U.S.S.R. and communism historical discussion.
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Post 17 Jul 2012, 15:27
I actually just got this movie. I'm looking forward to viewing it myself. I've mixed reviews but I'm pretty excited to see it.
Post 19 Jul 2012, 04:18
What I really disliked about "Reds" were all the witnesses talking over the dialogue of the charecters. I was thinking "what is this a PBS documentary?". I think that if anything, the witnesses should have only spoken in the special features of the DVD. The part I particularly liked was the part about the events leading up to the split of what became the Communist Party U.S.A. from the Socialist Party of America.
Post 19 Jul 2012, 05:01
Yeah that made the whole thing drag on and deflated the action/drama. Just like PBS.
Post 19 Jul 2012, 20:28
They did made a good point about his unwavering support for the Soviet Union. You know how typically the "good guys" can be revolutionaries, but cannot support a "totalitarian" regime. Not so in this case.
Post 27 Jan 2014, 20:26
This is an old thread, but that's what happens when I never read these smaller subforums. I guess in a subforum like this one, time doesn't really matter.

I've always liked this film, personally. I think the "Maoist-Thirdworldist" reviews are often silly, but the one quoted here gives a good summary of two important political discussions that appear in the dialogue. I've heard people suggest that the dialogue is somehow "stereotyped" or "clichéd", but maybe people who say this might just consider themselves more sophisticated theoretically than they really are. To me, the dialogue between Reed and Goldman summarises the endless "anarchists vs Leninists" discussion rather well. Revolution is not a dinner party.

Another scene that struck me was the one where Reed is in the Soviet Union, trying to get recognition for his Communist Party (there's a rival one). I don't remember exactly how it goes, but I think that after a long explanation from Reed about all the theoretical differences, Zinoviev curtly informs him that they are to merge immediately. Is this a dose of common sense, or typical heavy-handed Comintern stuff? I thought it was pretty funny anyway.
Post 07 Mar 2014, 21:02
How do you think Lenin would have taken it if they had been ordered to merge with the Mencheviks by the Germans? I think it was a show of the heavy-handedness of the Comitern.

And agreed fully on his dimissal of Goldman and her desire for a virginal birth of a socialist state (typical anarchist stuff!).
Post 07 Mar 2014, 23:02
"The first-world workers are reactionary"

Oh come on, it's like Maoists haven't even read a condensed children's version of capital. By purchasing a good you enable wage slavery and the exploitation of surplus value, but one must still do it be it for a Volvo, a stereo, or a loaf of bread.

Goddamn I can sympathize with some elements of how the most profound struggle is in the third world, the third world gets the worst of the excesses of capital, but this statement is just garbage. Workers are not reactionary, they're just not revolutionary. I don't get it, nor do I get this bollocks assertion by the film.

Zinoviev was a propagandist but he never called for Islamic war. Islamic Marxism as it was called was purged for its petty bourgeois beliefs and rightly so, it was a travesty. You can have allies but dam you can't have metaphysics bleeding into Party historical materialism.

The first part of the review was neat, but I got mad at the second as I did at the entire movie. Basically it's too much lovey-dovey personal bullshit, not enough information on important shit. Montage of the October Revolution? Cut me a fragging break.
Post 25 Apr 2014, 11:08
praxicoide wrote:
How do you think Lenin would have taken it if they had been ordered to merge with the Mencheviks by the Germans? I think it was a show of the heavy-handedness of the Comitern.

Well, I don't think it's the same situation. The split between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks mattered, whereas these American parties in the film were depicted as squabbling sectarians (I don't know if this is historically accurate). The scene echoes that bit in Lenin's Left-Wing Communism where he urges the four tiny British communist parties to merge, based on the principles of the Comintern and obligatory participation in parliament (as opposed to their sectarian rejection of all parliamentarism and all compromise). So I guess that kind of "heavy-handedness" would have been right up Lenin's alley. But like I said, I don't know if the American situation was exactly the same.

Anyway, Reds came up recently in a discussion concerning a completely different film, Rosa Luxemburg by von Trotta. Some people thought that it was too "great man"-ish (well, great woman), focussing only on the activity and the personal affairs of the German socialists. It was defended by comparison to Reds, to which I replied that that was all well and good, but at least Beatty's effort had goddamn cavalry jumping out of fragging train carriages, whereas the Luxemburg film just has lots of people talking.
Post 23 Jan 2015, 06:46
KlassWar wrote:
"Nobody saw the exact reason why John Reed died. I think he was poisoned during those days when Stalin became paranoid of American citizens. I think he was suspected to be an American spy that is why he died. He also fell into a honey trap. Those lovemaking scenes were made when John was having doubts about life in the Soviet Union. He tried to escape through a manually driven train cart (or whatever you might want to call it)."

In 1920-21, factional struggles inside the Bolsheviks were not unsurmountable: Yes, Trotsky and Stalin didn't like each other much (Never did, actually). But they were not yet plotting to depose or murder each other. Had Lenin lived 10 years longer (without having the strokes), it's perfectly possible they wouldn't have started plotting at all!

