Speech by the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL A. Kyprianou at the event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution
Tuesday, 7th November 2017, Nicosia
“It was six o’clock. It was a heavy and cold night. Only a faint and pale, as if hopeful, light timidly reddened the silent streets, making the guards’ fires dull. The dawn of a tremendous dawn was rising above Russia.” This is how John Reed describes that day that shook the world. He continues to describe the following day: “Lenin walks up to the stand. He stands clutching the edge of the podium and stares at the mass of delegates with half-closed eyes, waiting without hearing, apparently and the growing cheering that went on for several minutes. When it stopped, he said shortly and simply: “Now is the time to move on to the reconstruction of the socialist order!”
That’s how that day which shook the world dawned. That’s how Red October dawned which gave a new impetus to the class social struggle. The October Revolution accelerated the revolutionary processes. It mobilized the national liberation movement of the enslaved peoples. The influence of the revolution was particularly catalytic in the creation of new working class parties.
The messages of October fell like a seed in every corner of the world. They quickly arrived in Cyprus too. They found a fertile ground and together with the maturing of objective conditions, led to the formation of the Communist Party of Cyprus, whose first cells began to be established early in the 1920’s.
The Great October Socialist Revolution was not an accident at some random moment in time. It was the outcome of the sharpening of contradictions at the level of Russian society, but also at an international level. The accumulation of these contradictions pressurized and broke the weak link. Russian society suffocated under the autocracy of Tsarism and powerful feudal remnants, especially in the rural economy. The First World War intensified the contradictions even more and speeded up the revolutionary processes. The October Revolution was the fruit of the mature objective socio-economic conditions that were demanding the overcoming of the many problems capitalism had accumulated. At the same time, they also demanded the construction of a new society, the society of Socialism.
In the second half of the 19th century, capitalism developed rapidly, with the development of a multitude of industries and factories. Monopolies were dominant in all major industries. Russia surpassed France and England in the degree of monopolization of industry and concentration of Banking Capital. At the same time, the working class was multiplying in mass numbers, reaching several million people, who lived primarily in the country’s political and economic centres.
From the summer of 1917, the working class and militant peasants, disillusioned by the petty bourgeois parties and appreciating the positions, consistency, militancy, but also the Bolsheviks’ vision of a new world, began to turn in mass numbers towards the Party of Lenin. By October 1917 the Bolshevik Party won the majority in the Soviets. The time of the socialist stage of the revolution had arrived. The proletariat, the truly revolutionary class, passed from theory to practice. The slogan “All power in the Soviets!” won the majority of the working class and subsequently quickly attracted millions of peasants and soldiers. The awareness that only socialism could take the country out of the deep crisis and open up new perspectives drove the entire Russian people into the battle for the revolution.
“We have made the start. When, at what date and time, and the proletarians of which nation will complete this process is not important. The important thing is that the ice has been broken; the road is open, the way has been shown”, wrote Lenin.
The construction of socialism in a country like Russia was not an easy task. However, the Bolsheviks seized the historic opportunity. The October Revolution was embraced by the Russian people as the only way forward to achieve a better tomorrow. The construction of socialism in the Soviet Union took place in extremely difficult conditions. Without any previous experience, surrounded by hostile forces, beginning construction with an economy that had been completely destroyed by the World War and the bloody civil war, the people of the Soviet Union managed to achieve great accomplishments and feats in all areas. The enormous creative forces that were liberated and the revolutionary enthusiasm gave power to the new state and generated progress in significant social fields. All this had been achieved in a very short period of time in terms of historical conditions.
The Soviet Union managed to become a great economic and military power on the eve of World War II. In the war that followed, it crushed Hitler Germany’s military machine and its allies, who had invaded its territory, contributing decisively to the Anti-fascist Victory of the Peoples. It liberated a number of European countries from the German Nazi occupation troops. In the struggle against the obscurantism and barbarity of Hitler-Fascism, more than 20 million Soviet citizens sacrificed their lives, while approximately 10 million others were left disabled or injured. These figures render the magnitude of the sacrifice and heavy burden and share of the Soviet people’s contribution to the struggle for the crushing of Nazism and fascism indisputable.
In the post-war years, the existence of the Soviet Union and the socialist countries was crucially important with regards international developments. The Soviet Union’s consistent stand based on principles on issues relating to peace and disarmament, which it staunchly defended from the podium of the United Nations and all international forums, is irrefutable.
In the 1960’s, the struggle of the peoples to shake off the colonial yoke and gain their national independence had a steadfast supporter and precious ally in the Soviet Union. The capitalist state’s imperialist designs faced in the country of the Soviets the deterrent, the opposing pole.
The position of the Soviet Union was also consistent and timeless on the Cyprus problem too, remaining a strong ally of Cyprus during all its difficult times. The Soviet Union was a constant supporter of the struggle of the Cypriot people for peace and reunification in all international podiums and forums, especially after 1974.
