Today In History: November 7, 1917

One of the most seismic events of the 20th century: The Russian Revolution.

Look at that gathering of rogues.

I love the grainy old photographs of all of them – they always look so twinkly and jolly, don’t they? It’s such a dichotomy because honestly a more humorless and nasty bunch has never existed. Stalin’s face always seems to be twinkling, as though he is Santa Claus on his day off. And the “social realism” paintings of the guy are so idealized it makes me want to puke. Standing surrounded by children, glimmering and twinkling benevolently. But they ALL look like that to me. Like they are chortling from on high. I say “I love the grainy old photographs” not because it does my heart good to see Trotsky smiling – but because I find them VERY interesting. Especially, as I mentioned, the collective twinkle in the eye. It’s propaganda. Very very effective propaganda. Myth-making.


On this day in 1917, the Bolsheviks seized the government buildings and put out a proclamation declaring the new government. There had been a spontaneous uprising in February of the same year, and much upheaval led up to the October Revolution. The Czar had abdicated (unbelievable) – a Provisional Government had been set up (with a mix of the old guard and the new … well, THAT didn’t last long) … the Bolsheviks, in their power-grab, put out a notice saying that the Provisional Government was no longer.


There was almost no resistance, although a civil war followed.

The Russian Revolution is, along with Cary Grant and the early career of Ralph Macchio, one of my enduring fascinations.

Many reasons why.

First of all: I love politics and history – and whatever the outcome, you would be hard pressed to find a more important moment of political upheaval in the entire 20th century than the Russian Revolution. It changed the world.


Second of all: because it was SUCH a bad idea.

This is the secret in the secret book in 1984 (excerpt here). This is what nobody told you: The point was NEVER equality. The point was ALWAYS power – and controlling power into the hands of a very few. But the theories and ideals surrounding this secret were compelling to so many … many still refuse to believe that there is no secret. That the smokescreen of equality was STILL the real point.

Thirdly: I am fascinated in the Russian Revolution because of the world-wide repercussions of it – and also because I vividly remember the entire edifice cracking apart in the late 80s. I couldn’t believe it. I am in that generation that still grew up being afraid of Russia. Come on, I saw Red Dawn and it was real enough at the time for me to tremble at the thought of such a thing actually happening. We were the last generation to grow up with that fear. We have OTHER fears now – but not that one. I grew up during the dying gasps of the Cold War. So – to learn about the BEGINNINGS of such a political movement – something that would be entrenched for the better part of a century – has always been important to me.

And lastly,: cults fascinate me. How do you not only control what people DO but how they THINK? It all comes down to language.

In the early heady days of the Bolshevik takeover – there was something in their twinkly assurance that they could re-make the world through LANGUAGE itself. Imposing a mindset, a correct way of thinking, on a country of millions.


Victor Klemperer, a German Jew who lived in Dresden Germany and witnessed the rise of Nazi power, eventually wrote a book (after WWII and the fall of the Nazis) called The Language of the Third Reich and it is an obsessive documentation of how the language was co-opted by the Nazis. He has saved newspaper clippings, obituaries, regular classifieds – to show how the language had filtered down into even the most mundane level. It became a code. It had no life in it. It atomized – from top to bottom. It is chilling – a brilliant book, I highly recommend it (not to mention his published journals of the Nazi years – NOT to be missed: I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941 and I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945: A Diary of the Nazi Years. Invaluable historical documents. An example of his notes about “the language of the third reich” here)

