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John Reed

Russian Revolution: BBC dramatises John Reed’s classic, ‘Ten Days that Shook the World’

BBC radio four is broadcasting, this week, a dramatised version of John Reed’s classic book about the Russian Revolution, ‘Ten Days That Shook The World’.

The BBC blurb describes (somewhat patronisingly) the American socialist-journalist’s book as “John Reed’s vivid eye-witness account of his time in Petrograd was written in early 1918 and published in the USA the following year. It was an instant best-seller, so much so that in Russia it was some years before Stalin – who is only mentioned twice in the book – felt he could ban it for its portrayal of Trotsky.  Possibly naïve, definitely politically one-sided, nevertheless the veracity and impact of Reed’s enthusiastic snapshot-style reportage has become a classic memoir and inspired films including Eisenstein’s classic ‘October’ and ‘Reds’ which won an Oscar for its director and star, Warren Beatty”

At the time of its publication, Lenin commented on Reed’s book: “With the greatest interest and with never slackening attention I read John Reed’s book, Ten Days that Shook the World. Unreservedly do I recommend it to the workers of the world. Here is a book which 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 labour movement”

The BBC radio adaptation can be listened to here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0978bgq

And in a new introduction to a Spanish translation of the book by Izquierda Revolucionaria (CWI Spain) Peter Taaffe explains the significance of Reed’s account, the importance of the revolution, and its relevance today http://www.socialismtoday.org/212/october.html

The BBC also broadcast, on 9 October, ‘Revolution In Ideas’. The BBC describes October 1917 as “not only a political revolution – the overthrowing of the Tsarist regime by Lenin’s Bolshevik party – it was an unprecedented thought experiment, a revolution in ideas.From women’s emancipation to early thinking about the biosphere and the role of art and music joined with work. From rethinking the potential of human nature and the basis of the family to racial equality, laws forbidding anti-Semitism and experiments in collective living. From the immediate decriminalization of homosexuality and a new understanding of ecology, to behavioural psychology and early work in systems theory – the intellectual firmament generated by 1917 precipitated a second revolution in Western thought, both in support and powerfully against it… The historian Justin Champion explores the early years of the Russian Revolution of 1917 as an intellectually explosive and genuinely creative moment”

The ‘Revolution In Ideas’ broadcast can be listened to here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0978p7z