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Violence to Velvet: Revolutions—1917 to 2017

  • Roger D. Markwick

From their inception, the 1917 Russian Revolutions, specifically the October Revolution, have been synonymous with Bolshevik violence. In the course of the last century, almost all observers have believed that violence was inherent in the Russian revolutions and revolutions generally. Such views have obscured what a revolution actually is. Closer examination of the October Revolution confirms violence was not its defining feature. Further, the Bolsheviks conceived October as the opening salvo of international, socialist revolution; expectations largely crushed by overwhelming counter-revolutionary violence. The discrediting of war and political violence since World War II has seen the conception of revolution as a “velvet” process of political transformation emerge, particularly in Latin America, the US, Britain, and Europe. While such movements rarely look back to the Russian Revolutions, they echo the democratic, egalitarian, and emancipatory impulses bequeathed by 1917, and raise the possibility of near non-violent socialist revolutions.

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61. Ibid., 17–18, 22, 24.

62. See Foster, John Bellamy, “Marxism and Ecology: Common Fonts of a Great Transition,” Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine 67, no. 7 (December 2015): 113 .

63. Mayer, The Furies, 45–47.

64. Hewlett, Blood and Progress, esp. 101, 110, 164–73.

65. Mayer, The Furies, 35.

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