1967 marked the 50th year of the Russian Revolution of 1917 which saw the abdication of Russia's last Czar, Nicholas II and the emergent of the Bolshevik Party. Professor A. Nove offered his assessment  of the Soviet Union in the November 1967 city edition of The Glasgow Herald:

"...On November 7 1917, an ill-armed and undisciplined mob of Red Guards stormed the seat of Government, the troops available for its defence consisted of a company of Cossacks (adventurers) and a women's battalion. (Whereas) the Czars once could call on blind loyalty, the well-meaning and civilized men who composed the provisional Government were unable to devise decisive policies or to acquire any sense of legitimacy in the eyes of the masses. (Vladimir) Lenin and the Bolsheviks had the boldness, the ruthlessness, the organizational capacity, to ride the revolutionary storm, to use an elemental peasant-and-soldier rebellion to achieve power, and to hold that power against many enemies in a destructive civil war (ended in 1920). 

"By 1921, the Bolsheviks were ruling a starving country, with industry at a standstill. Once victory was won the peasants demanded freedom to sell their produce, and Lenin, in order to preserve his grip on power, had to give way. The centralized control of the State over the economy, which had characterized the period of so-called 'War Communism', was succeeded by a compromise: private enterprise was allowed to function in trade and petty manufacturing, and peasants were allowed to sell, or not to sell, as they pleased, instead of having their produce compulsorily acquired by the State for virtually nothing. 

"At this turning-point of Soviet history Lenin wrote in his personal papers the phrase: 1794 versus 1921. He even underlined it 3 times. What he meant was this: in 1794, once victory was won, (Maximilien) Robespierre and the Jacobins (a political club of the French Revolution) had been overthrown by the French bourgeois classes with the strong support of the property-owning peasants, anxious to preserve the land they had gained in the revolution. The Bolsheviks studied French history carefully. Lenin decided that he would avoid the fate of Robespierre by giving way to the pressure of the peasants – but he would retain power and resume the socialist offensive in due course. Many consequences followed this. If the Bolsheviks were to rule Russia, with its vast peasant majority, all other parties had to be finally suppressed. The Bolsheviks then had to ban factions and organize periodic purges in their own ranks, since otherwise the opposition, denied the right to organize outside the party, would find expression within it.

"Leninism of its essence is an affirmation of the right and duty of a socialist minority to change society from above. This is where it differs essentially from the more moderate Marxist social-democratic groups, which believed that conditions for socialism had first to ripen within society. Nobody doubted that underdeveloped, predominantly peasant Russia was not 'ripe'. She was to be forced forward under Bolshevik rule. At first Lenin hoped that this task would be facilitated by socialist revolutions in other and more advanced countries. But Russia remained isolated. So the Bolshevik Party had to organize itself to act as the effective rulers of Russia. Lenin saw only the beginning of this process, before disease struck him down (Lenin died in 1924).

"He did not like the bureaucratisation of the regime, or (Josef) Stalin, who played the leading role in this process. Yet the process was logical, indeed inescapable. The one-party State meant that the Party had to be a disciplined, tightly knit group, organized to operate within a basically alien environment. To do this effectively required strict subordination, hierarchy, central control over the disposal of party cadres.

"All this suited Stalin's special gifts. He used the logic of the situation to outmanoeuvre far more brilliant party intellectuals, such as (Leon) Trotsky or (Nikolai) Bukharin, and to put his own men into key positions. His own men tended to be uneducated, boorish activists who had risen in the party under civil war conditions. For them the forced compromise with the private sector was at best a painful and temporary necessity.

"In mid-1920s Stalin at first sided with the moderates among his collegues until with their help Trotsky was defeated (in 1927) and exiled (to Mexico in 1936). Then he took a number of decisions which drastically affected Soviet history in the following decades. Stalin encouraged the growth of Russian nationalism. Of course, he was himself a Georgian. But then Napoleon had been a Corsican. National pride is a potent factor, and Stalin eliminated the old Marxist historians and substituted a new view of the past, glorifying his great predecessors, Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great.

"The Communist International (Comintern) was severely purged, and became an obedient adjunct of Soviet foreign policy, before being abolished during the war (in 1943)….(After World War II) came the Cold War...The Cold War then served as an excuse to reassert the need for vigilance. Vigorous steps were taken to stop all unauthorized contacts with the West. Mass arrests continued. So did tight centralization of the economy, and Stalin was more than ever presented as an infallible demi-god or philosopher-king. But he was not immortal. After his death (in 1953) the forces making for change made considerable headway…

"Soviet Russia is today (back in November 1967) a new kind of society, ruled by an oligarchy devoted to economic expansion and technical progress, anxious to provide more of its citizens with the comforts of life. All past revolutionaries eventually become conservative; there is no reason to expect Russia to be an exception 50 years after…Of course the Cold War is still with us (in 1967)…and no doubt the Soviet leadership will do their best to extract maximum political advantage from them...Yet ideology will retain its great importance, if only because without it the Party will lack legitimacy in Russia itself. For despite some economic reforms, it is very unlikely that the leadership will contemplate any modification of its powers over society, the economy, and political life."

Seventy four years after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, "the world watched in amazement" the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991, when 15 countries making up the Soviet Union seceded. It was reported, "Its collapse was hailed by the West as a victory for freedom, a triumph of democracy over totalitarianism, and evidence of the superiority of capitalism over socialism."

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