John Reed: The Making of a Revolutionary

By Granville Hicks; John Stuart | Go to book overview
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REED'S resignation from the Liberator, his work as contributing editor of the Revolutionary Age, and his close identification with the leaders of the left wing were natural stages in the transition from the task of giving information about Bolshevism in Russia to the task of organizing Bolshevism in America. It was an easy transition because Russia was the touchstone that divided the right from the left in the Socialist Party. In the winter of 1918-19, Bolshevism was the great topic of debate, not so much between Socialists and one-hundred-percent Americans as between Socialists and Socialists.

Joseph Shaplen was one of the few right-wing Socialists who had been in Russia during the revolution, and the Revolutionary Age invited him to debate with Reed. He refused, on the ground that the Revolutionary Age was fighting the Socialist Party; he would, he said, debate under the auspices of a Socialist local. It made little difference to Reed who sponsored the meeting, and on March 6, in the Manhattan Lyceum, the debate took place. Shaplen, of course, argued that the Bolshevik regime was undemocratic. Reed replied, "The Bolsheviki believe in democracy of the working class, and no democracy for anybody else," and proceeded to show the sensitiveness of the soviets to the will of the workers and peasants. He cited Marx's views on the dictatorship of the proletariat, which Shaplen and other right-wing Socialists had contrived to forget, and offered statistics on the productivity of industry under working-class control.

In the heat of the debate Reed forgot the rules of parliamentary procedure and used the last five minutes of his rebuttal to


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John Reed: The Making of a Revolutionary


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