The Bolsheviks and the Tragedy of the October Revolution Essay

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The Bolsheviks and the Tragedy of the October Revolution

The majority of the people are with us. The majority of the working and oppressed people all over the world are with us. Ours is the cause of justice. Our victory is assured."1

"October was a classic coup d'état, the capture of governmental power by a small minority, carried out-without mass engagement."2

The October Revolution was perhaps the most momentous event of the twentieth century. It led to the creation of the Soviet Union, the first avowedly Communist nation in history, which was to become a global superpower, an inspiration to many, an object of the hatred of many more. Possibly more important was the role the memory of the October Revolution played in the
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The October Revolution was interpreted quite differently by those hostile to the Communist leaders of the Soviet Union. In their "‘top-down' histories of the Russian Revolution- the common people appeared as the passive objects of the evil machinations of the Bolsheviks."4 The Bolsheviks cynically adopted populist and anarchist slogans in order to recruit the masses as foot soldiers in their own quest for power. If any apparent support for the October Revolution was seen among the masses, it was the product of ignorance, skilled propaganda and a supple improvisation by the Bolsheviks themselves, who "transformed their elite operation into a temporary mass organization"5 to seduce the Russian masses. The ‘socialist reality of October' was imaginary, and the Revolution itself was an "amateur police operation" masked with expert propaganda to give "an appearance of proletarian legitimacy"6

Both of these interpretations are heavily politicized. The former's purpose was to establish the legitimacy of the Soviet Union as the genuine embodiment of the will of the Russian Proletariat, the authentic People's State. The latter was meant to strip the USSR of that legitimacy and expose the oppressive and unpopular dictatorship that ruled the country with an iron fist. As is not uncommon in such situations, both of these interpretations
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