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New Left Review I/61, May-June 1970

Lucio Colletti

The Question of Stalin

When in November 1917 the Bolshevik Party unleashed an insurrection and took power, Lenin and his comrades were convinced that this was the first act in a world revolution. The process was started in Russia, not because Russia was considered internally ripe for a socialist revolution, but because the immense carnage of the First World War, military defeat, hunger and the deep misery of the masses had precipitated a social and political crisis in Russia before any other country. The collapse of Czarism in February 1917 thus produced an uncertain and vacillating bourgeois-democratic republic, incapable of remedying the disasters of Russian society, or providing the basic necessities of life for the popular masses. The Bolsheviks, in other words, believed that their party could take power and begin the socialist revolution even in Russia, despite its secular backwardness. For the World War had confirmed once again what had already been revealed in 1905. Not merely in spite, but precisely because of its backwardness, and the sum of old and new contradictions that were interlaced within it, Russia represented both the most explosive point in the chain of world imperialism and the ‘weakest link’. This link, once broken, would carry with it the entire chain, accelerating the revolutionary process in the more developed industrialized countries of Europe, starting above all with Germany.

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Lucio Colletti, ‘The Question of Stalin’, NLR I/61: £3

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