October 2017 marks the hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution. One hundred years have passed since the revolutionary masses of Petrograd, calling for “All Power to the Soviets”, raised their weapons against the exploiters and collaborators. With the call for “Bread! Peace! Freedom!”, the October Revolution established its place in world history as the starting point of a century of revolutionary struggle and imperialist wars. The Soviet Union became the first socialist state and for a long time represented the hope and longing of the oppressed and exploited for a liberated life. In the age of imperialist capitalism, the socialist revolution became the inspiration for the oppressed to express their historical desire for freedom and justice in a concrete political form. Breaking the imperialist chain at its weakest link in backward and agrarian Russia, meant that the socialist revolution opened up possibilities for revolutionary struggle from China and Indonesia to Cuba and Chile.
The Soviet Union, through the pressure of counter-revolution and imperialist intervention on one hand and its inability to transform the mentality of society on the other, embarked on a process in which the state continued to grow. While in the end the developed imperial characteristics of the state culminated in an open betrayal of the revolution (through the policy of peaceful coexistence), new struggles spread all over the world. In particular, after the liberation of Europe from the burden of fascism by the Red Army, the call for revolution and liberation from colonialism in the Tricontinent strengthened. The Chinese masses proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and Vietnam, Algeria and Cuba fought imperialism and colonialism tooth and nail, giving the wretched of the earth the self-confidence to rise. The spirit of the sailors of Potemkin lived on in the anti-colonial liberation struggles of the Tricontinent and the call was still the same: Bread! Peace! Freedom!
This demand was met with coups and genocide, and Jack London summed up the response of the bourgeoisie: “We have no words to waste on you. When you stretch out your vaunted strong hands toward our palaces and our glory, we will show you what power is. The roar of shells and shrapnel, the rattle of machine guns will be our answer. We will crush the revolutionaries under our iron heel, and we will pass over them”. Latin America, Africa and Asia were drowned in blood, and Palestine remains a permanent indictment of the capitalist system and its crimes to this day. But the struggle did not stop; where it was suppressed, it reformed, and was taken up again elsewhere because “social processes cannot be stopped either by war or by force”.
And so the sound of the first shot of Mahsum Korkmaz on the 15th August 1984 carried the spirit of all past struggles. The bullet that strikes a colonialist and leaves a colonized human, the bullet through one’s own capitalist mentality, combined the experience of a history of fighting against oppression, and rekindled the fire of Kawa in the mountains of Kurdistan. Although, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the greatest socialist experiments in history came to an end (and the capitalist system proclaimed the end of history), the resistance of the oppressed continued. In a time of general depression and betrayal of ideals, Abdullah Öcalan proclaimed: “To insist on socialism is to insist on being human.”
The collapse of the Soviet Union made it possible for revolutionary movements to carry out necessary criticism and self-criticism and further develop their theory and practice. The PKK is perhaps one of the few movements that carried out this process successfully and thereby deepened its revolutionary practice, based on the decolonisation of its own history, and was thus able to design alternatives to the existing capitalist system. The revolutionary struggle for “Bread, peace, freedom!” continues unabated. Today, 100 years after the October Revolution, in the Northern Syrian Federation (Rojava) in its sixth year of revolution, this dream is advancing. In Rojava the chains have been torn to pieces and the process of establishing democratic structures outside the state has been initiated by the vanguard. Communes and councils are being established that enable people to express themselves and that allow self-empowerment in their lives.
But then as now, imperialism and counter-revolution threaten the achievements of the revolution. The capitalist system is waging a war on all possible levels against Rojava. By economic, political, cultural, and military means, a revolution that has stood up for the sisterhood of the peoples of the Middle East is being isolated from the revolutionary movements of the world, so that it can be broken. But despite the imposed war, despite being surrounded by reactionary states, in spite of these and other difficulties, Rojava resists and creates the alternative of a free life. Because history is made up of the struggles of the oppressed against their oppressors, a history that goes back much further than the October Revolution, not just 100 but for thousands of years, the revolution is saying: I was! I am! I will be!