Is Russia socialist communist or capitalist

October Revolution

Abraham Ascher

To person

Ph.D., born 1928; Distinguished Professor of History (emeritus), Graduate Center, City University of New York / USA
Email: [email protected]

The 20th century can be seen as the age in which revolutionary Russia sought to establish a new social, economic and political (world) order.


The (communist) movement is advancing at such a pace that we can say out of conviction: in just one year we will begin to forget that there was even a struggle for communism in Europe, because within a year all of Europe will become communist "[1] This is what Grigory Zinoviev, president of the recently launched Third Communist International (Comintern), prophesied in the spring of 1919. For someone who belonged to a political party, the 1905 - during the first Russian revolution - all rolled into one Country with 130 million inhabitants about 8,400 and in August 1917, three months before they came to power, only had 80,000 members, [2] this was a brisk prophecy.

Zinoviev was not the only optimist among the communists: in 1919 and 1920, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the undisputed leader of the party, devoted a tremendous amount of energy and time to fueling the revolution in Europe and other parts of the world. Lenin's expectations of success also seemed limitless. When he learned in early 1919 that a five-day general strike had taken place in Seattle, he persuaded himself that "Soviet-style councils" had been set up in America, "which sooner or later will take power into their own hands" ] Lenin believed that the war years had undermined capitalism and radicalized the working class.
Street scene in Petrograd (later St. Petersburg) in May 1917. People seek protection from machine gun fire. (& copy picture-alliance / AP)

Today we are inclined to smile at these predictions. Yet in the 20th century, Russia's revolutionary rhetoric and the policies of the Soviet Union were watched with great concern by many thoughtful and influential people in the West - not only on the right-hand side of the political spectrum, but also by liberal and moderate socialists. Between 1917 and 1991, the Soviet Union played a decisive role in all the important events that influenced the course of world history: when the National Socialists came to power in 1933, in World War II, in the division of Europe, in the Cold War from 1947 to the 1980s, in the Development of nuclear weapons, the independence of the colonies in Africa, Asia and elsewhere as well as in the conflicts in the Middle East. All too often the involvement of the Soviet Union resulted in unintended consequences from communist leaders. Either way, it had a tremendous impact on 20th century history.