Wild Times: From the 1917 Russian Revolution to the Revolution of Our Times

By Álvaro García, Linera, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Crisis and Critique Abstract: The present work is an attempt to locate the relevance of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. It takes as a premise the thesis that the previous century was announced by this event, which indeed brought the idea of Communism from the marginal debates into the center of political action. It then goes on to debate revolutions as a plebeian moment, all the way to the possibility and the nature of socialism today, by taking a detour through the meaning of the Bolshevik Revolution. The paper concludes with affirming the necessity of revolutions, as something which dignifies the human beings.
We are living in wild times. It’s difficult for our generation to adapt to the new situation. But through this revolution, our lives will be purified and things will get better for the youth.
S. Semyonov, spring of 1917
I.- The Revelation The revolutionary outburst split the world in two; moreover, it split the social imaginary of the world in two. On the one hand, the existing world with its inequalities, exploitations and injustices; on the other hand, a possible world of equality, without exploitation, without injustice: socialism. However, the result was not the creation of a new alternative world to the capitalist one, but the emergence - in the collective expectation of the world’s subordinates - of the mobilizing belief that this could be achieved. The Soviet revolution of 1917 is the most important political event in the twentieth century since it changed the modern history of states, divided the dominant political ideas in two, transformed the social imaginaries of peoples -giving them back their role as subjects of history-, and innovated the scenarios of war introducing the idea of another possible option (world) in the course of humanity. With the revolution of 1917, what until then was only a marginal idea - a political slogan, an academic proposal or an expectation kept in the intimacy of the working class- became matter, visible reality, and palpable existence. The impact of the October Revolution on world beliefs - which are ultimately the result of political action - was similar to that of a religious revelation among believers, that is, capitalism was finite and could be replaced by another better society. That means that there was a different alternative to the dominant world and, therefore, there was hope; in other words, there was that Archimedean point with which revolutionaries felt capable of changing the course of history. The Russian Revolution announced the birth of the twentieth century, not only because of the planetary political division it engendered, but above all because of the imaginary constitution of a meaning of history, that is, of socialism as the moral reference of the modern plebe in action. Thus the spirit of the twentieth century was revealed to all; and, from that moment, supporters, opponents and bystanders had a place in the destiny of history. But as with all "revelation", the cognitive disclosure of socialism as an actual possibility came with an agent of the channeling entity of this uncovering: the revolution. Revolution became the most vindicated and demonized word of the twentieth century. Its defenders raised it to refer to the imminent compensation of the poor against the excessive oppression in effect; detractors disqualified it for being the symbol of the destruction of Western civilization; workers movements invoked it to announce the solution to the social catastrophes engendered by the bourgeoisie and, in anticipation of its arrival, they used it - at least as a threat - to struggle the economy of concessions and tolerances with the bosses, which will lead to Welfare state. On the other hand, the ideologues of the old regime attributed to it the cause of all evils, from the confrontation between States and the dissolution of the family, to the deviation of the youth. In philosophical and theoretical debates, the revolution was for some the anteroom of a new humanity to come, the roar that unleashes the self-conscious and self-determined creativity of society. On the other hand, for the curia of the old regime, it represented the annulment of democracy and the diabolical incarnation of dark forces that attempt to destroy individual freedom. Far from envisioning a degeneration of the debate, this religious derivation of the arguments for or against the revolution reflects the deep social rootedness unleashed by the antagonism of revolution / counterrevolution, which even mobilized the most intimate moral fiber of the society. In short, revolution (the political-military event of the masses who seize political power, the armed insurrection that demolishes the old state and gives birth to the new political order), was the privileged mediator and carrier of a realizable option of a world. And around this event a whole narrative of production of future history was built; with such strength that it was able to mobilize the passions, sacrifices and illusions of more than half of the inhabitants of all continents. Since 1917 the struggle for revolution, its preparation, realization and defense, captured not only the interest and diligence of millions, but the willingness and predisposition to efforts and sacrifices seldom seen in the history of humanity. Clandestinity, material deprivation, torture, imprisonment, exile, disappearances, mutilations and murders were the high price that thousands and thousands of militants were willing to pay to achieve it. Such was their ability to surrender to the revolutionary cause, that most of them endured each of the seasons of the torment even knowingly that, most likely, they were not be able to enjoy its victory. And this devotion to historical sacrifice -with the confidence that the next or subsequent generation may witness the dawn of the imminent revolutionrefers us to the presence of a type of Bataillean "heroic expenditure" with regards to the revolution and the revolutionaries; in fact, this is about the most planetary (geographically) and most universal (morally) investment and generosity of human effort in social history. In the last 100 years more people died in the name of the revolution than in the name of any religion, with the difference that in the case of religious sacrifice, surrender is given in favor of the spirit of the sacrificed; while in the revolution, immolation is given in favor of the material liberation of all human beings, which makes the revolutionary event a kind of community production that episodically advances the desired universal community. Continue reading (PDF) here.