Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Revolutionary Century

100 years ago today, on March 7, 1917, workers at a large industrial plant in Petrograd (the patriotically renamed capital of the Russian Empire) called a strike for the next day, thus setting in motion what we now know as the Russian Revolution - the 20th century's revolution par excellence, ranking right up there with the 18th-century's French Revolution in its disastrous disruption of society and overall harm to the human race. 

At that time, Orthodox Russia still followed the Julian calendar, civilly as well as religiously. So it was still February 22 in Russia. Hence the familiar title "February Revolution" for the calamitous events of March 1917 - and the analogous title "October Revolution" for the even more calamitous Bolshevik takeover on November 7, 1917.

Had there been some more genuine statesmen in positions of power in 1914, they might have successfully prevented World War I from ever even starting - or, failing that, they might at least have stopped it sooner, thus minimizing its tragic consequences. Had there been a more genuine statesman in the White House in 1917 instead of Woodrow Wilson, the United States might never have tipped the scales in World War I with all the destabilizing effects that followed. That first scenario might well have prevented the Russian Revolution. The second might at least have prevented the spread of the revolutionary infection throughout much of Europe at the end of the war and for decades to follow.

Admittedly, the Russian Empire under the Romanov dynasty left a lot to be desired. Still the final decades of the 19th century saw the end of Russian serfdom and the beginnings of a genuine middle class. The turn of the 20th century saw sufficient industrial development such that Russia came to be considered among the major industrial nations by the beginning of the war.  That war and the disastrous revolution it facilitated sent Russia backward economically, not forward. And it would take much of the 20th century for Russia even to catch up again to where she had been in 1914

The international order had to live with the disorder introduced by the Russian Revolution until eventual end of direct Russian imperial domination of Eastern Europe and of Russian meddling elsewhere around the world - and the internal collapse of the Soviet Union itself - in the last decade of the 20th century. For the peoples of the former Russian Empire and former Soviet Union, the legacy has been bitter and the price paid in lives lost cultures destroyed has been high. To this must the be added the toll on a century's moral and intellectual life by a morally bankrupt ideology.

If ever there were any reason to believe that there is a "right side of history," that fallacy should have been decisively discredited by the damage done to real human beings and their societies by the evils unleashed by World War I, notably the Russian Revolution, the damaging effects of which are still so evident one century later.

No comments:

Post a Comment