The capture of the Winter Palace in Leningrad in 1917, a pivotal event in the Russian Revolution that inspired revolutionaries around the world. | pinterest
“Like a bright sun, the  October [Bolshevik] The revolution shone on five continents, awakening millions of oppressed and exploited people across the world. There has never been such a revolution of such importance and magnitude in the history of mankind,” wrote a young Hồ Chí Minh in Paris. He had just read the Communist International’s thesis on national and colonial questions and wept over his profound intuitions.
According to Vijay Prashad, Hồ Chí Minh’s comments reflected “a common attitude in the Third World – heartfelt emotions that reveal the significance of this revolution for the anti-colonial and anti-fascist struggles that erupted in the aftermath of 1917”.
by Prashad Red Star on the Third World, only 131 pages, is “a small book with great hope – that a new generation will come to see the significance of this revolution for the working class and peasantry in the part of the world that has suffered under the heel of colonial rule” .
At the beginning of the book, Prashad quotes VI Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks; this quote sets the tone and highlights the main theme of the book. “[I]It must be remembered that the West lives at the expense of the East; the imperialist powers of Europe enrich themselves mainly at the expense of the colonies in the East, but at the same time they arm their colonies and teach them to fight, and in doing so the West digs its own grave in the East”. the new Soviet state’s emphasis on supporting revolutionary movements across the decolonized world.
For Prashad and the revolutionary movements and cadres he speaks of, the “Russian revolution tore the fabric of time. What became real was a workers state, a country whose dynamics were controlled by the working class and the peasantry. The “dynamic”, a new reality, then inspired countless revolutionary movements and their cadres and stimulated world historic changes.
From Mexico to China, India, South Africa and all parts of the decolonized world, the Bolshevik Revolution was a source of inspiration. A Mexican revolutionary saw the Bolsheviks’ commitment to anti-imperialism as a animating factor with the potential to build international solidarity and elevate revolutionary activities to new heights. He wrote: “I don’t know what socialism is, but I am a Bolshevik, like all patriotic Mexicans. The Yankees do not like the Bolsheviks; they are our enemies; therefore, the Bolsheviks must be our friends, and we must be their friends. We are all Bolsheviks.
South African revolutionary Ivon Jones – soon to become one of the founders of the Communist Party of South Africa – would note: “We must educate the people in the principles of the Russian Revolution“. A young Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of an independent India, noted: “we have been influenced by the example of Lenin”.
Prashad quotes CLR James, the Trinidadian Marxist: “It must be remembered that men in Mombasa, in Lagos, in Fyzabad, in Port-au-Prince, in Dakar, struggling to establish a union or a political organization, most often in under illegal conditions and under heavy persecution, I read and followed with exceptional care the directives that came from the revered and trusted center in Moscow. As Prashad adds, the “trust center” was the Comintern, which “provided the necessary organization to help workers on one end of the world to be in contact with others on the other end”.
While “from one end of the planet to the other the agents of the Comintern… carried instructions and methods, wondering how best to help along the [decolonizing] revolutions”, others, “men and women from the colonies” went to Moscow where they “studied revolutionary theory and found their way back to build communist parties against all odds”.
Often, revolutionary leaders, with the help of the Soviet Union, had a huge impact on communist movements around the world. The Indian revolutionary, MN Roy, participated in the founding of the Mexican Communist Party, while the Chilean socialist, Luis Emilio Recabarren, became one of the founders of the Argentine Communist Party; Dada Amir Haidar Khan, from Pakistan, who became a merchant seaman and militant of the Communist Party, USA, then went to the USSR to train at the University of Eastern Workers, while Yusuf Salman Yusuf, also Eastern Workers Student of the East, finds himself in Europe then in Iraq where he becomes the first secretary of the Iraqi Communist Party. Indefinitely, the Bolshevik revolution and the Soviet state aided revolutionary cadres and their movements throughout the world.
Women were also inspired by the Bolsheviks. With the help of the Soviet Union, anti-colonial women’s organizations sprang up like never before, organizations like the League for the Defense of Women’s Rights and the Women’s International Democratic Federation.
In Prashad’s book, we are introduced to dozens of revolutionaries (those mentioned above, and so many more) and their thoughts regarding the struggle against colonialism and imperialism. Throughout all of this, woven into the tapestry of the fabric of 20th century radicalism, is the inspiration and assistance provided by the Soviet Union.
Prashad did a wonderful thing with Red star on the third world. Not only did he demonstrate that the Bolshevik Revolution and the Soviet state were inspirational, but he also illuminated – brought to life – the continental impact of those who were inspired by this historic global revolution. In short book form, Red star on the third world succeeds brilliantly.
Red star on the third world
Vijay Prashad, LeftWord Books, 2017, 131 pages