A swarm of people, running and shooting storm a massive building. They enter the gates. Sounds of hooray! fill the atmosphere. The ambience is that of celebration. Such is the depiction of the revolution in Eisenstein's 10 days that shook the world. The movie is a love letter to people's power and their enduring efforts to make the country theirs. The revolution indeed unified the people, cutting across gender and regional differences. It gave birth to what we now know as the USSR, the only force that could stand up to the evils of capitalism, imperialism and neo colonialism.
The soviet unfortunately is dead. Split into innumerable states. The 'evils' of communism coming into light as the iron curtain fell. Virtues of free market capitalism exalted. I was born after the fall, but right before Gorbachev appeared in the now infamous, cringey pizza hut advertisement. Yet, my heart sinks everytime I read a piece about the disintegration of the soviet union.
The soviet has always been a close ally of the third world. It has always lent a helping hand to freedom struggles, anti imperialist struggles worldwide. Ultimately, it was the fodder for all revolutions that were to come. The fall of the soviet inevitably meant that other countries undergoing revolution lost support of a major ally. It meant that they could succumb to American imperialism. In 1989, with the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cuba witnessed its most devastating economic crises. Cuba's GDP shrunk 34% and trade between the nations apart from the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) declined by 56%. During the período especial (special period), Cuba lost nearly all of the petroleum imports from the USSR. The fall did not just have a negative impact on far flung countries undergoing revolution. It also meant that the countries in the Eastern bloc suffered.
According to Mihaly Simai, “The collapse of the Soviet market had an adverse economic effect on the countries in the bloc, particularly the former members of the Soviet Union. National economies emerged, and many industries lost their markets. Trade within the old Soviet Union became foreign trade with many new impediments. GDP declined on a scale unprecedented during peacetime.”
Red nostalgia: living in a capitalist hell hole
As the world descends into chaos and mayhem, the remnants of what used to be the soviet are fondly remembered. Soviet paraphernalia finds its way on the internet. Platforms such as soviet visuals sell merchandise that feed on red nostalgia.
Even democratic socialist platforms like the Jacobin have had to acknowledge the fact that soviet indeed did what ought to be done for the masses. Their piece on the service industry is an ode to the surly soviet waiters.
Kristin Ghodsee, an ethnographer writes on how the Soviet fostered conditions for sexual emancipation of women. She argues that socialism, if done properly, leads to economic independence, better labour conditions, better work/family balance and, even better sex.
Why this surge of red nostalgia? Are the powers of global capitalism inescapable? The soviet ultimately gave a blueprint. Of establishing a state that safeguards the interests of the people.
I could write paeans in praise of the soviet, listening their incomparable achievements and putting it against that of capitalist countries. But I am not going to so that. As I write this I cannot help but wonder about a world without barriers. A world so free. A world painted red.
As we live under the wretched tyranny of capitalism, we must take inspiration from the soviets. Long live the revolution!