John Reed

Ten Days that Shook the World

Transcriber/Editor’s Remarks

John Reed’s Ten Days that Shook the World represents one of the 20th Century’s greatest political-literary achievements, being one of the first book length eye-witness accounts of the great Russian October Revolution.

John Reed, active in the left wing of the Socialist Party of America, went on to found the Communist Party, USA, along with James P. Cannon and William Z. Foster after returning from his participation in the October Revolution. This book firmly establishes the importance of the Revolution in the history of the 20th Century. It allows the reader to almost be a participant, along side Reed, Lenin and Trotsky, in this momentous and history shattering event. Reed brings you to the meetings, marches and battles of the Russian working class. When a speaker argues for insurrection, you are ready with anticipation waiting to confront the Czar’s troops, when Reed takes you to a workers demonstration, you duck along with Reed with the sound a rifle shot aimed, it seems, for YOU and when the workers seize power at the climax of book you feel the victory in your blood as it brings shivers to your body with the realization that you are there with Reed at the beginning of the World Socialist Revolution.... There are no other books of non-fiction that I am aware of that involves the reader such as Ten Days that Shook the World does.

Reed wrote extensive notes and explanations of what he was witnessing. We have included these notes and explanations and, where possible, we have linked to them when they are used in the text. Additionally, the Marxists Internet Archive, of which the John Reed Internet Archive is a sub-section, has within it, the Encyclopedia of Marxism. Throughout the text, we have linked some words to this valuable resource as well. There is a noticeable change in formatting for the glossary items from the Encyclopaedia of Marxism when compared to the notes provided by Reed, so there will be little confusion for the reader as which different sources are used for these notes.

We tried to present, in this electronic version of Ten Days that Shook the World, the style of John Reed’s writing, in all it’s exactitude. When Reed wrote this book, the common and accepted spellings of certain Russian words in English had not yet been established. For example, the island navy fortress of Kronstadt is spelled by Reed as “Cronstadt”; Leon Trotsky (a character in the book that Reed shows as one of the main agitators and organizers of the October insurrection) is spelled throughout as “Leon Trotzki” with a “z” and “i” instead of an “s” and a “y”. There are other incongruities as well. We’ve kept these ‘archaic’ spellings to help place the reader in what was then the accepted grammatical and spelling usage common to Reed’s era. We did bring the footnotes, that Reed titles “Appendices” and were organized into to a separate section in the back of the book, to the bottom of each chapter to make them more accessible to the reader. Some very minor formatting changes were also made to facilitate this 1st Edition of the book for mark-up on the World Wide Web.

Lastly, readers should note the use of Reed’s writing style. Reed, like many American journalists and writers of the pre-World War II period have many attributes in common. It is a style that is almost non-existent at the beginning of the 21st Century. It is worth reading the various works of Eugene V. Debs, James P. Cannon, John Steinbeck, James T. Farrell and other authors who’s relatively simple and plain writings, whether expressed in political agitation or fiction as social-commentary, were able to capture the passions, working class heritage and yet very complex imagery of plain folks when placed against the background of class struggle, rebellion and revolution.

David Walters
January, 2001