Two contributors battle it outby David Aaronovitch , Richard Seymour / March 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Should we regret the Bolshevik Revolution?
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One hundred years ago this spring, there were remarkable events in Russia. But when I was young it was the October Revolution that I was taught about—how it had ushered in the world’s first worker’s state, and constituted the greatest moment in world history. It had, I knew, brought down one of the great tyrannies: the backward, dictatorial regime of the Romanov tsars. That the tsar had abdicated in February, months before the Bolshevik Revolution, passed me by. Like most people I believed Russia had gone from the tsars to the Bolsheviks in one jump. I therefore missed the other possibility: that of a democratic Russia.
It was not the tsar that was driven out by force, but the provisional government composed of social democrats, some conservatives and some social revolutionaries. This conflicted government continued to prosecute a war with Germany that had become impossible for the Russian people. But had they managed to hold on another year they would have been victors not victims.
What Russia got instead was a coup d’etat by the Bolsheviks. This was followed by Russia’s first free and open elections and a formal proclamation of all kinds of human rights. But when the elections resulted in a defeat for the Bolsheviks—they received 24 per cent of the vote—Lenin dissolved the Constituent Assembly and began banning opposition newspapers and—within a year—all opposition parties. By February 1918 Lenin was justifying extra-judicial executions of opponents and extolling the need for “the very cruellest revolutionary terror.”
The means had dictated the ends. Lenin and his revolution destroyed the chances for democracy in Russia and rendered Stalinism almost inevitable. They built a road that led to one bloody cul-de-sac after another. There is much to regret.
David Aaronovitch is a columnist for the Times and author of “Party Animals: my Family and Other Communists,” now in paperback
It’s questionable if any form of democracy was possible in Russia by late 1917. But the question cannot be answered while ignoring the soviets as you do. The first democratic institution to emerge from the February Revolution was the Petrograd Soviet. The model of democracy it proposed was socialist self-government entirely different from the…