On Nov. 7, the Brandeis Leftist Union (BLU) held an event with the purpose of “looking back to look forward” on the early days and the future of the socialist revolution, according to fliers for the event. According to a post on the BLU’s Instagram, the event was held “to educate community members on the history of the Russian Revolution and connect that history to local organizing efforts going on today.”
The Brandeis Leftist Union was joined by Mass Struggle, Warm Up Boston, Food Not Bombs Waltham, Allston Brighton Tenants United, Brandeis Grad Students Union, local Starbucks Workers United organizers and The Party for Reclamation and Survival.
Attendees were taught the history of the October Revolution, and guest speakers spoke about the influence and relationship that the revolution has on modern day organizations and movements.
To provide historical background, a presentation was given by members of the BLU. The presentation explained the historical context that led to the October Revolution, noting the political structure of early 20th century Russia, discussing its “mixed and uneven development,” “semi-feudal class structure” and “autocratic monarchy.”
The presentation touched on the formation of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, the “190 Dress Rehearsal,” World War I, the February Revolution and the April Theses before moving to the October Revolution. After attendees had learned the history of the October Revolution, guest speakers took to the stage. They spoke about their organizations and key takeaways from the October Revolution.
M, from Warm Up Boston, spoke on the importance of community in politics, the need for a society that is free of class and exploitation, how we as a community should connect with others as equals and respect every individual’s right of self.
Lauren and Miranda, representatives for the Brandeis Grad Students Union, spoke about the way that graduate students are “trained and treated not to be there for each other,” and proved the power of community by being the first to organize a child care subsidy successfully.
Aoife introduced the Party for Reclamation and Survival and highlighted how the Russian Communist Party knew the importance of criticism of government policies. She also spoke on the need for unified support for policies that are settled on, and how said support is necessary to hold things together.
Chris Gamble, a representative of Food Not Bombs Waltham, spoke about the organization’s origins, which consisted of giving out soup across from a weapons center in Cambridge. Food Not Bombs then expanded into handing out vegan meals and radical literature. Gamble spoke on the need for general strikes, which he mentioned have been considered since the 1800s.
Representing Allston Brighton Tenants United, Bert spoke on the need for protection for housing tenants, the way that class ultimately plays into housing (and how a class war is being fought in the housing industry) and how housing issues that Americans face now reflect on those of early 20th century Russia. The issues that arose in Russia were solved by government programs which placed people into the palaces previously owned by the rich, Bert added.
One member of the BLU mentioned that the group’s focus is inspired by the Bolsheviks and the achievements and struggles of global leftists, particularly the Black Panther Party. The BLU’s goals, according to one of their members, are to provide labor solidarity, food distribution and protest training while facilitating communication between on-campus and off-campus groups with similar goals.
Roslyn, speaking on behalf of Brandeis’ local Starbucks Workers United, said that her group’s biggest demand has been higher pay, as low pay leads to a higher turnover rate. She added that her group’s relationship to the October Revolution comes through organizing the shop, as it serves as practice on a smaller scale format.
Sabine, a speaker from Mass Struggle, lamented the fact that there is no vanguard communist party in the U.S. today. She also mentioned that “insurrection relies on [an] upsurge of people,” and that her organization hopes to provide ideological weapons to fight “class enemies.”
To bring an end to the meeting, a question and answer session was held with the various speakers, allowing for audience members to pose questions to the guests. This opportunity brought out questions such as the history of the term “social-democratic,” the personal experiences that led to the various speakers starting their political journey and the importance of empathy.