November 7 was the hundred year anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Writer China Mieville says that we need the memory of the revolution "in these bleak, sadistic times." Mieville's new book October is his account of an "astonishing, inspiring" revolution that shook the world and still impacts us today.
MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN about the 1917 Russian Revolution, not in the least two stunning first hand accounts. Ten Days That Shook the World By American journalist John Reed and the three volume History of the Russian Revolution by Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky. They are two magnificent accounts of a revolution that altered the course of twentieth century history and continues to have an impact today. Trostsky's work, in particular, is the work that other accounts of the Russian revolution are often judged - and often found wanting.
So it was a brave, but imaginative, decision by Verso Books to commission UK science fiction writer China Mieville to write a new book on the Russian Revolution. He was a good choice - not only is he a good writer but he is a longtime Marxist and anti capitalist, who has remained a principled defender of the socialist tradition. He has stood firm against both its conservative and social democratic detractors. Although he is always up for honest and critical debate Mieville says "...what I can’t bear are the kind of waffly liberal nostrums about 'revolutions eating their children', or ‘lovely idea but it could never work.' I couldn't agree more.
Wisely Mieville has chosen not to compete with either Reed's or Trotsky's works and he stresses right at the beginning of October that it is not a new interpretation of the Russian Revolution.
October explains the Russian Revolution almost in a novelistic way, as a story, but without dumbing down the politics in order to simplify the narrative. At the same time Mieville clearly wants to tease out the universal values that lay at the heart of the revolution - a sense of optimism and the determination to build the word anew, the bravery of its participants, and the belief that people themselves could - and would - forge the future that they wanted.
|China Mieville: "The astonishing, inspiring story" of the Russian Revolution.|
True, the 1917 Revolution does belong to Russia (although Vladimir Putin is trying hard to distance himself from it) but it is also a revolution that belongs to the world. And if the revolution was strangled by Stalin and the communist parties around the world that supported him (including the Communist Party of NZ), it still remains to us, in the 21st century, to find the answers to the questions left unanswered by Lenin's generation
In a New York Times interview Mieville was invited to persuade people to read October in less than fifty words. His response was:
"The narrative of the Russian Revolution is as urgent and strange as that of any novel, and October is the key political event of the 20th century. We need its memory in these bleak, sadistic times. This is an attempt to tell the astonishing, inspiring story."
But it is not an "astonishing, inspiring story " that has gripped the imagination of both the New Zealand corporate media and the blogosphere. Even though November 7 represented the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it has barely rated a mention.
On TV3's AM Show this morning, Duncan Garner and co were more interested in talking about Donald Trump's first year in the Oval Office. Very inspiring. Not.
October is published by Verso.
The Bolshevik Party comes to power. Live broadcast.