When the Russian Revolution broke out in early 1917, Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov – better known as Lenin – the leader of the Bolshevik faction of the RSDLP, was exiled in Zurich, Switzerland. As the first reports arrived of these extraordinary events, Lenin’s excitement was coupled with exasperation that he himself was separated from them by thousands of miles. “I am beside myself that I cannot go to Scandinavia!!” he complained bitterly, in a letter to his friend Inessa Armand. “I will not forgive myself for not risking the journey in 1915!”

The Russian Revolution of 1917 had a massive impact throughout the world. Bolshevik ideas inspired workers all over Europe and across the Atlantic in the Unites States. The events of October 1917 were the spark that ignited American communism, while also setting the stage for decades of oppressive anti-communist propaganda and 'witch-hunts' by the ruling class.

The aim of Lessons of October was to expose how the faction within the Communist International was politically responsible for the missed opportunity and failure of the German Revolution of 1923, by bringing out the essential lessons of the October Revolution. Here Trotsky's seminal work is presented in full.

Lenin stated that the October Revolution of 1917 could never have taken place without the previous experience of the Revolution of 1905. A study of this remarkable event is therefore of great importance for anyone who wishes to understand the dynamics of revolution in general, and not just in a particular case. In the struggle for revolutionary ideology, a place of honour is occupied by the marvellous writings of Leon Trotsky. And among these, one of the most important is 1905, which we publish here.

The capitalist world enters a period of industrial upswing. Booms alternate with depressions – an organic law of capitalist society. The current boom nowise indicates the establishment of equilibrium in the class structure. A crisis frequently helps the growth of anarchist and reformist moods among the workers. The boom will help fuse the working masses.

Comrades, the internal causation and lawfulness of historical development was formulated for the first time by Marxist theory. The theory of Marxism, as Marx himself wrote in the introduction to his work Critique of Political Economy, established approximately the following proposition with regard to revolution: No social system departs from the arena until it has developed the productive forces to the maximum degree attainable under the given system; and no new social system appears on the scene unless the economic premises necessary for it have already been prepared by the old social system. This truth, which is basic for revolutionary policy, unquestionably retains all its meaning as a guide for us to this very moment. But more than once has Marxism been understood mechanically, unilaterally and therefore erroneously. Wrong conclusions may likewise be drawn from the foregoing proposition.

Lenin is no more. We have lost Lenin. The dark laws that govern the work of the arteries have destroyed his life. Medicine has proved itself powerless to accomplish what was passionately hoped for, what millions of human hearts demanded.

That Lenin arrived in Petersburg and had come out against the war and against the Provisional Government at workers’ meetings, I learned from American newspapers at Amherst, a concentration camp for German prisoners in Canada. The interned German sailors began to take an immediate interest in Lenin, whose name they had come across for the first time in the news dispatches. These were all men avidly waiting for the war to end; it would open for them the gates of this prison camp. They listened with utmost attention to every voice raised against the war. Up to this time they had known of Liebknecht. But they had been told time and again that Liebknecht was a paid agent of the Entente. Now they learned of Lenin. They learned from me of Zimmerwald and Kienthal. Lenin’s anti-war speeches won many of them over to Liebknecht.

We are reprinting on this 29th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky‘s brief sketch of the great Sverdlov, the incomparable Bolshevik organizer. It is well to acquaint our readers with this heroic figure, who epitomized the type of revolutionist who made possible the 1917 revolution and the subsequent victory over the counter-revolution.

"Every worker had a vague idea that inside those grey greatcoats, soldiers’ hearts were beating in time with his own wishes. The task of the proletariat for 1917 was to draw the army into a revolutionary front against the tsar, the landlords, the bourgeoisie and the war."

On 21 March 1917 (3 April according to the new calendar), the first of Lenin's Letters from afar was published in Pravda, which was at that time edited by Joseph Stalin and Lev Kamenev. In these letters Lenin outlined the main characteristics of the Russian revolution and laid the basis for the political reorientation of the Bolshevik party. This was the political basis for the coming to power of the Bolsheviks only 7 months later.