Ten Days that Shook the World



With a New Introduction by DAVID LAIBMAN

“[John Reed] writes of it [the Russian Revolution] brilliantly and entertainingly ......His familiar powers of graphic description ......are here at their best” —The New York Times Book Review

“Rises above every other contemporary record for its literary power, its penetration, its command of detail … [it will be] remembered when all others are forgotten.” —George F. Kennan

Co-published with International Publishing

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About the Book

This dazzling eyewitness account of the Russian revolution takes its readers into the heart of the extraordinary events that occurred in St. Petersburg during the late fall of 1917. This new edition with a new introduction is published to coincide with the revolution’s 100th anniversary.

An American journalist on assignment for the New York-based communist newspaper, The Masses, John Reed here provides a riveting account of the events that led to Lenin and the Bolsheviks seizing state power. Crackling with energetic immediacy, Reed’s chronicle is based on his days and nights walking the streets and visiting the meeting halls in a city ablaze with revolutionary fervor. His reports are crammed with urgent information gleaned from handbills, newspapers, and posters, and from talking to the soldiers, peasants and industrial workers who have flooded to the city to the join ranks of an insurgency that will storm the Tsar’s Winter Palace and declare a revolutionary government.

Lenin, who would become a close friend of Reed’s, wrote of Ten Days That Shook the World: “Unreservedly do I recommend it to the workers of the world. Here is a book which I should like to see published in millions of copies and translated into all languages.” With an original and extensive introduction by the acclaimed economist David Laibman, this new edition of the book that inspired both Sergei Eisenstein’s movie October and Warren Beatty’s Reds will bring to a fresh audience the tumultuous days of a revolution that was to change history for the century that followed.

448 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-682191-10-1 • E-book 978-1-682191-11-8

About the Author

john reed author photo

John Reed (1887–1920) was a journalist, activist, poet, and author. In addition to chronicling the Russian revolution, he reported on US labor strikes, the Mexican revolution, World War I, and was a founder of and international delegate for the Communist Labor Party. He is buried at the Kremlin Wall in Moscow.

Read an Excerpt

From David Laibman’s New Introduction

The Revolution chronicled in John Reed’s classic account, then, has not been deprived of its historical importance. On the contrary: if this Revolution brought forth a vision, and an early reality, of a modern, complex economy and society run by its working people, through massively democratic procedures, ensuring cooperative engagement of the resources of Planet Earth toward the ends of human development and preservation of all life, and without a predatory, unprincipled capitalist ruling class imposing its own need for power and wealth between the Planet and its working inhabitants—then that reality/vision/Revolution will only gain in historical significance, as the world’s people return to the offensive.

Those people will then need to return to John Reed’s amazing account of the struggles and pain, the visions and triumphs, of their 1917 forebears who toppled a Tsarist monarchy, then stared down the country’s internal bourgeois elites, the international capitalist empire-builders and invaders, and all of the “friendly” professional problem-solvers, to start off on a long and still-unwinding road to a future worthy of them—and us. I conclude that we must still read Ten Days, and learn from it, because there is so much still to be done.

From Chapter 4: The Fall of the Provisional Government

The massive facade of Smolny blazed with lights as we drove up, and from every street converged upon it streams of hurrying shapes dim in the gloom. Automobiles and motorcycles came and went; an enormous elephant-colored armored automobile, with two red flags flying from the turret, lumbered out with screaming siren. It was cold, and at the outer gate the Red Guards had built themselves a bonfire. At the inner gate, too, there was a blaze, by the light of which the sentries slowly spelled out our passes and looked us up and down.

The canvas covers had been taken off the four rapid-fire guns on each side of the doorway, and the ammunition-belts hung snakelike from their breeches. A dun herd of armored cars stood under the trees in the court-yard, engines going. The long, bare, dimly-illuminated halls roared with the thunder of feet, calling, shouting … There was an atmosphere of recklessness. A crowd came pouring down the staircase, workers in black blouses and round black fur hats, many of them with guns slung over their shoulders, soldiers in rough dirt-colored coats and grey fur shapki pinched flat, a leader or so—Lunatcharsky, Kamenev—hurrying along in the center of a group all talking at once, with harassed anxious faces, and bulging portfolios under their arms. The extraordinary meeting of the Petrograd Soviet was over.

I stopped Kameniev—a quick-moving little man, with a wide, vivacious face set close to his shoulders.

Without preface he read in rapid French a copy of the resolution just passed:

The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, saluting the victorious Revolution of the Petrograd proletariat and garrison, particularly emphasizes the unity, organization, discipline, and complete cooperation shown by the masses in this rising; rarely has less blood been spilled, and rarely has an insurrection succeeded so well.

