Validity and Relevance of the October Revolution
in Response to the Challenges of the 21st Century
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
at the Forum to Celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the October Revolution
in The Hague, The Netherlands, 02 December 2007
I propose to discuss the objective conditions and subjective factors that brought
about the October Revolution, the continuing validity of the October Revolution
despite the disintegration of the Soviet Union and other revisionist-ruled societies
and the validity and relevance of the October Revolution in dealing with the
conditions of the 21st century.
1. Objective conditions and subjective factors that brought about the October Revolution
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the world had entered the era of
modern imperialism and proletarian revolution. Monopoly capitalism became
dominant in the advanced capitalist countries. Finance capital was born out
of the merger of bank and industrial capital. The export of surplus capital was
gaining importance over the export of surplus goods.
Monopoly firms of the imperialist countries combined and competed with
each other through cartels, syndicates and alliances. The colonial and imperialist
powers had divided the rest of the world as colonies, semi-colonies and dependent
countries in political terms and as sources of raw materials, markets, fields of
investment and spheres of influence in economic terms. And yet they continued
to struggle for a redivision of the world in accordance with the changing balance
of forces among them.
Like the bourgeoisie in the era of free competition capitalism, the monopoly
bourgeoisie used the slogan of "free trade" to penetrate foreign markets and
expand their direct and indirect investments abroad. But in their competition,
the imperialist powers in fact became increasingly protectionist economically and
aggressive politically. They were driven by their national self-interest towards the
first inter-imperialist war, World War I.
Kautsky and his followers who became dominant in the Second International interpreted
the global expansion of imperialist capital as a continuous unilinear process for dissolving
pre-capitalist formations and effecting industrial capitalist development in the backward
countries. But Lenin correctly pointed to the uneven and spasmodic development of
capitalism, the recurrent and worsening crises of overproduction and the decadent,
aggressive and destructive character of imperialism.
He opposed the opportunist and revisionist line of Kautsky, which promoted social
chauvinism, social pacifism and social imperialism. Having grasped well the lessons of
the Paris Commune and the necessity of bringing about the dictatorship of the proletariat
through the class struggle, he was well prepared to lead the Bolsheviks, the proletariat
and the people in realizing the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia,
This huge country with a few islands of industrial development amidst an ocean of
feudalism and medievalism was the weakest among the imperialist powers and was
itself an object of penetration and manipulation by the stronger competing imperialist
powers. At the same time, it was a real giant oppressor of nations and peoples within
the Russian empire. The proletariat and the people had to contend with Czarism,
representing feudalism and medievalism, and also with the bourgeoisie dominating
the modern industrial sector and trying to head off the revolution.
Lenin saw the impoverished and desperate conditions of Russia as favourable for the
advance of the Bolshevik party as the revolutionary party of the proletariat, leading
the broad masses of the people to overthrow Czarism and install the democratic republic,
rallying the peasant masses as the massive reliable ally of the proletariat through the
nationalization of land and land reform and militating the proletariat with the demand
for an 8-hour workday.
Lenin was ever conscious of the need to carry out a two-stage revolution, where
democracy must first be won against feudalism and repression and where socialism
must be subsequently established and developed. For the working class to lead such
two-stage revolution, it must be able to build the Red Army and mobilize the people
to smash the military and bureaucratic machinery of the counterrevolutionary state.
It must rely on the worker-peasant alliance, including the soldiers of worker and peasant
origin. Thus, the Bolsheviks succeeded in defeating Czarism and then the bourgeoisie and
in building the first sustainable socialist country on one-sixth of the face of the earth.
2. Validity of the October Revolution despite the disintegration of the Soviet Union and
other socialist societies
The October 17 Revolution has come to signify all the great revolutionary achievements
of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Stalin in establishing the proletarian dictatorship as a
requisite of socialist revolution, overcoming civil war and foreign military intervention,
reviving the economy through transition measures, building socialist industry, collectivizing
and mechanizing agriculture, developing the educational and cultural system of the working
class, supporting the international communist movement, fighting and defeating fascism
and further pursuing socialist revolution and construction in the face of the threats of US
imperialism after World War II.
