Libcom.org's reading guide on the 1917 Russian revolution.
Russian revolution 1917: reading guide
- The Bolsheviks and workers' control: the state and counter-revolution - Maurice Brinton - Amazing pamphlet exposing the struggle that took place over the running of workplaces between workers and the new Russian state.
- The Bolsheviks come to power - Alexander Rabinowitch - Seminal account of the Russian Revolution between July 1917 and the overthrow of the provisional government in October.
- Factory Committees in the Russian Revolution - Rod Jones - Pamphlet about the Russian workers' struggle to create socialism not in political party programmes but through confronting the concrete reality of everyday life. In particular covers the activity of the factory committees.
- The unknown revolution, 1917-1921 - Volin - Extensive work on the Russian Revolution, its usurping by the Bolsheviks and on workers' rebellions against the new dictatorship.
- The strategy and nature of Bolshevism - Final chapters of Gabriel and Dany Cohn-Bendit's book Obsolete Communism, the Left-Wing Alternative, dealing with the theory and practise of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolshevik Party during the Russian Revolution.
Key people and groups
- The Bolsheviks - Revolutionary socialist party which came to power in the 1917 Russian revolution. Important figures included Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin.
- Gavril Miasnikov and the Workers' Group - Gavril Miasnikov was a Russian metalworker and veteran Bolshevik activist who was expelled from the party in 1922 for demanding workers' control of industry and a free press. He then set up the Workers Group of the Russian Communist Party aka The Workers' Group. Repeatedly arrested and imprisoned by the Russian Communist Party and he was eventually executed in 1945.
- Workers' Opposition - Faction in the Russian Communist Party who opposed the bureaucratisation of the party, though never fully broke with Bolshevik ideology.
- Nestor Makhno - Ukrainian anarchist and commander of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine aka 'The Makhnovists', an independent anarchist army which fought both the old Tsarist regime and the new Bolshevik one (see reading list below).
- Gregori Maximov - Russian anarcho-syndicalist sentenced to death by the Bolsheviks but saved by the solidarity of Russia's metalworkers union. The editor of several anarcho-syndicalist newspapers he was eventually expelled from Russia.
Other recommended texts
- My Disillusionment in Russia - Emma Goldman - An account of her experiences in Russia during the revolution, providing a picture of the rampant opportunism of the Soviet government and the feeling of betrayal on the part of many revolutionaries.
- The Russian Tragedy - Alex Berkman - Analysis on the failure of the Russian revolution, written in 1922.
- The third revolution? Peasant resistance to the Bolshevik government - Nick Heath - Excellent article on the wave of rebellions of rank-and-file Russian workers and peasants across the country in 1919-1921 against the Bolsheviks. Contrary to Bolshevik claims, these rebellions were not reactionary but in support of the revolution's original aims: socialism, and workers' and peasants' self-management.
- Trotsky, the Left Opposition and the Rise of Stalinism: Theory and Practice - John Eric Marot - Demolition of the popular myth that Trotsky and his Left Opposition within the Bolsheviks were a heroic attempt to defend working class interests against Stalinism.
- Bolshevik Opposition to Lenin: G. T. Miasnikov and the Workers' Group - Paul Avrich - Informative article about Miasnikov and the Workers' Group, a dissident breakaway faction from the Bolsheviks.
- Russian anarchists and the civil war - Paul Avrich - Avrich discusses the position of anarchists during the Civil War in Russia, including Makhno in the Ukraine and the repression of anarchists in Russia itself.
- Syndicalists in the Russian Revolution - Gregori Maximov - An account of the effects Russian Revolution on the Russian syndicalists and anarchists, and vice-versa, by a leading Russian anarcho-syndicalist of the time.
- The Hunt for Red October: Ten Days That Didn't Overthrow Capitalism - Wildcat - Article debunking theories both for and against the October Revolution in Russia against the events of 1917-1921, including the council communist, Trotskyist and 'left communist' positions on the revolution.
- Social origin and educational level of the chief Bolshevik leaders in 1917 - Information from a questionnaire filled out by members of the Bolshevik central committee in 1917, regarding the social background of the so-called leaders of the Russian working class.
- Red Petrograd: revolution in the factories 1917-1918 - S.A. Smith - Well researched and detailed study of the factory-level impact of the Russian Revolution in Petrograd, dealing in particular with implentation of workers' control by the factory councils.
In 1921 there was a mutiny and rebellion of sailors and workers in the Russian port town of Kronstadt against the autoritarianism of the new Bolshevik government. The uprising in the town of Kronstadt, famous for its radicalism in both the 1905 and 1917 revolutions was declared 'counter-revolutionary' and 'a White (Tsarist) plot' by the Bolsheviks.
- 1921: The Kronstadt rebellion - Short and simply written introductory text into the events at Kronstadt.
- The Kronstadt uprising of 1921 - Ida Mett - Fantastic history of the Kronstadt uprising, dispelling Bolshevik misinformation about the rebellion and includes many original sources from the uprising itself.
- Kronstadt Izvestia - Archive of the Kronstadt rebels' publication, written and published at the time of the uprising, outlining their demands and events as they happened.
- The Kronstadt Revolt - Ante Ciliga - Short account written by the Croatian Marxist at the time of some of Trotsky's writings on the subject, which faces many of the major issues.
- The Kronstadt Uprising of 1921 - Lynne Thorndycraft - Excellent article including information which demolishes the lie put forward by the Bolsheviks at the time (and repeated by their supporters today) that the workers and sailors of Kronstadt had, between 1917 and 1921, turned from solid revolutionaries to backward self-seeking peasants.
- Kronstadt '21 - Victor Serge - Excerpt on the Kronstadt rebellion from Memoirs of a Revolutionary by an ex-Bolshevik. Despite remaining remaining in the camp of those claiming Kronstadt as 'a tragic necessity', he is honest enough to describe the facts of the situation in their own damning terms.
Between 1918 and 1921 in the Ukraine, the anarchist Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine aka 'The Makhnovists' battled against both the 'White' armies of the old Tsarist regime and the 'Red' armies of the new Bolshevik one.
- 1917-1921: The Ukrainian Makhnovist movement - Short and simply written introduction to the revolutionary movement in the Ukraine.
- History of the Makhnovist movement, 1918-1921 - Peter Arshinov - The definitive book on the subject of the Makhnovists. Highly recommended.
- Nestor Makhno in the Russian civil war - Michael Malet - Excellent essay examining the Makhnovist movement, from its military history to its ideology and organisational structure.
- Kontrrazvedka: The story of the Makhnovist intelligence service - Vyacheslav Azarov - Interesting study of the Makhnovists' intelligence service during the Russian civil war.
- Anti-Semitism and the Makhnovists - Michael Malet - Essay demonstrating that - despite false allegations - Makhno was not anti-Semitic and that incidents of anti-Semitism among the Makhnovists were less than in rival military forces, including the Bolshevik Red Army.
- Who are the Makhnovists and what are they fighting for? - Statement written by the Cultural Educational Section of the Makhnovist Army in April 1920.
- Manifesto of the Makhnovists - Manifesto of the Makhnovists, written in 1918 by Nestor Makhno.
- Reds - Film written, directed, produced and starred in by Warren Beatty, who plays the American communist and writer John Reed as he experiences first-hand the Russian revolution. Also starring Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Gene Hackman.