The Russian Revolution

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.

A most remarkable gathering

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Workers in Britain, sick of war and inspired by the Russian Revolution, met in their thousands in June 1917 at the Leeds Convention to debate how to bring the lessons here, writes author Christian Høgsbjerg.

The Russian Revolution of February 1917 inspired many workers internationally, including in Britain. As Aneurin Bevan, then a young miner, once eloquently recalled:

“I remember so well what happened when the Russian Revolution occurred. I remember the miners, when they heard that the Tsarist tyranny had been overthrown, rushing to meet each other in the streets with tears streaming down their cheeks, shaking hands and saying: ‘At last it has happened’.”

Russia in Revolution

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Steve Smith has provided a useful overview of Russian history from the end of the 19th century to the 1920s centred, of course, on the dramatic events of 1917 and their aftermath.

He presents a panoramic view and yet includes a considerable amount of detail for a relatively short book.

Smith argues that the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 were rooted in the clash between the growing pressure for modernisation of Russia society and the barrier represented by the Tsarist regime.

Why you should read Lessons of October by Leon Trotsky

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Leon Trotsky was determined to learn the lessons of the Russian Revolution

Trotsky wrote Lessons of October in 1923, a time when the victory of the 1917 Russian Revolution had begun to feel distant; the revolutionary tide across Europe, crucially in Germany, had begun to fade; and in Russia, although most forms of soviet and party democracy remained, the bureaucracy headed by Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin was the dominant power.

'Revolution is much more prevalent than our rulers would have us believe'

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Sally Campbell spoke to Dave Sherry, author of new book Russia 1917, about how the Russian Revolution is relevant today and why its mass democratic nature is still hidden in the mainstream narrative.

For many socialists the Russian Revolution is the most important event in history, but for many young people it’s just another bit of ancient history. What would you say to a young activist who doesn’t see the relevance of the Revolution today?

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