Editor’s note: These are excerpts from Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s address in Moscow on November 2, 1987, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. This version has been prepared by the editors of Foreign Affairs; the English translation was distributed by the Soviet press agency, TASS.
It is 70 years since the unforgettable days of October 1917, those legendary days that started the count of the new epoch of social progress, of the real history of humankind.
The past—its heroism and drama—cannot fail to thrill our contemporaries. Our history is one, and it is irreversible. Whatever emotions it may evoke, it is our history, and we cherish it. Today we turn to those October days that shook the world. We look for and find in them both a dependable spiritual buttress and instructive lessons. We see again and again that the socialist option of the October Revolution has been correct.
Like Marx and Engels, Lenin was convinced that the defense force of the revolution would be a people’s militia. But the concrete conditions prompted a different solution. The Civil War and the intervention from outside, imposed on the people, called for a new approach. A worker-peasant Red Army was formed by Lenin’s decree. It was an army of a new type which covered itself with undying glory in the Civil War and in repulsing the foreign intervention. Those years brought severe trials for the newly established Soviet Republic. It had to settle the elementary and crucial question of whether socialism would or would not be.
From organizing production and consumption by methods of War Communism necessitated by war and dislocation, the party went over to more flexible, economically justified, "regular" instruments of influencing the social reality. The measures of the New Economic Policy [NEP] were directed to building socialism’s material foundation.
These days, we turn ever more often to the last works of Lenin, to Lenin’s New Economic Policy, and strive to extract from
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