October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Miéville

Miéville (The Last Days of New Paris) marks the centenary of Russia’s dual 1917 revolutions with this vivid and insightful study of the journey from the February Revolution, which “dispensed breakneck with a half-millennium of autocratic rule,” to Lenin’s October triumph. Situating these eight turbulent months within the city of St. Petersburg, the czarist capital and the birthplace of the uprisings, Miéville writes that the story is “above all the story of its streets.” He leads readers through these streets and the complicated relationships between competing, and often violently opposed, groups of radicals—old and new Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, and others—from workers’ strikes through Lenin’s proclamation of socialism and Russian withdrawal from WWI. Miéville is fully aware of the horrors that followed this massive achievement but convincingly argues that the Russian Revolution’s “degradation was not a given”; its formative moments carried immense potential for every kind of human liberation, which could so easily have become the dominant force of the new order. As an acclaimed storyteller with a doctorate in political philosophy and a commitment to leftist activism, Miéville is an ideal guide through this complex historical moment, giving agency to obscure and better-known participants alike, and depicting the revolution as both a tragically lost opportunity and an ongoing source of inspiration. (May)

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