Review: “October: The Story of the Russian Revolution”

From the July-August 2017 issue of News & Letters

“October is still ground zero for arguments about fundamental, radical social change. Its degradation was not a given, was not written in any stars.”
—China Miéville

I am a student of revolutionary history (May 1968, the English 1640s, the Paris Commune), but have largely ignored both the French and the Russian Revolutions because they ended so badly. For the case of Russia I have found a remedy in October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Miéville.

Miéville is, arguably, the greatest living science fiction writer. October is a thrill to read. I finished its 300-plus pages in a single session.

October: The Story of the Russian RevolutionThe book begins with a prehistory of 1917, a chapter on the February Revolution, then a month-by-month, blow-by-blow series of chapters ending with “Red October” and a wistful epilogue.

I knew that the provisional government brought about in February of that fateful year was extraordinarily weak, but I didn’t realize that it was bound to end with either a right-wing coup under someone like General Kornilov or with a further revolution led by Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

Lenin is so vilified for what the USSR became that I had not appreciated how important he was. October makes it clear there would not be “Red October” without him.

Miéville includes a “further reading” of more than 50 books. I intend to read many of them, and by October 2017 I’ll almost pass as an expert in some quarters.

—Anarchist friend of Marxist-Humanism

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