Ten Days That Shook the World (Modern Classics)

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9780140024333: Ten Days That Shook the World (Modern Classics)

“Adventure it was, and one of the most marvellous mankind ever embarked upon, sweeping into history at the head of the toiling masses, and staking everything on their vast and simple desires. Already the machinery had been set up by which the land of the great estates could be distributed among the peasants.” – John Reed John Reed’s Ten Days that Shook the World, published in 1922, is a gripping account of the Russian Revolution that took place just years earlier in the midst of World War I. Of course, nobody knew at the time just how important the Russian Revolution would be geopolitically, especially with the advent of the Cold War less than 25 years later. Reed’s account was firsthand; as a journalist, he was in Russia when the Revolution transpired. The book was popular and influential enough that it made the rounds among Russia’s leadership, with Stalin himself arguing against some of Reed’s theses.

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Review:

The situation in St. Petersburg was growing more and more tense. The People's Revolution had begun by overthrowing the corrupt Tsarist regime in March 1917, but the workers and the peasants felt the revolution had much farther to go. Tired of fighting a war that meant little to them, the soldiers also grew restless: "When the land belongs to the peasants, and the factories to the workers, and the power to the Soviets, then we'll know we have something to fight for, and we'll fight for it!"

Lenin pressed the Bolsheviks to seize power. On the night of October 24, an organized mass of workers, soldiers, peasants, and sailors stormed the Winter Palace. On the following day, at the opening of the second Congress of Soviets, Trotsky announced the overthrow of the provisional government. Counterrevolutionary forces marched on the capital, but the Revolutionary Army triumphed. After all, "[t]his was their battle, for their world; the officers in command were elected by them. For the moment that incoherent multiple will was one will."

In Ten Days That Shook the World John Reed tells the story of Red October and the Russian revolution from a unique, firsthand perspective. Reed, an American journalist, was on assignment in Russia for The Masses--then the principal radical journal in the United States--and spent his days walking the streets, reading and collecting handbills, newspapers, and posters, and talking to people. As a result, Ten Days crackles with energetic immediacy. At its best moments it reads like a novel: Reed recounts conversations and arguments, details political machinations, and speculates on personal motives. Though this is no mere piece of propaganda, Reed's enthusiasm for the revolution infuses the text (some readers may be put off by Reed's florid prose), casting each counterrevolutionary act in a negative light. Helpful notes flesh out the background for those less familiar with the preceding events and render this a solid work of history. Ten Days That Shook the World is a stirring account of a stirring event. --Sunny Delaney

About the Author:

John Reed (1887-1920) was a journalist, activist, poet, and author. In addition to chronicling the Russian revolution, he reported on US labor strikes, the Mexican revolution, World War I, and was a founder of and international delegate for the Communist Labor Party. He is buried at the Kremlin Wall in Moscow.

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