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Revolution in words

This article is over 16 years, 5 months old
The Russian Revolution is one of the most important events in world history and has inspired many debates, articles and books.
Issue 2075

The Russian Revolution is one of the most important events in world history and has inspired many debates, articles and books.

For a short introduction to the leaders and lessons of the Russian Revolution see A Rebel’s Guide to Lenin by Ian Birchall, A Rebel’s Guide to Trotsky by Esme Choonara and Trotsky’s Marxism by Duncan Hallas.

There are several fascinating eyewitness accounts of the revolution. The most important is Leon Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution – a literary and historical masterpiece.

The US journalist John Reed witnessed the revolution and his account, Ten Days that Shook the World, gives a real sense of the excitement and mass involvement in the revolution.

The anarchist Victor Serge travelled to Russia where he joined the Bolsheviks and fought to defend the revolution. He wrote many inspiring accounts and novels about the revolution. Year One of the Revolution is a gripping account while Revolution in Danger gives a sense of why people fought to defend the revolution and what was at stake.

There are a number of books that look at the liberating nature of the revolution. Women and the Family by Leon Trotsky is one of the most impressive collections looking at how to achieve women’s liberation. The short collection On Women’s Liberation by the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai is also worth reading.

Dan Healy’s recent book Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia brings together new material on sexuality in revolutionary Russia.

Tony Cliff’s State Capitalism In Russia, written in 1948, is a pathbreaking analysis that argues that Russia under Stalin was a form of capitalism – organised by the state instead of private capitalists. Lenin’s State and Revolution is a useful guide to a crucial question.

On the importance and methods of Leninism, Marcel Liebman’s Leninism under Lenin is very good. Cliff’s biography of Lenin is sadly out of print but worth looking out for second hand or borrowing.

Right wing historians have thrown much academic mud at the legacy of the revolution. John Rees’s In Defence of October is a useful, detailed account of the revolution that counters accusations that it was undemocratic or a bloody coup.

Some more recent accounts of the revolution have broken new ground in the history of the revolution. Particularly recommended are Mike Haynes’s Russia: Class and Power, 1917– 2000 and Kevin Murphy’s Deutscher prize winning Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory.

All books are available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop, phone 020 7637 1848. Go to »

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