Civil War after 1917 1917

On the morning of 30 December 1916, the people of Petrograd woke up to the news that the infamous priest Gregori Rasputin had been killed with poison. Rasputin was a charlatan, drunkard and serial-womaniser of upper class wives and daughters, but most importantly he was the closest adviser to the royal couple.

Using a wealth of primary sources, Alan Woods reveals the real evolution of Bolshevism as a living struggle to apply the method of Marxism to the peculiarities of Russia. Woods traces this evolution from the birth of Russian Marxism, and its ideological struggle against the Narodniks and the trend of economism, through the struggle between the two strands of Menshevism and Bolshevism, and up to the eventual seizure of power. 'Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution' is a comprehensive history of the Bolshevik Party, from its early beginnings through to the seizure of power in October 1917.

The First World War was becoming a catastrophe for Russia. From the front line there was news of defeat after defeat. The breakdown of the economy produced a shortage of bread. Crowds of half-starved and desperate women queued outside shops for bread that never arrived. But at the top of Russian society things were very different.

A feature appeared recently in the London Evening Standard (10th February, 2017) by a certain Victor Sebestyen about the exhibition Russian Art 1917-1932 at the Royal Academy.

In the second of a series of videos celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Alan Woods - editor of In Defence of Marxism, - examines the lies and slanders used to attack the Revolution, the Bolsheviks, and the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky.

1917 was the year the Russian revolution changed the course of world history. But before the masses took to the stage, a whole period had prepared the fall of Tsarism. While the reign of Nicholas II appeared strong on the surface it was rotten to the core.

The centenary of the Russian Revolution has opened in an appropriately explosive fashion, with Donald Trump’s first raft of vile executive orders provoking international protest on a gargantuan scale. It is fair to say that tensions are high, and widespread anger is the order of the day.

In the beginning of a series of videos celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Alan Woods - editor of In Defence of Marxism, - examines the lies and slanders used to attack the Revolution, the Bolsheviks, and the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky. In this first part "in Defence of the Russian Revolution", Alan looks at the gains made by the October Revolution and the planned economy in terms of science, industry, and culture.

The International Marxist Tendency is proud to present the In defence of October website - - a new page dedicated to the Russian Revolution, with videos, reading guides, biographies, timelines and much more for all those who wish to study the Revolution and the ideas of Bolshevism.

One hundred years ago the Russian Revolution shook the capitalist world order to its foundations. Here for the first time ever, the Russian workers, led by Lenin and the Bolshevik party, took power into their own hands. The ruling classes have never forgiven this.

In spite of all the attempts to slander the revolution and its achievements, however, the ruling class cannot hide the fact that capitalism today is in a deep crisis. Everything that was taken for granted a few years ago, from the right to free education, to healthcare, jobs, pensions and decent wages, is no longer guaranteed by the system. The relative stability of the past is gone, with wars and civil wars flaring up in different parts of the world. Poverty is growing everywhere, while the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few has never been greater. The world is pregnant with revolution, and bourgeois politicians and commentators are coming to realise that their system is at risk.

[Study the lessons of the Russian Revolution with our dedicated reading guide]

There is no solution to the present crisis within the limited confines of the capitalist system. It is the system itself, the “market economy” that is the cause of the crisis. The only real lasting solution is to uproot the system once and for all and replace it with a rational planned economy, an economy run by and in the interests of the working people. That system is called socialism.

The only time in history that the working class managed to take power into its own hands – albeit for a few brief years - was in the 1917 October Revolution. This was because at its head stood the Bolshevik Party, a revolutionary Marxist workers’ party painstakingly built up by Lenin in the previous decades. That party showed what needs to be done to successfully carry out a workers’ revolution, a socialist revolution.

That is why the bourgeois ever since have piled a mountain of lies upon that historical event. Their task was facilitated by the Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet Union, something which did not flow from the nature of the Bolshevik party, as they claim, but which developed as a consequence of the isolation of the revolution in one very backward country. That isolation was due to the defeats of many revolutions – from the German revolution in 1918, the Italian in 1920, the Chinese in 1926 and many others – that followed on from the Russian Revolution. Those defeats were not foregone conclusions, they were not inevitable, but were due to the betrayals and errors of the leaders of the labour movement in each country.

The bourgeois have no interest in historical truth. Their only interest is to hide the real meaning of the Russian Revolution from today’s generation of workers and youth that is struggling to find a way out of the present impasse. The lies go from the events of 1917, distorting what really happened, presenting the revolution as a “coup”, to conflating Bolshevism with Stalinism, claiming that one leads directly to the other.

The International Marxist Tendency is launching a campaign to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. This, however, is not just a remembrance; it is a gigantic task of answering the lies and slanders of the bourgeois and bringing out the truth, for the experience of the Russian Revolution is full of lessons that are not merely of historical interest but can be applied to today's’ situation.

[Click here and follow our day to day account of the Russian Revolution as it happened exactly 100 years ago]

Back in 1917 there was no lack of reformists who advised the working class not to take power, not to listen to the Bolsheviks, but to seek an accommodation with the so-called “democratic” or “progressive” elements within the capitalist class. They were justifying the capitalist system, just as today the labour and trade union leaders cling onto the coattails of the ruling class. Tony Blair, Francois Hollande and all the other leaders of the Social Democratic organisations, together with the leaders of the former Communist Parties, including leaders like Tsipras in Greece, are the true heirs of the reformists of 1917. They have spent their whole political careers in arguing that there can be no revolutionary change and that we must struggle only for what is “achievable”. The recent experience of Greece shows that what is “achievable” is austerity, austerity and more austerity.

