Wednesday, July 08, 2015

BookMarks #2 - Ten Days That Shook The World

Title – Ten Days That Shook the World
Author – John Reed
Genre – Non-fiction, History

“Ten Days That Shook the World” is a first person account of the events of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in November 1917 leading upto the formation of the government of the Soviets. As the author says in the preface – “This book is a slice of intensified history as I saw it. It does not pretend to be anything but a detailed account of the November Revolution, when the Bolsheviki, at the head of the workers and soldiers, seized the state power of Russia and placed it in the hands of the Soviets.

The book begins by giving a background of the various parties involved in the revolution and its lead-up. It then proceeds to narrate the events of the revolution in Petrograd as witnessed by the author. The initial pages make for some heavy reading, especially for readers not familiar with the Russian revolution. There is quite a good chance of getting lost amongst the various factions of the Bolsheviki, Mensheviki, Cossacks, Cadets, Yunkers, and the multiple workers’, soldiers’, sailors’ and peasants’ organisations and their different leaders. Liberal usage of Russian terms adds to heaviness in the reading. Sometimes it does become a bit difficult to keep track of who is on which side. However the opening chapter does a good job in trying to explain the stands of the different parties during the lead-up to the events of November, 1917. 

The book is an account from the author’s perspective. The author details the various committee meetings he attends, and re-tells the speeches he hears there. The speakers are mostly unnamed but they give their perspective to the cause. Then there are the multiple speeches quoted from the sessions of the Duma in Petrograd alongwith the reactions of the audience. Overall the book gives a feeling of reading from the notes of a diary as the author tries to take in the multiple events happening at various places at the same time all connected to each other, and part of one big revolution.

The events described in the book show how challenging it is to execute a revolution. The leadership maybe willing and ready but are the masses ready to act? And what happens to the various government agencies which are in place? The revolutionaries might replace the leadership of the various government bodies but the workers in those organisations might not be sympathetic to their cause leading to more suffering for the public at large which might set the stage for a counter-revolution to throw out the revolutionaries. Also it stresses the need for a revolution to be “quick”, otherwise anarchy prevails leading to further revolutions, the Bolshevik revolution being a good example as it was the second one within the year.

Overall, "Ten Days That Shook the World" is a good read about the events in the Bolshevik revolution. It details out the events but leaves the interpretation to the readers although the author's bias towards the Bolsheviks does clearly come out.

Previously on BookMarks – The Call of the Wild

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