This October marked the centennial of Lenin's October Uprising and the foundation of the Soviet Union. Kind of a big deal for commies, young and old and even ex-Bolsheviks like myself. While I've long parted ways with my girlish notions of a Soviet worker's paradise, the more I look into it the more I realize that October really marked the demise of the Russian Revolution, it's still hard not to let my old Soviet nostalgia get the best of me this fall.
Say what you will about those old Bolsheviks but their little uprising still stands apart as the first successful workers revolution since the Black Jacobins took back Haiti for the slaves who built it. It was a cataclysmic moment in modern history that in many ways defined the Twentieth Century and in others defied it. One of Europe's great empires reduced to cinders by its poorest denizens in a revolt against that crumbling empire's involvement in a corrupt world war. The Soviet Union may have welched on their promises, banishing the very worker's unions that it was named for, in favor of a rather shallow interpretation of Marx's Dictatorship of the Proletariat (never intended to be an actual dictatorship). But their victories over the Czar and the Atlanticist cabal, who launched the White Terror in his name, inspired oppressed people from Havana to Hanoi to rise up and take their fate in their own hands. The Soviet Union may have been a failure but, as far as failures go, it was a rather grand one before it got gross.
This October came with its own triumphant revolutionary failures. Kurdistan and Catalonia. Two long oppressed nations who chose the Bolshevik Centennial to finally declare independence before they crashed and burned tragically. Unlike the Bolsheviks, the Kurds and the Catalans chose to wage their respective revolutions through the ballot box. In both would-be-nations their people voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from their captors, in Baghdad and Madrid respectively, in popular referendums. And in both cases they found the peoples will crushed violently while the "free" world sat on their hands and watched in deafening silence. Both the Kurdish Regional Government and the Catalonian Cabinet are in shambles. There are still people in the streets but a grey pallor of November doom seems to hang just above their skulls.
The question on everybody's lips is what went wrong? The answer is almost shamefully simple, the state. Much like the Bolsheviks, the Kurds and the Catalans chose to rely on the central machinery of an organized state, believing in vain that their was strength in structure. The reality is, the more central a democracy is, the less democratic it becomes and a revolution short on democracy really only has three possible fates, to be corrupted, co-opted or overthrown, often all of the above.
The Russian Revolution was corrupted by the defensive heavy handedness of the Bolsheviks, co-opted by Stalin's red nationalism and overthrown by its own people, fed up by decades of bureaucratic corruption and the endless western siege of the Cold War.
The Iraqi Kurds were corrupted by the thuggery of the Barzani cartel, co-opted by Israel's inflammatory influence and overthrown by the Iraqi government with the tacit backing of the Kurd's supposed allies in Washington.
Catalonia was corrupted by the empty promises of the European Union, co-opted by the center-left establishment and overthrown by the neo-Francoist government of Madrid while their precious Eurocrats stood by and applauded like white-gloved ladies at a dressage concert.
The only true pathway to freedom and self-determination is a grass-roots revolution, built from the ground up, democratically run and ending in a stateless permanent autonomous zone. If their's no one in charge then their is quite literally nothing to overthrow. The only remaining option for state suppression is genocide which, as the Vietcong proved, isn't as easy as it looks. The KRG's neighbors in Rojava and the Zapatistas in Chiapas are living proof. Freetown Christiania and my Amish neighbors are two more. My own ancestral homeland of Ireland required a popular revolution before it could be truly independent from Cromwell's grip but even now the Dail's hands are too tied by Euro-bureaucracy to support our longtime allies in Barcelona. Proof positive that the only truly free state is a truly smashed state.
October's gone, dearest motherfuckers. Their's no point in crying over spilled blood. But we can learn from it. Revolutions are born in the streets but they die in the Politburo. My suggestion? Keep it in the streets and don't stop fighting until the battle's won. Viva La Revolucion!
Peace, Love and Solidarity- CH
Soundtrack: Songs that influenced this post.
* Heroes By TV On The Radio
* Tuesday's Gone By Lynyrd Skynyrd
* Take Me To The Riot By Stars
* Down In The Streets By The Stooges
* Keep The Car Running By Arcade Fire
* Dot Dash By Wire
* We All Go Down Together By The Decemberists
* We Are The Champions By Queen
* Keep Yourself Alive By Queen