10 days that shook the world – John Reed

Interesting and powerful look at the Bolshevik Revolution.

  • Lenin to Bolshevik counsel after they voted down is proposal for a second revolution: “The Russian people are a hundred times more revolutionary than we are.”
  • the propertied classes wanted nearly a political revolution, which would take power from the Tsar and give it to them. they wand Russia to be a constitutional republic, like France or the United States; or a constitutional monarchy, like England. on the other hand, the masses of the people wanted real industrial and agrarian democracy.
  • In this atmosphere of corruption, of monstrous half-truths, one clear note sounded day after day, the deepening chorus of the Bolsheviki, “All Power to the Soviets! All Power to the direct representatives of millions on millions of common workers, soldiers, peasants. Land, bread, an end to the senseless war, an end to secret diplomacy, speculation, treachery… The Revolution is in danger and with it the cause of the people all over the world!”
  • In the relations of a weak government and a rebellious people there comes a time when every act of the authorities exasperates the masses, and every refusal to act excites their contempt…
  • So plunged the Bolsheviki ahead, irresistible, overriding hesitation and opposition – the only people in Russia who had a definite program me of action while the others talked for eight long months.
  • Trotsky: “They speak of the necessity for a coalition. there is only one coalition possible – the coalition of the workers, soldiers, and poorest peasants; and it is our party’s honor to have realized that coalition… What sort of coalition did Avilov mean? A coalition with those who supported the Governemnt of Treason to the People? Coalition doesn’t always add to strength.
  • Vast Russia was in a state of solution. As long ago as 1905 the process had begun; the March Revolution had mealy hastened it, and giving birth to a sort of forecast of the new order, had ended by merely perpetuating the hollow structure of the old regime. now, however, the Bolsheviki, in one night, had dissipated it, as one blows aways smoke. Old Russia was no more; human society flowed molten in primal heat, and from the tossing sea of flame was emerging the class struggle, stark and pitiless – and the fragile, slowly cooling crust of new planets…
  • As we came out into the dark and gloomy day all around the grey horizon factory whistles were blowing, a hoarse and nervous sound, full of foreboding. By tens of thousands the working people poured out, men and women; by tens of thousands they humming slums belched out their dun and miserable hordes. Red Petrograd was in danger! Cossaks! South and south-west they poured through the shabby streets toward the Moskovsky Gate, men, women, and children, with rifles, picks, spades, rolls of wire, cartridge-belts over their working clothes… Such an immense, spontaneous outpouring of a city was never seen! They rolled along torrent-like, companies of soldiers borne with them, guns, motor-trucks, wagons – the revolutionary proletariat defending with its breast the capital of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic!
  • Questions from Russians about America: Was it true that in a free country a little group of people could control a whole city, and exploited it for their personal benefit? Why did the people stand it? Even under the Tsar such things could not happen in Russia; true, here and there was always graft, but to buy and cell a whole city full of people! And in a free country! Had the people no revolutionary feeling? I tried to explain that in my country people tried to change things by law.
    ‘Of course, But you have a highly developed capitalistic class? then the capitalist class must control the legislatures and the courts. How then can the people change things? I am open to conviction, for I do not know how your country, but to me it is incredible…’
  • Militia structure
    • This was their battle, for their world; the offices in command were elected by them. For the moment that incoherent multiple will was one will…
    • ‘I am the chairman of the Committee. We control the Battalion absolutely, except in action, when the Colonel is delegated by us to command. In action his orders must be obeyed, but he is strictly responsible to us. in barracks he must ask our permission before taking any action… you might call him our executive officer’
  • “they compromise from sheer habit”
  • ‘You foreigners look down on us Russians because so long we tolerated a medieval monarchy but we saw that the Tsar was not the only tyrant in the world; capitalism was worse, and in all the countries of the world capitalism was Emperor… Russian revolutiaonty tactics are best..”
  • At funeral for those who died in revolution and civil war:
    • Through all the streets to the Red Square, the torrents of people poured, thousands upon thousands of them, all with the look of the port and the tolling. a military bad cam marching up playing the Internationale, and spontaneously the song caught and spread like wind-ripples on a sea, slow and solemn. From the top of the Kremlin wall gigantic banners unrolled to the groups red, with great letters in gold and in white, saying, “Martyrs of the Beginning of World Social Revolution”, and “Long Live the Brotherhood of Workers of the World”
    • I suddenly realized that the devout Russian people no longer need priests to pray them into heaven. On Earth they were building a kingdom more bright than any heaven had to offer, and for which it was a glory to die
  • Trotsky: “ The attitude of Socalists on the question of freedom of the press should be the same as their attitude towards the freedom of business… The rule of the democracy which is being established in Rissia demands that the domination of the press by private property must be abolished, just as the domination of industry by private property… The power of the Soviets should confiscate all printing plants.
  • Smolny was only the will of the vast, unorganized popular masses; and with them the Council of People’s Commissars dealt, directing revolutionary mass action against its enemies. in eloquent proclamations, couched in simple words and spread over Russia, Lenin explained the Revolution, urged the people to take the power into their own hands, by force to break down the resistance of the propertied classes, by force to take over the institutions of Government. Revolutionary order. Revolutioanry discipline! Strict accoutnting and control! No strikes! No loafing!
  • Not by compromise with the propertied classes, nor with the other political leaders; not by conciliating the old Governemnt mechanism, did the Bolsheviki conquer the power. nor by the organized violence of a small clique. if the masses all over Russia had not been ready for insurrection it must have failed. the only reason for Bolshevik success lay in the accomplishing the vast and simple desires of the most profound strata of the people, calling them to the work of tearing down and destroying the old, and afterwards, in the smoke of falling ruins, cooperating with them to erect the framework of the new…
  • ‘If Socialism can only be realized when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see Socialism for at least five hundred years”