These achievements can never be belittled. Socialist revolutions in Eastern Europe, Asia
and elsewhere have been inspired by the October Revolution, the achievements of the
Soviet Union and the work of the Third International. The Soviet Union was unquestionably
a socialist country for decades from 1917 to 1956. Its great achievements could not be
completely undone overnight. It would take decades for the modern revisionists to subvert
and dismantle socialism, from the anti-Stalin coup of Khrushchov in 1956 to the undisguised
full-scale restoration of capitalism and disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.
There are principles and lessons to be learned from the positive experiences of the Bolshevik
Party and the Soviet Union as well as from the negative experiences involving the "Left"
and Right opportunists (represented by Trotsky and Bukharin, respectively) and modern
revisionists from Khrushchov to Gorbachov. From the outside, the imperialists unleashed
a series of attacks on the Soviet Union, including the war of foreign intervention, economic
and military blockade, the fascist invasion and the Cold War. These did not defeat the
Soviet Union. But modern revisionism proved to be the enemy most lethal to the Soviet
Union, the main cause of its ultimate destruction.
Insofar as fighting imperialism, classical revisionism and reaction and undertaking socialist
revolution and construction are concerned, the October Revolution and the teachings
of Lenin remain valid and relevant to this day. But in fighting modern revisionism, we
need to study and learn from the history of the Soviet Union and other former socialist
countries the lessons on how the bureaucrats and intellectuals became divorced from
the working people and how they abandoned the class struggle and the class stand of
the revolutionary proletariat. In this regard, we need to understand the struggle of Mao
against modern revisionism since 1956 and his theory and practice of continuing revolution
under the dictatorship of the proletariat since 1966.
Mao's theory and practice of continuing revolution aimed at combatting modern revisionism,
preventing the restoration of capitalism and consolidating socialism in China. It won victories
in ten years of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976. Although it
was eventually defeated, it succeeded in posing the problem of modern revisionism and
in presenting certain principles and methods for solving the problem. It offers a great
deal for proletarian revolutionaries to learn and further develop in order to explain the
disintegration of the former socialist systems and to avert the restoration of capitalism
when in the future they shall build and develop socialist societies in various countries until
they can defeat imperialism on a global scale and bring about communism.
In this period of the temporary defeat of socialism on a global scale, proletarian revolutionaries
must be able to answer the questions of the proletariat and people about the past,
present and future of the revolutionary cause of socialism. They must contend with
the mocking claims of the imperialists and reactionaries that socialism is dead. Following
the disintegration of the Soviet Union and other revisionist-ruled systems, the enemies
of socialism have spread notions that are calculated to demoralize the proletariat and
Such notions include the following: that there is no such thing as scientific socialism but
only utopian and impracticable socialism, that personal greed rather than social concern
can cause social equilibrium and progress, that history can go no further than capitalism
and liberal democracy, that the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution is gone, that
"neoliberal globalization" is the way to global capitalist development and that the people's
struggles for national liberation, democracy and socialism are futile.
In fact, the world has not gone beyond the era of modern imperialism and proletarian
revolution precisely because of the large but temporary defeat of socialism caused by
modern revisionism. Global conditions have basically retrogressed to those before the
October Revolution when there was yet no socialist country as bulwark of the world
proletarian revolution and the imperialist powers seemed to be able to do anything
they pleased against the toiling masses.
Upon the rise of modern revisionism and ultimately upon the complete restoration of
capitalism in the great socialist states, the conditions of oppression and exploitation of
the working people by imperialism and reaction have become far worse than ever before.
But the resistance of the people is steadily increasing on a global scale.
In so short a time, the concentration and centralization of capital in the imperialist countries
and the chronicity and intensity of economic and financial crisis have become worse than
ever before under the auspices of "neoliberal globalization". This has led to the stepping
up of military production, state terrorism and wars of aggression. We are practically back
to conditions of great disorder in which there was yet no socialist country before World
War I but which were the prelude to the emergence of the first socialist country.
So long as there is oppression and exploitation by the monopoly bourgeoisie, there is
resistance by the proletariat and people of the world. The epochal struggle between
the bourgeoisie and the proletariat continues. So do all the concrete forms of national
and class struggles in various countries. The people do not wish the greed of the few
to victimize them without end. They fight for national and social liberation from imperialism
and reaction. And they strive for greater freedom and social justice to prevail and continue
under the principles of scientific socialism.
