Wednesday, November 7, 2001

A Highly Unfashionable Bit of Reflection

Today, November 7th is election day in the United States One almost hesitates to mention that November 7th is a red-letter day for another more momentous reason. On this date, 83 years ago, the workers, peasants and soldiers of Czarist Russia set out on a long and arduous journey to change the face of their society, and ultimately, the very nature of human society. The twists and turns, the successes and failures of the specific path taken in the Soviet Union are, of course, part and parcel of this ‘century of extremes.’

For a brief period the received wisdom was that the return to capitalism in Soviet Russia and its allies would guarantee the joys of middle class existence to the people. After ten years of social decay, criminalization of the economy, and rising mortality rates we learn, according to the Western press, that fifty million children may not survive the hardships of the coming winter. We were earlier informed that the fall of the Soviet system would permit a flowering of the Russian economy by breaking down the artificial barriers to the action of human nature. Now the standard explanation is that it is a question of the right “culture” which it appears is lacking in Moscow, Kiev, Bucharest and other ‘backward’ countries.

At the same time, the lessons of capitalist globalization suggest that suffering and deprivation borne by the vast majority of the people on this planet are not accidental. The phenomena associated with super exploitation, sweatshop labor, uneven exchange, the debt crisis, the rape of the environment and the other international mechanisms that ensure the sway of capital pose the very same question that the people of Russia faced back in 1917. The liberation of society depends on a basic change in the relations of production. In the final analysis it is a question of the ruling system and the interests of the ruling classes.

As we struggle for justice for the Palestinian people and a just peace in the ME, it may be of some use to remember that we are dealing with one of the more stubborn remnants of the colonial system. It is certainly of importance to understand that Israeli military and economic superiority delve from a regional status quo designed to protest the interests of capital and the exploitation of the region for its own selfish needs. These considerations would suggest, that despite current fashion, it is still quite a good idea to reflect on the October revolution and its significance.