Picture: Russian revolutionary poster
Russia: How the Bureaucracy Seized Power
by George Collins
Russia: How the Bureaucracy Seized Power, is a marvellous introduction to the events in Russia from the successful revolution of 1917 to the consolidation of power by Stalin.
Editor's note on this pamphlet:
This pamphlet was written in 1987 by George Collins, then a member of the South African section of the Committee for a Workers’ International, which was called the Marxist Workers' Tendency of the African National Congress. Its main publication was called ‘Inqaba ya Basebenzi’, or "workers’ fortress".
The pamphlet was written for the members of the South African section, at a time when the then white minority South African regime ruled by repression and apartheid. Apartheid was a brutal system of racial segregation and discrimination against the black majority in South Africa.
As the opening remarks make clear, substandard "Bantu education" denied the black majority access to a decent education. This made even more necessary a clear explanation of the events of the Russian Revolution of 1917, to which in the 1980s increasing numbers of workers and youth looked for inspiration in their struggle against apartheid and capitalism, but also an explanation of what went wrong in the Soviet Union and why.
The apartheid regime finally collapsed in 1994 after waves of revolutionary struggle whose origins can be found in the Soweto uprising of school students 1976 (which began as a struggle for better education) and in the founding and building of independent non-racial unions, in which the South African CWI section played a role.
The US affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), Socialist Alternative, scanned the pamphlet in for their website in 2000, and it is reproduced here with this preface, and with many thanks.
Not long after the pamphlet was written discussions began within the CWI about the developing crisis in the Stalinist states, and what would result. At a congress of the CWI in Belgium in December 1988, those who were soon to become the ‘Majority’ within the CWI raised the possibility of "bourgeois counter-revolution" – the restoration of capitalism in the USSR. (See, for instance, Peter Taaffe’s The Rise of Militant, p328.) Ted Grant, one of the founders of the Militant, did not accept this analysis. However the famous Berlin Wall, which separated the Stalinist East Berlin from West Berlin, fell in November 1989, Stalinism in the Soviet Union collapsed during 1991, and capitalism was restored. Documents on this website produced by the CWI majority and the minority group which followed Ted Grant are in the Collapse of Stalinism section.
Unfortunately Ted Grant had not understood the changed nature of the period marked by the impending collapse of the Stalinism. In South Africa this opened the door to a safe transfer of capitalism from the tottering apartheid regime to the increasingly pro-capitalist leadership of the mass movement of the black working class. The revolution was derailed for a period – a prospect also raised by what became the majority at the CWI gathering in Belgium in December 1988. Ted Grant refused to accept this perspective and persuaded, for a time, some of the leaders of the South African section of the CWI. As a result events after Mandela’s release in 1990 disorientated some in the South African CWI leadership.