John Reed’s 10 days that Shook the World is a brilliant and intense piece of propaganda . It’s so vivid that you can see the clouds of people’s breath in the freezing air as they stomp in the packed ice outside the Winter Palace. You smell the cigar smoke, all of that. A first-hand account of the October Revolution, it was the book that “sold” the Revolution to the outside world. I used to have a way-more condescending readership than I do now – this was in the early days of my site – and most of those guys have moved on to greener friendlier pastures. I got in fights on almost a daily basis with readers who couldn’t seem to stop visiting me every day, but who just couldn’t stand how I wrote. It wasn’t clear enough for them. They thought they were visiting, oh, Little Green Footballs or something, and then were shocked when I wasn’t, you know, batshit crazy. I realize I can’t control everything, and that people all come to me for different reasons – and that’s cool – but once you’re here? I encourage a certain KIND of commentary, because it, to me, is the most satisfying and civilized. But some people couldn’t hack it. They OOZED with condescension towards me. These were all conservatives. I’m pretty conservative myself, but I’m not like THESE bozos, thank Christ. They all sounded the same. They all used the same words. They couldn’t understand why I, who shared some of their views, used, uhm, different words. The first time I wrote about John Reed and had the GALL to praise his writing, I was condescended to within an inch of my life by idiots who can’t see the difference between art and ideology. “You CAN’T praise his writing!! You just CAN’T!” I was called “just plain stupid” on a prominent conservative website. These worried little readers gave me long lists of things I ‘NEEDED’ to read (all of which I had already read) in order to counteract Reed’s propaganda. Huh? These readers seemed truly nervous to be in the presence of an independent thinker who could say things like, “John Reed’s a fine writer” and still have her brain intact. This became the main issue in the old days with my site: those who could not talk about art without talking about ideology.

Now this is all rather interesting, in retrospect, because it shows the totalitarian mindset actually at work (albeit in a small benign way). The need to control how another person speaks is one of the cornerstones of a totalitarian gameplan. And so if people use different words, words that do not have the stamp of approval from some Bigwig on a Podium – or if they use the “right” words but put them in the “wrong” order it is seen as deeply disturbing. “Wait … wait … what is she SAYING?” It was truly interesting. So I would lead off not with a condemnation, but with words of praise for the writing, and people would read NO FARTHER, and jump all over me. “No no no, you have to LEAD OFF with your condemnation of the ideas – you can’t just start a post with the words ‘John Reed was a good writer’ – because THEN what will people think??” Ah, but those are the words of an ideologue, and I am not an ideologue. I’d write a post about the control of language in Communist society, and these dudes would race in, trying to control my language. But these guys considered themselves to be defenders of democracy. It was rich!!


(twinkle, twinkle, glimmer, glimmer, look at our serious comradely rural conversation about serious ideas, we are in accord, we are dear brothers of the spirit. Yeah, right.)

Back to the topic at hand – John Reed: I love first-person accounts of any historical event. I like to feel like I am THERE. What did you smell, see, touch? One of his contemporaries has said, about Reed’s writing and journalism, “He couldn’t be touched”, and he really can’t, not in terms of reportage, as well as giving you a sweeping sense that you are there.

Reed prints all of the Bolshevik pamphlets, fliers, announcements – word for word, in facsimile sometimes, so that you can see what it actually looked like – and all of it is in that LANGUAGE of Communism, that deadening blunted-edge language – with no poetry, no humanity in it. It is FROM a collective and TO a collective. I start to drone out into some gray foggy area as I read that stuff, losing my critical mind.

To control a population: you MUST control their language. You MUST show them the “correct” way to speak. There is only ONE meaning of the word “state”. There can only be ONE meaning of the word “freedom”. So the leaders of the Revolution set out immediately to co-opt the language. Watch any developing revolution anywhere in the world and watch how they start by controlling the language. Look at the group of peole today who want to control the words “marriage”, “family”, “values”. Their desire is to co-opt MEANING, make no mistake about it. Their desire is EXclusive – to shut others out, they want to “own” a word. They are not to be trusted.

George Orwell knew this, of course, and that’s where the whole Newspeak thing comes from, in 1984.

I find it interesting, and ironic in a horrifying way, that Lenin would say: “While the State exists there can be no freedom; when there is freedom there will be no State.”

Look at that language. The language of diametrically opposed clarity. This is not the language of humanity. It is an abstraction. I am not entirely convinced that any of these people truly believed in the Utopia, although it’s not always easy to know someone’s motivations or beliefs – as people are notoriously unreliable witnesses about themselves. Some of them did – and the gradations were much subtler back then, of socialism, communism, capitalism. Orwell is eloquent on all of this, as are many of the other “converts” – Arthur Koestler is another one. The belief in socialism is also a difficult thing to talk about with those who have entrenched prejudices, but again: I’m talking about history here on the ground-level – NOT the filtered-down present day version where the sides are clearly drawn. In the early days, there was much belief, there was also not a lot of information coming out of Russia, and there was a smokescreen thrown up – for decades – about what was actually happening. Many were duped. I think many were WILLINGLY duped. They went and witnessed the “show trials” of the 1930s and bought the piece of theatre as the truth. “Yes, it’s awful, but these people all actually CONFESSED … so of course they were guilty – otherwise why would they confess?” This is the pampered Western mind at work, and we should be grateful, actually, that we do have a level of incomprehension about that kind of pressure and insanity. But before that – in the teens and twenties – things were not at all as clear as they soon became.