The need for the revolutionary party of the proletariat continues. It is for leading the
proletariat and the people to carry out the revolution in stages on the basis of concrete
conditions. It upholds the Marxist-Leninist ideological line against modern revisionism and
all forms of subjectivism. It makes sure that the general political line can bring about the
victory of democracy and socialism and defeat imperialism and all forms of reaction and
is not diverted by either "Left" or Right opportunism. It concentrates the collective will
and material strength of the proletarian revolutionaries by following the organizational
principle of democratic centralism.
The revolutionary party of the proletariat must arouse, organize and mobilize the broad
masses of the people through various forms of struggle. The most important form of
struggle is ultimately the smashing of the military and bureaucratic machinery of the
counterrevolutionary state and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship or
the people's democratic dictatorship under working class leadership, depending on
the concrete conditions.
3. Dealing with the Conditions and Challenges of the 21st century
On the basis of the current conditions and trends that we see clearly, we can be
optimistic that in the next decade or so the people will intensify in a dramatic way
and on an unprecedented scale their revolutionary struggle for national liberation,
democracy and socialism against imperialism and reaction. Let us line up the major
conditions that proletarian revolutionaries must deal with in the 21st century, particularly
in the early decades where we are now. The century will either be too long for great
leaps in the cumulative advance of the revolutionary forces or too short for the entire
historical epoch needed for socialism to overpower capitalism.
First, let us observe immediately that the disintegration of the revisionist-ruled systems
has led to the acute crisis of the world capitalist system and the unbridled oppression
and exploitation of the working people by imperialism and reaction. Conspicuously, the
US has been in the forefront of generating economic crisis, political turmoil and wars of
aggression. It has enjoyed the unprecedented role of being the sole superpower in
command of an obviously expanded world capitalist system through the complete integration
of nearly all the former revisionist-ruled countries.
But the expansion of the world capitalist system has actually led to an increase in the number
of imperialist powers and to the intensification of inter-imperialist contradictions. The world
cannot accommodate too many imperialist powers. The US-led imperialist alliance became
crisis-stricken, especially with the phenomenon of stagflation, as soon as the World War II
losers were reconstructed and strengthened economically in the late 1960s. The addition
of Russia, China and India as big players in the playing field of imperialism spells further crisis
and troubles for the original Group of 7 and the original OECD countries.
Second, the policy of "neoliberal globalization" has been a big failure in overcoming the
problem of stagflation under Keynesianism and in shoring up the imperialist powers from
worse economic and financial crisis. The problem of stagflation is persistent and has been
merely covered up by ever rising levels of indebtedness in both imperialist and underdeveloped
countries. The imperialist powers headed by the US have applied the policy of "neoliberal
globalization" (denationalization, liberalization, privatization and deregulation of economies)
at the expense of the world proletariat and the oppressed nations and peoples. And it has
aggravated and deepened the crisis of overproduction and of finance capital and pushed
the imperialist powers to compete with each other and adopt protectionist measures as
in the decades before World War I and likewise before World War II.
The policy of "neoliberal globalization" has caused such worse crisis that the US has resorted
to military Keynesianism. The Bush administration has sought to stimulate the US economy
by stepping up military production. In this regard, it has also unleashed war hysteria, wars
of aggression and state terrorism on a global scale under the pretext of combating terrorism
and so-called rogue states. But the problem with high military production is that it has
little employment potential. The US has also maintained a high level of consumerism by
outsourcing goods, widening current account deficits and incurring an overly large foreign
Third, despite the glaring failure of "neoliberal globalization" which is actually unbridled
monopoly greed camouflaged by the petty bourgeois term "free market", the monopoly
bourgeoisie continues to misrepresent its ideas and policies in petty bourgeois terms and
give full play to petty bourgeois ideology as an instrument to befuddle not only the petty
bourgeoisie but also the working people concerning the social, economic, political and
cultural realities. Thus, the imperialists are funding and touting the petty bourgeois-run
reformist nongovernmental organizations as the "civil society" and as the people's part in
the triadic "social accord" of states, big business and a docile population.
The monopoly bourgeoisie is using a wide range of instruments (the cultural and educational
system, the mass media, the electoral process, think tanks, policy institutes, charity foundations,
religious institutions and so on) for promoting big bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideas in order
to counter the resurgence of the proletarian revolutionary ideology and the revolutionary
mass movements against imperialism and for socialism. Of course, various petty bourgeois
currents masquerading as proletarian, such as classical revisionism (social democracy),
Trotskyism and modern revisionism are still around to assist the monopoly bourgeoisie
and trying to outflank the theory and practice of genuine Marxism-Leninism.
