of the economic and social

evolution of Cuba and Latin America; it gave us methods for a

historical analysis to scientifically confirm the popular roots of

our patriotism; it taught us that the contradiction between the rich

and the poor -- in the end -- was the deep rooted cause of social

tragedy and showed us that revolutionary struggle to overcome

socio-economic inequalities is of utmost importance and the roots of

an ethics that intends to have a universal value.

Since the ‘20s and through the influence of the October Revolution the

immense legacy of Marx and Lenin began to unfurl, in the political

culture of our country with the universal and anti-imperialist

thoughts of José Martí. They were socialist and anti-imperialist

currents that were exemplified in Julio Antonio Mella that

resurrected him from underestimation and demonstrated the

revolutionary sharpness of Marti’s thought. We are not going to

renounce this legacy. To do so would be a betrayal, and expression of

absence of culture and political realism. We need it to study and

deal with our realities of today and tomorrow.

November 7, 1917, gathered around it the highest European political

intellectuals, with the revolutionary spirit of the Russian working

class and the struggle of the peasants for land and their rights.

What happened after the death of Lenin is another lesson for us.

To defend the interests of the working and exploited masses we must

extol the history of human culture, from remote antiquity to this end

of the millennium, without traumas, without ideological "isms" that

since the mythical times of a chained Prometheus, discoverer of fire,

imposes breaks, currently and in a dramatic manner, with imagination,

intelligence, tenderness and spirit of solidarity and relationships

that are potentially alive in human consciousness.

The ideas and principles they forged go beyond specific situations.

From Christ and Spartacus to Marx and Lenin there is a history that

goes back and forth; but still standing, upright, is the image of the

great people who forged redeeming ideas. Among them are Lenin and the

Russian Bolsheviks of 1917.

While humanity exists they will live in the grateful memory of the

combatants for liberty.


7 de Noviembre

Por: Armando Hart Dávalos


07 de noviembre de 2007 00:00:40 GMT

La desaparición de la Unión Soviética en diciembre de 1991 no

disminuyó, en modo alguno, el carácter trascendental de la Revolución

que le dio vida hace ahora 90 años. Fue precisamente el 7 de

noviembre de 1917 -correspondiente a octubre según el viejo

calendario gregoriano- que los bolcheviques iniciaran la más grande

revolución social del siglo XX.

Las heroicas jornadas de octubre - como las describió el periodista

norteamericano John Reed- estremecieron al mundo. Se abrió una nueva

época para la humanidad. Ningún hecho posterior puede opacar la

grandeza de los bolcheviques rusos.

Tras el desenlace dramático del sistema soviético, para destacar el

significado de aquellos sucesos y la validez de las ideas en nombre

de las cuales se llevaron a cabo, se requiere un examen, desde la

óptica del pensamiento de Marx y Lenin, de la muy compleja trama

histórica que comenzó a gestarse entonces. Hasta hoy, los análisis

han sido realizados, en lo fundamental, por los enemigos del

socialismo y por los que han abandonado las ideas del marxismo, de

forma fragmentada, parcial e incompleta. La historia, enfocada de

esta manera, arroja resultados perjudiciales a las más nobles y

justas aspiraciones de los explotados y de la humanidad en su


Sobre el presupuesto real de que la interpretación marxista de la

sociedad se transformó en un rígido esquema, se niegan las

posibilidades de elaborar un análisis científico de la historia y,

por ende, de las raíces del desastre.

Sin embargo, en el sentido más profundo de lo que ocurrió en 1917 hay

una clave maestra para el análisis de la realidad de nuestros días.

Desapareció la Unión Soviética, pero no las situaciones económicas y

sociales que generaron aquel vasto movimiento de clases sociales y

pueblos explotados.

En lo que se llamó Tercer Mundo e, incluso, en el seno de los países

capitalistas desarrollados, está presente, en forma ampliada, la

combinación explosiva que originó la revolución social de 1917; es

decir: crecimiento económico burgués (anárquico por naturaleza),

incremento progresivo de la pobreza e injusticia social y presencia

de círculos intelectuales de alta cultura política y filosófica. Se

están creando situaciones de hacinamiento que prefiguran conflictos

sociales de extrema gravedad.

