Today marks the anniversary of the October Revolution in Russia, when an alliance of workers, peasants, soldiers, and women bread rioters swept aside the ailing liberal provisional government and placed the Bolsheviks in charge. In response, Russia’s liberals, tsarists, and proto-Nazis allied with the world’s imperial powers — including the United States — in the Russian Civil War, culminating in the victory of the Bolsheviks and the foundation of the Soviet Union, the world’s first workers’ state.
(The word soviet is Russian for “workers’ council;” a more accurate rendering in English would be the Union of Workers’ Councils. During the October Revolution, a common chant was: “All power to the soviets! All power to the workers’ councils!”)
The USSR’s many achievements include destroying fascism in Eastern Europe for generations — in the Second World War, in which the Soviets did 90% of the fighting, killing, and dying — as well as the liberation of millions of Jews from Nazi concentration camps, themselves funded and planned with support from American billionaires (like the Fords and Rockefellers), American corporations (like IBM), as well as the indifference of American politicians like FDR, under whose presidency a ship full of Jewish refugees was denied entry to the United States and instead condemned to misery and death.
Following the war, the Soviet Union emerged as one of the world’s two superpowers, supporting the struggles of workers against capitalist exploitation around the planet (in China, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Burkina Faso, and elsewhere) while putting the first man and woman in space and achieving stunning leaps at home — doubling lifespans, increasing literacy to 99%, and establishing a social democratic welfare state where quality housing, education, medicine, food, and other necessities were guaranteed for all. (The CIA itself reported in 1983 that the average Soviet was better fed than the average American.) Soviet directors like Sergei Eisenstein virtually created the medium of cinema while Soviet inventors built the world’s first cellular phone. Tetris, the world’s most popular video game, was made by a Soviet programmer. Soviet athletes likewise regularly dominated the Olympics. Soviet composers like Prokofiev and Shostakovich were among the greatest of the 20th century, while the Soviet anthem itself — sung here in English by Paul Robeson, who has been erased from American history for his support of the USSR — is a real banger.
While a Martian visiting the planet Earth in the year 1980 would probably conclude that the world was close to embracing communism, with the beginning of the Neoliberal Counterrevolution the USSR was running into problems as a new generation of liberal leaders under Mikhael “Pizza Hut” Gorbachev embraced market reforms over the protests of a vast majority of the population. The USSR’s collapse was a major blow to the struggle for the freedom of the global 99%, resulting in the premature deaths of millions of Russians and others thanks to the corrupt and incapable American-backed Yeltsin regime which arose in its wake (and which later placed Vladimir Putin, the bête noire of American liberals, in power). Three decades later the world’s workers still have not recovered. Today, 75% of people in Russia say that times were better during the Soviet Union, and a new generation of revolutionaries is now working around the world to complete the global revolution which began on that frigid night in St. Petersburg back in 1917.