Wm. Paul

Book Review

A Revolutionary Epic

Source: Labour Monthly, March 1926, Vol. VIII, No. 3.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Ten Days that Shook the World, by John Reed.
Paper cover. 344 pp. 2s. 6d. (2s. 9½d. post free).
The Communist Bookshop, 16 King Street, Covent Garden, W.C.2.

JOHN REED’S descriptive sketch of the opening scenes of the Soviet revolution is history portrayed with cinematographic vividness. After reading a few pages one seems to be whirled into the vortex of the revolution itself. So graphic is the writing that one does not read from page to page; one lives and moves from event to event.

The author was well equipped for his task. While a student at an American University he had thrown in his lot with the revolutionary members of the I.W.W. He was a poet rooted to the realities of the world by a study of Marx. Here, indeed, were mingled the ideal ingredients for writing the epic of the workers’ first victory in their conquest of world capitalism.

The keen-eyed John Reed entered Russia in 1917 as a correspondent for an American paper. He was able to see the chaos created by the war and the Tsarist government. He was confronted, on every side, by the helpless and cowardly incompetence of Kerensky and his Right Wing Socialist ministers. These gentlemen did not destroy Tsarism; it collapsed internally through its own putrid condition when the masses pricked it. What Kerensky and his associates did was to refuse to face any of the immediate problems forced forward by the capitulation of the Tsar. Neither industry nor the land were attended to. The government seemed to be reduced to that state of palsied bewilderment which is the normal condition of the Second International when confronted with the tasks and responsibilities of government.

When Lenin and the other Communist leaders arrived in Russia, the masses were not favourably disposed towards the Bolsheviks. Lenin, by his clever and straightforward policy of always forcing forward the struggles, unmasked the cowardice and ineptitude of Kerensky and the Mensheviks. Each day in its passing verified the attitude of Lenin and showed, at the same time, that Kerensky and his Right Wing Socialist advisers were wrong. As history was moving rapidly on top gear, the very swiftness of events made things increasingly difficult for Kerensky and easier for the Communists. Thus the masses rallied to Lenin.

And what did this mean? It meant the beginning of the real battle for power. It meant the opening of the greatest struggle in history—the shifting of political power from the control of the propertied interests into the hands of the propertyless masses.

Kerensky and his Right Wing Socialist friends talked very gaily about Nationalisation. They were almost as blithe on this point as some of our I.L.P. friends. And like the I.L.P. they had not worked out the need for the struggle for power. Hence, when Kerensky was given office he could only accomplish, like his imitator MacDonald, a policy of capitalist continuity.

Ten Days that Shook the World is the record of the Russian workers’ struggle for power. The revolutionary crisis lasted much longer than ten days. But those critical days decided the final fate of the Russian propertied interests.

John Reed’s remarkable study is first of all a story; secondly it is a history; and thirdly it is a thesis on revolutionary struggle. Those who possessed the original expensive edition generally read it three times. One sweeps through it in the first reading; then the second time one studies it in order to remember the important land marks in the development of the Soviet revolution. In the third reading one goes more slowly and learns important lessons from it which can be applied universally.

There are 344 pages in the book. It is a marvellous 2s. 6d. worth, which no one can afford to miss.

Wm. P.