So Lenin makes that statement about the state – but then of course what happened in Russia? The State became everything.

I refuse to just blame this on Stalin’s evil – although I do think he was evil – and missing whatever piece it is that makes most of us human. I don’t think he was the way he was because his Mummah didn’t love him enough, or because he was short. I think there was something in him – a deadly mixture of patience and violence (rare rare rare – most dictators have the violent thing down, but what most of them lack is PATIENCE – Stalin knew how to wait … sometimes for decades … to get what he wanted). But I don’t think Stalin took an essentially good idea and made it bad. I think it was a terrible idea to begin with.

Check out the picture below – of junkers lounging around in the Winter Palace in the fall of 1917:

From John Reed’s 10 days that Shook the World – one of his descriptions of the events of Nov. 7, 1917 – marvelous writer, marvelous first-hand reportage, although my modern-day self rolls my eyes at his naivete:

By this time, in the light that streamed out of all the Winter Palace windows, I could see that the first two or three hundred men were Red Guards, with only a few scattered soldiers. Over the barricade of firewood we clambered, and leaping down inside gave a triumphant shout as we stumbled on a heap of rifles thrown down by the yunkers who had stood there. On both sides of the main gateway the doors stood wide open, light streamed out, and from the huge pile came not the slightest sound.

Carried along by the eager wave of men we were swept into the right hand entrance, opening into a great bare vaulted room, the cellar of the East wing, from which issued a maze of corridors and stair-cases. A number of huge packing cases stood about, and upon these the Red Guards and soldiers fell furiously, battering them open with the butts of their rifles, and pulling out carpets, curtains, linen, porcelain plates, glassware … One man went strutting around with a bronze clock perched on his shoulder; another found a plume of ostrich feathers which he stuck in his hat. The looting was just beginning when somebody cried, “Comrades! Don’t touch anything! Don’t take anything! This is the property of the People!” Immediately twenty voices were crying, “Stop! Put everything back! Don’t take anything! Property of the People!” Many hands dragged the spoilers down. Damask and tapestry were snatched from the arms of those who had them; two men took away the bronze clock. Roughly and hastily the things were crammed back in their cases, and self-appointed sentinels stood guard. It was all utterly spontaneous. Through corridors and up stair-cases the cry could be heard growing fainter and fainter in the distance, “Revolutionary discipline! Property of the People ….”

Here’s all the crap I have written about Stalin over the years, if you’re interested.


(portraits of the Romanovs ripped off the walls of the Palace and other official buildings)

Robert K. Massie’s highwater-mark book Nicholas and Alexandra (excerpt here) describes the October Revolution from the perspective of the Czar and his family, already incarcerated (for their “protection”):

In September, the Bolsheviks gained a majority within the Petrograd Soviet. From Finland, Lenin urged an immediate lunge for supreme power: “History will not forgive us if we do not take power now … to delay is a crime.” On October 23, Lenin, in disguise, slipped back into Petrograd to attend a meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee, which voted 10 to 1 that “insurrection is inevitable and the time fully ripe.”

On November 6, the Bolsheviks struck. That day, the cruiser Aurora, flying the red flag, anchored in the Neva opposite the Winter Palace. Armed Bolshevik squads occupied the railway stations, bridges, banks, telephone exchanges, post office and other public buildings. There was no bloodshed. The next morning, November 7, Kerensky left the Winter Palace in an open Pierce-Arrow touring car accompanied by another car flying the American flag. Passing unmolested through the streets filled with Bolshevik soldiers, he drove south to try to raise help from the army. The remaining ministers of the Provisional Government remained in the Malachite Hall of the Winter Palace, protected by a women’s battalion and a troop of cadets. Sitting around a green baize table, filling the ashtrays with cigarette butts, the ministers covered their scratch pads with abstract doodles and drafts of pathetic last-minute proclamations: “The Provisional Government appeals to all classes to support the Provisional Government –” At nine p.m., the Aurora fired a blank shell, and at ten, the women’s battalion surrendered. At eleven, another thirty or forty shells whistled across the river from the batteries in the Fortress of Peter and Paul. Only two shells hit the palace, slightly damaging the plaster. Nevertheless, at 2:10 a.m. on November 8, the ministers gave up.

