The democratic aspirations of October 1917 continue to inspire today
Occupy Los Angeles protesters march in the Protest Against Corporate Greed on their International Day of Action in Los Angeles, California, on October 15, 2011. | Occupy Wall Street

John Reed, the great American labor journalist and a founder of the Communist Party USA, was the first to bring this country the news of what had happened in Russia on November 7, 1917. In his widely-hailed account, Ten Days that Shook the World, Reed wrote that a coalition of Russia’s working class and peasants, carrying the banner of “peace, bread, and brotherhood,” had seized power. The “Great October Revolution” (in the old Russian calendar, November 7 was October 25) set itself the task of transforming an oppressive empire into a socialist society.

During the 20th century, the seed planted by that revolution grew into an international socialist movement that transformed the world. Underdeveloped societies following the example of the October Revolution were rapidly industrialized, and important economic and social rights for countless millions secured. Countries breaking free of colonialism—such as Vietnam, Cuba, South Africa, and others—benefited from the solidarity of socialist states and parties. The horrors of fascism and Nazism were defeated, with the Soviet Red Army carrying much of the load in that task. The existence of socialist states in Eastern Europe dedicated to full employment, free medical care, racial and ethnic harmony, and women’s equality constituted a pressure on the rulers in the capitalist world to make concessions to their workers and democratic movements. And, for nearly 50 years, the USSR countered the aggressive aims of U.S. imperialism.

Though its image might have been sullied over time by setbacks, betrayals, the revelation of crimes, and its ultimate demise in 1989-91, the October Revolution certainly remains the seminal event of the past century. As Reed wrote, “No matter what one thinks of Bolshevism, it is undeniable that the Russian Revolution is one of the great events of human history, and the rise of the Bolsheviks a phenomenon of world-wide importance.” At its core, the revolution was about freedom and the liberation of human potential.

It is appropriate, then, on this 100th anniversary of that revolution, to keep in mind how similar the aspirations of Americans today are to the aspirations of the masses of the Russian people who made the revolution of 1917.

Like those revolutionaries, working people and democratic forces in the U.S. seek a future without war, exploitation, inequality, and poverty. Americans today, like the revolutionaries in 1917, want the great wealth of this country to be for the benefit of all the people, not just today’s czars—the one percent. Americans today, like the Russian revolutionaries then, want a foreign policy based on peace and cooperation, not provocations and threats. Americans today, like the revolutionaries in 1917, seek an expansion of democracy and social equality, not subverted elections and wealth polarization.

Our urgent political task today is to defeat Trump and the extremist, far-right elements supporting his agenda. The danger of the current moment cannot be underestimated. Racism, national chauvinism, theocracy, and violence are being offered as solutions to the insecurity sown by capitalist globalization. The goal—which existed long before Trump—is to divide and disorganize working people.

The problems of capitalism which still continue to plague the world today only serve to underscore the profound significance of the October Revolution in opening a new chapter in the struggle for a better world. The future of peace and social justice sought by the revolutionaries then, and by most Americans now, will ultimately be realizable only with socialism. For working people and their allies, the socialist future which the October Revolution first made possible is not just a dream. It is a necessity.


PW Editorial Board
PW Editorial Board

People’s World editorial board: Editor-in-Chief John Wojcik,  Managing Editor C.J. Atkins, Copy Editor Eric A. Gordon, Washington D.C. Bureau Chief Mark Gruenberg, Social Media Editor Chauncey K. Robinson, Senior Editor Roberta Wood, Senior Editor Joe Sims