Only halfway through China Mieville’s October, and there’s already a lot of take-homes that have got me thinking:
- There were many radical gestures before the revolution. Not just the events of February and October, but also other abortive attempts (such as 1905) that saw mass demonstrations, solidarity, walk-outs.
- Maybe this is my skewed reading, but it comes across that a surprising percentage of the general population were already politically literate; organizing committees; forming groups; hell – even just aware of the notions of socialism, marxism, reformation. In part, I guess this point can be further broken down into two main areas: Industrialisation and working conditions that was transforming society, as well as the Rightist oppression from the Tsars. Large parts of Russia were still running an effectively feudal society, and in the words of other historians “something had to happen.”
- There was a large number of “old guard” cross-over figures on both Left and Right vocal and active at the time. So, we had organisers and spokespersons active who remembered the lessons of 1905. In that sense: 1917 wasn’t a ‘radical rupture from history’ but a reseeding of efforts and forces already in play. There’s a lot of things to think about here when we contrast it with the notion of the ‘utopian rupture’ that particularly the anarchists Luxemburg and Goldman or later, Situationism might recommend.
I can’t help but contrast that early appreciation for radical reform and liberty with today. Is it because the West thinks of itself as overwhelmingly middle-class/bourgeoisie (“we already have the liberty to be comfortable, so why take to the streets?”); even though the evidence suggests that most people here in the West are the “working poor” ?
When thinking on the Russian Revolution we cannot ignore the fact that it failed. It wasn’t long at all before Stalinism (read: centralism, statism, totalitarianism) took over.