In homage to the centennial of the Russian Revolution
By Gabriel Ángel
How easy it is to dump on the Soviet Union. Success is guaranteed. Lenin was a hundred years ago, a century of Stalin and the cold war. For those who still want to worship him, after all, there is a mummy in Moscow, for the curiosity of tourists. Maybe with Rosa Luxemburg, to reward women calling for gender equality.
What is the Russian revolution but an historical anecdote tantamount to the nose of Cleopatra or the epilepsy of Napoleon Bonaparte, useful for posturing scholars when it comes to talking about history? Events, simple episodes that happened and are forgotten. And about which there are always respectable elders willing to give lectures. Lawyers, people to respect.
Especially because they rant. Nothing but utter disdain allows us to explain the triumph of the Bolsheviks in Petrograd. A minority party, they say, that had the malevolent cunning to catch everyone else with their pants down. That did not hesitate to commit the nefarious crime of murdering the Tsar and his divine family. That made terror its law.
That expropriated industry from the capitalists, the land from the landowners and the rich peasants, and handed over the enterprises and haciendas to the administration of ignorant workers and peasants with no idea of progress. That was able, based on the most merciless exploitation, to industrialize the country and turn it in barely a quarter of a century into the second world power.
That at the same time achieved for its population the most impressive rise in the standard of living recorded by history. Compulsory education for all, free health care of the highest quality, housing, jobs, culture, recreation, art. Who says today that it deserves the least recognition? They were communists, monsters, enemies of freedom.
An infamous regime to which millions and millions of victims are adjudged. A gigantic Paris Commune that had the audacity to survive 74 years despite the onslaught of all the established powers. Fourteen powers launched a furious assault against the People’s Commissars and their government installed after the revolution, leaving defeated after three years of terror.
And most inconceivable. That it was able to defeat the Nazis, that magnificent power led by Adolf Hitler and to which all Western powers applauded over their crimes against humanity and arbitrary invasions, because they knew that the ultimate goal was the destruction of the Soviet Union, their declared archenemy. Unforgivable.
Above all, that the Red Army was responsible for tying up the Axis hordes from the Ural mountains to Berlin, and that the American allies would have to ask them to declare war on Japan to shatter their land troops in Asia, without whose defeat the atomic bombs would have resembled flashes of lightning.
But above all, that the Soviet Union and its proletarian revolution inspired the rest of the world with an insurrection of the humiliated and trampled, the great majority dominated by bankers, large industry and export agriculture, for whose success cheap labor and political submission was required.
It was by their example and solidarity that millions of human beings were liberated from the colonial rule of the European powers in Africa and Asia. That the notion of human rights was formally recorded in history. That the Cuban revolution, a living paradigm of sovereignty and freedom of peoples, managed to stay afloat in the worst moments.
Without the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 it would have been unthinkable to imagine a revolution in China in 1949. And whatever direction this might follow under the firm leadership of the Communist Party, the extraordinary role played by Moscow at that time is undeniable, as the surge of the Chinese people shook the USA itself.
And even for the most recalcitrant enemies of communism and the Russian revolution, the powerful North American and Western European regimes, it is painful to recognize that it was because of the existence and drive of the Soviet Union that they were forced to adopt the welfare state, economic and social policies that favored workers.
Everyone was terrified, thinking of similar revolutions in their own countries. They had to create a way to flatter the working class so it would not think about it. Labor law, social benefits, and the possibility of accessing the profits of companies arose. It hurt having to improve the condition of the workers, but the alternative was communist revolution.
What about a Stalin ruling from the White House? Or from any of the countries in which the United States had an interest? It had to be prevented at all costs. That is why there were assassinations of their own slightly suspicious presidents, the National Security Doctrine, coups d’état, the criminal onslaught against the people.
It was to remove the communist taint that Salvador Allende was finally overthrown and killed in Chile. That the Guatemalans had to endure the criminal overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz. That in modern Iran the Shah ended up being installed by a coup d’etat. That in Indonesia 700,000 people were massacred in 1964 to overthrow Sukarno.
That in Vietnam four million of its nationals perished to defend their independence and sovereignty, under the excuse of preventing its inhabitants from becoming acolytes of the Soviet Union. That throughout Latin America military or civilian regimes of terror were established, in cooperation with the OAS, in order to avoid the dreaded spread of communism.
They can pardon me, if they can or want to. But I cannot help believing that in light of the final historical results, no one ever had more reason to do what Lenin and his followers did in Russia in 1917 and the following years of the 20th century. The mission of distorting their opponents has been a constant of irrational imperialism.
The Tsar of all the Russias ordered breathtaking massacres in order to avoid the demands for bread and land by his people. Thousands and thousands of workers, men and women, had to suffer death or exile because of their righteous work. Not to mention the millions who had fallen in the Great War for the exclusive interest of Russian industrialists and bankers.
The fact that the royal family, after the fall of the USSR, has been elevated to the rank of saints by the Orthodox Church of their country, only proves the unholy alliance that has always existed between the great ecclesiastical hierarchies and the power of capital and landlords. Five or six royal victims are destined to be worth more than the hundreds of thousands executed by them.
No doubt because the latter lack a face and name. They are simple and disdained figures, while those royals represent the unchanged pyramid of society. By shooting the Tsar, the peoples of the world put things out of place. How terrible and painful it must have seemed to the masters. Thus people are taught, the example beats in their conscience and they cannot avoid it.
Havana, March 22, 2017
Gabriel Ángel is a writer and guerrilla fighter of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP).
Translated by Greg Butterfield