Bolshevik Revolution Centenary

Of all the centenaries that occur in 2017, that commemorating the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917 is perhaps the most significant historically.  Actually the so-called October Revolution occurred in October according to the Czarist calendar, but was on Nov 7 according to the western calendar.

Many people are not aware that the insurrection that removed the Czar took place initially in February, 1917, and resulted in the formation of a provisional government in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) led by Alexander Kerensky, a moderate socialist.  But, the leaders of the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRP) of Russia, namely the Bolsheviks of Vladimir Lenin, were not satisfied with this outcome and sought to overthrow Kerensky’s Government, that they succeeded in doing in the October Revolution.

“Bolshevik” means majority in Russian, and the split between the Bosheviks and the Mensheviks (minority) goes back to the first international congress of the SRP that took  place in 1903 when the Jewish Bund Party that was affiliated with the SRP were persuaded by Lenin to side with his interpretation that the SRP must be a truly revolutionary party, while the minority who voted against (the Mensheviks) were in favor of more constitutional and opportunistic means (such as forming coalitions with other socialist parties).  At the time this seemed like a reasonable difference, but no-one could envisage that it would lead to the death of all those who opposed the Bolsheviks.  This included the Mensheviks  and the Bund who later had separated from the SRP, who were all murdered by Stalin.

Lenin (born Ulyanov) owed a lot to Stalin (born Djugashvilli), who had robbed banks for  the SRP.   He was also one of the few non-Russians in the leadership of the Party, so Lenin promoted him and put him in charge of the nationality policy of the Party.  After the Bolsheviks took power in the coup of October, 1917, they instituted the “terror” that engulfed millions of people.  Stalin was so ruthless in carrying this out that he was once again promoted by Lenin to be editor of the Party newspaper.  But, then in 1922 and 1923 Lenin suffered two strokes that left him paralyzed, and when he died in 1924 Stalin took over control of the Soviet Government as General Secretary of the Communist Party.

The rest, as they say, is history.  It took another 70 years until Communism in Russia was overthrown.  Robert Conquest, a brilliant historian of the USSR, calculated from later census statistics, from the discrepancy between men and women, that Stalin had murdered ca. 80 million (!!) people during his various reigns of terror over 70 years.  Every evening he was given a list of those hundreds to be executed by a bullet to the back of the neck in the cellars of the Lyubyanka prison, and he approved them.  We should not forget how Stalinism devolved into a ruthless murderous dictatorship, like that of  North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, because people gave up their liberty to a Party.

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