- Ten Days that Shook the World
Infobox Book |
name = Ten Days that Shook the World
image_caption = 1919 Boni & Liveright hardback edition
author = John Reed
language = English
genre = History
publisher = Boni & Liveright, New York
release_date = March 1919
media_type = Print (
pages = 371
"Ten Days that Shook the World" (1919) is a book by American journalist and
socialistJohn Reed, about the October Revolutionin Russiain 1917 which Reed experienced first-hand. Reed followed many of the prominent Bolshevikleaders, especially Grigory Zinovievand Karl Radek, closely during his time in Russia.
John Reed died in 1920 shortly after the book was finished, and he is one of the few Americans buried at the
Kremlin Wall Necropolisin Moscow, a site normally reserved only for the most prominent Sovietleaders.
Concept and creation
John Reed was on an assignment for "
The Masses", a magazine of socialist politics, when he was reporting the Russian Revolution. Although Reed states that he had "tried to see events with the eye of a conscientious reporter, interested in setting down the truth" during the time of the event, he makes it clear in the preface that "in the struggle my sympathies were not neutral" (since the book leans towards the Bolsheviks and their viewpoints).
Before John Reed left for Russia, the Espionage Act was passed on
June 15, 1917, which fined and imprisoned anyone who interfered with recruiting of soldiers for the troops and prohibited the mailing of any newspaper or magazine that promoted such sentiments. The U. S. Postal Service was also given leave to deny any mailing that fitted these standards from further postal delivery, and then to disqualify a magazine because it had missed a mailing and hence, was no longer considered a regular publication.cite book |title=American Journalism: A History of Newspapers in the United States Through 250 Years, 1690-1940 |last=Mott |first=Frank Luther |year=1941 |publisher=The Macmillan Company |location=New York] Because of this, "The Masses" was forced by the United States federal government to cease publication on fall of 1917, after refusing to change the magazine's policy against the war. "The Liberator", founded by Max Eastmanunder his and his sister's private control, published Reed's articles concerning the Russian Revolution instead. In an effort to ensure the magazine's survival, Eastman compromised and tempered its views accordingly.cite book |title=Love and Revolution: My Journey Through an Epoch |last=Eastman |first=Max |authorlink=Max Eastman |year=1964 |publisher=Random House |location=New York |pages= pp. 69-78]
Upon returning from Russia during April 1918 from Kristiania in
Norway, after being barred from either traveling to the United States or returning to Russia since February 23by the State Department, Reed's trunk of notes and materials on the revolution — which included Russian handbills, newspapers, and speeches — were seized by custom officials, who interrogated him for four hours over his activities in Russia during the previous eight months. Michael Gold, an eyewitness to Reed's arrival to Manhattan, recalls how "a swarm of Department of Justice men stripped him, went over every inch of his clothes and baggage, and put him through the usual inquisition. Reed had been sick with ptomaine on the boat. The inquisition had also been painful."Citation | last =Gold | first =Michael | author-link =Michael Gold | title =He Loved the People | journal = The New Masses | volume = | issue = | pages =pp. 8–11 | date = 1940-10-22] Back home during mid-summer 1918, Reed, worried that "his vivid impressions on the revolution would fade"cite book |title=John Reed |last=Duke |first=David C. |year=1987 |publisher=Twayne Publishers |location=Boston |pages=pp. 41 |isbn= 0805775021] , fought hard to regain his papers from the possession of the government, who refused to return them.
Reed would not receive his materials until seven months months later in November. Max Eastman recalls a meeting with John Reed in the middle of Sheridan Square during the period of time when Reed isolated himself writing the book:
cquote|...he wrote "Ten Days that Shook the World"—wrote it in another ten days and ten nights or little more. He was gaunt, unshaven, greasy-skinned, a stark sleepless half-crazy look on his slightly potato-like face—had come down after a night's work for a cup of coffee.
"Max, don't tell anybody where I am. I'm writing the Russian revolution in a book. I've got all the placards and papers up there in a little room and a Russian dictionary, and I'm working all day and all night. I haven't shut my eyes for thirty-six hours. I'll finish the whole thing in two weeks. And I've got a name for it too—"Ten Days that Shook the World". Good-by, I've got to go get some coffee. Don't for God's sake tell anybody where I am!"
