Invent the Future

"We must dare to invent the future" - Thomas Sankara

soviet-part7

There can be no more tragic spectacle in the history of humanity than that of a defeated revolution. When the revolt of the slaves in Rome was defeated, thousands were nailed to crosses on the roadside. This should give us an idea of what a defeated revolution is… There was also the dreadful slaughter of workers after the defeat of the Paris Commune [in 1871]. This, too, should give us an idea of what a defeated revolution is. History teaches us that a defeated revolution has to pay an extraordinary toll in blood. The victorious ruling class demands payment for […]

soviet-part6

Many of us aspire to change the world for the better: you are among the few who have successfully done so. (John Major to Mikhail Gorbachev, December 19911) The early Gorbachev era was relatively exciting and inspiring; there was a sense that the new General Secretary had the energy, creativity and commitment to lead the USSR out of economic stagnation and political disillusionment. By 1987, this initial excitement had waned, replaced with apprehension and worry. Economic growth, which in 1985 had been relatively slow, was by now anaemic, and the Communist Party was being actively marginalised. Many party members and […]

soviet-part5

The basic cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union may be identified as the long-term ideological chaos that prevailed in the USSR. Acting as a key driver of events were long-term mistakes in organisational policy, while the primary factor that dealt the direct, fatal blow was political betrayal, through the implementation of ‘perestroika and new thinking’.1 Gorbachev: the beginning of the end After a decade of economic stagnation, declining popular confidence and escalating military confrontation with the West – and with three CPSU general secretaries in three years having died on the job (Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko) – there […]

soviet-part4

Why doesn’t the Soviet Union exist any more? Part 4: Imperialist destabilisation and military pressure Not for a moment since 1917 have the fascist and democratic Western powers abandoned the idea of defeating the Soviet Union. (Samir Amin, Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism, Monthly Review) Full-court press against the USSR Seeing the Soviet Union experiencing economic and political difficulties, and noting the deepening split within the socialist camp, it dawned on US strategists that there was potentially a historic opportunity to push the USSR off the cliff. Having identified this opening in the late 1970s, the […]

soviet-part3

A crisis of confidence How do societies stick together? How do you organise the cooperation of millions of people – a modern challenge that humans have only had to face since the emergence of civilisation in Asia a few thousand years ago? At the root of any successful project of that kind is a set of beliefs and values shared by a large number of the population – beliefs and values that bind them to the existing order. Modern capitalism, for example, is strongly rooted in individualism, consumerism, the idea of the free market as being fundamental to human life, […]

soviet-part2

We do not forget for a moment that we have committed and are committing numerous mistakes and are suffering numerous reverses. How can reverses and mistakes be avoided in a matter so new in the history of the world as the building of an unprecedented type of state edifice! We shall work steadfastly to set our reverses and mistakes right and to improve our practical application of Soviet principles, which is still very, very far from being perfect. (VI Lenin, Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution, 1921) As discussed in the previous article, the Soviet Union recorded world-historic achievements in […]

Over the coming weeks, I will be publishing a series of articles regarding the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, or Soviet Union). Although a distance of more than 25 years separates us from that fateful day in 1991 when the USSR ceased to exist, the left’s understanding of the Soviet collapse is still limited and many of the important themes are poorly understood. Why dig up these particular old bones? Because we must reflect on, and learn from, history. The world’s first socialist state no longer exists, and nor do the European people’s democracies that were its […]

russrev

This article first appeared in the Morning Star on 19 July 2017. In this compact book of just over 200 pages, Geoffrey Swain does a surprisingly good job of presenting a historical overview of the October Revolution – the defining event of the 20th century, the centenary of which we celebrate this year. The writing is necessarily dense, but not to the point of impenetrability, and most readers will find something of value here, although many Morning Star readers will undoubtedly find some things to disagree with. Swain offers two key ideas that are relatively controversial in terms of mainstream […]