The Bolsheviks in 1917 showed to the workers of the world that there is another road. A recent article in The Economist opened with the line, “The similarities to the world that produced the Russian revolution are too close for comfort…” Indeed they are! More and more bourgeois commentators are warning that unless something is done to alleviate the pain caused by the present crisis, then revolution will be the inevitable outcome. Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that a growing section of the population, in one country after another, sees revolution as the only way out.

We will be dedicating this year to bringing back to life the events of 1917, from the initial first steps of the working class, through all the subsequent events, the February revolution, the provisional government that followed, all the manoeuvres aimed at thwarting revolution and the final glorious days of October when the working class came to power.

The campaign has already set up a Facebook page, as well as a Twitter account which follows the year of the revolution day by day as it unfolded exactly 100 years ago. And finally we will also be organising meetings, schools and other events on this topic in dozens of countries. If you are interested in helping out with the campaign or learn more about how to get organised in the struggle for a socialist revolution please contact us.

This new site is that latest part of the campaign. It already hosts all the works of Lenin and Trotsky from 1917 as well as many other works by other authors. These have been organised thematically and chronologically, as well as in a serie of reading guides. Throughout the year we will expand the site, as well as adding new features. Please contact us if you have any suggestions or if you spot any errors.

Our task as Marxists is to tell the historical truth and build a force today capable of completing the task begun by the Bolsheviks, the socialist transformation of the world. Only then will we see an end to unemployment, poverty, wars and civil wars. Only thus can we avert the dangers facing humanity and the planet we live on, from climate change, to the widespread poisoning of the environment in the quest for profit. Only in this way can we defend the rights that generations of workers have fought for and which are now in danger of being destroyed.

That is what the International Marxist Tendency stands for and, if you agree, join us in the struggle for a better world, a socialist world!

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution. The apologists of capitalism, and their faithful echoes in the labour movement, try to comfort themselves with the thought that the collapse of the USSR signified the demise of socialism. But what failed in Russia was not socialism but a caricature of socialism. Contrary to the oft-repeated slanders, the Stalinist regime was the antithesis of the democratic regime established by the Bolsheviks in 1917.

Este año se conmemora el centenario de la Revolución Rusa, un acontecimiento que alteró el curso de la historia humana. Por primera vez –si excluimos el breve pero glorioso episodio de la Comuna de París– los obreros tomaron el poder en sus manos y comenzaron la gigantesca tarea de la reconstrucción socialista de la sociedad. Aquí publicamos un artículo escrito en 1992 por Alan Woods. El artículo da una excelente panorámica de la revolución y resalta sus principales lecciones.

"No matter what one thinks of Bolshevism, it is undeniable that the Russian Revolution is one of the greatest events in human history, and the rule of the Bolsheviki a phenomenon of worldwide importance." John Reed, 1st January 1919. (J. Reed, Ten Days that Shook the World)

2017 marks the centenary of the greatest event in world history: the Russian Revolution. The names Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky will forever be connected to that momentous social, political, and economic upheaval, which forever changed the course of humanity. Many people familiar with 20th Century history know that when the Russian working class overthrew the tsar in February 1917, Lenin was in exile in Switzerland, soon to return to Petrograd in the famous sealed train. But where was Trotsky before returning to the maelstrom?

On Monday 17 October, the Morning Star published a review of the new edition of Trotsky’s biography of Stalin written by Andrew Murray. While admitting that “this book has literary and historical merit,” Murray states that “it has much less as an actual biography of Stalin”. How does he justify these claims?

Ninety years ago, on 21st January 1924, Vladimir Lenin, the great Marxist and leader of the Russian Revolution, died from complications arising from an earlier assassin’s bullet. Ever since then there has been a sustained campaign to slander his name and distort his ideas, ranging from bourgeois historians and apologists to various reformists, liberals and assorted anarchists. Their task has been to discredit Lenin, Marxism and the Russian Revolution in the interests of the “democratic” rule of bankers and capitalists.

At the recent Marxist summer school in London, Alan Woods - author of "Bolshevism: the road to revolution" - explores the ideas of Bolshevism and discusses the vital role of Lenin and Trotsky in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The early symptoms of bureaucratic degeneration in Russia were already noted by Lenin in the last two years of his politically active life. He spent his last months fighting against these reactionary tendencies, leaving behind a vital heritage of struggle in his last letters and articles. The struggle of the anti-Stalinist Left Opposition, led by Trotsky after Lenin's death, really begins here.

In the avalanche of propaganda against “Communism” an idea is often peddled that while preaching equality, the Communist leaders make sure their own personal position is well catered for. What this propaganda is based on is the horrible bureaucratically degenerate Soviet Union under Stalin. Not happy with attacking Stalin, however, they attempt to show that Lenin was no different.

Ted Sprague looks back at the period into which Lenin was born, the kind of society it was, and the key events that marked the young Lenin. He looks at the way Lenin discovered Marxism and made it his own, using it in later life to lead the Bolshevik party.

An avalanche of books has recently been published to discredit Lenin, Trotsky and the Russian Revolution. First and foremost of these writers is Professor Robert Service. The aim of his latest book on Trotsky is to prove that Bolshevism leads to Stalinism and totalitarianism. Here Rob Sewell sets the record straight and explains the huge gulf that divided genuine Bolshevism from the monster of Stalinism that was built on the physical destruction of the Bolshevik party.