While Lenin was alive, he commanded enough personal influence to thwart attempted faction wars. Trotsky was disinclined to start a Bonapartist coup (He didn't even try before getting kicked out of the USSR). Stalin didn't even start sacking dissident Bolsheviks ¡n earnest until circa 1926-27. The very idea of having one's dissident comrades murdered was pretty much verboten until 1932 or so: When Bukharin contemplated a coup (against Brest-Litovsk) in 1918, he was dead against killing Lenin and Trotsky. When Stalin defeated Trotsky in the faction wars of the late 20s, Trotsky was kicked out, not murdered. When Lenin/Trotsky wanted to get rid of Stalin-as-GenSec in 1923, they didn't even want to kick him out of the party!

Reed wasn't the Pentagon's man in the USSR: He was very much the Smolny's chief American supporter. The idea that Stalin (who didn't kill Trotsky in 1929) woulda murdered Reed in 1920 is ludicrous. Stalin did lots of bad things, sure, but killing Reed wasn't one of'em. Besides, it ain't like death by infection during the Russian Civil War is particularly unusual: It's certainly more plausible than hypothetical Stalinist conspiracies pre-1928.

You have an interesting discussion. The Russian video clip, Diamonds for the World Revolution, and a separate essay by Felshtinsky, put forth three possibilities- that Reed could have been a US double agent, that he was turning against the Bolshevik leadership, and that he killed or poisoned.

They don't give serious evidence for the first assertion. They merely suggest the possibility that Reed intentionally delivered the diamonds to the anti-Communist White Finns when they arrested him in Feb. 1920. But so much of Reed's work was devoted to such strong support of the Bolsheviks, like his article "Ten Days that Shook the World", that this is unlikely. Besides, he was severely mistreated by the Finns in prison (so bad that he fell ill), and he would not have been if he was really an anti-Communist.

The second possibility, that Reed's opinions were changing, is however the case. This also came to be known by Soviet historians on Reed, however unlike the movie REDS suggests, Reed still remained a strong supporter of Socialism. What happened was that some American socialist delegates to the Comintern in August 1920 like Reed did not want to require Communists to work inside of the "mainstream" labor unions like the AFL. They wanted to do things like support the IWW instead. They fell into a very bitter dispute with Radek and Zinoviev over this, one so bad that Reed proposed himself resigning from the Comintern, but this was refused.

At that time, Reed was very close to Angelica Balabanova and they both thought that Zinoviev was running the Comintern autocratically. Balabanoff was then assigned to Turkistan in Central Asia, which was somewhere between work and exile.
Eric Homberger writes in his book on John Reed:
Reed understood what Zinoviev was doing, and tried to warn Balabanoff: 'They want to get rid of you,' he told me after my return from Petrograd, 'before the foreign delegations arrive. You know too much." 'But surely', I replied, 'they don't doubt my loyalty.' 'Of course not, but neither do they doubt your honesty. It is that they are afraid of.'"

Reed wanted to stay in Moscow and meet his wife there. He argued with Zinoviev about this too, and Zinoviev said that the Comintern orders his trip to Baku and Reed must "obey". I think that I read that Reed's letter to Bryant was not given to her. On his return from Baku he brought Bryant to meet Lenin and some other Soviet leaders, and the meetings were positive. However, only several days after his return, he fell ill from Typhus, which he probably contracted during his trip (the onset period of Typhus is about a week). Reed intensely wanted to return to America, he told Bryant, despite his illness.

If you read from different authors about Reed's last months in Russia, a strong picture emerges over his disagreement with their style of ruling the Comintern. At the same time, this doesn't mean that you have to agree with Reed. You could take the position that Lenin was right to want the Bolsheviks to work within the mainstream unions, not the IWW. And you could think that the Comintern was right to decide its members' policies (like Reed's).

As for the third possibility, that Reed was killed, there is simply insufficient evidence of that. Reed really did fall ill with Typhus or at least some other disease, because Bryant was there to observe it. If he had been poisoned, I believe that he would have fallen ill quickly and that his condition would have been at its worst at the earliest moment. Instead, whatever illness he had gradually worsened over time, which is what an infection does. You would have to claim that somebody intentionally infected him, which is something that even Felshtinsky and the movie clip don't spell out.

All you can really claim is that Reed's mentality had begun to oppose the Comintern leadership as autocratic. He could easily have opposed it again at the next Comintern meeting. Some of his associates at that time, like Balabanova, Emma Goldman, Max Eastman, Ben Gitlow, were turning against the Comintern or were about to, so he might have on returning to the US, and thus his death came at a "convenient" time. It followed a tragic series of events within about half a year- losing the diamonds to the White Finns, undergoing harsh imprisonment in Finland, and being in opposition at the Comintern. But there is really not more than that which I can see to point to anything more.
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