This skirmish was the Bolshevik November Revolution, later magnified in Communist mythology into an epic of struggle and heroism. In fact, life in the capital was largely undisturbed. Restaurants, stores and cinemas on the Nevsky Prospect remained open. Streetcards moved as usual through most of the city, and the ballet performed at the Maryinsky Theatre. On the afternoon of the 7th, Sir George Buchanan walked in the vicinity of the Winter Palace and found “the aspect of the quay was more or less normal.” Nevertheless, this flick of Lenin’s finger was all that was necessary to finish Kerensky. Unsuccessful in raising help, Kerensky never returned to Petrograd. In May, after months in hiding, he appeared secretly in Moscow, where Bruce Lockhart issued him a false visa identifying him as a Siberian soldier being repatriated home. Three days later, Kerensky left Murmansk to begin fifty years of restless exile. Trotsky later, in exile himself, scornfully wrote Kerensky’s political epitaph: “Kerensky was not a revolutionist; he merely hung around the revolution … He had no theoretical preparation, no political schooling, no ability to think, no political will. The place of these qualities was occupied by a nimble susceptibility, an inflammable temperament, and that kind of eloquence which operates neither upon mind or will but upon the nerves.” Nevertheless, when Kerensky left, he carried with him the vanishing dream of a humane, liberal, democratic Russia.

From distant Tobolsk, Nicholas followed these events with keen interest. He blamed Kerensky for the collapse of the army in the July offensive and for not accepting Kornilov’s help in routing the Bolsheviks. At first, he could not believe that Lenin and Trotsky were as formidable as they seemed; to him, they appeared as outright German agents sent to Russia to corrupt the army and overthrow the government. When these two men whom he regarded as unsavory blackguards and traitors became the rulers of Russia, he was gravely shocked. “I then for the first time heard the Tsar regret his abdication,” said Gilliard. “It now gave him pain to see that his renunciation had been in vain and that by his departure in the interests of his country, he had in reality done her an ill turn. This idea was to haunt him more and more.”

At first, the Bolshevik Revolution had little practical effect on faroff Tobolsk. Officials appointed by the Provisional Government – including Pankratov, Nikolsky and Kobylinsky – remained in office; the banks and lawcourts remained open doing business as before. Inside the governor’s house, the Imperial family had settled into a routine which, although restricted, was almost cozy.


Haunting. I know it’s me projecting, but it’s almost like I can see their terrible fate in their eyes, even in the expressions of the little ones.

From Edvard Radzinsky’s book The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II (a wonderful book, I love all of Radzinsky’s books – he also wrote a book on Stalin (some of my thoughts on the book here), and a book on Rasputin (intemperate words from me on that book here) – he’s terrific – In this book, with the opening of the archives following glasnost and perestroika, he tries to put together – through the existing documentation – the decision to murder the tsar and his family):

In his diary, Trotsky, back from the forest, described his conversation with Sverdlov:

” ‘The tsar is where?’
” ‘Shot, of course.’ [Imagine Sverdlov’s cool triumph when he told Lev to his face that they had torn his favorite bone right out of his mouth; there would be no trial.]
” ‘And the family is where?’
” ‘The family as well.’
” ‘All of them?’
” ‘Yes. What about it?’ [Again Sverdlov’s invisible grin between the lines: “Does the fiery revolutionary Trotsky pity them?”]
” ‘Who decided this?’ [Fury: he wants to know who dared not consult with him, and so on.]
” ‘We all did. Ilich [Lenin] felt we could not leave them a living banner, especially given our trying conditions.’ ”
Yet when his anger had passed, Trotsky, who during the terrible days of the revolution had said, “We will leave, but we will slam the door so hard the world will shudder,” could not have helped but admire this superrevolutionary decision.

“In essence this decision was inevitable. The execution of the tsar and his family was necessary not simply to scare, horrify, and deprive the enemy of hope, but also to shake up our own ranks, show them that there was no going back. Ahead lay total victory or utter ruin … The masses of workers and soldiers would not have understood or accepted any other decision. Lenin had a good sense of this,” Trotsky wrote.

So, according to Trotsky, it was all decided in Moscow. That was what Goloshchekin negotiated in Moscow!

