This year, progressive peoples all over the world celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Great Socialist October Revolution as the most significant event in the history of oppressed and exploited humanity.
The celebration rally organised by the CPGB-ML took place on Saturday 10 November at Saklatvala Hall, Southall, where a packed hall proudly recognised that in the 90 years since this momentous event the world had changed beyond recognition and, notwithstanding the wave of counterrevolutions in eastern Europe, it has changed for the better.
The earth-shaking events and the international significance of the October Revolution were demonstrated by the wide experiences of the speakers at our rally. Following the film, Lenin in October, which reminded all present of the dramatic events that ushered in the era of proletarian revolutions, messages and speeches focussed on various aspects of the importance of these events for the working-class movement today.
Extracts of contributions by our two honoured guests – Jack Shapiro (long-time communist in the British working-class movement) and Henry Metelmann (anti-war activist with vivid experiences of the Red Army victory at Stalingrad) – and by Harpal Brar, Chair of CPGB-ML and editor of Lalkar, are reproduced below.
The rally received greetings from the Chinese, Cuban and Venezuelan Embassies, who were unable to attend owing to other political functions. The rally also welcomed comrades Jong In Song from the DPRK Embassy and He Dalong from Xinhua News Agency.
Comrade Jong In Song brought warm greetings from the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea to the CPGB-ML on this important occasion. He said that “millions of members of the WPK join with you in this celebration” as “we are the inheritors of the ideas of socialism today”.
Comrade He Dalong, while bringing greetings to the celebration, also spoke of the progress made by the Communist Party of China in strengthening China and making its contribution to the world revolution.
A message was also received from the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
Comrades, you have honoured me by asking me to speak on the occasion of celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Great October Revolution. As Lalkar and the CPGB-ML leaflet for this occasion so rightly say, the echoes of that event still reverberate throughout the world.
That it was possible that Lenin and the Bolsheviks had forged a party of a new type dedicated to the overthrow of the horrible tsarist regime and were succeeding in creating a society of a new kind still gives nightmares to the ruling classes. Once it could be shown that soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers could rally to the slogan of ‘Peace, Bread and Freedom’ and use their strength to overthrow a rotten ruling class, this then marked the beginning of the end of capitalism.
The newly formed Red Army won splendid victories and proved that the leadership of such great leaders as Stalin, Voroshilov and Budyonny made the Red Army invincible. That struggle to build the Soviet Union was soon challenged from within. Trotsky, Bukharin, Radek, Zinoviev, Kamenev and others, who had no faith in the working class led by the Bolsheviks, plotted and schemed to undermine the building of the new socialist society. Eventually these wreckers such as Khrushchev, Yeltsin and Gorbachev were able to undermine the Soviet Union and the eastern European democratic socialist countries.
Such wreckers still abound, and the Trotskyists never cease to point out that from the beginning Trotsky led the way in undermining the idea that it was possible to build a socialist society in the Soviet Union. Now that they and their allies have temporarily succeeded, they are full of glee. But the Marxist-Leninist ideas are still strong even in the former Soviet Union.
Our enemies know that the idea of socialism in the countries formerly under US control are shaking off their shackles and looking for a socialist way forward. The mighty 80-million-strong Communist Party of China is leading the way with its own programme of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. In a short period, they have shown that they can match and out-perform the leading world economy of the US.
Comrades, you are building a party of a new type. Based on Marxism Leninism and rooted in the working class and led by our brilliant Marxists, this shows that even in the oldest bourgeois system the way forward is clear and with growing strength and firm adherence to Marxism Leninism the difficulties ahead can be overcome.
Lenin established the motto for the newly formed Young Communist League in the Soviet Union: “Man’s dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that dying he might say – all my life and all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world – the fight for the liberation of mankind.” (How the Steel Was Tempered by Nikolai Ostrovsky)
Long live the October revolution!
Born in 1922, Henry Metelmann was a young boy growing up at the time the Nazis were coming to power. Henry spoke about how he was told in school in Hamburg “that the October Revolution enslaved the Russian people and we should do all in our power to prevent such events happening in Germany; we should combat it wherever we could so as to help the Russian people”.
“After losing WW1 there was extreme unemployment and unrest in Germany. My father was a railway worker on very poor wages, life was very hard. When I saw Hitler at rallies I believed he was the greatest man on earth and I thought it was my duty to follow him.”
Henry came from a working-class background and was lured by Nazi propaganda into joining the Hitler Youth, which gave him opportunities to do things that were not otherwise available to poor people. He was influenced by Nazi propaganda, against the advice of his father, who knew a bit about working-class politics. He said: “I joined the Hitler youth because all my friends were there; I liked the leather uniforms, marching and, I have to admit, loudly singing anti-Jewish songs.”
