October: The Story of the Russian Revolution

Russia has become front-page news since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and October: The Story of the Russian Revolution provides insight into how that country's modern political machine came to be. China Miéville pushes through the sludge of history to reveal the absurdities and truths undertaken in revolution. From a partisan, leftist perspective, he retells the events leading up to the 1917 October Revolution, beginning with the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II and ending with a violent seizure of power by the Bolsheviks from a flailing provisional government.

Miéville points to Russia's embrace of serfdom until 1861, long after Western Europe's abandonment of the practice, as an impetus behind the revolutionary uprisings. Political infighting and philosophical differences among workers' unions and business groups divided the country further, and socialists were reluctant to dictate policy. Meanwhile, the status quo of coalition government and its continued participation in World War I led to mass food shortages, increasing crime and growing discontent among the poorer classes. This in turn precipitated the seizure of power by the far leftist Bolsheviks, whose own power struggles threatened to unravel already sensitive political agendas.

It is as if Miéville is on the field providing a prescient play-by-play report of 1917 that has echoes in the present day, so demonstrable is the fear and descent into anarchy. Russia floundered through nine months of indecision, fear and terror in hopes of an idealized social democracy that never came to be, and in October, those events continue to inform modern Russian--and global--politics. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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