Today is the 100th anniversary of Russia's Great October Revolution, one of the defining events of the 20th century.
The most salient thing about it is that no one wants to celebrate it in Russia.
Russians endured communism for more than 70 years until rejecting it utterly in 1990. Given the numbers of leftists in the West who adore socialism, shouldn't this be big news?
It goes to show how little the existing left really knows about what happened in that country.
Communism there was a horrible failure, as it has been everywhere it has been tried.
It brought material, intellectual and worst of ll, spiritual, poverty onto what had been one of Europe's great nations, the fastest-growing and and most promising upcomer of the time. The Bolshevik takeover ended that and brought a horrific civil war, created a man-made famine, and exchanged real progress for an all-powerful state.
It was a police state where neighbor spied upon neighbor, Christianity was shut down and largely banned, Jews were persecuted, and more than a hundred million people, in Russia and beyond, were killed. Millions of Russians, and others, fled their homelands, sometimes as huddled refugees over borders, sometimes in leaky boats, sometimes across crossbow-shot wires over the Berlin Wall.
Walls (and Gulags) were ubiquitous in Russia. Like the Mongol invasion, the October Revolution held Russia, and all its 14 empire states back. At the same time, communism unleashed war and strife throughout the rest of the world.
That's a vast and memorable legacy, and mercifully enough recognized by Russians as nothing to celebrate.
As Yuri Maltsev, one of Russia's great economic reformers of the Gorbachev era, has pointed out, not even Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to celebrate it. The Russian president has some authoritarian tendencies, and might be expected to play along to communist fantasies of past glories, such as its propagandists might project, but he's not a fool, and he's having none of it. He writes:
Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to ignore the Bolshevik Revolution, which marks its 100th anniversary this month. Putin reportedly told his advisers that it would be unnecessary to commemorate the occasion. He knows better—it is nothing to be proud of.
The Moscow Times reports an indifferent reaction on the streets of Russia:
President Vladimir Putin has called the collapse of the Soviet Union the “geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” But speaking about the revolution he has said, “We know well the consequences that these great upheavals can bring.”Celebrations on the centenary, Nov. 7, are expected to be muted. Instead, the country officially celebrated Unity Day on Nov. 4 — which Putin instituted in 2005 to replace the Soviet holiday.Interviews with Russians at Pushkinskaya Square in central Moscow on Monday painted a similarly confused picture. Some of those questioned wished the nation would officially observe the centennial. Some are happy that the event will go largely unnoticed. And some simply don’t care.
The reality is, Russians endured this virulent religious-level variety of socialism for more than 70 years. They know it better than anyone. And frankly, their refusal to celebrate it ought to be big news, a major story. It says more about socialism and communism, as it is practiced by experts and believers than anyone.
It barely registers a mention much of anywhere in the mainstream press.
November 7 marks a century since the founding of one of the most murderous tyrannies in human history. Russia's communist empire was an appalling failure in every way, yet we often see the hammer and sickle, the symbol of the Soviet Union, carried on college campuses and at protests around the country. Communism still holds sway among a significant part of the U.S. population.
In 1917, Russia was ruled by a powerful tsar. But in the preceding decades, reformers had been chipping away at the feudal system, which was all Russia had ever known. More democratic and free-market ideas were taking hold. Most of the peasant masses, however, were still impoverished, and millions of Russian men were being used as cannon fodder in World War I. The process of change accelerated in March 1917, when reformers forced the tsar to cede power.
The Bolsheviks, however, had been agitating and organizing an alternative to the democratic reformers. Led by Vladimir Lenin, this group of communists staged a coup on Nov. 7, 1917.
What followed was not an open society with economic opportunity and democratic institutions, much less a workers' paradise. Far from it. The communists could not sustain an economy. The regime engineered a catastrophic famine deliberately to starve to death millions of small farmers, who, the communists feared, could resist the regime's confiscation of their land. Millions more innocent people were murdered by firing squads or worked to death in the Gulag slave labor camps.
The Soviet Union was the first modern totalitarian regime. Private life and private enterprise were forbidden. Everything was political. Spies were everywhere, watching for any deviation from dogma in thought or deed. From its inception to its 1991 demise, the Soviet regime murdered 50 million individuals, according to the best estimates. Other communist regimes established, abetted, or inspired by the Soviet Union – in China, Cambodia, North Korea – brought the body count as high as 150 million.
In the United States today, the media rightly deplore and ostracize bigoted brutes who march under the swastika. When Antifa thugs parade under the hammer and sickle and do violence to peaceful demonstrators, however, they are commonly given a chorus of approval or at least tolerance among the nation's elites, who profess to disagree with their tactics while honoring their intentions: achievement of "social justice," which translates to socialism under ironhanded rule by elites.
Three insights help explain this morally sick phenomenon.
First, communism is a collectivist ideology. It puts the group – in this case, the so-called proletariat of downtrodden workers – ahead of the individual, and it characterizes all social life as a war between rich and poor. The individual is routinely sacrificed for the good of society, often fatally. Whereas, historically, Americans defended free association among individuals – family, friends, social organizations, and other components of civil society – today, many reject the nation's founding principle of free association and individual liberty and actively work to undermine all groups not created by the state.
Second, communism contains a strong element of envy. Instead of wanting to allow everyone to proper, communism and its little brother, socialism, works to pull down those who already prosper. "Take from the one percent!" they shout. Or the 10 percent. Or the 20 percent. Never mind that allowing people to retain their wealth creates greater wealth that benefits everybody, resulting in the most prosperous society the world has ever known. Instead, a large class of privileged ingrates enjoys the riches created by others even as their ugly, angry, tear-it-down envy, combined with collectivist dogma, drives their denunciations of the creators of the system, their guilt-tripping against productive individuals, and their condemnation of entire ethnic groups for their "shameful" history of productive virtues. These malcontents share the motives of the Marxists, who, a century ago, sought to destroy not only feudal oligarchs, but also entrepreneurial wealth-creators
A third insight is that a long-term communist strategy is in full operation in this country. Italian communist Antonio Gramsci in the early twentieth century explained the importance of taking over a nation's culture to prepare the ground for political revolution. In the 1960s, the German red Rudi Dutschke called this the "long march through the institutions." Individuals who accept collectivist principles gradually become the politicians, entertainers, teachers, educators, lawyers, media moguls, and journalists who mold the culture and spread their values throughout society, strengthening their efforts by suppressing freedom of speech whenever they have the power to do so. Within a few generations, a country is ripe for a collectivist revolution.
On the one hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Soviet tyranny, it is crucial that those of us who still live by American values – individual liberty, self-reliance, voluntary assistance to others, and limited government – understand the significance of some of our countrymen not abhorring the hammer and sickle as they do the swastika. We must devise our own "long march through the institutions" to preserve the values that make America great by allowing each individual to achieve his own greatness.