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Lydia Beidel

Ten Days That Shook The World

(2 November 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 44, 2 November 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It is twenty-three years since the birth of the USSR, the first proletarian state. And it is twenty years since, the death of John Reed, author of one of the finest dramatic records of that birth, Ten Days That Shook the World.

The figure of John Reed – adventurer, reporter, dynamic American youth – plays a unique and highly symbolical role in the greatest of all historical crises, the Russian revolution. His rebel spirit, batting about in. a struggle against the restraint of tradition in the literary arts, gravitated unerringly toward Russia in 1917, the focal point of revolution against every aspect of the senility of capitalist society. The adventurer in him sensed that here he could be part of the grandest of all human adventures.

He Grew with the Russian Revolution

But history, in its moments of’ creation, distils out of every man the finest in him for the future to cherish. John Reed, adventurer and romanticist though he may have been, could not fail to see that he as an American was not alien in Russia in November 1917. Hearing and seeing Lenin and Trotsky, he perceived that this upheaval of a decayed society was but the beginning of a universal phenomenon which must remain incomplete until it had run its course and embraced all of mankind. He saw more clearly than many a politician of his day that this was a class and not a national event.

He played his role in the Russian revolution and then, with the simple acceptance of an indisputable fact which characterized all the Russian Bolsheviks, hastened back to the United States in 1919 to carry the revolution beyond the place of its beginning by helping to form a communist party here.

John Reed came to the revolution not as a proletarian politician or theorist but simply as a sensitive, intelligent rebel. Yet he epitomizes some of the finest aspects of our revolution. His audacity is an inspiration to all American youth. His understanding of the worldwide implications of the Russian beginning is a reproach to every Stalinist maligner of the permanent revolution. His devotion to the founding of a party to serve as an instrument for extending the revolution is a pattern for every member of the Fourth International. And he has left as a deathless contribution to the history of man’s struggle tor freedom a clear and inspiring record of the first act in the remaking of the world. We salute his memory.

They Remember His Death We Revive His Work

Last week the Stalinists commemorated his death with a meeting. These people are always safest commemorating deaths. There is no fear that the one whose memory they insult by their vicious perversions of truth may rise up and answer back.

Let them try to explain why John Reed neglected to mention even once the name of Stalin!

That of all the figures of those ten days it was Stalin whom they call “the greatest genius of all time,” who completely escaped John Reed’s attention and record! That the name of the executioner of all the Old Bolsheviks could be smuggled into this great work, with its laudatory introduction from the hand of Lenin, only via editor’s notes in the back! Let them explain John Reed’s constant coupling of the names of Lenin and Trotsky throughout his book.

How Jack Reed would have despised the Stalinist record of pandering to the most putrid parts of the decayed body of capitalism! How his rebel soul would have shuddered at the sterility which the present-day Soviet bureaucracy tries to pass off as proletarian art! How he would have wept that they could build a physical monument in America to literary boot-licking and the Cossack knout of bureaucratic censorship and call it by his name – the John Reed Clubs! Let them celebrate the death of John Reed. We shall celebrate that part of him which cannot ever die:


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