THE BOLESHEVIK REVOLUTION & RED OCTOBER
Taking the Lessons Forward
Following, are excerpts from the address given by SACP
General Secretary Blade Nzimande to the
82nd Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution Rally in Cape Town (7th November).
From Umsebenzi, Voice of the South
African Communist Party
November - December 1999
We are gathered on a very important day in the history of working class
struggles in the 20th Century.
We are celebrating the 82nd anniversary of the Great October socialist revolution - the first truly
workers' and people's uprising against exploitation, oppression and capitalism. Despite what our
detractors say, this event still represents the aspirations of millions of people world wide who would
like to see the establishment of a humane, just, equitable society free from exploitation, hunger,
illiteracy and oppression. As the South African Communist Party we say that despite the setbacks in
the former socialist countries, the Bolshevik revolution and its subsequent evolution and history
stands as one of the most monumental achievements of humanity in trying to defeat capitalist
Our Red October Campaign
We are also marking the celebration of the climax of our Red October campaign which we launched
in order to increase the membership of the SACP, in particular to recruit amongst organised workers
and start a process of establishing industrial/workplace structures of the SACP. In addition our
campaign was aimed at strengthening the structures of the SACP at all levels throughout the whole
country. During this campaign our message has reached thousands of workers and rural people
throughout the country.
By any criteria, our Red October campaign has been successful in taking the message of the SACP
to thousands of workers: of building people's power to deepen our democracy; of building worker
power for democracy and socialism; of tackling the scourge of HIV/AIDS; of defending and extending
the public sector; and of fighting women's oppression in the workplace and the home.
Capitalist ideologues and enemies of the working people tell us that the Bolshevik revolution of
November 7 1917 was a human disaster and went against the grain of what they say are inherent
selfish tendencies of humanity. Yet the very crisis of capitalism and the poverty it has brought about
globally remains evidence to the fact that capitalism can be no solution to problems facing humanity.
The Bolshevik revolution and the socialist experiments of this century has also taught us a number of
lessons which still remain relevant. Some of these lessons have become even more relevant in our
The first and most important lesson is that a people united, led by the most progressive sectors of
society - the working class - are capable of changing their own conditions for the better by
challenging an oppressive and exploitative system like capitalism. It is a lesson in that capitalism is
not as invincible as its ideologues always want to tell us. It is for this reason that we are undertaking a
systematic party building campaign to firmly root the SACP amongst organised workers and the poor.
The second, and perhaps, most important lesson is that it is possible for humanity to provide free
education for all, free health care for all, comprehensive social welfare, full employment and cheap
and accessible public transport. These were achieved by many socialist countries, which goes to
show that it is a system based on greed and private profit that is unable to meet these basic needs of
the people, and not the fault of human nature as we are told.
Thirdly, the 20th Century socialist experiment also taught us an important lesson - that the state is the
only institution that is capable of leading an all-round development offensive aimed at meeting the
needs of ordinary people. In particular it is a state that is underpinned by working class and people's
power that can best address the conditions of the working people and the poor. The private sector,
by whatever criteria, can never meet the needs of the people, since it is a system based on making
profits for the few at the expense of the majority. It is for this reason that we are convinced as the
SACP that selling off state assets to the private sector as a means to meet people's needs is
doomed to fail.
Large-scale privatisation that has been foisted by the IMF and World Bank on developing countries
over the past 15-20 years have failed dismally. Yet we are told the reason why such measures have
been a failure is because we do not have enough privatisation and liberalisation. In other words it is
a situation of blaming the victim.
The lessons of the Bolshevik revolution and South Africa's transition to democracy.
One important significance of the Bolshevik revolution and what it sought to achieve, is underlined by
the very struggles that we are engaged in South Africa today. Whilst we have made significant
advances in addressing the basic needs of ordinary people - provision of clean drinking water,
electricity, classrooms, clinics and telephone connections, progressive labour laws - these advances
are daily threatened by the capitalist character of South African society. As we extend progressive
labour laws to workers, hundreds of thousands of workers are losing their jobs, thus not benefiting
from these progressive laws. These job losses are essentially throwing workers and their families
What this means essentially is that the biggest threat to South Africa's democracy is capitalism itself.