Con las modernas facilidades de comunicaciones y de relaciones

sociales y humanas, los movimientos migratorios están complejizando

tales problemas. Se desborda por todos los poros de la vida

económica, social y política universal lo que caracterizamos como

explosión del desorden que, incluso, ya está afectando, de manera

creciente, la ecología y la atmósfera. Esta es la verdadera


Nadie nos puede inventar historias sobre lo sucedido. Las hemos

vivido desde la perspectiva de la izquierda revolucionaria,

antiimperialista y socialista, que es la forma más profunda de llegar

a conclusiones sobre estos procesos. Y aún de esta manera no resulta

sencillo hacerlo. Sin embargo, hay conclusiones que son bien


oLa primera, las hazañas de 1917 y de los años en que Lenin tuvo la

conducción del proceso constituyen hitos de valor ejemplar e

imperecedero en la lucha de los pueblos por la conquista de la


oLa segunda, durante años y décadas, los comunistas y el pueblo de la

URSS libraron batallas colosales y alcanzaron, en los campos

económico, social, político, cultural y militar, avances prodigiosos.

En relativamente corto tiempo histórico, convirtieron al empobrecido

y explotado país que heredaron en una potencia mundial de primer


oEn tercer lugar, por diversas razones, el proceso se desvió de su

ruta inicial, se produjo una grave descomposición y tuvieron lugar

errores y horrores que la historia no puede pasar por alto. De esta

circunstancia se aprovechó el enemigo para realizar su labor de zapa;

pero sería atribuirle demasiado poder afirmar que la razón

fundamental del desastre estuvo en la acción imperialista. Es

evidente que la esencia de la tragedia se halla en factores internos

del proceso soviético.

Lo ocurrido de 1985 hacia acá no es la causa, sino la consecuencia de

males y problemas que Fidel y el Che habían denunciado, en la década

de 1960, desde sólidas posiciones revolucionarias.

Se toma como base lo sucedido para argumentar contra las ideas de

Marx y Lenin. Sobre semejante lógica simplista, podríamos negar el

aporte a la cultura política universal de los enciclopedistas, porque

se restauró la monarquía y Francia demoró largo tiempo antes de

establecer un sistema republicano estable. Se podría, en tal caso,

achacarle la Inquisición a Cristo y al cristianismo.

Le atribuyen al ideal socialista los errores y crímenes cometidos,

como si tales males le fueran inherentes y no hubieran estado

presentes en la historia anterior y posterior al socialismo. Cabe

decir que no debían producirse en el socialismo. Precisamente por

estas razones quebró lo que llamaron "socialismo real". Se produjo

una subestimación de los factores de carácter subjetivo que limitó el

desarrollo teórico del pensamiento revolucionario y lesionó la

práctica socialista. Como advirtió la Revolución Cubana, tales

factores subjetivos tienen mucha más importancia que la concebida por

la interpretación marxista predominante en las últimas décadas. Se ha

confirmado que no hay socialismo sin una elevada eticidad.

Los cubanos asumimos los descubrimientos científicos, económicos y

sociales de Carlos Marx desde la cultura espiritual y ética de

nuestra América. Nos guiamos por el pensamiento de Marx, porque sus

aportes culturales y científicos y su sentido humanista universal,

punto de partida de la ética socialista, nos sirvieron para

interpretar la historia humana, nos brindaron claridad en el estudio

de la evolución económica y social de Cuba y de América Latina, nos

dieron los métodos de análisis histórico para confirmar

científicamente la raíz popular de nuestro patriotismo, nos enseñaron

que la contradicción entre ricos y pobres era -en última instancia-

la causa de fondo de la tragedia social, y de hecho nos mostraron que

la lucha revolucionaria por vencer las desigualdades socioeconómicas

es fundamento y raíz de una ética que pretenda tener valor universal.

