A response to Mr Paresh Chattopadhyay on his claim on the October Revolution

Farooque Chowdhury

Thanks to Frontier, the famous weekly from Kolkata, for presenting Mister Paresh Chattopadhyay’s article “The October Revolution a legend, how they stood Marx on his head” (on-line edition, June 24, 2020). Because Frontier’s posting of the article has helped learn (1) the level and extent of illogic; (2) failure to understand (2.1) revolution, (2.2) class, (2.3) social process, (2.4) the perspective of the Great October Revolution, (2.5) relentless effort by a group of scholars to tarnish the October Revolution and the proletariat making the revolution, and (2.6) Marx; and (3) the density of a mechanical brain appearing scholarly.

Mr. Chattopadhyay, in the very 1st sentence of the article, declares his decision regarding defining the October Revolution by telling: “The seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in 1917 has been characterized by a section of the Left as a proletarian or socialist revolution.”

What’s the problem with the characterization by, as he writes, “a section of the Left”? Why does not he cite other characterizations by “other” sections of the Left? And, he’s also at liberty to cite other characterizations by others in other camps – the Right, the Right of the Right, the Mensheviks, the monarchists, and other birds of the same feather. Nevertheless, he doesn’t execute his that liberty as the execution of that liberty will expose his position – the position the Right/Right of the Right, the position the bourgeoisie/imperialists take. He feels shy to expose his position as he’s trying to appear as a defender of Marx.

Mr. Chattopadhyay in the next sentence cancels himself as he writes: “To start with, there is no factual evidence to confirm this.”

What’s Mr. Chattopadhyay’s, borrowing from his article, “factual evidence to confirm” his position? He again feels shy to present “factual evidence to confirm” his claim. He misses the fact that his position is void of factual evidence, rather falsification of facts.

In the following sentences, Mr. Chattopadhyay writes: “As a matter of fact, the working class or proletariat neither initiated nor led this coup de main. Instead both the initiative and the leadership were provided by a small group of radicalized intelligentsias, far removed from the locus of material production.”

It seems Mr. Chattopadhyay is an expert on coup and class. In addition, he’s so confident about his position that he doesn’t feel the need to cite, borrowing from him, any “factual evidence to confirm” his statement cited above – “the working class or proletariat neither initiated nor led this coup”, etc.

Shall any coup expert claim that a group or “a small group of radicalized intelligentsias” can initiate and lead a coup if there’s (1) no support from other (1.1) parts of the society or (1.2) other class(es)/parts of class(es), (2) no support from certain section of political force, (3) no favorable perspective for initiating and leading a coup? Is it possible to initiate and lead a coup by a small or big group of intelligentsias without any support? Can Mr. Chattopadhyay cite a single instance from any part of the world of such a coup he’s referring? He will fail to cite a single example, and prove that he doesn’t know anything about coup although he’s passing comments on a “coup”. Why not big groups of radicalized intelligentsias initiate and lead a coup if a small or big group of radicalized intelligentsias can initiate and lead a coup? It’s a challenge to Mr. Chattopadhyay.

A scholar like Mr. Chattopadhyay knows very well that not only coups, every political action require a political/social/economic perspective. Even, understanding Genghis Khan, Tamerlane and Hulagu Khan, and from legend, Rostam and Sohrab, or from Indian history, Aurangzeb, by disregarding respective perspective is a sheer nonsensical exercise. A careful reading of history, especially socio-economic-political history, a careful reading of the science and politics of coup, a careful reading of political actions and maneuvers with a class point of view will help learn the fact.

It is expected that Mr. Chattopadhyay will kindly provide an analysis/explanation of the following questions:
(1) Why not other big and bigger groups of radicalized or non-radicalized intelligentsia initiated and led the revolution at that time in Russia?
(2) Why they failed to initiate, etc.?
(3) Why were not the “small group” restrained by others with a mass following from initiating the revolution, etc.?
(4) Who were they that defended the coup initiated by the “small group” of intelligentsia?
(5) How the “small group” could foil all conspiracies, military moves, and military campaigns by the tsarists, bourgeoisie and imperialists”, face famine, plague/typhus, nationalize banks, factories, etc., reorganize economy, and consolidate political power despite encircled by all the imperialist powers?

