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Held to Ransome
Letter by Sasha Simic, December 2009
I really enjoyed John Parrington's review of The Last Englishman, Roland Chamber's new biography of Arthur Ransome (Books, Socialist Review, November 2009).
The bourgeois press don't know what to make of Ransome and the "problem" of his attachment to the Russian Revolution. If they could view history from the perspective of the working class, they would see there is no "great mystery" as to why he endorsed the revolution and gave the early soviets his wholehearted support. He recognised it for what it was - the self-liberation of the poorest and most oppressed people on the planet.
The bourgeoisie have sought to label Ransome a Bolshevik dupe or a "useful idiot" manipulated by Lenin. He was neither. He was an acute observer of the events in Russia over 1917 and 1918 and, after assessing the direction it was going in, chose his side.
In 1918, taken to task by A G Gardiner of the Manchester Guardian over the partiality of his coverage of the revolution, Ransome stood by his record.
Ransome experienced the Soviet of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies when it was a genuine instrument of a grass-roots democracy which to this day has never been equalled.
The dreams of the revolution were broken by unimaginable privations and the failure of the revolution. Ransome was no "fellow traveller" in the mould of those intellectuals of the 1930s who were only attracted to the USSR when Stalin had annihilated every vestige of the democratic gains of 1917.
Ransome's devotion to the authentic revolution is not a "problem" or an aberration which needs explanation. He saw the world turned upside down in Russia in an experience which stayed with him for the rest of his life.
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