Birthday of John Reed
Born on 22nd October, 1887 in Portland, US, John Reed was an American journalist, poet, and Communist activist. His short life as a revolutionary writer and activist made him the hero of a generation of radical intellectuals. Reed failed his first attempt at Harvard College’s admission exam but passed on his second try, and enrolled in the fall of 1906.Tall, handsome, and lighthearted, he threw himself into all manner of student activities. He graduated from Harvard College in 1910. He began writing for a Socialist newspaper, The Masses, in 1913. In 1914 he covered the revolutionary fighting in Mexico and recorded his impressions in Insurgent Mexico (1914). Frequently arrested for organizing and defending strikes, he rapidly became established as a radical leader and helped form the Communist Party in the United States.
He covered World War I for Metropolitan magazine; out of this experience came The War in Eastern Europe (1916). He became a close friend of Lenin and was an eyewitness to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, recording this event in his best known book, Ten Days That Shook the World (1919). When the U.S. Communist Party and the Communist Labor Party split in 1919, Reed became the leader of the latter. Indicted for treason, he escaped to the Soviet Union and died of typhus; he was subsequently buried with other Bolshevik heroes beside the Kremlin wall.
Osho says, “It was because of John Reed that I came to know Portland. John Reed was born in Portland, lived in Portland, was a journalist in Portland. I have read thousands of books but I can say John Reed’s book stands separate in its own glory. He was really a courageous man. He went from Portland to Russia to witness the actual revolution. And the book is a masterpiece. He was not a communist then but whatever he saw he described, and it is certainly one of the greatest descriptions, an eyewitness description. John Reed says at one place, “I was just watching — what is happening? This is distribution? This is destruction! Nobody is getting anything, just a beautiful palace is being destroyed. Immensely valuable statues are being broken. People are tearing apart great chandeliers and taking pieces. Nobody can prevent it, it is now a mob. Where are the leaders? And who is going to listen to the leaders in such a situation? This kind of revolution I don’t call a revolution, it is nothing. It is just that you get fed up with one system, with one imprisonment, and you enter another prison; it is only a change. Hence, I use the word rebellion to make the distinction. Rebellion is individual. Revolution is collective…. To be a rebel, you don’t need to first organize a communist party.”
I had never heard the name Portland before I read a book in 1950 by John Reed: TEN DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD. It was because of John Reed that I came to know Portland. John Reed was born in Portland, lived in Portland, was a journalist in Portland. I have read thousands of books but I can say John Reed’s book stands separate in its own glory. He was really a courageous man. He went from Portland to Russia to witness the actual revolution. And the book is a masterpiece. He was not a communist then but whatever he saw he described, and it is certainly one of the greatest descriptions, an eyewitness description.
When the people entered the czar’s palace, he could not believe what they were doing. In the czar’s palace there were perhaps more valuable things than in any other palace in the world. All kings were paupers compared to the Russian czar. The carpets were so valuable that nowhere were there such carpets available. They were specially made by craftsmen from the Middle East who had worked their whole life in making those carpets. And what were the people doing? They were distributing… they were cutting up those carpets — because how can you distribute those huge carpets made for huge halls? People were cutting whatsoever they could manage to get — a piece, something like a souvenir. There were paintings — people were tearing paintings. Somebody was taking just the frame because the frame was gold, pure gold, solid gold. But the painting was far more valuable than the gold; the frame was only a frame. Somebody else… but it was such a crowd. You could not take the whole of the painting alone, there were so many people tearing it away from you, trying to get hold of it.
John Reed says at one place, “I was just watching — what is happening? This is distribution? This is destruction! Nobody is getting anything, just a beautiful palace is being destroyed. Immensely valuable statues are being broken. People are tearing apart great chandeliers and taking pieces. Nobody can prevent it, it is now a mob. Where are the leaders? And who is going to listen to the leaders in such a situation?”
And this was happening all over the country. He saw that everywhere houses were being burned. The czar’s whole family, including a six-month-old child — in all, nineteen people — were burned alive. Now, what was the crime of a six-month-old baby? Just that he was born in the family of the czar? That was just accidental he could have been adopted by somebody. And what was the reason to kill the czar also? You were going to distribute wealth, not kill people. And now the czar is no longer the czar, you are in power: he is nobody, just a prisoner. What was the point of killing these people — women, old women, children — who have nothing left? You have taken everything from them — now life also has to be distributed?
I remember one time in Jabalpur…. Jabalpur was one of the most vulnerable cities for Hindu — mohammedan riots because both communities were almost equally balanced. And strangely, the division of the city was such that the Mohammedan community lived in almost half of the town and the Hindu community in the other half, so riots were very simple and easy. It was almost every two, three years that there would be a riot. Anybody can create one, it is so simple. Somebody can just go and play on a flute before a mosque, and escape. That’s enough! Music before a mosque is enough to trigger a riot in which hundreds of people will be killed, houses will be burned. Or just kill a cow before a Hindu temple in the night, and in the morning there is going to be a riot. It was anybody’s… whoever has some vested interest in some riot will do it. And then the mob takes over. I was in a bookstore… the bookstore was on the first floor so i could see from there what was happening on the street below. And there was no way to leave so I had to simply wait and see. There was, across the street, a big, the biggest watch company of Jabalpur, and people were taking watches, clocks.
One man, a Gandhian, was trying to say, “Don’t fight! Hindus and Mohammedans are all brothers. Mahatma Gandhi has been telling us that both the religions are the same.” But he was seeing also that people were taking things; nobody was listening to him. Who bothers about such sermons in such a place where you can get a beautiful watch or a clock or anything, just free? It was yours, you just had to find it. And I saw in the end that man… nothing was left, just an old grandfather clock which was so heavy nobody had bothered to take it; he was carrying that.
