World Socialist History

Communist Party general secretary ROBERT GRIFFITHS on the meaning of the 1917 revolution for us today

WHEN socialists and communists urge people to overthrow capitalism because it is unfair, unstable, wasteful, belligerent, exploitative and oppressive, many will agree with us that capitalism is indeed most if not all of those things.

Polling during last June’s EU referendum indicated that almost as many people in Britain have a negative view of capitalism (30 per cent) as have a positive view (39 per cent). Subsequent polls suggest capitalism’s critics are now the majority.

But what do we propose to put in capitalism’s place?

On the 101st Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, Chair of the Young Communist League, Johnnie Hunter, discusses the reasons behind the revolution, its legacy and most importantly its significance today in 2018.

As communists it seems obvious, maybe even trite, when we say the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 was the single most important event of the 20th Century. For the peoples of the Soviet Union it was the legendary opening chapter which began a glorious revolutionary tradition. For humankind it changed the course of history.

The opening salvo of the Aurora which signalled the storming of the Winter Palace also marked the death knell of world of imperialism and the beginning of the epoch of international proletarian revolution. Not since Paris Commune of 1871, ultimately crushed and drowned in blood, had working people seized state power. As the spring must follow the winter, the triumph of the workers against the ruling class is historically inevitable. The fact that backwards Tsarist Russia was to be the cradle of the revolution reflected its position, in Lenin’s words, as the weak link in the chain of global imperialism.

In 1917 the ruling class in Russia faced a precarious position. Even before the outbreak of World War One the country faced economic turmoil and was wracked by class conflict. In the cities, workers and new migrants from the countryside crowded into the slums surrounding the massive factories and mills. These factories, many owned by British, French, German and US capitalists, were the site of intense class struggle as workers fought for better pay and conditions and for democratic rights. In the countryside small peasants and landless rural workers, never meaningfully freed from the bonds of serfdom, laboured under the yoke of aristocratic and kulak exploitation. Everywhere the Tsarist government responded with brutality and oppression. Firing on striking workers, brutalising peasant communities and crushing insurrection. The liberal and bourgeois parties in the Russian Duma were unable and unwilling to carry forward the struggle for democratic rights.

1000 Days of Revolution: Chilean Communists on the Lessons of Popular Unity 1970-73, can be pre-ordered by Morning Star readers at the special price of £10 including post and packing (Britain and Ireland only) from Unity Books, 72 Waterloo Street, Glasgow, G2 7DA. Bulk order and other enquiries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In a new book reviewed by KENNY COYLE, Chile’s Communist Party critically assesses the 1970 - 73 Allende government of Popular Unity.

On the morning of September 11 1973, British-made Hawker Hunter jets bombed La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile. Hours later, Chile’s elected head of state President Salvador Allende was dead.

Soldiers raided working-class districts across the country rounding up left-wing activists. Around 40,000 were incarcerated in Chile’s National Stadium, awaiting interrogation. Many faced torture and imprisonment, others execution. Hundreds of other militants simply “disappeared.”

Allende’s government of Popular Unity was replaced by a military junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet.

The experience of Popular Unity and its dramatic and bloody end is dealt with in a new book from Praxis Press, 1000 Days of Revolution. This book contains nine chapters, each one written by a prominent Chilean communist as part of their party’s attempt to self-critically analyse the weaknesses of Popular Unity.

ROBERT GRIFFITHS IN RUSSIA - Communist Party general secretary speech to the international meeting in St Petersburg (Leningrad), 2 November 2017.

Russian revolution centenary Leningrad
2017 Russian Revolution Centenary in Leningrad with international delegates from Communist Parties


When we Communists urge people to overthrow capitalism because it is unfair, unstable, wasteful, belligerent, exploitative and oppressive, many agree with us that capitalism is indeed most—if not all—of these things.

But what do we propose to put in its place?

General Secretary Rob Griffiths

Before the Great October Socialist Revolution, we could only offer people a set of values—liberty, equality, cooperation, comradeship, freedom—and the hope that a new type of society could be created in which these would be the ruling values.

Marx did not provide any model for the future communist society, although he pointed to the Paris Commune as an example of how power can be exercised by the mass of people through a system of direct democracy.

But he was reluctant to provide a blueprint because, as the very first rule of the International Working Men's Association put it, the emancipation of the working classes must be achieved by the working classes themselves'.

After 1917, Communists could point to the achievements of the Soviet Union in the teeth of civil war, imperialist intervention, sabotage and fascist invasion. It transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of workers and their families for the better. It played the leading role in rescuing Europe from Nazi-fascist barbarism. It proclaimed the equality of women, all races and nationalities and assisted the struggle for peace, progress, socialism and national liberation across the world.

Yet there were weaknesses, failures and severe violations of socialist democracy that eroded popular support for the Soviet Union, outside and within.

This does not mean that Communists should cease defending and promoting all that was liberating and transformational about the October Revolution and its outcome.

But how can we inspire workers and the mass of people today with the ideals of socialism and communism?

Marxism and the Asian Experience with Kenny Coyle. This meeting marks the publication of the new Communist pamphlet called "Asia, Imperialism and Resistance", written by Kenny who is resident in China.

The pamphlet covers south east and north east Asia (not the whole of the asian continent). The lessons learned there could be applied elsewhere.

Development and adaption of Marxism by Asian comrades has been very important. Marxism has been important in Asia and has been applied there. The British left is particularly ignorant of the struggle in Asia, particularly the sectarian (ultra) Left which looks down its nose at it. The Communists are the ones who try not to under estimate the contribution of Asian Marxists and their contribution to Marxism as a whole.

Discussion of Marx's investigations into why capitalism emerged in Western society and not in the East with 1,000's of years of civilisation. Historical Materialism. Asiatic mode of production (AMP) debate.

Rising China - run by a Party that is Communist, is dedicated to the building of Marxism Leninism. Martin Jacques and co predicted 20 years ago that class struggle was over, the Capitalist "West" had won. Fundamental shift. balance of forces world wide. Communists previous shift was the collapse of Socialist countries in 1989 - "End of history". Now documentaries on decline of the "West". A realignment, time to reassess our understanding of Asia.

Mohammad Odivar, from the Central Committee of the Iranian Tudeh Communist Party. Recorded October 2007 on the very 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution to the day in October 2007, in Croydon Communist Party of Britain.

Kate Clark was Moscow Correspondent of the Morning Star - the world's only English-language Socialist daily newspaper. Previous the Daily Worker, which was the organ of the Communist Party in Britain 1930 onwards.

This was recorded on the very day 90th anniversary of the Great Socialist Russian Revolution of 1917, at the annual British Communist University run by the Communist Party of Britain and its International sister Parties.

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