If Marxists defend democratic rights, why violent revolution, the “red terror”, the Red Army and the civil war in Russia?
We should begin by emphasising Marxists are entirely in favour of peaceful revolution. But it is also true that Marxists are not pacifists, and we recognise that in attempting to transform society by putting the wealth in society under public and democratic control, history teaches us that revolutionaries will possibly be met with the violent resistance of the old ruling class, who will attempt to defend their privileges
It should also be emphasised, however, that the accusation against Marxists that we are in favour of violence is pure hypocrisy from the capitalists. Whenever the question of revolutionary violence is thrown at the feet of a Marxist, we point to the blood and carnage of capitalism itself. What of the violence of drone strikes across Pakistan and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? The brutal dictatorships of Latin America through the 1970‘s and 80‘s- in Chilé, Argentina, Brazil, etc. – all supported by the US government?
What greater condemnation of the horrific violence capitalism inflicts on the mass of humanity could there be, though, than the First and Second World Wars – mass, industrial slaughter – all for the purpose of carving up the world market between different imperialist powers?
What of Cromwell, the Jacobins and the American Revolutionary war? The ruling class make every effort today to distort, disown and disguise the revolutionary and violent methods they used to break the rule of the feudal crowns and establish their own regimes. The colonists in America were certainly not gentle in disposing of loyalists to the British Empire in the war for independence!
And, finally, what of the smashing of the Paris Commune in 1871, where tens of thousands of men, women and children were slaughtered and thousands more driven in to exile for attempting to implement the first workers’ state in history.
All of this modern and historical violence in the name of capitalism – and yet the capitalists today slander the Russian Revolution and the Bolsheviks so bitterly for the following reason: for the first time in the history of capitalism, the slaves fought back and they won.
With this said however, the October revolution was perhaps the least bloody revolution in history! There were more people killed in the supposedly ‘bloodless’ February revolution that overthrew Tsazism and established liberal democracy. In fact more people lost their lives in accidents as actors filming Sergei Eisenstein’s October, than in the actual October Revolution they were dramatising!
It is not the Bolshevik revolution that was violent but the counter-revolution of the minority who opposed it. Immediately following the revolution – not a “coup”, but a mass movement of workers, soldiers, and peasants – the wealthy sections of Russian society began a campaign of economic sabotage and launched military operations to destroy the new workers’ government. They were aided in these murderous campaigns by the invasion of 21 foreign armies, including contingents from Britain, France, America and nearly all major capitalist powers. The terror of the counter-revolutionary armies was immediate and merciless. Many hundreds of thousands were killed as a result.
The ruling class say the “socialist experiment” of the Soviet Union failed. But imagine if, in science, one walked into a laboratory mid-experiment and attempted to destroy the researchers’ equipment…and then had the audacity to declare the experiment failed! And yet, this is the logic of the capitalists today, who neglect to mention that they have intervened militarily in every attempt throughout history for a socialist society to be built.
It must again be emphasised that today, such is the overwhelming numerical weight of the world working class, that the possibility of carrying out a peaceful transformation of society is entirely possible. The only thing maintaining capitalism is the reformist leaders of the workers’ organisations who are unwilling to break with capitalism and put forward a socialist alternative. The missing link is, therefore, is the lack of a conscious revolutionary leadership organised as a revolutionary party, which can bring together and generalise the particular struggles going on today on an international scale, in order to act as the midwife of history and help the new socialist society be born as smoothly as possible. This is our task today!