I had to come down, and I asked, “What happened?” He said, “What to do? Nobody listens, I was just losing out. So I thought, ‘The sermon I can give again, but only one clock is left there.”‘ “But,” I said, “that doesn’t look right for you. You are a Gandhian, dressed in a Gandhi white robe.” He said, “That’s all right, but one has to look to one’s business too.” Who is going to listen to leaders and their sermons once the mob takes over? Then it is all destruction, fire.
So I don’t think they have been able to distribute any wealth in Russia. Yes, They have been able to destroy those two percent of the people. And the ninety-eight percent felt very happy; and since then they have not felt any jealousy because all people are equally poor. This kind of revolution I don’t call a revolution, it is nothing. It is just that you get fed up with one system, with one imprisonment, and you enter another prison; it is only a change. Hence, I use the word rebellion to make the distinction. Rebellion is individual. Revolution is collective.
You need a communist party for a Russian revolution. Without the communist party you cannot make the revolution. To be a rebel, you don’t need to first organize a communist party. You can be a rebel this very moment, the moment you understand that you have been forced by the society; that these Miss Manners and all kinds of stupid people have forced you to become what you are. This is not your reality, this is a facade, painted, created around you, and you have been carrying your own prison everywhere. You simply throw it out. You say, “To hell with Judith Martin and her kind!” Rebellion is individual…
Every revolution dies into another orthodoxy. It has been always so. That’s why I am not for revolution:
I am for rebellion. Rebellion is individual. But when many rebels are there and they want to live together, respecting each other’s individuality, each other’s freedom, each other’s uniqueness — that’s the meaning of a commune. It is not a society. It is not an establishment. It is not an organization in the old sense. A commune is a communion of individuals who have all rebelled against all kinds of stupidities, superstitions.
That is their meeting point. But that does not mean that they create an alternative society, another establishment. Then it would only be revolution.
Try to understand the difference clearly. If they don’t create any establishment, and start living intelligently together, howsoever difficult it is — it is going to be a little difficult; otherwise why have people chosen to make organizations and establishments? — because it is less difficult. The trend all over the world is to replace man with the machine, because the machine is more convenient. It never asks for more wages, bonuses, it never goes on strike, never tries to make a trade union; it is very convenient. So everywhere, man is being shifted out of employment; the machine is taking his place. Soon you will see that people will be paid if they are ready to remain unemployed. If they are ready to give their place to the machine, they will be paid for it. It is going to happen in the advanced countries very soon because machines can do better work than you, more work than you. There is no question of a five-hour, six-hour, seven-hour day, or a five-day week, four-day week; there is no question. And no trouble — if something goes wrong once in a while, you change the part.
With man there is constant trouble. Establishments, organizations, societies, were created to cut down the trouble, make it less and less. But to cut that trouble you have to begin just as Judith Martin says: “From the very beginning the savage child has to be civilized, nagging is the method.” The woman has some nerve! She says nagging is the method. I don’t think… what happened to her husband? I don’t think that he could have survived; either he would have escaped, or died, or perhaps he would have become a robot. While sleeping he will cover half his face so everybody can know whose husband…. All around the globe people had to create these systems just to create a convenient way to live together; otherwise, if all people are left alone, on their own, there will be chaos. Now, there are two ways…. Yes, there will be chaos if people are not intelligent; but if people are intelligent, there will be a chaos — but a chaos out of which stars are born, a chaos which is creative. A certain anarchy will happen but it will not be destructive.
I am an anarchist. I basically believe in the individual. I don’t believe in the society at all. I don’t believe in civilization, in culture. I simply believe in the individual. I don’t believe in the state, I don’t believe in the government. I don’t want any government in the world, any state in the world. I simply want intelligent people to live harmoniously out of their intelligence. And if they cannot live out of intelligence, it is better to die than to become robots, to become machines, to be nagged and to be imprisoned in all kinds of slavery. It is better to be finished. We should live intelligently, and our order will come out of our intelligence, not vice versa.
That’s what has been tried before; enforce order so that people can function intelligently. Now, that is absolutely stupid. Once you enforce order you destroy intelligence, you destroy even the possibility of it ever growing. There is no need.
I say, Live intelligently, even at the risk of disappearing from the earth. What harm will it be? If Hindus are not there, Mohammedans are not there, Christians are not there; if nobody goes to the church, and nobody goes to the temple, what harm? The birds will be there, the deer will be there, the horses will there — and they will be enjoying, really, that man is gone. There will be such a celebration that even trees will be dancing; they will forget that they are rooted and they cannot dance, they are not supposed to dance. They will dance if they come to know that man is gone.
Man has been a calamity, a curse to existence. Rebellion means making man a blessing to existence, not a curse. It is a risky step, but there is no gain without any risk. And this is such a tremendous change, almost a discontinuity with the past — not any modified form of the past society, just a totally fresh and new society.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse name: From Misery to Enlightenment
Chapter title: Rebel or robot?
26 February 1985 pm in Lao Tzu Grove
Osho has spoken on famous writers and philosophers like Albert Camus, Aristotle, Berkeley, Byron, Bukharin, Confucius, Descartes, Feuerbach, Fyodor Dostoevsky, D.H. Lawrence, H.G. Wells, Hegel, Huxley, John Milton, Kahlil Gibran, Kalidas, Kant, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Nietzsche, Rabindranath Tagore, Schiller, Shakespeare, Socrates, Voltaire, Wittgenstein and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Come Come Yet Again Come
- Beyond Psychology
- The Dhammapada: the way of the Buddha Vol.1,3,7,9,10,12
- The Transmission of The Lamp
- I am That
- The Perfect Master
- The Golden Future
- Communism and Zen Fire, Zen Wind