Today marks the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. I don’t have much time. I have a book review to finish, a 50-minute presentation to give, and a collective 40 pages of paper to write by the end the month. So let’s discuss some fun facts!
I want to talk about this particular event in history because I think it helped shape a lot of opinions about successful economy and leadership. Yet, people don’t remember it for the centuries of oppression that led to the uprising of the lower class. They remember it for the decades of oppression that followed the overturning of a people’s revolution into a vicious dictatorship.
The Bolshevik Revolution is commonly referred to as “Red October” because Russia was still using the Julian calendar at the time. For us, it’s November 7th. For Russians at the time, it was October 25th. In short (in very very short) the Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the oppressive Czarist autocracy, only to soon redirect its passionate cause and replace it with another oppressive autocracy. Our main man Joseph Stalin got tired of Leon Trotsky’s annoying peppy attitude, charming charisma, and rhetorical skill. Trotsky gets banished to Mexico (I mean, where else?) where he is eventually assassinated. You can’t be too careful.
29 years later, George Orwell published Animal Farm to definitely not underline the hypocrisy of the Soviet Communist Party after the banishment of Trotsky–erm, I mean Snowball–the movement’s most charismatic, if naive polit–PIG. Charismatic pig. It’s about a farm, guys.
Just kidding. It is 100% and not at all subtly a political allegory. You know it. I know it. Orwell knows it. We live in an honest, civilized society. We don’t get beheaded for this sort of thing anymore. In most places. Critical of totalitarianism, Orwell demonstrated that any government, even a system of economy and administration driven by the people and for the people, can slowly devolve into corruption and oppression under the thumb of an imposing and bullheaded leader. What followed Animal Farm in the United States were several decades of fear-mongering tactics that painted communism and socialism, not the tyranny of irresponsible leaders, as the enemies of freedom; this fear of oppression fueled the capitalist economy as it spread like wildfire. I mean the Industrial Revolution train had already gained momentum by then and was quite steadily rumbling along on its tracks (pun completely intended) but I think the crippling fear of communism probably helped, right?
Fast forward to 2009. Mark Fisher publishes Capitalist Realism to describe “the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.” According to Fisher, we are more likely to witness the apocalypse than we are the end of capitalism. Yeah, that just about sums up America. Cue fireworks and hot dogs.
So here we are today. Nothing has changed as much as it has just gotten bigger, madder, and more stubborn. Capitalism in America is all but derailed and plowing over farms, hospitals, and common people. Russia is still under the control of an oppressive czar, apparently. Bit of a stretch, but I’ll bite.
While we wallow in our collective hate for red things and social movements, let’s remember to avoid misguiding our opinions and intentions towards the wrong object. The Bolshevik Revolution was meant to save the people, not enslave them again. Communism was Karl Marx’s way of saving the economy, not enslaving it again. Russians are just citizens of one part of the world under the leadership of a morally ambiguous president. Americans are just citizens of one part of the world under the leadership of a morally ambig–wait I said that already. Hah!
What I mean is, try not to reject an idea just because you don’t understand it. Try not to reject a person for their country’s political leadership. Try not to let fear or ignorance drive your conclusions. We’re all people and we all suck. Especially as of late. Look at yourselves, man. Geez. Maybe it’s about time to mitigate our suck? Maybe, and this is just a friendly suggestion, we can try to suck a little bit less once in a while?
You’re right. It’s a ridiculous pipe dream. If we stop sucking, capitalism might actually work the way it’s supposed to. Workers would get paid fairly, the free market wouldn’t abuse its consumers, and entrepreneurs would actually suffer financial consequences for cheating their way to wealth. I mean the tyranny of it all. We can’t have it. To stifle our economy like that? It makes me sound like a communist or some shit.