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John Reed (1887-1920)

John Reed

Young, enthusiastic, genius, brave, humanitarian and revolutionary, this is John Reed the American poet, writer, journalist and political activist, in the turn of 20th century.

He was born in Portland, Oregon in a middle class family. After his graduation from Harvard in1910, he traveled to Europe, where he not only saw a big gap between rich and poor, but instead of class struggle, they were preparing themselves for the big imperialist war, WW I. As he wrote later, “Nations are ready to fly at each other’s throat like dogs.”

In return he began working with different progressive political journals and magazines like New Review, American, The Masses, Metropolitan, New York World and others. He traveled across the United States, to Mexico and several times to Europe covering workers strikes, social upheavals, revolutions and wars not as an impartial observer, but as a participant to help the masses against their exploiters.

From the heroic strike of women and children in Lawrence, Massachusetts; the silk workers strikes across the Hudson River in Paterson, demanding only to reduce their work day to an eight-hour day, were clubbed down by the police; to the Ludlow Massacre where striking miners in southern Colorado were machine-gunned and their families burned to death, he was there and wrote about it in “The Colorado War”, 1914.

While in 1914, the peasant revolution of Mexico was underway, Reed went there, riding with Pancho Villa the commander of the North Revolutionary Army for four months and wrote vividly about that event in the “Insurgent Mexico”, 1914.

In 1917, when he and his wife Louise Bryant learned about the Russian Revolution, they set sail to Finland and Petrograd and became part of the Revolution; a friend of V.I. Lenin.

His experiences, close contacts with leaders and revolutionaries were the subjects of his famous book, “Ten Days That Shook the World”, 1920.

In 1917, Woodrow Wilson the president of USA, seeking war with Germany and its allies, Reed testified before the Congress and vehemently opposed the war, he wrote, “War means an ugly mob-madness, crucifying the truth-tellers, choking the artists, sidetracking reforms, revolutions and the working of social forces.”

He was arrested many times in US and also during his return from Russia in Finland. After three months he was released and returned back to Russia. But his short fruitful life ended at the age of 33, when he got typhus. He was the co-founder and leader of the Communist Workers Party of the USA and the friendship delegate of American workers to revolutionary Russia. He was burried as a Soviet hero in Moscow with a full state honour.

The movie “Reds” which was directed by Warren Beatty and based on John Reed’s and his wife Louise Bryant’s story, won three Academy Awards in 1981, including the best director.

Other works:

  • Diana’s Debut, 1910

  • SANGAR, 1913

  • The War in Eastern Europe, 1916

  • Freedom a Prison Play, 1916

  • Tamburlaine, 1917

  • The Structure of the Soviet State, 1919

  • Red Russia, 1919

  • The Daughter of Revolution, 1927

  • The Education of John Reed, 1955

  • Adventures of a Young Man, 1966

  • The Complete Poetry of John Reed, 1973

  • John Reed for the Masses, 1987

  • John Reed and the Russian Revolution, 1992

  • The Collected Works, 1995

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