Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
4 May 2017

Leader: The god that failed

The Russian experiment on 1917 today serves not as an example but as a permanent warning against tyranny.

By New Statesman

One hundred years ago in St Petersburg, the world received a shock as momentous as that of the French Revolution. Following the overthrow of tsarism eight months earlier, Lenin’s Bolsheviks ruthlessly seized power and established the first officially communist government. The Soviet example – and the autocracy that quickly developed there – was adopted and adapted by regimes across Asia, Africa and South America.

Though the Marxist-Leninist model of one-party rule endures (not least in Russia), its inheritors now look to the market as a vehicle of development as much as to the state. Meanwhile, in the West, the aftermath of the financial crisis has brought left-wing radicals such as Syriza, Podemos, Jeremy Corbyn and Jean-Luc Mélenchon to prominence. But despite its recurrent crises, capitalism has proved far more resilient than Karl Marx and his followers prophesied. Globalisation, for all its limitations, has lifted hundreds of millions in the developing world out of poverty, not least in China.

The Russian experiment today serves not as an example but as a permanent warning against tyranny, whatever its professed ideals. Yet unless democratic politicians address the grotesque poverty and lack of opportunity that afflict so many, the totalitarian temptation will remain. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Content from our partners
To decarbonise home heating, we need to put customers first
Our common endeavour
Why economic growth needs the right leaders