Chris ketcham, reading a small red book, both feet resting on the table in front of him. Behind him, a large soviet flag



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Chris Ketcham

Focused Inquiry 112

Unit 2 Source paper

One Act: “Hope Lay With the Proles”

Scene: A round table sits center stage, illuminated, with a stack of books in the center. On the far side of the table, facing downstage center, sits CHRIS KETCHAM, reading a SMALL RED BOOK, both feet resting on the table in front of him. Behind him, a large SOVIET FLAG hangs from the ceiling. A chair immediately to his right is draped in a BRITISH FLAG, while immediately to the right of that is another chair. To his left, the chair wears an AMERICAN FLAG.

ROBERT SERVICE, a British historian, enters STAGE RIGHT and makes his way to the BRITISH FLAG, only to be intercepted by CHRIS, who smiles and offers a FIRM HANDSHAKE.

CHRIS

Ah, Mr. Service, you’re here! It’s nice to see you show up, given your busy schedule and all that. Come, have a seat, I’m sure you’ve been able to ascertain which seat belongs to you of course…



CHRIS gestures toward the BRITISH FLAG.

SERVICE

Oh! I say, young man. When I received your letter I hardly expected such a young man to host such a forum!



CHRIS

Ah. Well, there have to be some of us generational oddities out there, yeah?



CHRIS and SERVICE sit.

SERVICE

I should say so, Mr…?



CHRIS

Just Chris, please.



SERVICE

Chris. I should say so, given that many of your peers were born outside of the soviet era, yes? Many questions along this vein aren’t posed by those much younger than myself nowadays! History courses excepting, of course…



SERVICE laughs.

SERVICE

Joking aside however, I’m curious as to why you wrote. I am always a proponent of intellectual debate, however I’m curious as to why there seem to be more spots at this table that have not been filled yet…



SERVICE gestures toward the empty chairs.

CHRIS

Oh, Yes, of course. We’re waiting on a few more guests. John Reed? I’m sure you’re familiar with him.



SERVICE

John Reed! The man himself? You wrote him as well! Of course, of course…When will he be here?



CHRIS chuckles and leans back in his chair.

CHRIS

Soon, I hope. But you know his type. He was probably distracted on the way here, as you know, getting here has no shortage of intrigue…Ah! Here he is now! Mr. Reed!



JOHN REED, an American journalist, enters from STAGE LEFT. CHRIS and SERVICE both stand, extending FIRM HANDSHAKES.

CHRIS

Mr. Reed! May I just say I’m elated to make your acquaintance? I’m Chris Ketcham, and this gentleman to my left is Mr. Robert Service, A leading Russian history professor from Oxford.



REED

Pleasure to meet you both.



REED, SERVICE, and CHRIS sit. REED pulls a NOTEPAD from under his overcoat, opens it, and scribbles quickly at the top of a page.

SERVICE

Are we all here?



CHRIS

Not yet. I sent word by mail to Richard Pipes and Edward Acton.



REED snorts contemptuously. SERVICE, half smiling, observes REED casually.

SERVICE

Is there a problem, Mr. Reed?



REED looks up from his notebook and smiles at SERVICE.

REED

Oh, not a single one at all, Mr. Service. Shall we continue?



CHRIS observes the exchange with detached amusement before reaching under his chair and retrieving the SMALL RED BOOK from under his seat.

CHRIS

Ah, Yes. Of course. Now the reason I asked you here was to gain a few different perspectives of a question I had regarding the rise of Bolshevism in Russia During and Post-Revolution. We can get started of course without the last two, as there are enough bodies for effective discourse. May we perhaps embark?



SERVICE

By all means.



REED

I’ll tell you honestly what I saw.



CHRIS

Excellent. My question for discussion is simply this:



CHRIS opens his SMALL RED BOOK and reads aloud.

CHRIS

There is no doubt in any of our heads that the Bolshevik revolution in Russia shook the world, as it were. However, The Soviets, in their infinite secrecy, were not exactly open to the west in the years following the red victory in 1920. What I’m struggling to grasp is how the Russian people were able to adopt a new ideological concept – communism – so quickly. Why wasn’t it gradual? What inspired the sudden political 180?



SERVICE frowns and temples his fingers, deep in thought. REED, looks up with a small, sad smile, and begins to speak.

REED

That’s an interesting question…however I believe I can begin to answer that for you, having witnessed it myself. It’s not altogether a tale of victory, however, and I bid you listen carefully, as many of the Russian organizations and dumas can become confusing.



