By GENE H. McINTYRE
Americans not now interested in Russia may want to reconsider that indifference. After all, while Russia may no longer export internationally, it hasn’t stopped trying to involve itself in the internal affairs of other countries, namely, for one salient example, the U.S.A.
An essay, titled What Ever Happened to the Russian Revolution, by American writer Ian Frazier, that appeared in the October issue of Smithsonian, brings much light to those in search of understanding Russia, a nation most often nowadays depicted here as an arch enemy. One notice that heralds our attention is that the Russian Revolution marks its centennial this year.
Before that landmark year, 1917, Russia experienced for a hundred years, great disorder mixed with a whole lot of political violence. Its considerable contributions to literature previously became a backdrop to revolution unlike the world had ever seen. Frazier commented in his article that “today, a hundred years afterward, we still don’t know what to make of that huge event” while the Russian people themselves, he says, “aren’t too sure about its significance.”
Of course, the Russian Revolution took time to complete and, while underway in momentous happenings, for a long time prior to actualization, required most of a year to bring to the Bolshevik foundation of a new order. There had been drastic failures in trying to deal with the people who worked the land, the shortcomings of an inept autocracy to address an exploding industrial society, the inadequacies of the Romanovs, and, among so many other matters not redressed, the deplorable conditions of land-born workers who were living in squalid conditions in Petrograd and other Russian industrial cities.
The Russian people writ large reached a point of critical mass where they screamed something like ‘we’re mad as hell and will not take it any more.’ As you may remember there were many individuals and groups vying for top dog status while Lenin’s Bolsheviks ultimately succeeded at grabbing the baton of power. However, a Socialist revolution encompassing the entire world came up far short of the glorious expectations of the Bolsheviks. Fact of the matter is, there was not another country in the world at the time that followed Russia’s attempt at world leadership.
Eventually, there were others who followed. China’s revolution, by far, added the most people under Communist rule. It remains the most significant nation among any who had leaned toward or tried Communism to embrace Lenin’s dream of a worldwide proletarian uprising. Fifty years after the 1917 revolution, about one-third of the world’s population was under a version of Communism; however, even among them, now, they’ve swung toward a market-based economy.
But the Bolsheviks in our time have not gone en mass to their graves. Instead, they’ve found mischievous ways to intrude themselves into a presence throughout the world and, most poignantly, recently, U.S. elections and those of several other Western democracies.
Nevertheless, there would not have been a Soviet Union without Lenin. Today, Lenin would likely be disappointed that a Marxist utopia never materialized. Yet, the way he got things done may be what’s his greatest contribution to a Russia without the USSR. You see, it’s Lenin’s tactics that are alive and well in 2017.
Russia is now more capitalistic than communistic but what you see in the workings of President Vladimir Putin is that his takes care of his friends, holds power absolutely and will not compromise with anyone. But you see Lenin in America, too, where the strictest rules of partisanship prevail while President Trump’s pal, Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon, has said that he’s a Leninist who wants to bring everything crashing down and destroy America’s establishment.
However imperfect and divided our nation, it just seems as though there are enough of us who view our way of life important enough to fight to preserve rather than surrender to Bolsheviks, Steve Bannon and their ilk. The alternative being a form of the Soviet Union that Russia’s evolved into where nothing works well and the only national objective is to try to take the freedoms and rule of law away from countries like ours with an 200-year effort underway for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)