What the government gives with one hand, the capitalists take with both hands! As we seek to
strengthen the capacity of the state to deliver better services, the private sector is encroaching and
seeking the privatisation of the very key state assets responsible for delivery of some of these basic
services. As we seek to build houses for the poor, the capitalist banks have washed their hands of
providing finances for low cost housing. It was precisely these kinds of conditions that the Bolshevik
revolution fought against and overthrew, underlining the fact that there can be no democracy in a
capitalist society. This is an issue that we have not looked at squarely in this country, and it is the
responsibility of the working class and the poor to expose the lie that capitalism provides the best
environment for democracy.
For us as the SACP, democracy is not only limited to the vote, important as this is and has been in
our democracy. Democracy at its core is about the democratic redistribution of economic resources
in order to fight poverty, hunger and illiteracy.
Capitalism is simply undemocratic. The wealth is produced collectively
by millions of people but
appropriated privately by a few individuals. A continuation and strengthening of capitalism in our
country will simply undermine the sustainability of whatever progress is made to meet the needs of
our people. This is a fact that we should not be uncomfortable to point out, because it is the truth.
Capitalism widens the very poverty whose increase will always remain a threat to our democracy. It is
for this reason that what the Bolshevik revolution intended to achieve was both political and economic
democracy. One without the other is meaningless!
The working class and the fruits of South Africa's democracy
It is precisely due to the capitalist character of South African society that the fruits of workers own
struggles are being claimed and appropriated by a small elite. For example, there is a disturbing
tendency today which tends to regard organised workers as an obstacle to the economic
development of South African society. Instead workers are being castigated as an elite that is only
narrowly concerned with their interests. Yet such accusations are never made against the real elite
which is concerned with their selfish interests - the capitalist class. It is rather unfortunate that these
voices are sometimes heard even within some of the ranks of the democratic movement. There are
those today who are saying it is not necessary to negotiate with, and take workers along, in the
transformation of our municipalities. It is as if workers are a nuisance to an otherwise sensible
transformatory approach. The dangers of such an approach is that it plays right into the agenda of
white bosses, who in any case are going to be the primary beneficiaries of any private sector driven
transformation process. The intensifying ideological attack on workers is premised on this approach
and its associated assumptions.
The SACP would like to make it clear that there can be no democracy and genuine transformation in
this country without the central involvement of the working class. There can be no transformation that
excludes and marginalises the working class. There can be democracy that tries to seize the victory
of the working class and the poor - a democratic South Africa - to benefit only a few. It is precisely
because of these lurking dangers that the Bolshevik revolution still holds important lessons for us - to
build the political and economic power of the working class and the poor. It is also in this context that
we had launched our Red October campaign.
Build People's Power, Build Socialism Now
It is for all these reasons, and in the true spirit of the Bolshevik revolution that the SACP calls upon
the working class to play a leading role in building organs of people's power where we work, where
we live and where we study. The only sure way to build the political power of the working class and
the people as a whole is to go out and build strong developmental committees, crime policing
forums with a particular focus on fighting rape and violence against women. It is for this reason that the
SACP is calling upon all communities and workers to mobilise and build structures specifically
targeted at fighting rape and crime against women, including exposing the perpetrators of such
crimes. It is also important that we all build and participate in the running of our democratic
school-governing bodies. These steps and structures are the true foundations of people's power,
which the Bolshevik's soviets provide a shining example.
As part of our Red October campaign we also called upon our people to put more effort in the fight
against HIV/AIDS. This pandemic perhaps threatens all else that we need to achieve. We call on all
party structures to prepare to participate actively in taking this campaign forward on December 1 -
which is World's Aids Day. Let every communist distribute a condom or two that day and ensure that
wherever you are, you participate daily, and not just on such day, in HIV/AIDS campaigns.
But in order for these campaigns to be effective we need to simultaneous continue to wage the
struggle against United States and other pharmaceuticals for cheaper drugs generally. In the spirit of
the Bolshevik revolution and our Red October Campaign let us expose that the real cause of poverty
in the world still remains US-led imperialism. It is this imperialism that the Bolsheviks fought against,
and it is this imperialism that we must continue to challenge in order to bring about a just, equitable
world order. Let us also recommit ourselves to strengthen international working class solidarity as the
true foundation upon which all national struggles will be able to overcome oppression, exploitation,
poverty and disease.
Long live the spirit of the Bolshevik revolution long live! Socialism is the future, build it now!
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