Setting the Record Straight on Communism and Socialist Revolution


October 30, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


LIE #3: The 1917 October Revolution in Russia was a “coup” staged by Lenin and the communist Bolshevik Party. They were power hungry and grabbed power for themselves.

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution of October 1917, a flood of magazine and news articles blasts out the lie that Lenin and the vanguard party he led, known as the Bolsheviks, were manipulators: out for themselves and advancing through deceit.

Fact: The Russian Revolution was an anti-capitalist/socialist revolution that involved the determined, heroic, and self-sacrificing struggle of millions of the oppressed and exploited along with intellectuals, young people, and others. In the months leading up to October, mass protests, strikes, large-scale mutinies and mass desertions from the army, land occupations by hungry peasants, and pitched battles between workers and government forces rocked society. In October, the old order was overthrown through a mass insurrection. A new state-political power representing the interests of the formerly oppressed and exploited and the great majority of society was established.

Fact: What made the October 1917 victory possible... what enabled the revolution in power to defeat the forces of counter-revolution and their imperialist backers in the civil war of 1918-20 that followed... and what was decisive to building modern history’s first society free from exploitation and oppression, was visionary, scientifically based leadership. This communist leadership, the Bolshevik party led by V.I. Lenin, guided and unleashed the masses in their millions to consciously bring a new and emancipatory world into being.

That is the crime and the example for which the imperialists and their ideologues hold Lenin responsible. That is why they detest, denounce, and distort Lenin’s leadership... because this is about leading the masses to put an end to capitalism-imperialism and all its horrors, and to all exploitation and oppression. That is why their op-eds declare: “never again.”

I. Millions join with Lenin and the Bolsheviks to make a political and social revolution

The truth is that the Russian revolution was the furthest thing from a manipulative coup.

For centuries, Russia was a sharply divided society of haves and have-nots. The wealthy capitalists and big landowners relied on the ruthless rule of the Tsar (a kind of monarchy) supported by the Russian Orthodox Church and maintaining the old order through police terror, denial of rights, and thuggish, KKK-type violence.

By 1917, Tsarist Russia’s participation in World War 1 had reaped a gruesome toll: seven million killed and wounded. The dead were mostly drawn from the ranks of landless peasants and half-starved urban factory workers. In February, in the face of mass outpourings, the Tsar was forced to “abdicate” (step down). A new “bourgeois-reformist” government came to power making all kinds of promises. But it did nothing to solve the basic problems of the people—and it continued to wage the slaughter of world war.

Under Lenin’s leadership, the Bolsheviks raised the demand “peace, bread, land”—to end the war with Germany, prevent starvation, and drive out the big landowners and redistribute land to poor peasants. They were the only political force prepared and determined to lead the oppressed in Russian society to act to realize these demands. The other major parties and organized forces in Russia (including those on the “left”) were working to reform, to make changes within, an exploitative, oppressive, and decrepit system—and they supported Russia’s participation in World War 1.

Three Bogus Anti-Communist Charges

We are told...

» That Lenin and the Bolsheviks were “manipulative.” The fact is, the Bolshevik program and their vision of a new and better world resonated widely and deeply in a society in crisis, upheaval, and looking for direction. Their program expressed the urgently felt needs of millions suffering the misery and hopelessness of the old order. And the Bolsheviks, at the risk of losing short-term support, went up against reactionary popular tides—for instance, the “we-must-win-the-war” World War 1 patriotism that swept Russia. They stood up to and challenged deeply entrenched anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) prejudices.

» That Lenin and the Bolsheviks were “masters of deceit.” The truth is that the Bolsheviks had been raising the consciousness of the oppressed, bringing scientific understanding to the masses, so that they could grasp the root causes of their suffering and un-reformability of the system—and consciously act in their own revolutionary interests. And in a situation of growing radicalization and discontent in 1917, the Bolsheviks were training people to see through the maneuvering and deceptions of an oppressive government, and the inadequacy of all other political programs and agendas.

Far from deceiving people and concealing his views, Lenin’s whole approach was that the Bolsheviks must lead by empowering millions with a conscious understanding of the means, methods, and goals of the communist revolution. For this, the Bolsheviks relied on a daily newspaper printed and distributed throughout Russia in the tens of thousands (through legal and underground channels) in order to prepare minds and organize forces for the seizure and exercise of state power.

