The Russian Revolution

1917: War, Peace and Revolution

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By 1917 all sides in the First World War were at a stalemate. The Battle of the Somme had already led to huge casualties on all sides. By January 1917, having lost a million men either killed, wounded or captured, France needed to end the war. Similarly, Russia was on its knees, with 4.5 million killed, wounded or sick, food shortages and inflation.

From the dream to a nightmare

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The argument that Lenin’s leadership of the Russian Revolution paved the way for Stalin’s terror is pervasive. Patrick Nielsen looks at the circumstances, objective and subjective, which resulted in the revolution being strangled and Stalin coming to dominate — the opposite of the aims of 1917.

The October Revolution of 1917 was barely mentioned in the mainstream media during its centenary year. When it was, it was used as a weapon to attack the left. When Jeremy Corbyn sacked three shadow cabinet ministers for defying the party’s agreed line on a Brexit vote, the Daily Express ran a hysterical article: “Corbyn’s hard left to purge Labour Party moderates in Bolshevik style revolution”.

Music and the Russian Revolution

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The social and political turmoil surrounding the First World War and the wave of revolutions across Europe produced some of the most radical modernist music. Sabby Sagall outlines key figures in the movement and looks at debates among revolutionaries about "working class culture".

The carnage and brutality of the First World War had punctured the balloon of late 19th century optimism and established that the industrial and scientific progress of capitalism had not led to a world based on justice and reason but to unimaginable horror. Industrial cities had produced unprecedented wealth but also poverty and alienation hitherto unknown.

How does Russia remember its revolution?

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When a group of us visited St Petersburg and Moscow last month to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution we were not expecting much by way of official commemoration. We were pleasantly surprised to find lots of exhibitions marking the anniversary and even more gratified to discover that many portray the revolution sympathetically.

"On the grey horizon of human existence looms a great giant called Working Class Consciousness"

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John Reed's Ten Days that Shook the World is the best known eyewitness account of the Russian Revolution, but he was accompanied on his visit in 1918. Jan Nielsen tells the story of Louise Bryant, American bohemian, talented journalist and commentator on life in revolutionary Russia.

Louise Bryant was an American radical journalist who travelled to revolutionary Russia with John Reed, author of Ten Days that Shook the World. Bryant wrote her own account of the events she witnessed and people she met, titled Six Red Months in Russia.

Interview: A story of human liberation

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Writer and campaigner Alan Gibbons spoke to Socialist Review about his latest novel, Winds of October

Why did you decide to write a novel about the Russian Revolution?

In the run up to the one hundred years anniversary I fully expected that there would be a rash of books about the revolution. As it approached however it was clear that apart from China Mieville’s Book, October, the book by Dave Sherry and a book by Neil Faulkner there was very little coming out and no fiction so I very quickly wrote the first part of this trilogy in ten days followed by the second one and all being well I’ll write the final part.

The state and revolution

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In the weeks running up to the October Revolution Lenin took time out to write one of his most important works, a study of state power and who gets to hold it, writes Amy Leather.

State and Revolution was written by Lenin in the summer of 1917, during the momentous year of revolution in Russia. It addresses the central problem of all revolutions: that of state power and which class is to hold it. This was not an abstract question. The February Revolution had got rid of the Tsar but many of the issues that had led to it were not resolved. The new Provisional Government refused to distribute land to the peasants, continued the war, and offered little to workers.

The fine art of revolutionary manoeuvre

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The tumultuous summer months of 1917 in Russia saw the right regrouping in an attempt to reverse the gains of the February Revolution. Alan Gibson describes the twists and turns which brought the Bolsheviks and the moderates together — but also laid the groundwork for the October insurrection.

‘In the menacing hour of grave ordeals at the front and complete internal collapse from the political and economic disorganisation, the country can be saved from ultimate ruin only by a really strong government in the capable and experienced hands of persons who are not bound by narrow party or group programs.”

The Leeds Convention of 1917

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The February Revolution in Russia in 1917 was received enthusiastically by the British working class movement. Within weeks there were massive meetings held across Britain to celebrate the revolution.

The Labour Party, having supported the First World War uncritically since its outbreak in 1914, saw the Russian Provisional Government as an opportunity to reinvigorate the Russian war effort. Meanwhile the left wing of Labour saw in the revolution the hope for the end of the war.

October

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What’s not to love about the most exciting and inspiring story of modern history being retold by one of the most exciting and inspiring writers of the day?

China Miéville’s account of the nine pivotal months of the Russian Revolution is based on extensive research. Every detail he includes is reported by people who were there. When this accuracy is united with his dazzling verbal dexterity, the intoxicating events of these days that shook the world are totally brought to life.

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