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October 1917

October 1917

An Intoxication with the Future

By Don Milligan

The future for which the Marxists yearn, communism, is as absurd to their detractors as any peasant’s [mythological land of plenty]. It is rarely distinctly outlined, but they know it beckons beyond private property and its violence, beyond exploitation and alienation, to a world where technology reduces labour, the better for humanity to flourish. ‘The true realm of freedom’, Marx’s words: ‘the development of human powers as an end in itself’. This is what they want.

Image: China Miéville
October: The story of the Russian Revolution
London: Verso, 2017,

The October Revolution is the name given to the moment in which the Bolsheviks seized control of the Russian Revolution, which had broken out some months earlier on 28th February 1917, when waves of demonstrations, strikes, and mutinies, led to the abdication of the emperor, Tsar Nicolas II.1 Grand Duke Michael, the Tsar’s brother, refused to assume the throne, and a de facto republic, known as the Provisional Government came into being, led briefly by Nikolai Golitsyn, and then by Prince Georgy Yevgenyevich Lvov, a leading member of the Constitutional Democrats (Kadets). Lvov’s government was, however, not in control of events as his Minister of War explained early in March:

1 Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov was, until his abdication in March 1917, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, in sole command of the Russian state and army. A large hereditary aristocracy controlled most agricultural land and all the major offices of state, providing the principal support for the emperors’ autocratic rule. This social edifice rapidly collapsed following Nicholas’s abdication. He was shot along with his wife, his five children, his doctor, and three servants on 17 July 1918 at Yekaterinburg on the orders of the Ural Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.

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“Genuinely thought provoking and provocative. A much-needed takedown of what Orwell once called the ‘smelly little orthodoxies’ of the left, and why they are so distant and alienated from the working class they claim to fight for.” - Ralph Leonard