The anniversary of October 1917

It has been 100 years since the Tsarist Empire was undone by the will of millions of Russian workers, peasants and disenfranchised.

The first of the 1917 revolutions began – unexpectedly – on International Women’s Day, when Petrograd’s factories were overflowing with speeches on the state of women’s lives.

‘As the meetings ended,’ China Miéville writes in his book October, which documents the revolution and what it aspired to, ‘women began to pour from the factories onto the streets, shouting for bread.’

The surge was unstoppable.

Abruptly, without anyone having planned it, almost 90,000 women and men were roaring on the streets … And now they were shouting not only for bread, but for an end to war. An end to the reviled monarchy.

Even after the horrors of Stalinism, and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in the 1980s and 90s, the emancipatory ripples of 1917 cannot be stilled.

But how to make sense of the politics of 2017, which can lead to Cold War nightmares, fidelity to the liberal state, or conspiracy theories like those under a microscope in our essay on the seventieth anniversary of Roswell?

This edition addresses that question in erudite and surprising ways, examining how the revolution shaped our understanding of human rights, how Judaism and Islam co-existed alongside materialist revolution, why nineteenth-century terrorism failed, and how the ruling classes, whether in the antipodes or the Middle East, will never transform this world for the better.

Issue #228 celebrates another anniversary, too: in 1972, Overland published one of Peter Carey’s first short stories, which we revisit this issue, alongside a smart interview with Carey on writing and politics.

We dedicate this issue to the emancipatory spirit of 1917. ‘[It] was Russia’s revolution, certainly, but it belonged and belongs to others, too,’ writes Miéville. ‘If its sentences are still unfinished, it is up to us to finish them.’




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Jacinda Woodhead

Jacinda Woodhead is a former editor of Overland and current law student.

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