A People's History of the Russian Revolution By Neil Faulkner Pluto Press. 304 pages.
October: The Story of the Russian Revolution By China Mieville. Verso. 384 pages.
The Dilemmas of Lenin: Terrorism, War, Empire, Love, Revolution By Tariq Ali Verso. 384 pages.
By 1983, in the heat of the so-called Cold War, President Ronald Reagan was referring to the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire. Yet in Nicaragua, that revolution was being celebrated by a book fair, providing affordable editions of literature, art, and philosophy books to a population that was hungry for knowledge.
Today, the Soviet Union is no more and Russia, or the Russian Federation, under President Vladimir Putin intends to mostly ignore this year's centennial. March 12, the recognized start of the revolution, was not observed, and official plans for a November 7 commemoration of the victory are dim.
According to The New York Times, the "likely explanation, some Kremlin officials, historians and other analysts say, is that President Vladimir V. Putin loathes the very idea of revolution, not to mention the thought of Russians dancing in the streets to celebrate the overthrow of any ruler. Moreover, 1917 smudges the Kremlin's version of Russian history as a long, unified march to greatness, meant to instill a sense of national pride and purpose."
But around the world, in museums, films, symposia, and numerous books, the legacy and lessons of the "ten days that shook the world" are being examined. Three new books in particular came out this spring.
The first of these is A People's History of the Russian Revolution by Neil Faulkner, a Marxist historian with roots in the British left. His stated goal is to show that the Russian Revolution "was the collective action of millions of ordinary men and women that powered the historical process between 1917 and 1921." The book seeks to inform and educate a "new generation of people eager for change that another world is indeed possible."
Faulkner's book is linear and thorough, taking the reader through the political developments that shaped Russian history and Russian political movements. It ends with the tragic rollbacks that took place under Joseph Stalin. Faulkner is a fierce advocate of the notion of democratic revolution from the bottom.
"The Russian Revolution of 1917 is rich in lessons for today's crisis-ridden world of exploitation, oppression, and violence," he writes. "The Bolsheviks have much to teach us." He sees this centennial...