If nothing else, the Bolshevik Revolution was seen as an absolute break with the past. That is how it was planned, how it was hymned (“We’ll burn up Raphael for our Tomorrow’s sake,” wrote Vladimir Kirillov; he was shot twenty years later), and how many of its opponents understood it. With the exception of those realists who regarded it as a reversion to barbarism, Red October was perceived as something essentially modern, or, even, to some, as rather more than modern, a pathway, to borrow a pre-revolutionary phrase from Trotsky, towards a “radiant future.”

The imagining of that radiant future owed more to ancient fantasies than a Lenin or Trotsky would ever admit, even probably to themselves. But burrow through their verbiage, eliminate the preoccupations of time and place—czars and capital and imperialism— and it becomes obvious that the...


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