» That they were an “isolated clique.” The Bolsheviks had grassroots strength as well as organization in factory committees, and in the armed forces. These organizations were called soviets: the illegal, anti-government representative assemblies of workers, soldiers, and peasants contesting for power. The question that Lenin posed, as a revolutionary crisis ripened, was whether the power would lead to overthrowing and defeating the old social and economic order, and establishing the rule of a new AND emancipatory economic, political, and social system.

Lenin decisively led the Bolsheviks to take revolutionary responsibility and leadership in 1917. Bob Avakian demarcates how momentous this was and is for all who crave liberation:

Lenin’s argument in What Is To Be Done?—that the more highly organized and centralized the party was, the more it was a real vanguard organization of revolutionaries, the greater would be the role and initiative of the masses in revolutionary struggle—was powerfully demonstrated in the Russian Revolution itself and has been in all proletarian revolutions. Nowhere has such a revolution been made without such a party and nowhere has the lack of such a party contributed to unleashing the initiative of masses of the oppressed in conscious revolutionary struggle. (BAsics 6:1)

II. The utter nonsense that Lenin and the Bolsheviks grabbed and tightened power for themselves

Let’s look at what the new Soviet power was used for. Immediately, the new revolutionary government issued two historic decrees (or laws). One was to fulfill the mass demand to withdraw Russia from the unjust imperialist world war and to declare peace without conquest of countries or annexation of lands. The other was to empower the bitterly oppressed peasantry to seize the Tsarist lands and the landholdings of the wealthy aristocrats and of the Russian Orthodox Church (which had owned and controlled huge tracts of land).

The imperialists would have none of this—and tried to strangle the revolution in its infancy. But even as the Soviet Union was desperately fighting for its survival, it carried forward a social revolution that crucially involved creating equality among peoples, and working to uproot the subordinate role of women in society.

For example, the revolution abolished the practice of church-sanctioned marriage and the institutionalized authority of the male in the household. Abortion was legalized more than 50 years before Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Patriarchal customs were challenged in the Central Asian republics, where oppressive Islamic laws held sway, like arranged marriages and forced wearing of hijabs or niqabs (that covered women’s faces). Never before had an entire society set out to overcome the oppression of women... never before had gender equality and traditional sex roles become such a major social focus. There was much that was changed, much that was inspiring, and weaknesses in understanding and practice as well—to be studied and learned from.

The Bolshevik revolution created the world’s first multinational state based on equality of nationalities. Minority nationalities were granted the right to instruction in their native languages in all schools. The Soviet state devoted considerable resources to the mass production of books, journals and newspapers in the minority regions. Books were published in over 40 non-Russian languages. Campaigns were led against great-Russian chauvinism (similar to white racism).

So come again... Lenin and the Bolsheviks were out for themselves?

And, by the way, what was going on in the U.S. at the time? Segregation was the law of the land; racial intermarriage was forbidden in over 30 states; Klan violence and lynching were epidemic in the South; the Supreme Court had ruled that immigrants could be forcibly sterilized.

III. A closing thought. Imperialists have no right to talk about coups and being power hungry... unless they are looking in the mirror

Talk about coups and the “cynical manipulation” of power to topple regimes and to install or preserve cliques. Well, the U.S. imperialists have written the playbook. They’ve staged dozens of coups across the planet since 1953—working through media, economic destabilization campaigns, paramilitary forces, and senior military officers. They’ve done it in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile, Libya (and the list goes on). They’ve done it to mass murderous effect. Readers are urged to check out the American Crime series at, and William Blum’s Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.


Recommended Readings

*THE NEW COMMUNISM: The science, the strategy, the leadership for an actual revolution, and a radically new society on the road to real emancipation, Part IV: “The leadership we need,” by Bob Avakian, 2016

*You Don’t Know What You Think You “Know” About… The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future, an interview with Raymond Lotta, 2014, and

*BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, Chapter 6: “Revolutionary Responsibility and Leadership” and Supplement “The Revolutionary Potential of the Masses and the Responsibility of the Vanguard,” by Bob Avakian, 2011

*The 1917 Revolution: How the Bolsheviks Seized Power, November 9, 1997,



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