This is a collection of essays, some new, some dating from the time of the revolution and some in the intervening centuries. The outlook belongs to what I would describe as an orthodox Trotskyist viewpoint. The articles that are contemporary with the revolution are from leaders such as Lenin and Trotsky and from sympathisers abroad like Rosa Luxemburg. Modern historical outlooks come in the form of a useful analysis of factory committees by David Mandel who also provides a modern defence of the October Revolution as does an analysis by Ernest Mandel (no relation) who challenges the notion popular in Cold War liberal historiography that October was merely a coup. While this latter essay is good and well argued, it’s now a little out of date as the notion today that October was a coup is surely dead as a serious proposition. David Mandel’s ‘defence’ essay is much more up to date and here, perhaps, the most interesting fact for me that emerged was the treatment of the revolution by the modern Russian education system. That the February Revolution represents the Great Russian Revolution and that October represented an “experiment” – the position of Putin’s education policy thus mirrors the Western Cold War liberal one whereby the legitimacy of the October Revolution is denied.
Paul Le Blanc also has a short overview of historiography. It’s quite good, but too short and there are better offerings elsewhere. The book is shoddily produced – some sections are out of page order and upside down!