Revolution or War n°25

(September 2023)

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Russia, Revolution and Counter-Revolution 1905-1924, A View from the Communist Left

We draw the attention of all our readers and revolutionary militants, especially those who can read English, to the publication of the book Russia, Revolution and Counter-Revolution 1905-1924, subtitled A View from the Communist Left. We strongly encourage anyone who can read English to obtain it from Prometheus Publication by contacting the Internationalist Communist Tendency at The book is published under the name of Jock Dominie, who is also known as a member of the ICT-CWO.

Based on a very thorough compilation of most of the historical studies and testimonies of revolutionary militants, the book provides us with a homogeneous vision of the entire historical process and the issues facing the proletariat and its party, the Bolshevik Party. For this reason alone, we warmly encourage the younger, and not so younger, generations of revolutionaries to make it a reference work, enabling them to re-appropriate the essentials of the revolutionary experience of the time. But above all, it provides the general position of the Communist Left on the Russian Revolution. This position is all the more important in that it differentiates itself from other political currents, whether bourgeois – such as the Stalinists, Trotskyists and anarchists – or not, such as Councilism, on the basis of the two fundamental principles of the workers’ movement: proletarian internationalism and the one of the dictatorship of the proletariat. As a result, only today’s Communist Left maintains that the Russian Revolution was a proletarian revolution. That is why the introduction is right to remind us that “any understanding of revolutionary experience has to take the Russian Revolution as its starting point.”

This is how the book is presented:

This work is divided in two parts. The first demonstrates that in its historically-discovered form of government: the soviets, the Russian Revolution provided a lasting gain for the working class everywhere. We also demonstrate how, despite its inevitable subjective errors (much magnified by our class ennemy), the Bolshevik Party became a genuinely revolutionary weapon of the Russian proletariat. On the way we debunk the myth that the October Revolution was a carefully planned coup by a bunch of professional conspirators, and demonstrate the profoundly mass character of October 1917.
The second half analyses how the revolution that began with so much promise of working class emancipation slid step by step into the creation of a one party state. The decline of working class initiative began as a result of an economic and social cataclysm which led to the working class abandoning their factories in hundreds of thousands,
and was compounded by the civil war.»

In so doing, the book exposes the difficulties and contradictions encountered by the proletariat in Russia, as a result of its international isolation. And it presents the political questions to which the only organized force left in a devastated country, the Bolshevik Party, as the mobilization of the broad masses of the proletariat gradually weakened, tried to respond in order to keep the dictatorship of the proletariat as best it could alive, in expectation of the international extension of the revolution. One of these responses was precisely to take on the responsibilities and tasks that the starving, exhausted proletariat as a whole was less and less able to assume, and so to be led to substitute to it. In this, the book is right to point out that “the relationship of party and class was never clearly defined [and that the process of bringing the party to exercise power alone] as in every other aspect of the October Revolution, was dictated more by circumstances than design.” (p. 207-208) In addition to analyzing events within the framework of the essential principles of the proletarian movement, the comrade’s work also has the great merit of refusing to give clear-cut, definitive answers to a whole host of “tactical” questions that arose at the time, and which we can still consider “open”. “Unlike the Trotskyists ever seeking to provide the ’right leadership’ for workers, we will not be looking for a precise re-run or promoting any single ’formula’ for success.” (p. 220) There are several questions that reading the book reminds us of or awakens. Thus, from a militant point of view, it encourages reflection, debate and political confrontation on issues that we would be wrong to believe belong only to the past, even if we know “that there will be no repeat of the conditions which produced that revolution.” (p. 5)

We cannot deal with them here, or even mention them all. But these issues are part of the reflection that every communist group must carry out on the Russian experience, and of the debates, even political confrontations, that the proletarian camp of today should assume. Quite often, these questions and differences of opinion run through communist groups themselves – including our own, of course. This is normal and unavoidable, unless we are to declare a facade of unanimity in the face of a complex and extremely fluid historical reality specific to revolutionary periods. Even if most of these questions do not raise issues of principle or immediate political stakes, the fact remains that they may conceal different political approaches and methods. They should be openly confronted even before they arise, or be urgently and dramatically revived, in the very course of events, in the very class confrontations and at the very heart of the coming historical turmoil.

We would have a lot to say, some of it critical. They deal with secondary issues. Among them, we would be more critical of the “Bukharin Fraction” of 1918 than the book, even though it acknowledges that it was Lenin who was right about the signing of the Brest-Litvosk Treaty. Similarly, the tendency to place the start of the counter-revolution in 1921, after the dramatic and bloody episode in Kronstadt, should be discussed. If this were the case, it would be appropriate to question the validity of some of the political orientations that the Left of Italy, to which we – the ICT like ourselves – lay claim, adopted, put forward and defended within the Communist International itself. [1] Similarly, while we agree with the exposition and analysis of the different moments in the Russian Revolution and the difficulties caused mainly by international isolation, we would be more measured about the criticisms of the Bolshevik party and Lenin in particular that appear here and there. For instance, the formula “Lenin had created the conditions for the rise of Stalin” (p. 216), which follows a passage criticizing the rise of ’discipline in itself’ within the party, seems to us, in itself false, in the context of the book at the very least confusing and too hasty – it would deserve to be argued – and in contradiction with the book’s general approach and thesis explaining the final failure.

These observations in no way detract, on the contrary, from our invitation and encouragement to obtain the book and make it a document for re-appropriation and work to strengthen the forces called upon to constitute the party of tomorrow. Reviewing the difficulties as they arose and examining the responses provided by the Bolshevik Party and, more broadly, the Communist International, not from positions supposedly established today, in a dogmatic and a-historical way, but in the very course of events, this is the method the book presents and offers us. If today’s meagre communist forces are to be fully prepared for the challenges that lie ahead, this is the method we must use: to study the positions that the different currents or even fractions put forwards on the various barricades that class antagonisms, sharpened by the revolutionary situation and historical drama, erected throughout the period. For this reason alone, the book is a must-have.

RL, September 2023



[1. We refer our readers to our introduction to the Prometeo text from 1946-47, which is reproduced on the next page.