One hundred years ago on Friday, John Reed was in St. Petersburg watching Lenin, Trotsky and the rest of the Bolsheviks take over Russia. It was interesting to read his account, “Ten Days That Shook the World,” this week — the week when Donald Trump and Steve Bannon solidified their grip on the Republican Party and America’s national government.
The big thing you notice from Reed’s reporting is how useful it is to have a secular religion. In the midst of the chaos of 1917, the communists alone knew exactly what they believed. They had a clear intellectual framework that they could use to explain events.
Everything was a clash between noble workers and the corrupt bourgeoisie. They had a clear confidence that history was on their side. They offered lonely and downtrodden people a sense of fraternity and mission.
When the climax came, Trotsky was tough: “We won’t give way an inch,” he bellowed. “If there are comrades here who haven’t the courage and the will to dare what we dare, let them leave with the rest of the cowards and conciliators! Backed by the workers and soldiers we shall go on!”