The seventh of November marked the 100 anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, or the Great October Socialist Revolution. While the revolution itself can be separated into four key junctures historically before and after 1917, it is best understood in its entirety through the legacy it has left on the world and the ripples it has caused throughout the last century.
Last Tuesday, the UTM Political Science and Pre-Law Association facilitated a panel discussion marking the centenary anniversary of the October Revolution. Professor emeritus Robert Johnson, professor and chair of the political science department Ed Schatz, professor Mark Lippincott, and professor Spyridon Kotsovilis all spoke at the event. They detailed not just the chronological chain of events which took place, but also shedding light on the global implications the revolution had the world over. The panel explained how the revolution can be viewed as one of the most important contemporary events in recent history for a multitude of reasons.
According to professor Johnson, in its very essence, the revolution reshaped our understanding of the world while pushing the boundaries of possibility within the context of societal upheaval. In overthrowing the dynastical Tsarist regime, the revolution reinvented not just the scope of how a people interacted with power and vice versa, but in doing so, as Johnson describes, also reinvented the meaning of the word revolution itself.
As the panel emphasizes, it is also essential to recognize that Russia, a 100 years prior, was a largely agrarian society, made up of a large underclass of peasantry which worked the lands under a small aristocratic ruling elite. They were spearheaded by the Romanovs, who resided in their palaces.
Professor Johnson spent a great deal of time broadening the understanding of this dynamic of power relations, coupled with the economic disparity. In this dynamic, as Johnson describes, a small group supresses and exploits the majority of its population, with a negligible possibility of reaction to such oppression.
According to the prominent catalyst, Vladimir Lenin, it is important to understand that the Russian Revolution was strongly influenced by Marxist rhetoric. What Lenin achieved, by no simple means, was the mobilization and organization of the peasantry in channelling their utility towards toppling the existent class structure—a consciousness only made possible through a Marxist understanding of class relations.
The Russian Revolution can then be understood as a reclamation of an individual or a group of people acting through self-determination to attain their dignity. Professor Kotsovilis provided an in-depth historical analysis of this as well, explaining how it was exactly this fulfillment which popularized communist ideals the world over and stood in opposition to American and European economic interests abroad during the twentieth century.
The revolution actualized an alternative model of economic and social organization. It stood in direct opposition to capitalism, conceived upon the notional eradication of the existing power structures which served consumerism, and subsequently adopted a community-centred approach.
Being a student of history, it is hard to ignore that the revolution was most notably inspiring to the colonized peoples of the third world who dreamt of liberation. From Che in Argentina to Fidel in Cuba, Nkrumah in Ghana to Allende in Chile, Maurice Bishop in Grenada, and Fanon in Algeria, among many others; these individuals and their revolutionary movements, both anti-colonial and progressive alike in their struggles, were planted around the idea of self determination. The spread of capitalism, as professor Johnson suggested, was fuelled by the industrialization of the West.
The 1917 revolution was essentially then a reimagining of the way in which societies functioned by restoring political power to the working-class people. Such revolutionary movements were, as the panel highlighted, inspired by a radical political alternative, as it gave them a blueprint to organize, militarize, and to overthrow the capitalist system of their society.