1917-2017: The Russian Revolution and its Relevance TodayDate Released: Mon, 23 October 2017 10:43 +0200
By Thandi Bombi
Veteran activist Oupa Lehulere and Rhodes University’s Lucien van der Walt presented a truly revolutionary lecture during the 2017 Labour Studies Seminar Series recently.
Lehulere called his paper 1917-2017 The Russian Revolution and its Relevance Today, a revolution for the 21st century. In looking at debates and issues that came out of the revolution, it is increasingly clear what forms revolutions will take.
“We are now back to revolutions having to be resolved on the terrain of the city, back to ground zero. We have to explore how the Russians got it right as revolutions in the city are immensely complex and difficult because of the deeply intractable status of the bourgeoisie order,” he said.
The first signs of its institutional complexity were seen with the uprisings in the Arab spring, where a revolution originated and you had a mass, dense occupation of the city and difficulties with what to do with the state and with the young masses.
Lehulere explained that theoretical and practical innovation set it apart from any other revolution ensuring that it offers an array of themes that can be drawn upon for discussion, including their abolishing of the death penalty, legalisation of same sex marriages, and ensuring women had an equal chance to vote.
Lehulere went on to speak about the working-class revolution, the revolution, violence, and the peasant uprising.
Lucien van der Walt as part of his lecture on the same theme warned that, “When we speak about things such as the Russian Revolution we also need to be quite careful not to simplify things”.
“Russia was the second biggest empire in the world in those days so when we talk about the revolution it is not just about the one day, the 17th of October, when parliament was abolished and the rule of the working class and peasantry was declared on the basis of council or soviet based government,” he explained.
Van de Walt went on to explain that one part of the revolution was a massive mutiny in the armed forces where billions of soldiers and sailors started to defy orders, elect committees, create council among themselves as soviets, and rebelled.
“What we are talking about here is a rapidly moving motion that starts off very modest and escalates as parliament proves unable to resolve issues of the people. There is an attempt to create a completely different system, one run by ordinary people through assemblies and democratic discussion on the basis of creating a new society,” said van de Walt.
Van de Walt went on to speak about the South African context, explaining that while it is possible to have reforms leading to a political revolution within capitalistic framework; massive changes on the scale seen in the Russian Revolution are not possible within the framework.
This was the last lecture of the year in the series organised by the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU) and the Departments of Sociology, History, and Economics and Economic History.