Desde la década de los años 20 y por influencias de la Revolución de

Octubre, el inmenso legado de Marx y Lenin comenzó a articularse, en

la cultura política de nuestro país, con el pensamiento universal y

antiimperialista de José Martí. Fueron las corrientes socialistas y

antiimperialistas, que ejemplificamos en Julio Antonio Mella, las que

lo rescataron de la subestimación en que se le tenía y mostraron el

filo revolucionario del pensamiento martiano. No vamos a renunciar a

este legado. Hacerlo sería, además de una traición, una expresión de

incultura y de falta de realismo político. Lo necesitamos para

estudiar y abordar nuestras realidades de hoy y de mañana.

El 7 de noviembre de 1917 se conjugó lo más alto de la

intelectualidad política europea con el espíritu revolucionario de la

clase obrera rusa y la lucha de los campesinos por la tierra y sus

derechos. De lo sucedido con posterioridad a la muerte de Lenin hay

otra lección que extraer:

Para defender los intereses de las masas trabajadoras y explotadas,

debemos exaltar la historia de la cultura humana, desde la más remota

antigüedad hasta este fin de milenio, sin traumas ni "ismos"

ideologizantes, que desde los tiempos del mítico Prometeo encadenado,

descubridor del fuego, vienen imponiéndole freno, de forma

dramáticamente recurrente, a la imaginación, la inteligencia, la

ternura y al espíritu solidario y asociativo que se halla

potencialmente vivo en la conciencia humana.

Las ideas y principios de los forjadores trascienden por encima de

coyunturas. Desde Cristo y Espartaco hasta Marx y Lenin, hay una

historia de retrocesos y avances; pero ha quedado en pie, erguida, la

imagen de los grandes forjadores de ideas redentoras. Entre ellos

están Lenin y los bolcheviques rusos de 1917.

Mientras haya humanidad, vivirán en el recuerdo agradecido de los

combatientes por la libertad.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 09/30/2008 - 22:39



By Armando Hart Dávalos

Speaking of today's debate about the content of 21st century's socialism, it
becomes a theoretic as well as a practical necessity the articulation of
both Caribbean's and Latin American's intellectual tradition, the ALBA,
symbol of an alliance between Martí and Bolivar, with the socialist ideology
as interpreted by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro.

During the 20th century there was such a distortion of Marx', Engels' and
Lenin's ideas on what socialism should be about, that today we are strongly
urged to go directly to their original writings. Let's see what Marx and
Engels had to say, and also the ideas of Martí and Juárez on this subject.

In the paper "Feuerbach: Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist
Outlooks," Marx and Engels state: "For us, communism is not a condition that
must be imposed, an ideal that needs to abide by reality. We call communism
the real movement that cancels and surpasses the actual status of things

Friedrich Engels in a letter to Otto Von Boenigk on August 21, 1890,
suggests: "To my mind, the so-called 'socialist society' is not anything
immutable. Like all other social systems, it should be conceived in a state
of constant flux and change. Its crucial difference from the present order
consists, naturally, in production being organized on the basis of common
ownership by the nation of all means of production."

In a letter sent by Friedrich Engels to Joseph Bloch in September 1890,
Engels poses: "(…) history happens in such a way that the final result
derives from conflict between many different individual wills, each of which
is what it is by virtue of a number of special conditions in life; they are
the innumerable forces that crisscross one another, an infinite group of
force parallelograms that add up to one – the historic event – that in
itself may be considered the product of a single force that, as a whole,
acts without conscience and without will; since what one wants stumbles with
the resistance placed by another, the end result becomes something nobody

In another letter sent by Engels to Karl Kautsky in September 1892, Engels
states: "But as to the social and [political] economic phases these
countries – in reference to those we call today underdeveloped countries –
will then have to pass through before they likewise arrive at socialist
organization, we today can only advance rather idle hypotheses, I think. One
thing alone is certain: the victorious proletariat can force no blessings of
any kind upon any foreign nation without undermining its own victory by so

