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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Dark People: Witnesses of The Russian Revolution by Harvery Pitcher

"...Just across the hall outside was the office of
the Credentials Committee for the Congress of Soviets.
I stood there watching the new delegates come in -
burly, bearded soldiers,
workmen in black blouses, a few long-haired peasants.
The girl in charge...smiled contemptuously. "These are very
different people from the delegates to
the First Congress,' she remarked. 'See how rough and ignorant
they look!
The Dark People..." It was true; the depths of Russia had been stirred,
and it was the bottom which came uppermost now."

This was written by the American, John Reed, in 1917. A Communist, he thought that it was good that the 'Dark People' had taken over. Many others were not so sure...

This wonderfully interesting, but heavy book takes the reader right into the thick of the Revolution through the eyes of many witnesses. They include Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador, who begged the Tsar to consider establishing a constitutional monarchy; Meriel, his daughter, who watched in horror, but hated to leave Russia anyway; John Reed, who helped create myths to support the new regime; and Arthur Ransome, who also favoured the Bolsheviks and married Stalin's secretary.

Interspersed with excellent, explanatory commentary, the accounts of the witnesses mostly show the hope with which Kerensky's new regime was greeted, their sadness when it failed, and the truth behind the Bolshevik coup. Accounts of meetings with Kerensky, Levin and Stalin are also very interesting.

There was one section, however, in which I only partly agreed with the commentary. Harvey Pitcher writes that for the Russian and foreign bourgeoisie: '...a whole world was at stake: the comfortable world of capital, class and property, of servants to be given orders, of status and of privilege.' That is why they were so hostile to the November Revolution. This is true to a big extent, but perhaps they were also worried about being taken over by (largely uneducated) peasants and workers - the 'Dark People' - and they knew that the Bolsheviks, having gained power by a coup, were unlikely to establish a democracy.

1 comment:

questionsaboutfaith said...

Hello Australia!

Just surfing blogs.
Yours looks like a good one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts from many miles away.