The October Revolution 100 Years On

The October Revolution 100 Years On

Workshop overview.

Workshop convener: Mark Cowling (Teesside University, retired) email: on behalf of the Marxism Specialist Group of the PSA.

If there was any one central event in the history of the 20th century it was the Communist revolution in Russia in October 2017.  The rest of the century, at least up to 1989, was dominated in one way or another by the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.

The purpose of this workshop is to think about this event and its aftermath in relation to Marxist theory.  A large number of questions present themselves.  Marx did not anticipate a communist revolution in a relatively backward country such as Russia.  One question, therefore, is whether the revolution was what he had in mind.  A possibly related question is whether the revolution can be regarded as democratic, given the way in which the Constituent Assembly was disbanded by the Bolsheviks.  A planned economy was instituted, but ultimately collapsed in 1989, raising the question as to whether a socialist economy is viable, and if so of what sort?  Were there some aspects of the Soviet economy which worked well?  Assuming a socialist economy of some sort is viable today, how much has Marxist theory to offer in showing us how it should be constructed?  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a massive rise in inequality in capitalist economies – is there some kind of cause and effect at work?  If this workshop had been held 40 years ago, it would be against the background of a rapid expansion of communism since the Second World War.  We would be arguing about why it is so successful, and also about whether the Soviet Union is a genuine socialist society with problems and imperfections, a state capitalist society, a distorted workers state, a society dominated by some kind of new class etc.  Are these simply issues from the past, or do they have anything to tell us today?  These are very big questions, with ramifications in all sorts of areas theory and analysis, and they by no means exhaust the issues raised by the October Revolution.

Papers offered so far:

Mark Cowling (Teesside University, retired) “Rosa Luxemburg and the failed German revolution of 1919)”.  (By Skype).

Valeria Vegh Weis “The History of Criminal  Selectivity”.

Paul Raekstad (University of Amsterdam) “A Vanguard Revolution? Michael Lebowitz’ Critique of the Vanguard Marxism”.

Dr David Bates (Canterbury Christchurch University) “Lenin, Anarchism and 1917″.