by Ralph Gibson
“TEN days that shook the world.” Journalists are often prone to exaggeration. But few would argue with that description of the events of October/November 1917 by US reporter John Reed, an eyewitness to the Russian revolution.
The centenary of that global “earthquake” will be marked next year, and two British organisations — the Marx Memorial Library and Workers’ School and the Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies — decided that they would work together on ideas and projects that could draw upon their rich and varied resources, dating from their foundations in the years after the revolution.
One thing led to another, and before long the Russian Revolution Centenary Committee (RRCC) was born.
Bringing together a broad-based coalition of labour movement, heritage and cultural organisations, including the Morning Star, the aim of the committee is not only to mark the anniversary but also to inform debate about its continued relevance to politics and society today.
The committee hopes that trade unions will play a central role in the centenary celebrations. British trade unionists launched the extraordinary Hands Off Russia campaign in 1919 to defend the revolution from the forces seeking to strangle it at birth.
Pooling resources and expertise, organisations will be able to benefit from the connections that the RRCC facilitates.
May 1 sees the launch of the RRCC website — www.1917.org.uk. This is intended to become an information hub for anyone interested in finding out more about the revolution and events marking the anniversary.
The website will eventually provide a platform for a diverse range of resources and should become an important legacy of the RRCC’s work as the content will continue to be accessible long after the celebrations are over.
November 2016 will see the first of a whole year of activities and events which the RRCC will be co-ordinating, leading up to the actual anniversary. This will be marked by a major one-day event on November 4 2017 which the RRCC itself is organising, and will explore various themes, including British trade unions and the revolution; the political struggle for historical memory; the cultural significance of the revolution; and the political relevance of the revolution to contemporary society.
The Ken Gill Memorial Fund has already made a significant grant towards the costs of this unique event and the website will carry further details as developments occur.
• Ralph Gibson is co-chair of the Russian Revolution Centenary Committee.
Originally published in the Morning Star
"Sydney Trades Hall was built by and for the trade unions of NSW. These unions had their beginnings at around the time the Tolpuddle Martyrs were transported. The agitation for democratic rights that was part of the release campaign carried on through the Chartist movement. Some of these Chartists came to the colony of NSW (as it then was) and were key organisers of the eight hour day movement. Many of the early trade unions in NSW were branches of British unions. Sydney Trades Hall is a repository for the memorabilia of that movement and the history of radical and labour movements in Australia, just as the Marx Memorial Library is in the UK. Solidarity."