Under the leadership of the Communist Party, the Soviet state made leaps and bounds in the areas of social care, health, education and science. Thanks to the October Socialist Revolution, preconditions were created for realizing in practice popular rights that were unprecedented for working people, even for most developed capitalist countries.
Can anyone today imagine an economy with zero unemployment? A society with zero illiteracy?
Imagine a society where everyone has a roof over their head?
A society with full pensions and a social policy implemented for all those in need?
A society where people with disabilities have all their basic needs fully met with free education and vocational training?
A society where anyone without a family and who is constantly in need of assistance has full material support, specialized medical care and everyday needs satisfied, with regards recreation and leisure time too?
Can one envisage a society where women have a pregnancy and childbirth allowance amounting to 100% of their salary?
A society where all women have full access to maternity and gynecological departments of hospitals with 22 000 maternity counseling centres at their disposal?
A society where nurseries for large member or poor families are free of charge?
Where the health system is comprehensive, exclusively state-owned and completely free of charge? Where people with disabilities can graduate from more than two and a half thousand specialized schools?
Imagine a society in which there are more than four thousand institutions for the all-round development of children’s and adolescent’s capabilities and skills, channeling their social activity to enhance their interest in work, sciences, the arts and sports?
In the Soviet Union, the rights to permanent and stable employment, free education, health and medical care, social welfare and housing for all were self-evident. Within a few years of the Socialist Revolution, unemployment had disappeared. In the 1970’s in the Soviet Union, the 41-hour working week was applied with a 5 working day week and 2 days off. Social security for workers and employees covered around 90% of the population. The Constitution guaranteed every citizen of the country the right to full and free medical treatment. The prices for drugs and medication were the lowest in the world. In 1976 the Soviet Union had 862,000 doctors of all specialties, with approximately 35% of the total number of doctors throughout the world. The position of Soviet trade unions in society and their rights was explicitly enshrined in the Constitution itself.
For the first time in the world, the right to housing was constitutionally safeguarded. Despite the massive destruction of cities during the Second World War and the turn to industrial production, which meant the concentration of a large population in cities created increased housing needs, socialism managed to respond to them. Thus, most of the homes were granted by the state free of charge to the population.
From 1919 onwards, compulsory education of all illiterate people had been introduced for all ages from 8 to 50 years. More than 75% of the working people in the Soviet Union had acquired higher or full middle secondary education, while illiteracy – which in 1917 affected 67% of the population of this enormous country – was quickly eradicated. Student youth enjoyed many privileges that literally covered all areas of their life. Free education existed in all forms of education and vocational education, including scholarships received by those who attended higher education establishments and technical schools, but also regulated employment in the specialty of student’s choice.
In the Soviet Union, the prevailing view was that not everyone could become a professional artist, but each person must be able to understand art. The system of artistic education aimed at introducing the arts to every child, every young person and to distinguish between talents. At the same time, the development of sports and special education gave the possibility of providing sports education to all without exception.
All these progressive radical changes in Soviet society also had a catalytic effect on the states that remained in the orbit of capitalism. The political and trade union movements of the capitalist states took examples from the development of Soviet society and substantial gains achieved; universal suffrage, recognition of political and trade union freedoms, eight-hour working day, labour laws and social insurance. It is no exaggeration to claim that the rights and social welfare enjoyed by the Soviet people became a mechanism that put pressure on the capitalist states and became a beacon of gains for the popular and trade union movements.
The change in the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries was the result of fierce attacks and the severe siege of all kinds imposed by the capitalist states. It was however also a result of the distortion of the essence and scientific foundations of socialism. It was the consequence of mistakes, omissions and crimes committed; the shrinking of democracy, the personality cult that had evolved, the dogmatism in theory, and the mistakes that were made. All of this is a painful page in the history of the Soviet Union, beyond and alien to the very nature of socialism.
It is, however, one thing to calmly and objectively examine and assess history and another thing for the whole discussion to be conducted in the context of a ridiculous anti-communism. It is ridiculous to attempt, for example, to identify socialism with Nazism and Fascism. It represents first and foremost an insult to a power that crushed the military machine of Hitler Germany and its allies; a power and force that liberated a number of countries in Europe from the German occupation troops. It is an insult to the 20 million people of the Soviet Union who sacrificed their lives to save humanity from the inhuman ideology of Nazism.
It is absurd to identify socialism with Nazism. What relation can the philosophy, content, and values of socialism have with inhuman Nazism? Fascism and Nazism bequeathed Auschwitz and the sick idea of hatred and oppression to humanity. Socialism, despite all its mistakes, distortions and weaknesses, bequeathed social, scientific and cultural progress. It bequeathed principles, values, and ideals that are focused and serve people themselves and their needs. It bequeathed the valuable experience of a qualitatively superior society from which the modern communist movement draws precious lessons for the future. No reasonable person, even if he/she disagrees with socialism, can agree with such sickening approaches.
At the end of the 1980’s, capitalism remained without an opponent. The triumphalism about the overthrow of a supposed unfree, totalitarian and suffocating for the individual initiative of socialism ushered in the so-called “New World Order”. It is a fact that the productive forces grew tremendously under conditions of capitalism. There have been advances in science and technology.