But no matter how clever are the ideological and political trappings of the monopoly
bourgeoisie, these become futile as the crisis of the world capitalist system worsens
and the proletarian revolutionaries and the revolutionary mass movement arise, persevere
and further develop the revolutionary struggle. As in the prelude to the October Revolution
from the defeat of the 1905 revolution to the February revolution in 1917 when the
Bolsheviks appeared to be small and weak, their proletarian revolutionary descendants
of today appear likewise, especially in the aftermath of the disintegration of the
revisionist-ruled systems from 1989 to 1991. But once more the objective conditions
are favourable for the resurgence of the revolutionary forces of the proletariat and
Fourth, the use of higher technology in production and consumption under the auspices
of "neoliberal globalization" has accelerated the concentration and centralization of capital
in a few imperialist countries. This has aggravated the crisis of overproduction in all types
of goods and services. In the aftermath of every crisis of overproduction are the increase
of chronic unemployment and the lowering of incomes. The destruction of productive
forces is not being segued by any new round of expanding production and reemployment.
The adoption of higher technology by the monopoly bourgeoisie for the purpose of
maximizing profits, accumulating capital and reducing the variable capital for labor can
only result in aggravating the crisis of overproduction and the narrowing of the market.
The higher technology that can be used for determining needs and market demand,
expanding production and accelerating distribution is suitable to socialism and not to
The higher technology for collecting, storing, processing and communicating information
and knowledge is mainly under the control of the monopoly bourgeoisie. This kind of
technology is used to promote monopoly bourgeois ideology and politics with
embellishment by petty bourgeois phraseology, to propagate the petty bourgeois
ideology of self-interest and to preoccupy the public with the message of consumerism,
sports and entertainment. Most of the personal computers and other gadgets for
disseminating information are in the hands of the petty bourgeoisie, particularly the
professionals and the youth with a high level of formal education. However, as the
crisis of the world capitalist system worsens, the petty bourgeoisie becomes more
discontented and more inclined to join up with the working people in progressive
alliances against imperialism and reaction.
It is a sign of desperation and weakness that the monopoly bourgeoisie has been
driven by crisis and competition to raise profits on new products by commercializing
the information technology and other forms of technology that used to be exclusively
for the military. Even now these openly available technologies can be used by the
revolutionary forces for undertaking information and educational campaigns and for
launching tactical offensives. The multi-media based on personal computers have
been used to spread revolutionary theory and political messages and to mobilize
people for mass actions. The cellphone has been used for precise tactical offensives
by revolutionary armies.
Fifth, the contradictions between the working people of the world and the
imperialist powers and reactionaries are intensifying. So are those between the
countries asserting national independence and the imperialist powers. The
imperialist powers are increasingly finding themselves at loggerheads with each
other in the political and economic institutions that they have created to harmonize
their relations against the working people of the world.
The continuing aggravation of the crisis of the world capitalist system under the
policy of "neoliberal globalization" can push the imperialist powers to resort to
Keynesianism, to further state monopoly capitalism, intensified monopoly competition
and protectionism and to wars of aggression for the redivision of the world. The
intensification of the inter-imperialist contradictions generates more favourable
conditions for the resistance of the proletariat and people of the world.
Revolutionary parties of the proletariat must lead the resistance of the people
in all types of countries, in the imperialist countries and in the dominated countries.
The increase of competing imperialist powers deepens the crisis in every imperialist
country. The proletariat in every country is driven by worse conditions to intensify
resistance through strikes, protest rallies and other concerted actions. The working
people and the oppressed nations and peoples suffering the most from imperialist
plunder and war are the most hard pressed to rise up in armed revolution.
The crisis conditions of the moment generate the immediate issues of the struggle
against monopoly capitalism and local reaction. But in recruiting and developing
party members, the revolutionary parties of the proletariat must inculcate in them
the historic mission of building socialism up to the theory and practice of continuing
revolution under proletarian dictatorship. There is the need to counter the
propaganda of the enemy that socialism is successful only up to a certain point
and then fails. There is the need to assure the proletariat and the people that
modern revisionism and the restoration of capitalism can be prevented and that
socialism can be consolidated repeatedly until it gains the upper hand over
imperialism on a global scale and reaches the threshold of communism.###