Monday, March 6, 2023

Review of October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Miéville

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Intriguing Connections = 1) Why Conflict Occurs And How To Resolve Them?

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“The Duma Committee itself, that semi-reluctant power, was split as to what it wanted.  It included those still aspiring to a constitutional monarchy; those for whom history had removed that possibility, whether it had been once preferable or not; and those who considered a republic not only necessary but desirable.” – China Miéville, Chapter 2: February: Joyful Tears, Page 63

“The middle classes in particular were in a panic – they felt more vulnerable than the rich, who could afford protection, or those in the tight-knit working-class areas, where workers’ militias were more effective than was the city’s own.” – China Miéville, Chapter 5: May: Collaboration, Page 132

“In September, the upward trajectory of the peasant war did not slow.  In growing numbers, villagers sacked more estates, more violently, often with fire, often side by side with soldiers and deserters.” – China Miéville, Chapter 9: September: Compromise and Its Discontents, Page 243



Russia’s Tsarist regime mismanaged economic, political, civilian, and military affairs.  Authorities abused their power against peasants, and then workers.  Under pressure, rights were given to the lower classes, but where not enough to compensate for their mistreatment.  The people rioted and rebelled.  Various worker representatives gather and formed a soviet.  Soviet means council.  Culminating in the abdication of the Tsar in 1917.  This is the story of a revolution from the lower classes, during WW1. 

Very quickly, the Provisional Government gained international credibility and support, but did not have as much power as the international community thought.  The Soviet held the power, and decided what the Provisional Government was supposed to do.  Under Soviet pressure, the Provisional Government provided various social and legal rights to the people.  Those who took power, had imperial intentions.  Wanting to export the revolution abroad.  The Provisional Government dismantled many political agencies and enforces, such as the police department.  This led to mob justice, violence, and looting.  A general state of social unrest, with different political powers competing for power.  Military forces were demoralized, and disorganized.  Many were deserting.  Some regions sought sovereignty. 

What Happened Before the Revolution?

From the 1860s, the Tsar gave people rights they did not have, under pressure from peasant actions and exigent circumstances.  The state was under armed threat, while peasants were rioting and rebelling in response to authoritative abuses.  The rights given were enough to stall a revolutionary tide, but not enough to prevent it. 

From the 1890s, the workers gain a movement and momentum, and are dissatisfied with their treatment.  By 1904, Russian leaders believe a war was needed to stem a revolution, but the war they initiated turned into a catastrophe for Russia.  The workers demanded changes to their working life, and political freedoms such as freedom of assembly and the press.  Protestors gathered, and are met with violence, an even that has become known as Bloody Sunday.  An event that accelerated the revolution.  A Duma is formed, more rights were granted, but with so many political violations, the people remain unappeased.  Even with forthcoming Dumas. 

Before and during the revolution, the policies enacted discriminated based on race, sex, and religion.  Seeing others as less then.  Even when the policies that were trying to be inclusive, in practice, they were not.



This book is a narrative of what happened during the revolution, following those competing for power.  There is a lack of systematic analysis on the claims made during the revolution.  And a lack of background information on the ideas, policies, and groups that were in competition.  Various details about revolution are expressed, but to understand what they mean would require more research.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•Why was there a revolution?
•Who were responsible for the revolution?
•Why did the Tsar abdicate?
•What political power did Lenin have?
•What is Bloody Sunday?
•What were the political and economic conditions before the revolution?  What were they after the revolution?
•What is a Soviet?
•What is a Duma?
•Who are the Cossacks and how were they involved in the revolution?
•How did the Provisional Government handle affairs?
•Which groups were competing for power? 
•How did society react to the revolution?
•What was the military situation?
•For those who took power, what was there intent going forward? 

Book Details
Publisher:             Verso {New Left Books]
Edition ISBN:      9781784782788
Pages to read:       320
Publication:          2018
1st Edition:           2017
Format:                 Paperback 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          2