However, capitalism has remained a social system that generates and regenerates exploitation, poverty, hunger and humiliation; a system that gives many opportunities, but for the privileged few and not for all; a system that grants selective rights depending on one’s financial capacity; a system that has grown old, but refuses to die. Capitalism remains a social system where production is socialized to the highest degree as a result of the labour of billions of people. Unfortunately, however, the result of this labour is in the hands of a small number of exploiters. All of capitalism’s evils, including the international economic crisis, are due to this fundamental contradiction. Under its weight, the fundamental principles of the operation of capitalism and the neoliberal conservative model were crushed.
Lenin said that in modern capitalism, free competition is becoming a monopoly because of the increasing concentration of production in the hands of a few companies. Lenin’s position, like many others he supported, has proved to be correct; life itself has confirmed it with capitalism’s modern reality. The recent economic crisis stemmed from the inherent contradictions of capitalism, and the elements that make up the neo-liberal model intensified its depth and breadth. As Marx had predicted years ago, the “credit crunch” that emerged is a crisis of the “real economy.”
“If Karl Marx and V. I. Lenin were alive today, they would be leading contenders for the Nobel Prize in economics. Marx predicted the growing misery of working people, and Lenin foresaw the subordination of the production of goods to financial capital’s accumulation of profits based on the purchase and sale of paper instruments. Their predictions are far superior to the “risk models” for which the Nobel Prize has been given and are closer to the money than the predictions of Federal Reserve chairmen, US Treasury secretaries, and Nobel economists such as Paul Krugman, who believe that more credit and more debt are the solution to the economic crisis”, said Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the “Wall Street Journal”, in response to numerous theories that were being promoted and tried to explain the economic crisis.
This statement replies by itself to all those forces and circles who insist that History has already supposedly surpassed Marxism-Leninism. We, as a Marxist-Leninist Party, are guided by this specific outlook “that develops with the relentless progress of knowledge and economic and political development”. For us, capitalism is not the end of the road. We believe in historical evolution, the vision and prospect of another world, the world of socialism.
Our mission demands from us that we should constantly look ourselves in the mirror. Self-criticism, work and continuous effort to improve both organizational and political issues are demanded. Mass broad action in innovative ways. Renewal and work among the young generation and the class-orientated trade union movement. Strong and even more intense political work with our Members of Parliament who should be everywhere, with the people, the working people and in society. Above all belief in our ideals and values, liveliness and a purpose in our actions, respect and devotion to our principles of operation.
Only in this way will AKEL remain a class-based and ideologically-oriented Party, consistent and at the forefront of the struggles waged in favour of working people and the popular strata; a Party consistent with its long-standing positions and policy for Cyprus, the people, the workers and the common people; a Party with a glorious, rich and militant past whose entire activity and struggles demonstrate that History is before it; that its positions at each given moment look to the future. A Party united and powerful politically, organizationally and ideologically. A Party with a comprehensive political proposal on the small and big issues that concern the country, but also with a consistent presence outside the Parliament, where political, labour, social and human rights struggles are waged. A strong Party, a powerful People’s Movement of the Left that can lead at the forefront of political and social struggles that are coming, with the same consistency, the same seriousness and the same credibility that characterize it. A Party that is the alternative voice, the strong voice of all Cypriots; a strong voice to assert reunification, peace, progress and prosperity for all.
I am sure that you have all noticed that as a political force supporting the independent candidacy of Stavros Malas, AKEL is and remains a consistent, serious and stable voice that supports the reunification of the country and has a specific, clear and steadfast perception of how we shall achieve it. It is therefore very important in these elections to wage the battle united, determined and strong so as to ensure that this country has a future; that the fate of Cyprus will not be sacrificed to the aspirations of a President who has nothing to give, nothing to offer to the country and a candidate who proposes a dangerous and adventurist policy that can only lead us to adventures. The future of Cyprus cannot and must not be sacrificed in the wake of their economic policy. I say this because the policies of Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Papadopoulos on the economy are the same. They are identical. Constantly and continuously, Mr. Papadopoulos voted for all of Mr. Anastasiades’ bills in Parliament in favour of privatizations, foreclosures, looting in the welfare state and health sector and many others.
For all these reasons and for so many others, we must wage the battle as one fist. We have to go out and be everywhere with the people, wherever the people of work, the young generation, elderly toilers, farmers, workers and the unemployed are in order to convey our message, that there is choice; that there is a victorious choice; that the hope for real change exists; that there is a trustworthy, unblemished and honest person with whom we are united by many things, but above all, Cyprus’ future unites us.
One of the Red October messages is that no constitution gives you the vanguard in the hearts and minds of the people. Nor are you the vanguard force by law. You conquer the vanguard role through your daily struggle for the good of the common people. You conquer it by your day-to-day example.
So let us all, and so many others, be the example we want to convey. Let’s make our political message the mark of the vision we have for the coming years, for the future of Cyprus, for our own future!
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