Do you wonder I emphasize his brains? Not so many feats can be found in American literature to surpass what he did there in those two or three weeks in that little room with those piled-up papers in a half-known tongue, piled clear up to the ceiling, and a small dog-eared dictionary, and a memory, and a determination to get it right, and a gorgeous imagination to paint it when he go it. But I wanted to comment on now was the unqualified, concentrated joy in his mad eyes that morning. He was doing what he was made to do, writing a great book. And he had a name for it too—"Ten Days that Shook the World"!cite book |title= Heroes I Have Known: Twelve Who Lived Great Lives |last=Eastman |first=Max |authorlink=Max Eastman |year=1942 |publisher=Simon and Schuster |location=New York |pages= pp.223-4]
"Ten Days that Shook the World" has received mixed responses since its publication in 1919, resulting in a wide range of critical reviews from negative to positive. However, the book was overall positively received by critics at the time of its first publication, despite critics' vocal opposition to Reed's political beliefs.cite book |title=John Reed |last=Duke |first=David C. |year=1987 |publisher=Twayne Pulishers |location=Boston |isbn= 080575021]
George F. Kennan, an American diplomat and historian who had no love for Bolshevism and is best known as "the father of containment", praised the book: "Reed's account of the events of that time rises above every other contemporary record for its literary power, its penetration, its command of detail" and would be "remembered when all others are forgotten." Kennan saw it as "a reflection of blazing honesty and a purity of idealism that did unintended credit to the American society that produced him, the merits of which he himself understood so poorly."cite book |title=Russia Leaves the War: Soviet-American Relations, 1917-1920 |last=Kennan |first=George Frost |authorlink=George F. Kennan |origyear=1956 |year=1989 |publisher=Princeton University Press |pages=pp. 68-69 |isbn= 0691008418] On March 1, 1999, "The New York Times" reportedcite news |first=Felicity |last=Barringer |title=Journalism's Greatest Hits: Two Lists of a Century's Top Stories |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9407E3D6123CF932A35750C0A96F958260&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Organizations/N/New%20York%20University |work=Media |publisher=The New York Times |date= 1999-03-01|accessdate=2007-11-17 ] New York University's "Top 100 Journalism Works of Journalism" list,This list only includes works in the United States in the 20th Century.] which placed "Ten Days that Shook the World" at #7.cite web |url=http://www.nyu.edu/classes/stephens/Top%20100%20page.htm |title=The Top 100 Works of Journalism |accessdate=2007-11-17 |publisher=New York University] Project director Mitchell Stephensexplains the reasoning behind the judges' decision:
But not all responses were positive. After the rise of
Stalinismin Russia, Joseph Stalinargued that Reed was wrong on many things in "Ten Days that Shook the World", particularly the parts about Leon Trotsky, Stalin’s archenemy. The book portrays Trotsky as the one who led the revolution with Lenin and mentions Stalin only twice — one of them being only in the recitation of a list of names. Russian writer Anatoly Rybakovelaborates on Stalinist Soviet Union's ban on "Ten Days that Shook the World": "The main task was to build a mighty socialist state. For that, mighty power was needed. Stalin was at the head of that power, which mean that he stood at its source with Lenin. Together with Lenin he led the October Revolution. John Reed had presented the history of October differently. That wasn't the John Reed we needed."cite book | last = Lehman | first = Daniel | title = John Reed & the Writing of Revolution | publisher = Ohio University Press | year = 2002 | location = United States | pages = 201 | isbn = 0821414674] After Stalin's death, the book was allowed to recirculate. In 1999, a paleoconservative journal, "Intercollegiate Review", placed it in its list of the fifty worst (defined as "books which were widely celebrated in their day but upon reflection can be seen as foolish, wrong-headed, or even pernicious") books of the century, writing: "...and after that, Reed went home and the Bolsheviks struck the set."cite journal |format = pdf | title = The Fifty Worst (and Best) Books of the Century | journal = The Intercollegiate Review | volume = 35 | issue = 1 | pages = 3–13 | publisher = Intercollegiate Studies Institute| date = Fall 1999 | url = http://www.mmisi.org/ir/35_01/50worst.pdf | issn = 00205249| accessdate = 2008-08-01]
Introduction by Lenin
After its first publication, Reed returned to Russia in the fall of 1919, delighted to learn that
Vladimir Leninhad taken time to read the book. Furthermore, Lenin agreed to write an introduction that first appeared in the 1922 edition published by Boni & Liveright (New York):
cquote|With the greatest interest and with never slackening attention I read John Reed's book, "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. It gives a truthful and most vivid exposition of the events so significant to the comprehension of what really is the
Proletarian Revolutionand the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. These problems are widely discussed, but before one can accept or reject these ideas, he must understand the full significance of his decision. John Reed's book will undoubtedly help to clear this question, which is the fundamental problem of the international labor movement.
" V. LENIN.
End of 1919"
Notes and references
Russian Revolution of 1917
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