The Russian Revolution at 100 Years: Thirty Years Ago, I Strolled through the Aisles of an Outdoor Book Festival in Managua, Nicaragua, Held in Celebration of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. the Revolution (Often Referred to as the October Revolution) Culminated in Early November 1917 and Led to the Creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or U.S.S.R, in 1922

By Stockwell, Norman | The Progressive, August-September 2017 | Go to article overview

The Russian Revolution at 100 Years: Thirty Years Ago, I Strolled through the Aisles of an Outdoor Book Festival in Managua, Nicaragua, Held in Celebration of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. the Revolution (Often Referred to as the October Revolution) Culminated in Early November 1917 and Led to the Creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or U.S.S.R, in 1922


Stockwell, Norman, The Progressive


A People's History of the Russian Revolution By Neil Faulkner Pluto Press. 304 pages.

October: The Story of the Russian Revolution By China Mieville. Verso. 384 pages.

The Dilemmas of Lenin: Terrorism, War, Empire, Love, Revolution By Tariq Ali Verso. 384 pages.

By 1983, in the heat of the so-called Cold War, President Ronald Reagan was referring to the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire. Yet in Nicaragua, that revolution was being celebrated by a book fair, providing affordable editions of literature, art, and philosophy books to a population that was hungry for knowledge.

Today, the Soviet Union is no more and Russia, or the Russian Federation, under President Vladimir Putin intends to mostly ignore this year's centennial. March 12, the recognized start of the revolution, was not observed, and official plans for a November 7 commemoration of the victory are dim.

According to The New York Times, the "likely explanation, some Kremlin officials, historians and other analysts say, is that President Vladimir V. Putin loathes the very idea of revolution, not to mention the thought of Russians dancing in the streets to celebrate the overthrow of any ruler. Moreover, 1917 smudges the Kremlin's version of Russian history as a long, unified march to greatness, meant to instill a sense of national pride and purpose."

But around the world, in museums, films, symposia, and numerous books, the legacy and lessons of the "ten days that shook the world" are being examined. Three new books in particular came out this spring.

The first of these is A People's History of the Russian Revolution by Neil Faulkner, a Marxist historian with roots in the British left. His stated goal is to show that the Russian Revolution "was the collective action of millions of ordinary men and women that powered the historical process between 1917 and 1921." The book seeks to inform and educate a "new generation of people eager for change that another world is indeed possible."

Faulkner's book is linear and thorough, taking the reader through the political developments that shaped Russian history and Russian political movements. It ends with the tragic rollbacks that took place under Joseph Stalin. Faulkner is a fierce advocate of the notion of democratic revolution from the bottom.

"The Russian Revolution of 1917 is rich in lessons for today's crisis-ridden world of exploitation, oppression, and violence," he writes. "The Bolsheviks have much to teach us." He sees this centennial as a time to reflect and learn lessons in order to move forward.

Next is the much anticipated October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Mieville. Mieville is best known as a British writer of fantasy fiction and some comic books, but October is definitely a work of nonfiction. As he told The New York Times, "You couldn't make this up. I did this enormous amount of research, and I kept thinking how genuinely strange, as well as everything else, the story was."

Mieville takes the reader month-by-month through the earth-shaking events of the year 1917, from the February revolution that ousted Tsar Nicholas II and the Romanovs in March, to the victory of the Bolsheviks on November 7. The book is written in the style of a historical novel--but based on intricate, detailed research and study.

"Exhausted and drunk on history, nerves still taut as wires, the delegates to the Second Congress of Soviets stumbled out of Smolny [where the Revolutionary Government was founded]," he writes, "into a new moment of history, a new kind of first day, that of a workers' government, morning in a new city, the capital of a workers' state. They walked into the winter under a dim but lightening sky."

The book includes an epilogue, which says "the question for history is not only who should be driving the engine, but where," and an extensive booklist for further reading.

Perhaps the most interesting of these new books is The Dilemmas of Lenin: Terrorism, War, Empire, Love, Revolution by British-Pakistani author and activist Tariq Ali. …

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The Russian Revolution at 100 Years: Thirty Years Ago, I Strolled through the Aisles of an Outdoor Book Festival in Managua, Nicaragua, Held in Celebration of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. the Revolution (Often Referred to as the October Revolution) Culminated in Early November 1917 and Led to the Creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or U.S.S.R, in 1922
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