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Ten days that shook the world


This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

Towards the end of the 1930 years, world literature received a new element that played an important role in public opinion formation in democratic countries just before the settlement with Hitler. It was the books of the top journalists of that time, a combination of white-hot reporting from the major conflicts that preceded the Second World War, analysis of fascism and Nazism – and passionate warnings of the dangers of indulgence towards Hitler and Mussolini. Also in Norway, these books were translated and devoured, e.g. Douglas Reed's "The World of Madness" and Gedye's "Lost Eyes," both in Norwegian in 1939. And we, who reaped strong impressions from them, might think that the work of journalistic efforts was never accomplished.

But at that point we were wrong – my thought was when I read "Ten Days That Shook the World" by John Reed. If any single book is to be named for the century's report, then it is from the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. What a master he was, the journalist Reed, states by the simple fact that his depiction of the days of the revolution can not only be re-published half a century after the creation of the report, but is actually exciting reading all the way, even though we certainly know quite well " the hill it goes ».

In 1917, the American John Reed was 30 years old, educated at Harvard University and already known as an outstanding, radical journalist. His coverage of the First World War led him to Petrograd (Leningrad) and thus straight into the drama that began a new section of the story. Reed co-founded the American Communist Party in 1917, so no one has to doubt where he had his heart. And can he be considered a reliable reporter? Reed himself has given the open, calm answer in a 1919 foreword: "My perception of events is not neutral. But in portraying these fateful days, I have endeavored to be as conscientious a reporter as possible, with the sole aim of bringing the truth. "

He reached incredibly far towards this goal, yet the events boiled around him and every hour, day and night could bring changes of unmanageable range. The sum of his efforts lies in the unique fact that "Ten Days That Shook the World" received Lenin's recommendation and is printed in a circulation of nearly 2 million in the Soviet Union – while the book could also be accepted by people in the West as a credible eyewitness account, so true readers were not blinded by hatred of revolution and communism. This is how it became a "classic". John Reed himself experienced little of the success, he died of typhus in Moscow in 1920 and was buried in the Kremlin.

Without Reed pushing his own person in the foreground, through his portrayal of the drama on the Revolution's main scene, we can ponder a few of the traits that made him a great journalist, and in effect provide coverage for the quoted program statement in the foreword. Reed was provided with an indispensable passport from the Bolshevik headquarters at the Smolny Institute and was thus able to escape from both the central leadership and the soldiers and Red Guardians in the front line of battle. But at the same time, he strives to cover the other side as well, and manages to get in touch with both the bourgeois "cadets" and the various revolutionary but anti-Bolshevik factions in their complicated struggles – all the time with the aim of providing the fullest and most possible correct picture of the development.

What an American reporter could come up with under these circumstances is illustrated by a small episode that Reed tells soberly: As he approaches the battle area just outside the city, he is stopped by a couple of soldiers and subjected to control. Reed pulls out his good pass from Smolny – and then finds out that it is not enough at all: the guys can't read. On a hanging hair, he avoids being shot on the spot – and then continues his job as if nothing had happened.

The most captivating thing about Reed and what may also surprise most now 50 years later, is the eyewitness' convincing description of how chaotic and uncertain the situation was from day to day. If the reader has imagined the course and victory of the revolution as the result of accurate plans and sure factors of various kinds, then he will discover that the events are all the way combined with an unmanageable mass of coincidences and improvisations. The fundamental preconditions for the revolution were clear enough, but its course was often determined by leaders who had to take poker chances both at the highest level and down the ranks.

It was a great idea for Pax to get this book out for the anniversary.

John Reed: Ten days that shook the world. Pax 1967.


Sigurd Evensmo
Evensmo was formerly editor of Orientering, MODERN TIMES's forerunner.

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