In his letter to the editors of the Annals, Karl Marx states: "My historical
understanding of the origins of capitalism in Western Europe is bent on
converting it into a historic and philosophical theory of a general
trajectory to which all peoples have been tragically subjected to, whatever
the historical circumstances taking place, to be finally expressed in that
economic formation that, (…) assures man's development in each and every
aspect. (This is allowing me too great an honor and, at the same time, too
much mocking) […]

"Studying separately each of these historical processes and later comparing
each to the others, we will easily find the key to explain these phenomena,
results that we would never obtain by using the universal key of a general
philosophic theory of history that has its major advantage in the fact of
its being a supra-historic theory."

Friedrich Engels writes to Joseph Bloch in September 1890, "…According to
the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in
history is the production and reproduction of real life. Other than this
neither Marx nor I have ever asserted anything else. Hence if somebody
twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining
one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless

In the first point of the Theses on Feuerbach, Karl Marx states: "The chief
defect of all hitherto existing materialism – that of Feuerbach included –
is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of
the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity,
practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the
active side was developed abstractly by idealism – which, of course, does
not know real, sensuous activity as such."

In a letter to Werner Sombart dated March 11, 1895, Engels writes: "The
entire conception of Marx is not a doctrine but a method. It does not offer
made dogmas, only starting points for subsequent investigation and the
method for such investigation."

On the same grounds, I elicit from the reader that he/she studies this
paragraph from José Martí: "A thing which I must celebrate a lot, it's the
love in which you treat others and your respect as a person, those Cubans
that are sincerely searching for, with this or that name, a higher level of
cordiality, and an indespensable balance to the administration of all worldy
things. An aspiration must be judged by its nobility, and not for this or
that wart brought about by human passion. The socialist ideas, like so many
others, encounter two dangers: foreign writings – confusing and incomplete –
and that of pride and concealed rage of ambitious people, that they use to
elevate themselves in the world and which start with pretense, so that they
may find shoulders to climb, from where they can show themselves to be
frenetic defenders of the helpless."

Later on Martí adds: "But with our people it isn't so much the risk, as it
is in societies more enraged, and of a lesser natural clarity; our task will
be to explain, flat and deep, as you will do it – the idea is not to
compromise sublime justice on the way or in the excesiveness in which we ask
for it. And always with justice, you and I, because errors by which it is
being carried give no authority to those of good upbringing from deserting
when called for its defense."

Also to be studied is the following paragraph from Karl Marx to be compared
with one by Benito Juárez that is given afterwards. Marx says in the
Critique of the Gotha Program written in late April, early May 1875: "In a
higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the
individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis
between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not
only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have
also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all
the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the
narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society
inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each
according to his needs!"

Fourteen years before, on January 11, 1861, Benito Juárez wrote something
which was later discovered by historians that stated:

"To each according to his ability and to each ability according to deeds and
education. That way there will be neither privileged classes nor unjust
preferences (…)"

"Socialism is the natural tendency to better the condition or the free
development of both physical and moral competences."

As underlined before, Engels expressed that Marxism is a method for
investigation and study, and Lenin, in his own right, declared that it was a
guide for action. Using both method and guide we can tackle the concrete
problems of our time, while also heeding the warning that there is no
general formula that can be applied to all situations and all nations. It is
up to us, starting with the concrete development of our societies, and the
intellectual tradition and politics of our region, to find creative ways and
paths, and the optimal form to channel that true socialism of the 21st
century, the one aspired by our nations.

Any analysis we carry out must start from our history and the links
established during the centuries between the Latin American and Caribbean
nations which make our region the one with the loftiest calling towards
integration given our impressive spiritual [cultural] heritage.

In the 21st century we should find inspiration in the enlightened ideas of
Marx, Engels and Lenin as expressed in the original writings, and relate
them to whatever is found to have validity with those ideas of Bolivar,
Martí and other past illustrious leaders and thinkers of our America.