Many may have heard of John Reed’s book ‘Ten Days That shook the world’, and many may have read it. Published 101 years ago, this book is an eye-witnessed account of the ‘First Socialist Revolution’ that took place 103 years ago. V.I. Lenin himself writes in the introduction to this book: “Unreservedly do I recommend it to the workers of the world. Here is a book that I should like to see published in millions of copies and translated into all languages. It gives a truthful and most vivid exposition of the events so significant to the comprehension of what really is the Proletarian Revolution and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. These problems are widely discussed, but before one can accept or reject these ideas, he must understand the full significance of his decision. John Reed’s book will undoubtedly help to clear this question, which is the fundamental problem of the international labor movement.”
While this book presents a peerless view of the events surrounding the October Revolution, But it also is a testimony of a tremendous skill of John Reed’s outstanding writing and talent for scrutinizing events, his quest to be everywhere, his amazing research, and his skill of narrating events. But above all, the importance of this book is what drives it to the peaks is as N. Krupskaya writes in the introduction to the book.
“The explanation is that John Reed was not an indifferent observer, but a passionate revolutionary, a Communist who understood the meaning of the events, the meaning of the great struggle. This understanding gave him that sharp insight, without which such a book could never have been written.”
What this book is and why it should be read is not the subject of our short present talk. All that can be said here is that if one has not read this book, he is still not only deprived of the history of those days of the revolution. He has not yet got the chance to understand the tactics used by the Bolsheviks, especially Lenin, to build the Soviet Union.
When Lenin started writing the seventh chapter “The Experience of the Revolutions of 1905 and 1917” of his book “State and Revolution” and remained unable to complete the same, he writes in the “Postscript of the First Edition” of this book, “I was “interrupted” by a political crisis–the eve of the October revolution of 1917. Such an “interruption” can only be welcomed, but the writing of the second part of this pamphlet (“The Experience of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917”) will probably have to be put off for a long time. It is more pleasant and useful to go through the “experience of revolution” than to write about it.”
If one reads John Reed’s book after reading Lenin’s above book, one can get the same pleasure by John Reed’s account of the experience of the 1917 revolution that Lenin was talking about.
This talk can never be enough to measure John Reed’s talent. When one reads this book, Only then the way can be known, in which he notes the content of this book in just a few days’ play, which can only be done with unparalleled hard work and dedication. Sometimes, we found him in Smolny, where the ‘Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies’ was going on, sometimes in the Duma of Petrograd where the counter-revolutionaries were uniting with their conspiratorial plans. He can be seen investigating the scene at the winter palace and patrolling the city in a truck with the sailors in the night going to distribute the Revolutionary-leaflets on the one hand and can be found to touch the events at the railway station and sometimes at the telephone exchange on the other. Sometimes he leaves Petrograd to see the revolutionary developments at Moscow, and sometimes to visit a military front where revolutionary forces were beating the counter-revolutionaries. The places where he missed to be present, he collected every magazine, every poster, every pamphlet about it. Albert Williams, a friend of John Reed, writes: “He collected material wherever he could find it, moving from place to place. He collected complete files of the Pravda and Izvestia, all the proclamations, booklets, posters, and announcements. Posters were a special passion. Every time a new poster appeared, he did not hesitate to tear it from the wall if there was no other way of getting it. In those days posters were printed so quickly and in such great numbers that no room was left for them on the fences. The Cadet, Socialist Revolutionary, Menshevik, Left Socialist-Revolutionary, and Bolshevik posters were pasted on top of each other in thick layers. One day Reed tore down a sheaf of 16 posters pasted on top of each other. Running into my room and brandishing the huge slab of paper, he exclaimed: “Look! I bagged the whole revolution and counter-revolution in one swoop!””
Reed was a devoted communist from his college days in the United States and it was his ingenuity that made this invaluable document published and accessible to us all, Otherwise, on his way back to the United States, the customs officials seized large files of his material related to this book and refused to allow him to take them further. But Reed somehow managed to get them and, according to Williams, hid them in the room where he drafted the book. Not only that, but the book was also so untolerated for American capitalism that the publisher’s office was attacked six times to destroy its draft.
But despite all these difficulties, this precious work of John Reed was published in English in 1919 and is still dear to every person fighting for the revolution and everyone reads it and salutes the ‘art’ of the crafters of revolution.