This is only Trotsky’s testimony, however. History recognizes documents – and I foun done. First a clue, from a letter of O.N. Kolotov in Leningrad:

“I can tell you an interesting detail about the topic of interest to you: my grandfather often told me that Zinoviev took part in the decision to execute the tsar and that the tsar was executed on the basis of a telegram sent to Ekaterinburg from the center. My grandfather can be trusted; by virtue of his work he knew a great deal. He said that he himself took part in the shootings. He called the execution a ‘kick in the ass’, asserting that this was in the literal sense: they turned the condemned to the wall, then brought a pistol up to the back of their head, and when they pulled the trigger they simultaneously gave them a kick in the ass to keep the blood from spattering their uniforms.”

There was a telegram! I found it! Even though they were supposed to destroy it. The blood cries out!

Here it is lying before me. One stifling July afternoon I was sitting in the Archives of the October Revolution and looking at this telegram, sent seventy-two years before. I had run across it in an archive file with the boring label “Telegrams About the Organization and Activities of the Judicial Organs and the Cheka,” begun on January 21, 1918, and ended on October 31, of the same 1918. Behind this label and these dates lie the Red Terror. Among the terrifying telegrams – semiliterate texts on dirty paper – my attention was struck by a two-headed eagle. The tsarist seal!

This was it. On a blank left over from the tsarist telegraph service and decorated with the two-headed eagle was this telegram: a report on the impending execution of the tsar’s family. The irony of history.

At the very top of this telegram, on a piece of telegraph ribbon, is the address “To Moscow Lenin.”

Below, a note in pencil: “Received July 16, 1918, 21:22.” From Petrograd. And the number of the telegram: 14228.

So, on July 16, at 21:22, that is, before the Romanov’s execution, this telegram arrived in Moscow.

The telegram was a long time in getting there, having been sent from Ekaterinburg to “Sverdlov, copy to Lenin”. But it was sent through Zinoviev, the master of the second capital, Petrograd – Lenin’s closest comrade-in-arms at the time. Zinoviev had sent the telegram on from Petrograd to Lenin.

The individuals who sent this telegram from Ekaterinburg were Goloshechekin and Safrov, another leader of the Ural Soviet.

Here is its text:

“To Moscow, the Kremlin, Sverdlov, copy to Lenin. From Ekaterinburg transmit the following directly: inform Moscow that the trial agreed upon with Filipp due to military circumstances cannot bear delay, we cannot wait. If your opinion is contrary inform immediately. Goloshchekin, Safarov. On this subject contact Ekaterinburg yourself.

And the signature: Zinoviev.

Nov. 7, 1917 NY Times front page article:

Bolsheviki Seize State Buildings, Defying Kerensky

Premier Posts Troops in Capital and Declares Workmen’s Council Illegal
And Preliminary Parliament, Forced by Rebels to Leave Palace, Supports Him
Petrograd Conditions Generally Normal Save for Outrages by So-Called Apaches
Bolsheviki Seize State Buildings

Nov. 7, Petrograd – An armed naval detachment, under orders of the Maximalist Revolutionary Committee, has occupied the offices of the official Petrograd Telegraph Agency. The Maximalists also occupied the Central Telegraph office, the State Bank and Marin Palace, where the Preliminary Parliament had suspended its proceedings in view of the situation.

Numerous precautions have been taken by Premier Kerensky to thwart the threatened outbreak. The Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Committee has been decreed an illegal organization. The soldiers guarding the Government buildings have been replaced by men from the officers’ training schools. Small guards have been placed at the Embassies. The women’s battalion is drawn up in the square in front of the Winter Palace.

The commander of the northern front has informed the Premier that his troops are against any demonstration and are ready to come to Petrograd to quell a rebellion if necessary.

No disorders are yet reported, with the exception of some outrages by Apaches. The general life of the city remains normal and street traffic has not been interrupted.

Leon Trotzky, President of the Central Executive Committee of the Petrograd Council of Workmen’s Soldiers’ Delegates, has informed members of the Town Duma that he has given strict orders against outlawry and has threatened with death any persons attempting to carry out pogroms.

Trotzky added that it was not the intention of the Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates to seize power, but to represent to a Congress of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates, to be called shortly, that the body take over control of the capital, for which all necessary arrangements had been perfected.

