As we mark the 100th anniversary today of the Great October Socialist Revolution, pundits are laying out what they believe are the lessons of the tragic events which befell Russia and its people in 1917. As my contribution, I would like to draw attention to something a little different: namely, that in Russia revolution means counter-revolution.
The Bolsheviks’ usurpation of power in November 1917 didn’t end the political struggle within Russia. Rather, it intensified it. Counter-revolutionary groups sprung up throughout the country, and before long civil war resulted. The violence which followed inflicted enormous damage on Russia. Bolshevik supporters who imagined that their party’s coup would lead to ‘peace, bread, and land’ proved to be cruelly deceived.
And so it often is with revolutions. The revolutionaries like to imagine that all they have to do is topple the old order and all will be well. They will establish themselves firmly in authority. They don’t imagine that a significant portion of the population might object to their unconstitutional seizure of power and take up arms against them, and that the revolution, however well-intentioned it may be, will have terrible results. But when a self-appointed elite seizes control in this way, people very often do object, and on occasions do so vehemently enough to do something about it.
We can see this in Ukraine. Those who jumped up and down on Maidan thought that if they toppled the existing regime everybody would just accept what they had done. But, of course, they didn’t. A portion of the Ukrainian population took up arms against the new government, leading to the loss of Crimea and much of Donbass, as well as to thousands of deaths and billions of dollars of physical damage.
Now, I don’t think for one instance that there will be a repetition of Maidan in Russia. I’m one of those who doesn’t believe that the ‘Putin regime’ is about to fall. But let’s just imagine that such a thing could happen, and consider how the Great October Socialist Revolution led to the Civil War, and how Maidan led to anti-Maidan. Mark my words, if there were to be another revolution in Russia, there would be another counter-revolution. There are more than enough modern-day Black Hundreds and lesser opponents of Western liberalism to ensure that any attempt to impose a Western liberal order on Russia by revolutionary means would be met by force. The Russian anti-Maidan would make the Ukrainian version look like a teddy bear’s picnic. It would not be pretty.
Revolutionaries, of course, will say that counter-revolution isn’t their fault; it’s the counter-revolutionaries’ fault. But my point here isn’t to say whether counter-revolution is right or wrong (although regular readers will probably recognize that I tend to be on the counter-revolutionary side). Rather, my point is to say that after revolution, counter-revolution is inevitable, and if it were to happen in Russia, it would be horribly destructive.
It’s something those who call for ‘regime change’, not just in Russia but in a host of other countries, should bear in mind.