The 50 Years Ago column from the November 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard
From the “Socialist Standard,” November, 1906
The Russian Revolution
The other great nations of Europe have long ago burst asunder the feudal bonds on industry and commerce, and the few survivals are more picturesque than effective. The aristocracy, where it has been able to continue in existence, is merged into the plutocracy and forms one compact mass against the workers. Russia, however, lags behind; and her economic backwardness is reflected in her medieval system of government. Hence, in the other nations of Western Europe a straight fight is possible between the proletariat and the capitalist ruling class, whilst in Russia the rising capitalist class has yet its emancipation from autocracy to accomplish; so that, in contrast with practically the whole of civilised nations, the working class and the capitalist class in Russia have, in the abolition of Tsardom’s tyranny, a step to go together. This historical circumstance, which is at once the strength and weakness of the Russian movement, distinguishes it from that of all capitalist countries.
No Socialist, therefore, can withhold his sympathy from the great struggle of the Russian people for the elements of political liberty, and all must heartily wish that the great barrier to economic and political progress, Tsardom, may be speedily broken down. It is satisfactory to note that, in the present communication from the International Socialist Bureau the idea (which was so common at an earlier period of the revolution, and which was proclaimed by many who called themselves Socialists) that out of the ruins of Tsarist Russia the Socialist Republic would arise, is absent; whilst the elements of political liberty, the creation of a Constituent Assembly, or at most the inauguration of a Russian Republic, are taken for granted as the possible outcome of the present struggle. It has been insisted upon in these columns that the Socialist Republic cannot be the outcome of the defeat of the autocracy in Russia, because the economic elements are lacking or insufficiently developed. As Marx said: “No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and the new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have been matured in the womb of the old society.” The industrial development of Russia is still in its infancy, and vigorous though the infant may be, the greater part of the empire is yet untrodden by it. It is indeed probable that whatever government succeeds that of the Tsar will be compelled, if only to appease the peasants—the bulk of the nation—to bring about the most reactionary state of things in which the land is split up among the peasants as their private property.
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Let us then do all in our power to help our Socialist comrades in Russia in the hope that they will not be deceived as to the outcome of the present upheaval: in the hope, also, that they will sternly keep their separate identity and distinct aim, so that the Russian bourgeoise State of to-morrow may find a militant class-organisation of Socialist workers leading the final struggle against the capitalist class, whose defeat must herald the Triumph of Humanity.