In the early hours of the morning a delegation of Cossacks appeared at the Winter Palace and told Premier Kerensky that they were disposed to carry out the Government’s orders concerning the guarding of the capital, but they insisted that if hostilities began it would be necessary for their forces to be supplemented by infantry units. They further demanded that the Premier define the Government’s attitude toward the Bolsheviki, citing the release from custody of some of those who had been arrested for participation in the July disturbances. The Cossacks virtually made a demand that the Government proclaim the Bolsheviki outlaws.

The Premier replied:

“I find it difficult to declare the Bolsheviki outlaws. The attitude of the Government toward the present Bolsheviki activities is known.”

The Premier explained that those who had been released were on bail, and that any of them found participating in new offenses against peace would be severely dealt with.

The Revolutionary Military Committee of the Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates demanded the right to control all orders of the General Staff in the Petrograd district, which was refused. Thereupon the committee announced that it had appointed special commissioners to undertake the direction of the military, and invited the troops to observe only orders signed by the committee. Machine gun detachments moved to the Workmen’s and Soldiers’ headquarters.

In addressing the Preliminary Parliament yesterday Premier Kerensky charged the Military Committee of the Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates with having distributed arms and ammunition to workmen.

“That is why I consider part of the population of Petrograd in a state of revolt,” he said, “and have ordered an immediate inquiry and such arrests as are necessary. The Government will perish rather than cease to defend the honor, security, and independence of the State.”

The Preliminary Parliament, in response to the Premier’s appeal for a vote of confidence, voted to “work in contact with the Government.” The resolution, which originated with the Left, was carried by a vote of 123 to 102, with 26 members abstaining from voting. A resolution offered by the Centre calling for the suppression of the Bolshevikis and a full vote of confidence failed to reach a vote. The Cabinet, however, considers the resolution adopted as expressive of the Parliament’s support.

The reported resignation of Admiral Verdervski, Minister of Marine, was denied after the Cabinet meeting. It was stated that all the ministers had agreed to retain their portfolios.

The Bolshevik Chairman of the Petrograd Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates, realizing that there are more ways than one of acquiring real authority, not only attempted its capture by armed force but also by a far more ingenuous plan, which was disclosed today. He formed a so-called Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, and informed the Headquarters Staff of the Petrograd military district that only orders sanctioned by the Military Revolutionary Committee would be executed.

On Sunday night the committee appeared at the staff offices and demanded the right of entry, control and veto. Receiving a natural and emphatic refusal, the military revolutionaries wired everywhere to the general effect that the Petrograd district headquarters were opposed to the wishes of the revolutionary garrison, and were becoming a counter revolutionary centre. This bid for the loyalty of the garrison has so far yielded no definite results, but obviously is extremely dangerous, especially in view of the fact that in the Petrograd garrison discipline is extremely lax.

It is said the Provisional Government intends to prosecute the Military Revolutionary Committee. It should be noted that the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets is backing the Provisional Government. There is a general feeling of reaction against the Bolshevik-ridden Soviets, a feeling completely loyal to the revolution but impatient of disorders.

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4 Responses to Today In History: November 7, 1917

  1. JFH says:

    I LOVE how you analyze historic events and individuals from a unique perspective…

  2. Dave E. says:

    Great post, thanks. There’s a lot to chew on there. That third photo is pretty fascinating, given what we know now. They don’t look like monsters.

  3. red says:

    Dave -You gotta wonder who might have been airbrushed out of the photo! “Nope. HE WASN’T THERE, I SWEAR HE WASN’T.”

    Bah humbug.

    There are a couple of new books out about Stalin that I have not yet had a chance to get to – but I will eventually.

  4. red says:

    And it’s interesting: Stalin isn’t in John Reed’s book at all. There may be one tiny mention of him, but he comes off as beyond peripheral. Of course, in later years – Lenin was pushed out of the way and the whole thing was depicted as Stalin’s victory alone – it’s amazing they got away with it. It’s like what Bulgakov writes about in Master and Margarita – the splitting off of the psyche under such pressure: No no no, you DIDN’T actually see a lifesize cat riding the streetcar – You were MISTAKEN. And so the guy cracks under that constant pressure and finally accepts the madness of the split psyche – They’re right, I NEED them, because I DIDN’T see that cat, and I still think I did, but they were right – it was a figment of my imagination!!

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