Few more questions should be raised so that it turns easier for Mr. Chattopadhyay to realize the realty required for initiating and leading any coup. The questions are:
(1) Will it be possible to organize a social/sports/drama club in any community by a small group of intelligentsia, if not Mr. Chattopadhyay, without support from that community/people? In cases of social or political movements in any country, doesn’t similar question arise? And, the later question is much difficult than the prior question.
(2) Have not many heroic political acts by small groups of intelligentsia failed in many countries including India?
(3) Is it so simple to seize leadership/take control of any organization by a few individuals without support from majority of general members of the organization? In society, isn’t it impossible?

If coups, more than 400 over the last 60-70 years, organized and succeeded or failed, or coups prior to that period, are analyzed, the questions related to perspective, support, etc. can’t be ignored. Ignoring those will be nothing but stupidity with an appearance of scholarship, which carries no utility and value in political and theoretical area. Should not Mr. Chattopadhyay try to avoid that effort?

The questions raised above can also be formed inversely, and answers to the questions should be searched for defining the “coup de main” Mr. Chattopadhyay is trying to do, if he doesn’t bog himself down into fallacy.

Rest of the issues Mr. Chattopadhyay raised and referred to will be attended after getting answers to the questions raised above. Because if the claimed “coup de main” can be defined without confusion, the rest of the issues discussed in the article will be easier to grasp.

Mr. Chattopadhyay, it is hoped, knows well that any coup, successful or failed, is a political maneuver, which requires a historical-economic-social-political perspective. Without this perspective, no coup can gain success, make transition of power, consolidate its power. It’s also known to him that any coup has its dynamics, and the root of the dynamics is not in the hands and legs of a few individuals or of a small group of intelligentsias or in the chains of tanks and tires of armored carriers. Denying this fact is a failure to comprehend socio-politico process. And with this failure should one try to comprehend Marx and the October Revolution? That will be nothing, but an act to be defined as utter non-sense.

Now, for Mr. Chattopadhyay’s info, following are a few references from persons who were in to terms friend of Lenin, the Bolsheviks and the proletariat:
“In St. Paul’s Cathedral a Bishop repeated the same accusation [made by Lloyd George and Churchill]: ‘Labor is governing one of the greatest Empires of the world, Russia …’” (Richard Lee, Bolshevik Materialism and British Idealism: Lenin v Lloyd George, Richard Lee, Dundee, 1920)

It’s labor, not “a small group of radicalized intelligentsias,” Mr. Chattopadhyay, the Bishop referred to. Moreover, why the accusations have been made? Is the accusation without basis? Is it without class basis? Is it without class interest?

Then, comes Lloyd George who unwraps a fact: “There was throughout the Allied countries, especially amongst the propertied classes, an implacable hatred, born of a real fear, of Bolshevism”. (The Truth about the Peace Treaties, vol. I, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1938)

He admits: “The evidence that came home from our own most trusted and best informed agents in Russia convinced me that although the vast majority of the people were not Communists, they preferred Bolshevik rule to that of the supporters of the old regime, and that they certainly were not prepared to join in any military enterprises designed to restore the old conditions.”

Shall not any careful reader question: Why do the propertied classes in countries get scared with the Bolsheviks while the vast majority of the people prefer those Bolsheviks? The propertied classes were not scared of the tsarist rule, the bourgeoisie, the bankers, the Kornilovs, the Denikins, the Kolchaks – the tin generals and the self-promoted admirals, and a group of professors tarnishing the revolution.

What do these mean, Mr. Chattopadhyay? Has Lloyd George lost his orientation, which means class orientation/class interest? Should one ignore pertinent questions based on political science, a science it’s, not a propaganda with lies, and without facts?

L Schapiro in The Origin of the Communist Autocracy (1955) presents the October Revolution as a military operation with little popular involvement and as a result a dictatorship was imposed on the Russian people. (Steve Phillips, Lenin and the Russian Revolution, Heinemann Educational Publishers, Oxford, Great Britain, 2000)

Is it possible to face and defeat the imperialist military intervention, the civil war the tsarists and the imperialists imposed on Russia, “with”, as Mr. L Schapiro claims, “little popular involvement”, Mr. Chattopadhyay? What do common sense, which is, it’s said, rare, and knowledge about military science, society and politics suggest? These are not, as it’s said in Baanglaa, aashaare galpo – cock-and-bull-story.   