SERVICE

You had need not worry. I too am no stranger to the Bolshevik Party’s many rivals.



CHRIS

Do continue, Mr. Reed.



REED exhales and lays down his PEN on his NOTEPAD.

REED

Well, to be honest, the revolution didn’t really end in 1920. For a while, a few months actually, the oppressed Russian people enjoyed a newfound freedom. The internal class structure had improved, and the fledgling nation enjoyed reasonable security thanks to the increase in Russian combative power1.



CHRIS

I’m sensing there’s about to be more turmoil.



REED

Yes. In any case, the honeymoon was short lived. Soon, it became apparent that the propertied classes had merely fought to remove the Tsar from power so that they could rise to rule, contrary to the wishes of the masses, or the proletariat, who wanted genuine industrial and agrarian democracy2.



CHRIS

And that’s where the Hammer and Sickle comes from?



SERVICE, awoken from his reverie, retrieves a pair of SPECTACLES from his breast pocket.

SERVICE

Quite right. The union of the industrial workers and the farmers.



CHRIS

So, the Bolsheviks faced heavy resistance? Even after their supposed victory?



REED

Very heavy resistance. While the propertied classes attempted to halt the Bolsheviks, between the two extremes sprang many groups of “moderate” socialists who sided with neither the heavy handed Bolsheviks nor the property owning remnants of Tsardom.3 These “Menshevik” parties believed that there was no hope in taking the revolution to the social level4. While the Bolsheviks declared war on the class structure of Russia, the Mensheviks believed Russia to be incapable of supporting revolution past governmental policy. Are you understanding what I’m telling you?



CHRIS

Yes, I think so. Essentially it wasn’t as smooth a transition into full socialism as we were led to believe.



REED

Heavens, No. Eventually it got to the point where the Menshevik Parties needed the bourgeoisie. However, the bourgeoisie did not need the Mensheviks, so the moderate socialists were forced to give in and fight the Bolsheviks alongside the land owning class.



CHRIS

So a classless society wasn’t immediately implemented after the Bolsheviks took power?



REED

Not immediately. However after the Menshevik threat was sufficiently dealt with, the machinery was set up to divide the land of the great estates, and distribute them among the peasants. Factory shop committees and trade unions were there to put into operation workers control of industry. All over the country there were Soviets of workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, all prepared to assume the task of local administration!5



CHRIS

You saw a successful Bolshevik Revolution then?



REED

Successful is the wrong word. I saw an effective Bolshevik Revolution. While ultimately ending in Bolshevik victory, the toll which it took on the country was not a success. Mass graves in red square. Five hundred red army soldiers buri-



SERVICE

Two hundred and thirty eight.



REED

Excuse me?



SERVICE

You are incorrect. It was only two hundred and thirty eight men buried where they fell next to the Kremlin wall.



REED

I beg your pardon! I was there! I know what I see when I see it, and there were five hundred!



SERVICE

I apologize for my impudence, Mr. Reed. However I am merely suggesting that the trauma of a visual such as the mass graves may have altered your perception of the number dead.

There is a slight pause in dialogue. REED begins to get flushed.

SERVICE

Mr. Reed, You are a communist, correct?



REED

Yes, but I don’t see-



SERVICE

So you sympathized with the Bolsheviks?



REED

What are you insinuating?



SERVICE

Could you maybe have falsified your report in order to incite the Bolsheviks even more?



REED leaps to his feet, and points his PEN at SERVICE.

REED

Falsified! I assure you, Mr. Service, that I have never intentionally falsified my reports. I admit that in the struggle my sympathies were not neutral,6 however to accuse me of such an atrocity is beyond comprehension! I have simply tried to see events with the eye of a conscientious reporter, interested in setting down the truth!



CHRIS

Gentlemen, please. Do try to keep your tempers. Mr. Service, I have confirmed your correction of Mr. Reed, however to accuse him of deliberately falsifying reports at this table simply will not do. We are here to have discourse, not attack one another. Mr. Reed, You cannot deny your bias. That is one of the reasons I called you both here today, to get different viewpoints. Different sources of information. Now, if we could continue? Mr. Service? What are your thoughts on the subject?

REED sits down and sulks. SERVICE clears his throat.

