“The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union” edited by Laurie Stoff. Greenhaven Press, 2006.
This small book is part of a series titled “Opposing Viewpoints in World History.” They print opposing views of essential junctures of history. This one has an essay saying they must overthrow the Tsar and another saying they mustn’t. The two opposing analyses of the fall of the Soviet Union were both enlightening. One says that the people demanded less socialism, more democracy, and more consumer goods. The other says that it was a “revolution from above” by greedy bureaucrats who enriched themselves on the corpse of the USSR.
Everybody Has an Opinion
When the Soviet Union imploded, I didn’t rush out to tell the world my opinions on what they had done wrong. I read many others who did, but I didn’t. Whatever they did, right or wrong, was less important than what the combined capitalist countries did to bring about their “failure.”
As a matter of historical record, the United States and other countries joined in the civil war that almost destroyed the USSR in its infancy. As a matter of historical record, the United States and other capitalist countries encouraged the Nazis because they declared that their main purpose was to destroy socialism. It is a matter of historical record that the Germans and Italians were given a free hand in murdering the Spanish republic. In my own lifetime, the Soviets were under constant attack by the country I live in.
So, no, I didn’t look to see what the Soviets had done wrong. I thought it was amazing that they lasted as long as they did.
Who Were The Bolsheviks?
Page 36 of the book has a list of demands of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Majority: in Russian Bolshevik) as to what their proposed constitution would guarantee. Here are some of their proposals worth considering:
- Sovereignty of the people
- Universal, equal and direct suffrage for all citizens over 20
- Broad local self government
- Inviolability of person and dwelling
- Unrestricted freedom of conscience, speech, press and assembly; the right to strike and to form trade unions
- Freedom of movement and occupation
- Elimination of class privileges and the complete equality of all regardless of sex, religion, race or nationality
- Right to education
- National self-determination for all nations
- The right of every persons to prosecute before a jury any official
- Popular election of judges
- Replacement of the standing army by the general arming of the population (i.e., the formation of a people’s militia)
- Separation of church and state, and of school and church
- Free and compulsory general or vocational education for all children
It concludes: “As a fundamental condition for the democratization of our national economy, the RSDLP demands the abolition of all indirect taxation and the introduction of a graduated tax on incomes and inheritances.”
Under “workers rights,” the Bolsheviks also demanded the 8 hour day, ban on overtime, ban on night work, ban on child labor, and several items leading toward democracy in workplaces. I believe this was written in 1906, 11 years prior to the Russian revolution.
It seems to me that we could use some of these proposals in America today.