First a small question to tease your friends with: When did the great October Revolution happen? The answer is, of course, November 7.
As a devoted Socialist I see November 7, 1917, as the most important date in the calendar. It was the first time in history that the poor masses did not only revolt against exploitation and tyranny (as they did for thousands of years) but actually took control of the state apparatus in order to create a new type of political and social order. As we all keep trying till this day, November 7 may be defined as the beginning of modern history, of the period when the toiling masses are not only the subject matter of history, but a first class active and independent player.
But here I don’t write to repeat what you all may know, but to add a small historical fact that may have slipped off the pages of history.
First I have to explain how I came across it.
When I was young and became a Socialist in the Seventies, it opened the door for some old people to tell me stories that they kept deep in their hearts in the Zionist desert.
My grandmother, Fania Marek, used to live in Moscow before and during the Russian revolution. As the 18 years old daughter of an established Publisher, she was one of the first “victims” of Bolshevik dictates. There was a law against “parasites” that forced everybody to work or study. So, in 1918, as everybody was fighting the civil war, my grandmother enrolled to study arts in the Moscow University. She told me it was the most beautiful days in her life, as the revolution was all about “Sbovoda” – Freedom.
Her sister was engaged to a tall bearded Jewish officer in the Tsar’s Army named Stoller. When I knew him, some fifty years later, he was still a very impressive person, living in a Kibutz near the Sea of Galilee. When he heard that I’m a Socialist, he had a story to tell.
He told me that in the heydays of the revolution he was stationed in Moscow and joined the Bolsheviks with his soldiers. On November 7, 1917, he entered with his soldiers to the Winter Palace in the act that symbolized the seizure of power by the proletariat.
Then he told me what happened next. He said that his soldiers were mostly interested in the wine in the palace’s cellars. When he tried to stop them from drinking the Socialist Peoples’ wine, one soldier tried to shoot him. The next day he was a deserter from the Red Army.
I don’t see any special lesson from this story. I tell it just because it is what I heard.
It didn’t convince me to desert my position in the Socialist struggle, as uncle Stoller might have wished to do. Maybe it was good for me to see, from the beginning, how in the heights of the revolution the most heroic, the horrible and the ridiculous may meet and mix.