He remembered that he had asked his father “‘Why do the Hitler Youth march in the working-class districts and not in the rich areas?’ and he said it was because the Nazis wanted to warn working-class people not to repeat something like what happened in Russia”. Henry also admitted that he did not listen to his father’s advice even though his father knew what was coming. Henry recalled “Once early in the morning in our block of flats our neighbour, a trade-union secretary, was taken away to a concentration camp – this was done to frighten us all.”
At 18, Henry was conscripted into the 22nd Panzer division and became a tank driver. He said “we thought we were the master race”. He spoke of his brash German chauvinism against the local French population, as well as joking with us about the attitude then to the English – on seeing the coast across the channel he had threatened: “We will make those bastards drive on the right side of the road.”
His first experience of actual warfare was with Manstein’s army invasion of the Crimea. He had believed the Russians would be a pushover, until the Red Army, through enormous persistence and brilliant tactics, prevented the Nazis capturing Stalingrad. At the time Henry was shocked that “Even when we Germans held 80 percent of the town, we could not capture the last few metres to the Volga and the Red Army kept its supply lines open all the time.”
The strength of the Red Army forced Paulus’ Sixth Army to surrender, and Henry was part of the massive retreat from Stalingrad. The invincibility of the Nazi war machine had been broken by the Red Army; this was the turning point in the war against Nazi fascism.
Henry Metelmann’s personal experiences of these historic events, his conversations with Russians, etc, got him thinking. As a communist and an anti-war activist he now proudly salutes the Red Army and what they did in saving the world from fascism.
Significance of October for us
Harpal Brar concluded the rally with inspiring reminders of four reasons why the bourgeoisie hate the October Revolution.
First, it shook imperialism to its foundations in its heartlands, by showing that working people could overthrow the old society, capitalism, and could build a new society, socialism; it established the superiority of the Soviet system over bourgeois parliamentarism.
Second, it struck deadly blows in the periphery of imperialism; it helped to undermine imperialist domination of colonial and dependent countries. The brotherhood and fraternal cooperation among the proletarians and peasant masses in the nations of the USSR became an infectious example. The USSR became a beacon of enlightenment and liberation, a citadel of fraternal harmony and rapprochement among workers and peasants of different nationalities, races and religions – a reliable friend, ally and source of support in the struggle of oppressed nations against imperialism. Thus, national liberation movement in the colonies and proletarian revolutionary movements in the centres of imperialism merged into a mighty torrent of progressive humanity.
Third, the very existence of the Soviet Union, its work in all fields of socialist construction, its fraternal and selfless support for the proletarian and national liberation movement everywhere, its struggle against imperialist war and for the preservation of peace, provided a base for the aspirations and strivings of the peoples of the world. Harpal spoke of the living example recounted by Henry Metelmann of what the Soviet Army was able to do – not just the army but the Soviet system that produced the Red Army that defeated the so-called invincible military machine of German fascism.
Fourth, it demonstrated the triumph of the ideology of Marxism Leninism; the victory of Marxism over reformism; the victory of Leninism over social democracy. Prior to October 1917, social democracy had renounced the dictatorship of the proletariat but still flaunted the banner of Marxism; after October, it was impossible for social democracy to flaunt that banner and it dropped it never to pick it up again.
Harpal emphasised that Marxism has not collapsed; no movement in the world had achieved in 150 years as much as our movement; it spread over one third of the surface of the globe comprising a quarter of its population. The reactionary times we have faced in recent years, he continued, are not because the Marxist system failed, but because, following the departure from Marxism that occurred since Khrushchevite revisionism triumphed at the 20th Congress of the CPSU, revisionism collapsed in 1991 and capitalism was restored in the once glorious Soviet Union.
Finally, Harpal declared we too here in Britain must hold high the banner of Marxism Leninism. In fighting for socialism, we must learn from the October Revolution by building anti-imperialist unity through supporting the oppressed nations in their just struggles against imperialism in the periphery, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, etc; by supporting proletarian and progressive movements in North Korea, China and Latin America; and by fighting against the agents of imperialism here, especially social democracy as represented by the Labour Party.
To truly achieve these aims, we need to build our party, a Leninist party of the proletariat, so that we can justly say, in the famous words of Nicolai Ostrovsky referred to by Jack, that we gave our life to “the fight for the liberation of mankind”.
Following a rousing chorus of The Internationale, comrades and friends continued the celebration informally through discussions, along with good food and drink.