From the June 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard
The recent ITV series Stalin provided further evidence to show that the Bolshevik revolution was an utter sham. Contrary to all the heroic myths and propaganda. 1917 was not a glorious workers' revolution but a coup d'etat carried out by the Bolsheviks who as a minority were able to seize and retain power because of the chaotic conditions prevailing at the time.
Having seized power, the Bolsheviks dissolved the Constituent Assembly when they were overwhelmingly rejected by a large majority of the people. From that time, under Lenin and Trotsky's leadership, they established the CHEKA Secret Police and embarked on a systematic programme of hi-jacking the Soviets (Workers Councils) and crushing all opposition. The struggle between Stalin and Trotsky was nothing more than the dirty political infighting between the two to decide who would be the next dictator after Lenin.
It is nonsense therefore to talk, as Trotskyists do, of "the gains of the October 1917 Revolution” and to portray the Bolsheviks as decent chaps whose revolution to the promised land, supposedly backed by the people, was inexplicably turned on its head by one man—Stalin.
The Bolsheviks set in motion in 1917, a dictatorship that inevitably led to an escalating number of atrocities. To attempt therefore to whitewash Trotsky's responsibility in all this is as absurd as absolving Yezhov and Beria of genocide because they also fell victim to the very tyranny they helped create.
In historical terms, Russia's 1917 was its equivalent of France's 1789. Both these so-called "peoples revolutions” led to nothing more than the replacement of feudalism by capitalism. In France this developed along "free-market" lines but in Russia the story was different.
The Bolsheviks fell under the illusion that an industrially backward country could by-pass capitalism altogether and thus move into socialism/communism. This was based on the peculiar notion that a dictatorial minority could impose on the majority of people socialism (a democratic cooperative form of society relying on a politically mature majority having at its disposal, highly developed productive forces)—and this in a country where the vast majority of people were politically ignorant peasants having no experience of capitalism and no knowledge of socialism, let alone any desire to reject the former in favour of the latter.
Such an obsessional illusion could only result in failure and the seeking out of scapegoats and enemies to blame and liquidate. Due to the above-mentioned circumstances the Bolsheviks had no option but to establish capitalism. They did this by instituting a "Command Economy"— state-capitalism but owing to the ideological millstone they'd created for themselves, were forced to pretend that it was socialism.
But even the Bolsheviks had to concede that 1917 was not the spearhead of a world-wide workers' revolution and were therefore compelled to adopt the inane slogan "Socialism in one country" to maintain the myth. Due to the same ideological millstone, the Russian rulers were forced to adhere to state-capitalism until, with the Soviet economy in dire straits, they have been obliged to officially move towards free market capitalism.
Trotskyists could of course dismiss all of this as "Stalinism" but as they claim 1917 was a workers revolution they presumably believe it was "Marxist”. It is therefore enlightening to see what Marx and Engels said on the subject.
Marx and Engels argued that it was a historical impossibility for a society in an inferior stage of development to by-pass the successive phases of its normal development. Both were of the view that only when socialism had been established in the West could this development period be shortened in a backward country and that, as Engels put it, "this goes for all countries in the pre-capitalistic stage of development not only for Russia” (Postface to Social Problems in Russia, 1894).
Further scorn was poured on those who advocated the "small conspiracy" road to socialist revolution in that such "people who boasted that they had made a revolution, have always seen next day, that they had no idea what they were doing, that the revolution made bore no resemblance whatsoever to that they intended to make" (Engels to Vera Zasulich, 23 April 1885)—a statement that aptly sums up the Bolsheviks and 1917. Perhaps Engels also had in mind people like the Bolsheviks when he said that anyone stating that the socialist revolution could be carried out more easily in a backward country "proves by his statement that he has understood nothing of Socialism" (Social Problems in Russia, 1875).