(People's World) -- John Reed, the great American labor journalist and a founder of the Communist Party USA, was the first to bring this country the news of what had happened in Russia on November 7, 1917. In his widely-hailed account, Ten Days that Shook the World, Reed wrote that a coalition of Russia’s working class and peasants, carrying the banner of “peace, bread, and brotherhood,” had seized power. The “Great October Revolution” (in the old Russian calendar, November 7 was October 25) set itself the task of transforming an oppressive empire into a socialist society.
During the 20th century, the seed planted by that revolution grew into an international socialist movement that transformed the world. Underdeveloped societies following the example of the October Revolution were rapidly industrialized, and important economic and social rights for countless millions secured. Countries breaking free of colonialism—such as Vietnam, Cuba, South Africa, and others—benefited from the solidarity of socialist states and parties. The horrors of fascism and Nazism were defeated, with the Soviet Red Army carrying much of the load in that task. The existence of socialist states in Eastern Europe dedicated to full employment, free medical care, racial and ethnic harmony, and women’s equality constituted a pressure on the rulers in the capitalist world to make concessions to their workers and democratic movements. And, for nearly 50 years, the USSR countered the aggressive aims of U.S. imperialism.
Though its image might have been sullied over time by setbacks, betrayals, the revelation of crimes, and its ultimate demise in 1989-91, the October Revolution certainly remains the seminal event of the past century. As Reed wrote, “No matter what one thinks of Bolshevism, it is undeniable that the Russian Revolution is one of the great events of human history, and the rise of the Bolsheviks a phenomenon of world-wide importance.” At its core, the revolution was about freedom and the liberation of human potential.
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