The history of Russian ‘modernism’ is paradoxically both retarded and ahead of its time, the reason for the often difficult task of assessing the more general question of revolution, democracy and postcapitalism that the age of Lenin was forced to reckon with. The obvious fact stands out: a democratic transition was ignited by the first world war and the result suddenly shifted to a theoretical higher stage of communist transition. The case of the Decembrists in the wake of the French Revolution makes the ‘two as one’ ‘end of history’ muddle obvious: the frustrated Decembrists became the sourcing point of ultimate reckoning for the once and future transition beyond bourgeois civilization, ironically snuffed out (or severely brain damaged) by the Tsars. It is thus hard to decide where the Russian revolution stands in the evolution of political forms, said to have to evolve in a sequence from bourgeois (democracy) civilization to its ‘beyond’. But in fact at this point the era of Gorbachev seems to have missed the point: the ‘true postcapitalist’ future came in two pieces disconnected: capitalist ‘democracies’, and a totalitarian pseudo-communism that was merely the other half of the ‘single outcome’ banished to the future. Both seem to be fragments of the larger unified solution that especially haunts the era of globalization so it is probably false to speak of the evolution of one into the other: the real resolution is a unified judgment of both possibilities as reflection of one outcome. The point is suddenly clear now: we can’t wait for the whole planetary system to evolve through capitalism to a higher stage. Like the Russian case we need to ‘get with it immediately’ and stop bandying about now flawed models of economic ‘evolution’. In retrospect it seems as if the era of Gorbachev enshrined another mistaken view: but the capitalist wolf packs were so prompt in the forcing of a regressive future that the hopes of socialist reform came quickly to seem hopeless. And much of the action was by covert agencies like the CIA and the democratic turn was bogus from the start. If the Cubans held out until this day, the Russian case could have attempted a genuine ‘second social revolution’ of some kind that was both about a new economic technology and an infusion of some form of democratic perspective, that lost fragment of the whole.
In any case, the Russian Revolution was clearly another of the fragmentary remorphs of early modern revolution, and appeared in the mirror-image fragment form of the bolshevik experiment. IN the reckoning of moral histories the prospect of the American destruction of a whole planet in the name of ‘democracy’ makes the destruction of the undoubtedly flawed bolshevik revolution of the Russian communists another episode in a series of unlucky tragedies.