The Soviet expresses its firm conviction that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government which, as the government of the Soviets, will be created by the Revolution, and which will assure the industrial proletariat of the support of the entire mass of poor peasants, will march firmly toward Socialism, the only means by which the country can be spared the miseries and unheard-of horrors of war. The new Workers’ and Peasants’ Government will propose immediately a just and democratic peace to all the belligerent countries. It will suppress immediately the great landed property, and transfer the land to the peasants. It will establish workmen’s control over production and distribution of manufactured products, and will set up a general control over the banks, which it will transform into a state monopoly.

The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies calls upon the workers and the peasants of Russia to support with all their energy and all their devotion the Proletarian Revolution. The Soviet expresses its conviction the fall of the provisional government that the city workers, allies of the poor peasants, will assure complete revolutionary order, indispensable to the victory of Socialism. The Soviet is convinced that the proletariat of the countries of Western Europe will aid us in conducting the cause of Socialism to a real and lasting victory.

“You consider it won then?”

He lifted his shoulders. “There is much to do. Horribly much. It is just beginning…”

On the landing I met Riazanov, vice-president of the Trade Unions, looking black and biting his grey beard. “It’s insane! Insane!” he shouted. “The European working-class won’t move! All Russia—” He waved his hand distractedly and ran off. Riazanov and Kamenev had both opposed the insurrection, and felt the lash of Lenin’s terrible tongue… It had been a momentous session. In the name of the Military Revolutionary Committee, Trotsky had declared that the Provisional Government no longer existed. “The characteristic of bourgeois governments,” he said, “is to deceive the people. We, the Soviets of Workers’ Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, are going to try an experiment unique in history; we are going to found a power which will have no other aim but to satisfy the needs of the soldiers, workers, and peasants.”

Lenin had appeared, welcomed with a mighty ovation, prophesying world-wide Social Revolution… And Zinoviev, crying “This day we have paid our debt to the international proletariat, and struck a terrible blow at the war, a terrible body-blow at all the imperialists and particularly at Wilhelm the Executioner …” Then Trotsky, that telegrams had been sent to the front announcing the victorious insurrection, but no reply had come. Troops were said to be marching against Petrograd—a delegation must be sent to tell them the truth. Cries, “You are anticipating the will of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets!” Trotsky, coldly, “The will of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets has been anticipated by the rising of the Petrograd workers and soldiers!”

So we came into the great meeting-hall, pushing through the clamorous mob at the door. In the rows of seats, under the white chandeliers, packed immovably in the aisles and on the sides, perched on every window-sill, and even the edge of the platform, the representatives of the workers and soldiers of all Russia waited in anxious silence or wild exultation the ringing of the chairman’s bell. There was no heat in the hall but the stifling heat of unwashed human bodies. A foul blue cloud of cigarette smoke rose from the mass and hung in the thick air. Occasionally someone in authority mounted the tribune and asked the comrades not to smoke; then everybody, smokers and all, took up the cry: “Don’t smoke, comrades!” and went on smoking.

Petrovsky, Anarchist delegate from the Obukhov factory, made a seat for me beside him. Unshaven and filthy, he was reeling from three nights’ sleepless work on the Military Revolutionary Committee. On the platform sat the leaders of the old Tsay-ee-kah [the credentials committee]—for the last time dominating the turbulent Soviets, which they had ruled from the first days, and which were now risen against them. It was the end of the first period of the Russian revolution, which these men had attempted to guide in careful ways. … The three greatest of them were not there: Kerensky, flying to the front through country towns all doubtfully heaving up; Tcheidze, the old eagle, who had contemptuously retired to his own Georgian mountains, there to sicken with consumption; and the high-souled Tseretelli, also mortally stricken, who, nevertheless, would return and pour out his beautiful eloquence for a lost cause. Gotz sat there, Dan, Lieber, Bogdanov, Broido, Fillipovsky—white-faced, hollow-eyed and indignant. Below them the second siezd of the All-Russian Soviets boiled and swirled, and over their heads the Military Revolutionary Committee functioned white-hot, holding in its hands the threads of insurrection and striking with a long arm.

It was 10.40pm. Dan, a mild-faced, baldish figure in a shapeless military surgeon’s uniform, was ringing the bell. Silence fell sharply, intense, broken by the scuffling and disputing of the people at the door … “We have the power in our hands.” he began sadly, stopped for a moment, and then went on in a low voice: “Comrades! The Congress of the fall of the provisional government Soviets is meeting in such unusual circumstances and in such an extraordinary moment that you will understand why the Tsay-ee-kah considers it unnecessary to address you with a political speech. This will become much clearer to you if you will recollect that I am a member of the Tsay-ee-kah, and that at this very moment our party comrades are in the Winter Palace under bombardment, sacrificing themselves to execute the duty put on them by the Tsay-ee-kah” (Confused uproar.)

“I declare the first session of the Second Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies open!”

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