Kerensky, with his “unhistorical objectivity” as he claims in the “Introduction” of his The Catastrophe: Kerensky’s Own Story of the Russian Revolution, bombards his readers with his comments on the Bolsheviks at the book’s concluding part, a few of which are cited below:
“[A] long, most cruel and extremely bloody armed struggle of the Bolsheviki for power […]”
“The forcible seizure of the machinery of government by the Bolsheviki in November […]”.
“[T]he Bolsheviki have been able to deceive public opinion abroad”.
“[T]he unpardonable crime committed by Lenin: the violent coup d'état carried out in the name of a minority dictatorship”.
“[R]eactionary coup d'état of November seventh”.
“[D]emocratic enthusiasm on the part of Lenin and his lieutenants was mere demagogic play on the sentiments of the people”.
“[T]he Bolsheviki executed their reactionary coup d'état”.
“Bolshevist attack on the sovereign will of the people”.
“[B]ayonets of drunken Bolshevist sailors. Over the telephone from Smolny Institute Lenin demanded the shooting of the chosen representatives of the people.”
“[R]ifles of Lettish Sharpshooters, brought into Petrograd for the defense of the Bolsheviki against the people.”
“[T]he Bolsheviki justify their dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by asserting that the assembly was composed of the ‘class enemies of the workers and peasants.’ […] [T]he number of such enemies in the Constituent Assembly did not exceed fifteen.
“[T]he Bolshevist dictatorship”.
“Leninism represents the most complete political, social and economic reaction, unprecedented in the history of Europe. And like all reaction, the dictatorship of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Bolshevist party is utterly incapable of any gradual, evolutionary and peaceful readjustment of its substance.”
“Russia has during the ten years returned from the complete economic paralysis of the period of integral Leninism (1918-20), styled shamefacedly by the Bolsheviki as ‘military communism,’ through the ‘Nep’ [NEP] to purely capitalist forms. But this capitalism represents a most backward, primitive, avaricious and poorly productive order, based upon the most cruel exploitation of the workers and peasants.”
“Bolshevist reaction”.
“Social welfare, popular enlightenment, domestic order and international security will not be assured to the Russian people as long as the Bolsheviki continue to hold Russia in the grip of their party dictatorship.” (Kraus Reprint Co., New York, 1977; the first edition came out within years after the Revolution.)

Kerenskys like to make believe: “drunken” sailors succeeded in seizing power, organized a “primitive” productive order with “capitalist” forms, which, years later, demolished the Nazis possessing one of the mightiest war machines in the world although the Russian tsarist-bourgeois-imperialist military might was crumbling down during the First World War!!! Romanovs and their finance-capital-friends echo the same “rational” mind as of some professors appearing as “defender” of Marx today! How the “trembling” bayonets held by the “drunkards” could fail to miss their targets?

Now, shouldn’t Mr. Chattopadhyay ask a “who’s who” question: Who is condemned by whom? The answer will propel to the question: Why the condemnation? Does a powerful propertied class take into account a small group of radicalized intelligentsia? Moreover, is seizure of political power, even it’s by a small group of individuals/intelligentsia, possible without taking into account class alignment? If not possible, what was that class alignment, Mr. Chattopadhyay? Alternatively, is it, as Mr. Chattopadhyay, claims, possible by a small group of radicalized intelligentsia to overthrow a political power and seize power without taking into consideration class forces? Shouldn’t a scholar dissecting/analyzing a revolution present answer to the questions? A non-answer from the scholar will take away all authoritative positions the scholar claims.

Does Mr. Chattopadhyay like to deny Reed, the famous Ten Days …? Was that description a lie, Mr. Chattopadhyay? In addition, there is other, not even one, descriptions by the right, by the imperialists, by diplomats from imperialist countries staying in the cities considered center of storm during the revolution. Mr. Chattopadhyay is well versed with all these reports/correspondences/narrations/books. What he should do is only to dissect, and then find a class point of view. And, then, he has to plan a military campaign, to be organized by “a small group of radicalized intelligentsias”, over a vast land mass against a number of military forces charging from different directions, and backed by the world imperialist forces with huge supplies of weapons and ammunitions and cash. Mr. Chattopadhyay can initiate the exercise by organizing at least one university by “a small group of radicalized intelligentsias” in a small town or a big city.

I repeat, rest of the issues raised by Mr. Chattopadhyay in his illuminating article will be attended after having his response to the questions raised in the present article, as the responses will help dissect and expose those issues in Mr. Chattopadhyay’s exciting article.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.   

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Jul 5, 2020

Farooque Chowdhury

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