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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Revolutionary Struggle Goes On

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When the authorities did away with the Nov. 7 holiday, they probably hoped to rid themselves of unpleasant memories of events that still unnerve the ruling class.

In the 1990s, they approached this issue differently. Under President Boris Yeltsin, Nov. 7 was officially the Day of Accord and Reconciliation. Unfortunately, that holiday never caught on because there was very little accord or reconciliation.

President Vladimir Putin's administration took a more radical step and removed Nov. 7 as a holiday entirely -- regardless of the name attached to it. But to avoid disappointing the people who had become accustomed to having a short vacation in early November, the government chose a new date, Nov. 4, and a new name, People's Unity Day, intended to commemorate the expulsion of Polish invaders in 1612.

Actually, there was no victory on Nov. 4. The Polish garrison capitulated to the Kremlin on Nov. 5. Officials either confused the dates (the Russian calendar has changed twice since 1612), or else they decided that if people start celebrating on Nov. 5, they might not stop until Nov. 7.

The desire to bury once and for all the politically and historically loaded date of Nov. 7 was motivated not only by the current political state of affairs. The ruling elite does not know what to do with the revolutionary past in general. Regardless of who writes the official textbooks or how they are written, the Bolshevik Revolution, which determined the nature of the country's subsequent development, remains the major event of 20th-century Russian history.

The country is currently going through a process of restoration. The two-headed eagle again hovers above the nation, the tsarist tricolor flag has been raised and the Kremlin considers the country to be an empire, even if it is formally called a republic. The ruling class feels quite comfortable in a bourgeois society as it seeks to gain its rightful place among the world's "board of directors."

But the history of past revolutions shows that regimes that focus on restoration are often short-lived, and they are often replaced by new revolutionary crises. The current generation of bureaucrats and oligarchs still remembers the lessons of Soviet Marxism. Thus, they shudder at the thought of revolutionary traditions, which not only refuse to die but keep coming back in different forms.

Historians and political analysts have been discussing previous class conflicts a lot this fall, but workers from a whole range of companies have turned these discussions into concrete action by staging a whole range of strikes and protests over issues of salary and other work conditions. In keeping with history, St. Petersburg is again the epicenter of these events, with Ford factory workers threatening to halt production and postal workers blockading their own management in protest. These actions might seem meek when you compare them with labor unrest in Europe, but in Russia, any protest is perceived as a challenge to the system as a whole.

Nov. 7 remains a holiday for the overwhelming majority of Russians -- even more now than when it was an official Soviet celebration. Today, the revolution is sometimes remembered as an event that improved the lives of a certain social class that now finds itself at the bottom of the social pyramid.

Ninety years later, the Revolution has been replaced by restoration. For some, this means creating myths and legends of the Revolution's glorious achievements; for others, it means myths of its horrors. The historical record includes both.

What Russia ended up with, however, was different from what the revolutionaries hoped and fought for. But that doesn't mean that the struggle is over and that there's no cause for hope. As long as there are social collisions, there will be accompanying conflicts.

The Bolshevik Revolution has passed into history, but history continues. That revolutionary struggle will surely surface again and again.

Boris Kagarlitsky is the director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.