The events of October 1917 continue to shake the world even today. And yet they almost didn’t occur, meaning a slip by a whisker in any of the preceding events and the Russian revolution may never have happened. The October Revolution (as it is referred to) organized by Vladimir Lenin nearly a century ago, is still relevant today in ways that would have seemed unimaginable when Soviet Communism collapsed.
The prime relevance being in the lesson that rulers in unequal societies need to think twice before embarking on poorly thought through taxation drives or on undertaking policies that contract employment-generation instead of expanding it, even if the effects are perceived to be only in the short term.
The Czars experienced this folly in the early 20th century, the British lost control of India owing to similar mistakes vis-à-vis the Indian economy at around the same period and perhaps today the government in Pakistan is facing similar challenges within a year of its assuming power; primarily due to its callous approach towards peoples’ apathy – Who would have thought that an insignificant party such as the JUI(F) could have found so much traction all around and that too so soon! Marxist-Leninism (albeit in the unique capitalist-Maoist form) still propels China, the world’s surging economic power, even as that same ideology ruins Cuba and Venezuela.
Its effects were so enormous that it seems impossible that it might not have happened the way it did. And yet it nearly didn’t
Meaning, when it comes to developing economies with large percentiles of poor population, the applications of capitalism need to be tapered to suit the real-time requirements of the people rather than merely pandering to textbook solutions. This seems to be the very mistake being made by the current Pakistani leadership here at home – You just cannot punish the masses for an economic mess, which is not of their making.
Today, it is not just the bizarre environment of North Korea where Lenin’s philosophy still thrives, but more surprisingly, it is experiencing a resurrection in democratic Britain: Jeremy Corbyn, the quasi-Leninist but with democratic principles, is in many ways the most extreme politician ever to lead one of Britain’s two main parties, and it seems that he is inching towards power in the upcoming December 2019 elections.
More importantly, not just the Lenin philosophy but also the Lenin’s tactics are today coming across as being once again resurgent. He was a sophisticated genius of merciless zero-sum gain, expressed by his phrase “Kto kovo?” – literally, “Who, whom?” asking the question who controls whom and, more importantly, who gets rid of whom.
Come to think of it, our today’s politicians, whether through the infamous U-turns or with their pure and nakedly aggressive postures of arresting a sitting ruler on their own accord, come across as being no different in their approach – to grab power at any cost or in Lenin’s classic Kto kovo fashion.
Ironically, even in today’s global seat of capitalism, the USA, things are appearing to be not much different than Lenin’s 1917. President Trump in quite a few ways is the abject personification of a new Bolshevism of the right where the ends justify the means and acceptable tactics include lies and smears – the exploitation what Lenin referred to as the ‘useful idiots’.
Maybe it is no coincidence that President Trump’s chief campaign manager, Steve Bannon, invariably used to boast, “I am a Leninist.” More than one hundred years later, as its events continue to reverberate and inspire, October 1917 looms epic, mythic, mesmerizing. Its effects were so enormous that it seems impossible that it might not have happened the way it did. And yet it nearly didn’t.
However, the Romanov over confidence, arrogance and insensitivity to the plight of their own people became the cause of their undoing
Despite some very challenging economic circumstances of the time, there was nothing inevitable about the Bolshevik revolution. By 1917, the Romanov monarchy was decaying quickly, but its emperors may have saved themselves had they been more cognizant of the problems being faced by the Russian people instead of maintaining a decorum and façade that they thought was more relevant to the allies of World War I, and of course if they had not missed repeated chances to reform by looking inwards and not just looking outwards.
One can understand the fall of other absolute monarchies in Europe – the Ottomans and the Habsburgs – as they fell because they were defeated in World War I, but the Romanovs (Czars) were on the winning side and had they lasted till the victory of November 1918, they could have gone on to rule even till today. In fact, by 1913, the Czar’s secret police had dispersed and vanquished the opposition.
Just before the fall of the Czar, Lenin reflected to his wife that revolution “won’t happen in our lifetime.” However, the Romanov overconfidence, arrogance and insensitivity to the plight of their own people became the cause of their undoing. Now could this be something for our government of the day to also reflect upon, as they could just be making the same folly?
Read more: Have Americans learned nothing from Soviets?
Well, ultimately the October Revolution was spontaneous, a disorganized popular uprising and a crisis of military loyalty that forced the events at the time leading to Nicholas’s abdication (resignation). When the moment arrived, ironically, Lenin was not even around. He was in Zurich, Trotsky was in New York and Stalin in Siberia; Something that takes us to the most important lesson of revolutions: To never underestimate or take mobs and large gatherings lightly!
Dr. Kamal Monnoo is a political analyst. He is an honorary consul general of the Czech Republic in Punjab and a member Board of Governors of Islamabad Policy Research Institute. He is an author of two books ‘A Study of WTO’, and ‘Economic Management in Pakistan.’ He can be reached at: kamal. firstname.lastname@example.org. This article originally appeared at The Nation and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.