“History of the Russian Revolution” by Leon Trotsky – a book review – Workers World

How does a person start writing a book review on Leon Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution”? Simply reading the 3-volume, 1,400-page classic seems like a daunting task. But there is so much in it – history, theory and sometimes humor!

There are many published stories of the October 1917 proletarian victory in Russia. Trotsky writes from the Bolshevik point of view against countless volumes of the defeated capitalist class.

Trotsky himself thought John Reed’s “Ten Days that Shook the World” was a very accurate account of the October Revolution and was written in a more popular way. It is worth reading. But to deepen the analysis of the people, conditions and strategies of the class struggle in imperialist Russia — this can be gleaned from reading Trotsky’s own words.

Much of the book is a detailed history of the nine months of dual power between the Provisional Government, representing the capitalist state, and the Soviets, representing workers, soldiers, and peasants. It is important, but it is the political analysis that is so enlightening.

Many points made by Trotsky are applicable to struggles today. It explains why the revolutionary movement must be aware of the uneven development of the different nationalities that were part of the Russian Empire. Trotsky carefully and thoroughly explains the conditions that were unique to Russia.

The 1917 revolution began when women textile workers on the Vyborg side of St. Petersburg (Petrograd) went on strike on March 8 (February 23, old calendar) to protest bread shortages. By late afternoon, 100,000 workers were on strike.

Each country has its own history and its own problems. However, there is one thing on which Trotsky and all the great revolutionaries agree: that Marxism is the best tool for the emancipation of the working class.

The love and trust that Trotsky has for the workers shines through. It’s a commitment to study such a long book, but 30 minutes a day becomes a habit; and when volume 3 is “The Triumph of the Soviets”, the book becomes so enthralling that it is difficult to put it down!

The ruling class in the current age of decaying capitalism grossly misunderstands the intelligence and abilities of workers and the oppressed to organize, much like the way the czar and the lackeys of the capitalist class mocked the masses workers and peasants in 1917.

In the last chapter of “The History of the Russian Revolution,” Trotsky responds to the comments of an arrogant bourgeois general:

“Who would believe,” wrote one of the Russian generals, Zalessky, expressing his indignation at the workers who ruled the country, that the janitor or guardian of the courthouse would suddenly become chief justice of the court of appeals? Or the hospital nurse, the hospital director; the barber a great functionary; yesterday’s ensign, the commander-in-chief; yesterday’s lackey or ordinary worker, burgomaster (mayor); yesterday’s train oiler, division manager or station manager; yesterday’s locksmith, factory manager?

“Who would believe it? They had to believe it. It was impossible not to believe it, when ensigns routed generals, when burgomasters (mayors) from the ranks of common labor suppressed the resistance of yesterday’s lords, [when] training tankers regulating transport, and locksmiths as managers revived the industry.

The working class of the USSR held power for 74 years. The workers and oppressed peoples of the world will unite and rise up. We have nothing to lose but our chains!