Ukraine and October: One hundred years of the banned revolution

By Andriy Manchuk

November 7, 2017: In the commentary on the centennial of the October Revolution, two extremes can be seen. On the one hand, we don’t tire of talking about the outstanding significance of this historic event, about its achievements, accomplishments and victories. But those who fall into pathos recall that a century later, the legacy of October is reduced to nothing. And the holiday of the victory of the revolutionary forces has to be celebrated in days of obvious defeat — when these forces have long since dried up, and their flags are lying now somewhere in the dustbin of history, where they are picked up by political rogues and fringes.

This situation is particularly evident in the countries of the former USSR, which were the scene of great events a century ago. After all, right now the Russian guardians join with the liberals in a common struggle against Lenin‘s mausoleum, to bury together with Lenin’s body all hopes for a socialist perspective of his country. And in Ukraine, the process of “decommunization” is coming to an end, designed once and for all to put an end to the left in the ideological and political sense.

Contemporary Ukrainian historiography describes the October insurrection as a coup,” wishing to give it a pejorative connotation and emphasize the difference with Euromaidan, which immediately received the propaganda title “Revolution of Dignity.” But in Ukraine they do not know that for many years the Bolsheviks themselves called the October events a coup, not at all conflicted about it. However, a hundred years later the words “October Revolution” are known all over the world, and the uprising in Petrograd is rightfully considered one of the central episodes of modern history, no matter how people of different political views judge its results. And Euromaidan, which was recently covered online by the world’s leading media, has already been forgotten.

The thing is, a revolution doesn’t become a revolution just because it is called that the next day by the political engineers of the new regime. It remains in history as a genuine revolution only when it leads to radical, essential transformations of the social and economic system — and Euromaidan only accelerated and aggravated one hundredfold all the crisis processes that have been going on for more than 20 years in the ugly society of post-Soviet market restoration.

It is this restoration — that is, the systematic struggle against the legacy of October — that represents the essential content of Ukrainian politics for the last quarter of a century. From the very beginning, it set out to solve the main tasks of the new ruling class: anti-communism was supposed to provide ideological support for the plundering of property accumulated in Soviet times, and also protect the new elites from the notorious threat of “socialist revenge.” The anger of the dissatisfied masses was effectively transferred to the “eternal external enemy of the nation” while simultaneously neutralizing the demonized leftists, who were represented as its “fifth column.”  

Such a strategy not only saved the palaces and offices of the new owners of life from persecutions — it opened broad opportunities for manipulating the protest moods of Ukrainians. Robbed as a result of market reforms, people were repeatedly brought to the square under the slogans of expanding and deepening these reforms, using these fake replicas of revolutions for internal competition. At the same time, the disastrous results of the antisocial policy of the post-Soviet period were written off and attributed to the pernicious consequences of what is called “Soviet totalitarianism”. Although this sounds very ambiguous in the totalitarian-to-the-marrow society of post-Maidan Ukraine, where many ugly practices of the Stalin period were revived.

The irony is that the modern Ukrainian state was fully formed during the Soviet era, following the October Revolution — something the Russian Black-Hundred nationalists do not tire of reminding them. This applies not only to its borders, which included extensive historical areas with different histories and cultural specifics. The production and agricultural base, science, education, medicine, infrastructure, social policy and culture — everything that was swallowed and mined for predatory purposes for the last 25 years, was created precisely in the era of Soviet Ukraine.

This epic process is usually illustrated with images of a unique Mriya or space rocket of the Yuzhmash plant. But its best reflection is the picture of schoolchildren in a poor Ukrainian village, with a self-made poster: “Children of all countries, unite! Long live the 4th anniversary of October, which gave us education in a remote corner.” Since it is precisely this necessary basis, which the revolution provided, that made possible all further achievements and successes — up to nuclear physics, cybernetics and space exploration.

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Denying October, and completely abandoning the legacy of the Soviet period — which by no means boils down to the tragedies of repression and the Holodomor — Ukraine, in fact, denies its own existence and its future. And not in a symbolic way — as the experience of recent years has convincingly shown.  

“The entire economic program of Euromaidan can be reduced to the forced dismantling of the remains of the socially-oriented state system of the Soviet era, which until now allowed Ukrainians to somehow make ends meet. Its destruction was conceived almost as the main task — along with the assertion of a state ideology of ethnic nationalism on the scale of a multinational country created by a criminal communist government, and naturally destroyed under the clamor of anti-communist slogans. And the dismantling of monuments to Lenin is only a symbolic expression of this antisocial policy of ‘de-Sovietization’ in the public spaces of cities and villages of Ukraine,” I wrote in 2014. 

As a result of this policy, Ukraine now exists in the mode of countermortality described in the well-known story of the Strugatsky brothers — that is, moving backwards in time, returning to its past. Destroying the achievements of the Soviet era, we are objectively approaching those times that preceded October, gradually turning into an archaic deindustrialized country where poorly educated, disenfranchised and hopelessly poor people live. Which, in fact, is the price for the denial of its revolutionary birthright.

Of course, the political memory of modern society is shorter than a late November day. But if we discard the usual narrow vision in order to consider Euromaidan in the context of the age-old history of our country, we will see that the “Revolution of Dignity” was no more than another stage in the long process of counter-revolutionary pullback from the true revolution of 1917 — following 1991, 1993 and 2004. And the fight against the proscribed legacy of the October Revolution shows that the life of Ukraine — and indeed of other post-Soviet countries — is still being rebuilt from this event, hated by our officials, which took place a century ago.

Imagine — even the long-forgotten sailor-commandant Yevdokim Ognev, who fired the historic shot of the Aurora, is officially included in the “List of persons falling under the law on decommunization.”

He fired to frighten the enemy, and a hundred years later they still are. And this should give us hope.

Source

Translated by Greg Butterfield

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