Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: communism

The History of the Russian Revolution

It’s been over a year since I started looking into this subject and had to put it away, but I think I’m ready to dive into The History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky. I said I THINK I’m ready. I’m not 100% sure. I have a few reservations.

history of the russian revolution

Remember when I started my last book and mentioned that I’d probably with that book for quite some time? Well, this time I mean it. This book is over two inches thick and 1400 pages long!

Back in July of 2020, I started reading A People’s Tragedy – The Russian Revolution by Orland Figes because my son and I were watching Trotsky on Netflix. We were fascinated by the show, and I wanted to know more, so I did a quick search for “best book on the Russian Revolution” and Figes’ book was highly recommended in several articles.

I was not disappointed, but I was highly affected. The revolution, and Russia in general, has such a complicated history. There really is no place like it. The tragedy of it all, so many millions of people dead from war, famine, political bullshit. It’s terrifying. And there is so much we don’t know, so much was hidden from the rest of the world for so long.

Some of my friends have mentioned my “obsession with Russian culture,” but I’m not so much interested in the people as the era, what led up to it, and what really happened. Why? Because what I’m reading, about the Russian Revolution and the Nazi’s in Germany, feels eerily like events unfolding around the world today.

THAT’S the reason I hesitate to dive in again. Last time I did, it felt terrible, like I had watched a scary movie and kept seeing monsters everywhere for weeks. The truth is that the monsters are always around, and they don’t always attack. If we could see clearly which events led exactly to what, we could easily avoid the bad times. One thing doesn’t always lead to another. The world is far more intricate.

I am looking forward to reading this book, but I’m curious what I’ll find, or if I’ll even understand what I’m reading. I read the introduction and preface this morning and already have questions. Everything I’ve seen or read about Trotsky leads me to believe he was a very interesting and deep character. People are rarely evil incarnate. They all have several sides, reasons for what they do, backgrounds and personalities that lead them. This is one person on my list that I’d love to go back and talk to if I had a time machine. I want to see this man for myself, have a cup of tea with him, and ask him a bunch of questions.

He wrote this history of the Russian revolution himself while he was hiding in exile from Stalin. I’m curious what he has to say to me.

Want to read more posts inspired by Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution?
Learning Hooks and Summit Reaches
Am I Turning Into a Revolutionary?
Distracted and Uninspired?
Leading the Movement of the Masses?
A Reading End and A Writing First

DNF: “Did Not Finish” does Not Equal Failure

It’s my first DNF of the year, my friends! Yep, I’m a quitter! There are times in life when you just have to walk away from something. Let’s celebrate the wisdom of making choices and not wasting anymore time.

DNF - Mao - The Unknown Story
I’m a quitter!

I’ve spent almost 4 hours in “Mao – The Unknown Story” and, at the rate I’m going, I’ll be there for 20 more. I’m calling it quits right here. It’s not that it’s boring, it’s just…not useful, maybe.

The book reads as if Mao was a demon straight from birth. As if one could have known what his life path would lead to and maybe he should have been cut off from this earth before he did too much damage. There are no why’s in this book. There’s no ideology discussed, no reasons for the path he chose, just the description of a monster’s acts. I just don’t think that’s helpful.

Here’s the thing, there are legitimate reasons to think Communism is a bad idea…and there are reasons to believe it’s a great idea. Demonizing one side or another gets us nowhere. What we need are facts laid out so that we can see the past more clearly and create an informed worldview to work from in the future. But, then again, that assumes that most people want to do that. I’m feeling rather pessimistic this week. Maybe it’s the heat. I think most people aren’t interested in ruling themselves. They’d rather sit back and have someone tell them what they are supposed to think instead.

DNF for: reading this book has put me in a negative spin. I need to turn that around.

There are two positives that I got from this book! The first was that I didn’t realize that Communist China rose with Communist Russia. Same timeframe. Same leadership. They were “contemporaries” and now I need to find better books that give me more of that background. Maybe something that reads a tad less like propaganda and more like a less biased history. That will take some time to find, since Russia and China are charged histories from my American worldview.

I also added two books to my TBR list. “The Essential Marx” A collection of Marx writing, edited by Trotsky in the 30’s to show what he based his thinking on. And “The Portable Atheist.” Another collection of atheist and agnostic works through the ages. I’m not a Marxist or an Atheist, but it seems to be the way the world leans these days, so it’s best to know why, right?

I think “it’s making me sad for no reason” is a legitimate reason to DNF (did not finish) a book. If the book were giving me background on Communism, the ideology and culture of China, reasons for the revolution, or details about its connection with the Russian Revolution, I’d keep reading, even if it did make me sad. All it’s doing right now is listing atrocities and creating a monster to hate and fear. That’s never a good way to help thinking people make better decisions.

I only started this book a few days ago and posted about it at “Mao – The Unknown Story: New Read.”

Banning Political Thought and Expression

“Whereas in Europe new ideas were forced to compete against other doctrines and attitudes, with the result that people tended towards healthy skepticism about claims to absolute truth, and a climate of pluralism developed, in Russia there was a cultural void. The censor forbade all political expression, so that when ideas were introduced there they easily assumed the status of holy dogma, a panacea for all the world’s ills, beyond questioning or indeed the need to test them in real life.

Convinced that their own ideas were the key to the future of the world, that the fate of humanity rested on the outcome of their own doctrinal struggles, the Russian intelligentsia divided up the world into the forces of ‘progress’ and ‘reaction’, friends and enemies of the people’s cause, leaving no room for doubters in between. Here were the origins of the totalitarian worldview.”

A People’s Tragedy – The Russian Revolution by Orlando Figes

It’s things like the quote here that lead me to believe I’ve stumbled across the playbook of our current political climate. I’ll be honest, it scares me. The more I read, the more I start to see the parallels, and the more I start to think we are being played by factions of our own government, our own people.

Several times in the past few years I’ve wondered why we all seem to think it’s ok to ban certain types of speech, political and philosophical. Several times I’ve wanted to post that banning, censoring, or otherwise legislating against “hate” is a slippery slope we don’t want to be on. I want to stand up and say, “If you forbid people to speak against you, if you say to your friends and family, “This kind of thinking will not be tolerated,” you aren’t changing anyone’s heart or mind. You only drive them underground, where their supposedly hateful ideas will fester and grow.” But I’ve been afraid.

The fact that I’m afraid to publicly state that “hating” is also a protected right, even in a semi-private, friends and relations only page, makes me shudder. What kind of country have we become that we are afraid to say what we think? Where will this lead us? Reading about the Russian Revolution, I’m starting to see where it could and that makes me terribly sad in some ways and reassures me in others.

It scares me because I worry that we’ll repeat the same mistakes we’ve made in the past. I hate to see people suffer, and I’m afraid those that will suffer most are the very people that are being used as pawns in a game; the poor, uneducated, and “underprivileged” that we say we are trying to help gain a better position.

It reassures me because I’m reminded that there is actually nothing new under the sun. People have always suffered in some way. Governments have always overreached. Revolutions have happened, people have struggled, and atrocities have been committed, over and over again. Humans seem to thrive on it.

What does shine through, for me, is human ingenuity and intelligence. The more I focus on individual stories, the more comforted I am. The big picture might be terrifying, but the things we do, the lives we lead inside that picture? Wow. We’re amazing.

This book is going to take me FOREVER to read. It’s over 800 pages long and I’m currently reading abut 25 pages an hour. I’m not getting much done other than to read, write, and do basic housework, but I’ll just keep going like this until someone around here complains!

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