Working people know that their problems in the contemporary world cannot be seriously addressed without a measure of toughness, a willingness to fight certainly, but maybe more importantly in addition, the moral and political courage to assume the responsibility and the risk of ruling, of making and enforcing difficult decisions under circumstances of crisis and uncertainty.
Alan Shandro is the Associate Professor in department of Political Science at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. He is on the editorial board of Science & Society and has published a number of articles in Marxist political philosophy, such as "Lenin and the Logic of Hegemony; Political Practice and Theory in the Class Struggle".
ILNA: What is the role of the October Revolution and its legacy in the age of Capitalism dominant?
If we detach the October Revolution, as a heroic but hopeless and ultimately failed struggle to realize the socialist ideals and aspirations of the workers and exploited peoples, from its historical sequel, the construction of a socialist order that bears all the limitations and distortions, mistakes and crimes of its desperate and embattled history, we reduce it to a utopian dream and we play into a dominant discourse that may feign sympathy with the dreamers but denigrates their utopia as always destined to fail before the capitalist logic of the real waking world. Thus conceived, the October Revolution would be a distraction from the immense wealth of a century of revolutionary experience in the construction of societies beyond class.
The October Revolution established a social and political space for the accumulation of experiment and experience in the construction of a classless society, in the Soviet Union and across the world, especially in the colonial and formerly colonial countries. It was the first wave, setting off a cascade of revolutionary struggles and socialist experiment and learning, a cascade that endures and continues beyond the defeat and dissolution of the Soviet Union, amidst all the unevenness, uncertainties and even reverses of the class struggle, in Cuba, in China, in Korea, in Venezuela, across the “postcolonial” world and even in the citadels of imperialism. That is the legacy of the October Revolution and it is alive and it is rich and we should explore it and learn from it so as to continue it.
ILNA: As Fredric Jameson puts it, today it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Given that idea, how do you see the idea of change in today's global market?
With all due respect to Fredric Jameson, if it is so easy to imagine the end of the world, it is because of the destructive forces—climate change and the threat of nuclear holocaust—unleashed under capital and which, it seems clear, capital is unable to bring under control. The struggle to bring those forces under human control does not depend upon first imagining something beyond the end of capitalism. Rather the shape of the end of capitalism will only emerge out of these struggles and through their convergence with struggles against the multiple dimensions of exploitation and oppression experienced by people in capitalist societies.
While the working people always have need for the imagination of artists and poets to help draw out the import of their struggles, the artists and poets of the people had best seek the contours of the future in the struggles of the present.
ILNA: Today we are witnessing rise of populism all around the world, from Germany to United States and the recent case in Brazil. Do you think the legacy of October Revolution and its internationality can be an antitoxin to this matter?
Working people know that their problems in the contemporary world cannot be seriously addressed without a measure of toughness, a willingness to fight certainly, but maybe more importantly in addition, the moral and political courage to assume the responsibility and the risk of ruling, of making and enforcing difficult decisions under circumstances of crisis and uncertainty. In as much as the left, or at least what the left has become in important parts of the world, has forfeited this measure of toughness and moral courage, it has eschewed the duty of effective leadership of the popular resistance to neoliberal globalization and ceded hegemony over popular discourse to the forces of reaction. The legacy of the Russian Revolution lies, at least in part, in the exemplification of this kind of moral courage and political confidence in a political vanguard party capable of bringing together the diverse contingents and fronts of struggle of the international working-class movement in resistance to capitalist imperialism and colonialism. This is the only thing that has ever vanquished the threat of fascism.
ILNA: Do you think that subject of revolution has changed since 1917? And does the age of digital grids and network makes things easier for revolutionaries?
In as much as communities of struggle shape themselves according to ever-changing circumstances and to a logic of class struggle and struggle for hegemony that itself changes in response to the innovations of political actors on either side of the struggles, the agents of revolutionary struggle are always subject to change. As Marx remarked in The German Ideology, the working people require the discipline of long and arduous struggles in order to shape themselves into a force that is capable of ruling society.
The age of digital grids and networks alters the shape of the battlefield on which class struggles are fought. And where the working class and its allies are able to seize state power, the grids and networks will doubtless help shape the form of the transition to a classless society. But seizing the advantage under these changed circumstances of struggle is open to any side in the battle, to the state, monopoly capitalism and imperialism or to popular resistance and insurgencies. That will depend in part on the practical wisdom of revolutionary vanguards and the inventiveness of the masses.
As a general rule, it is not wise for anyone, but especially for a would-be revolutionary vanguard to be overly concerned with making things easy; too often, this way of proceeding will leave in place obstacles that must be dealt with later, at greater cost.
ILNA: What do you think aboutthe “Possibility of Revolution”, a century after October 1917?
The timing, the location and the forms of revolutionary outbreaks are perhaps impossible to predict in advance but as long as a revolutionary transition to a classless society is defeated or deferred, the social relations of the capitalist mode of production will reproduce themselves; in so doing, they reproduce the irreconcilable antagonism of class interests between the working class and the capitalist class and so reproduce the seedbed of revolutionary struggles. Revolution isn’t only possible; it is inevitable. Whether it eventuates in “the victory of the proletariat or the common ruin of the contending classes” (Marx) will depend upon the circumstances and the logic of the class struggle and the struggle for hegemony.
Interview: Kamran Baradaran