The Russian Revolution: A Very Short Introduction by S. A. Smith****

Reading dates: 02 August to 04 September 2017

It is not easy to find a short introductory book on a complex issue written with clarity, insight and in a manner that is not condescending. This is it. If you want to commemorate October 1917 by finding out more about what happened, this is an excellent and quick way into the subject. Granted sometimes one gets lost in the acronyms, the names and the places and soon enough I realised I had to read Smith with attention, but that was my issue as a reader more than the book. The account is both balanced and comprehensive, or at least as much as a 160pp book can be. It is paced well, written with flair and with beautiful quotes from letters and reports of the time.

We read it for our Dialectical Materialism book group (Neil’s choice) and we had a lively conversation about Venezuela, about the future of communism, about charismatic leaders and about the lack of events revisiting October 1917 in its centenary (which is a shame). We discussed, and endorsed, the intentions of the revolution as human emancipation but acknowledged, as is well argued in the book, the unforeseen events that came up from 1917 onwards and which made Stalin rise: the return of the repressed … Perhaps, before the next revolution, we need to be well analysed …