One hundred years have passed since the cruiser Aurora fired its famous blank shot which signaled the beginning of the first revolution in world history in which workers seized state power and wrenched national economic and political ownership from the hands of the bourgeoisie. This event has come to be known as the October Socialist Revolution, and it began on this date in 1917 at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Forty-six years earlier, under its famous red banner in Paris, workers had declared the very first workers' government, establishing the short-lived Commune, which ended in a brutal massacre during the last weeks of May, 1871. Marx, Engels and Lenin, among many others, were forced to evaluate and learn from the errors of the Paris Commune. From that terrible defeat, the Bolshevik party would develop the conceptual and operational framework necessary to lead the trade unions, the councils (soviets) of workers, peasants and soldiers throughout Russia to their victory on October 25th (November 7 in the new calendar).
Using the principles of Marxism-Leninism and scientific socialism which had reached a climax in October 1917, many victories were won by the working people and oppressed of many countries, including People's Korea, China, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Cuba. Still, the counter-revolutions in the USSR and the other states formed by socialist revolutions, stand as stark reminders that even after many years of worker control, the working class can be defeated like the Communards of 1871 Paris.
Over two decades have passed since the implosion of the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. During those two decades, the working people of the world--but especially the former Soviet Union and the United States--have suffered increasing attacks.
Privatization, the dismantling of welfare programs for poor families, children and the elderly; the rise of racism and xenophobia, all symptoms of capitalism in decay and a weakened working class. With the defeat of the USSR, capitalism, with the exception of some resistance from People's Korea, China, Cuba, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Vietnam, has been allowed free reign to warp human civilization into a violent, consumerist, angst-ridden series of warring bureaucracies, each one more bent on environmental destruction than the next.
But there have been rays of sunshine popping up over the darkness of imperialism. Small but scrappy unions have been organizing dining hall workers, cleaning staff, and even graduate student teachers at our local universities. There is a renewed interest in union organizing by younger generations who are living with the heavy burden of student debt and low-wage jobs. In the last elections, the word "socialism" was restored to its rightful and honorable place in the American political lexicon.
Just a short time ago, the AFL-CIO, the largest union federation in the country held its convention, which expressed solidarity with activists from the Black Lives Matter movement, showed strong support for "Medicare for All" single payer health care, and openly attacked income inequality and the politics of "lesser-evilism" which landed workers in this terrible state in the first place.
There is an unmistakable air of renewed focus on strengthening working peoples' organizations against the growing attacks on unions by the Supreme Court and state legislatures. On this 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, we are reminded of the absolute importance of workers' organizations, and especially trade unions.
Today, a century later, we share common purpose with the leader of the October Revolution, V.I. Lenin, who said:
"We want to unite in unions, to unite all the workers in one big workers’ union (a workers’ party) and to strive jointly for a better life. We want to achieve a new and better order of society: in this new and better society there must be neither rich nor poor; all will have to work. Not a handful of rich people, but all the working people must enjoy the fruits of their common labor. Machines and other improvements must serve to ease the work of all and not to enable a few to grow rich at the expense of millions and tens of millions of people. This new and better society is called socialist society. The teachings about this society are called socialism."
One hundred years after great October victory, we call on workers of all countries to unite in the struggle to complete humanity's transition to socialism.