SERVICE

Well my boy, the Bolsheviks kept their hardness and they kept their faith. They learned from the ruthlessness and the optimism they had witnessed. Although the October Revolution had ended in a red victory, they were pleased, even though the price was paid by millions of Russians in death, tears, and famine.7

CHRIS

So what you mean to say is that they stayed loyal and true to the ultimate goal of a proletariat dictatorship?

SERVICE

…And they were willing to wade through a sea of blood to get there. In any case, the transition to full Bolshevism was not instantaneous. Many of the older men of the land owning class or Bourgeoisie were stripped of their citizenship and rights. While many of the working class were permitted to continue selling goods and services as commodity, the Bolsheviks still envisioned a powerful, state run autocracy.8

CHRIS

So you’re saying that the ideals of the revolution were not completely carried out immediately following victory? When did they take effect?

A BUTLER enters the room and brings TWO ENVELOPES to CHRIS.

CHRIS

Thank you.

SERVICE

The state seized the most power through the turbulent 1930’s under the leadership of Stalin, I’d say. That was abrupt. Many Russians died from famine during the abrupt collectivization of agriculture, which ultimately ended in failure.

CHRIS

Thank you, Mr. Service. Now, What I have just received here are two letters, one from Edward Acton, and one from Mr. Pipes.

REED rolls his eyes.

SERVICE

Well, are they coming?

CHRIS tears open a letter and reads the top.

CHRIS

Mr. Acton regretfully was busy today with a class in Manchester…However he has decided to answer my query in writing.

REED

Another man who thinks he knows everything there is to know about the Bolsheviks. He probably hadn’t even been born yet, let alone there to see it unfold.

CHRIS

I’ll read his segment.

(Reading)

“The Sequel to October was in no way ‘Smooth.’ In fact, following the Bolshevik victory, there was an economic slump on the scale of a modern Black death. Many millions of employees were left unemployed by the following winter of 1918. The ensuing struggle for grain and work pitted cities and countryside against one another, and even inspired rivalry between regions with competitive advantage. This turmoil would not be cleared until the mid 1930’s with an equal cost of life.”9

REED snorts and rolls his eyes. SERVICE looks slightly amused.

CHRIS

It should be noted that this is a revisionist professor.

REED

I should say so.

SERVICE

And what of Pipes?

CHRIS tears open the other letter and reads aloud.

CHRIS

I regretfully inform you that I cannot attend, on account of health and aging issues,”

Huh.

REED

Well that hasn’t stopped some of us. I turned 127 a few days ago.

CHRIS

“But of the question, I can answer.”

“From the instant that he seized Dictatorial power, Lenin destroyed and uprooted all existing Russian Institutions in order to pave the way for his new regime, subsequently labeled ‘totalitarian.’10 Lenin in a sense had a belligerent nature, and when the war was won, he would create and find new enemies to attack and destroy, such as the church, and the intelligentsia. This belligerence had an effect on Russia as a whole, and caused the Bolshevik Party to revere conflict by nature.”

Well, we know where his loyalties lie.

REED

In the western propaganda without a doubt.

CHRIS

Maybe, Maybe not. There’s bias with all of you as of yet.

SERVICE

Well of course!

CHRIS

It’s been hard finding unbiased sources. In fact, on a topic so controversial, I don’t think hardly any exist.

Thank you gentlemen for your time. I’ve got some writing to do at this moment however, so I’ll be taking my leave. After you!

CHRIS, REED, and SERVICE stand and shake hands.

CHRIS

Spokonyi Nochi.

REED

Spokonyi Nochi.

SERVICE

Good Night.

They EXIT.

FIN.

SOURCES

Reed, John. Ten Days That Shook the World. London: Penguin, 2007. Print.

Service, Robert. Spies and Commissars: The Early Years of the Russian Revolution. New York: PublicAffairs, 2012. Print.

Acton, Edward. Rethinking the Russian Revolution. London: E. Arnold ;, 1990. Print.

Pipes, Richard. Russia under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993. Print.


1 P. 34 10 Days That Shook The World, Reed, John

2 P. 34 10 Days That Shook The World, Reed, John

3 P. 36 10 Days That Shook The World, Reed, John

4 P. 37 10 Days That Shook The World, Reed, John

5 P. 38 10 Days That Shook The World, Reed, John

6 P. 38 10 Days That Shook The World, Reed, John

7 P. 329 Spies And Commissars, Service, Robert

8 P.330 Spies And Commissars, Service, Robert

9 P.205 Rethinking the Russian Revolution, Acton, Edward

10 P.499 Russia Under The Bolshevik Regime, Pipes, Richard


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