The centenary of the Russian Revolution comes at a strange moment.
It is not being officially marked let alone celebrated in Putin’s Russia.
The collapse and demise of communism in 1991 appears to have consigned it ironically to what Trotsky termed the dustbin of history.
The Russian Revolution has had a bad press in the West.
And that is putting it mildly.
Its leaders – Lenin then Stalin – are often equated with Hitler as mass murderers who oversaw totalitarian regimes.
The left was eventually forced to concede that the revolution transmuted into an autocratic regime embodied in the purges and gulags under Stalin.
The victors as they say – write the history books.
However it is apparent that a selective amnesia is in operation.
Stalin’s victims are remembered but not King Leopold’s in the Belgian Congo.
Similarly the crimes of the US empire – millions killed in the Korean – Vietnam and Iraq wars – are rarely mentioned in the same breath.
As US general Curtis LeMay said of the Second World War: ‘I suppose if I had lost the war I would have been tried as a war criminal’.
Yet it is important to separate out the legacy of Stalinism from the initial revolutionary moment.
In one fell swoop 1917 represented the sweeping away of centuries of Tsarism for millions of Russian serfs.
Whilst Britain and France had undergone bourgeois and industrial capitalist revolutions from the 17th and 18th centuries onwards – Russia was a sleeping giant of agrarian feudalism.