Monday, May 2, 2016

Patchin Place in Greenwich Village and John Reed

Greenwich Village stretches from the Hudson River Park east as far as Broadway, and from West Houston Street in the south up to West 14th Street.  Between No. 113 and 109 West 10th  in Greenwich Village near Washington Square is Patchin Place, an iron-gated side street that has just ten small homes.     This small alley populated with three story row houses dates to the late 1840s.   Today it is a popular location for psychotherapists' offices.
But by the early 20th century it attracted writers who could  have peace and quiet to work in the middle of bohemia.  Many artists have lived here, including John Cowper Powys, Theodore Dreiser, and even Marlon Brando. 


American poet, painter, essayist, author Edward Estlin Cummings after traveling in Europe    settled here and lived at 4 Patchin Place  until 1962. His apartment was on the top floor, back.

This is where, in 1950, EE Cummings and Dylan Thomas happily spent a few hours together in mutual admiration, after the younger poet had expressed a desire to meet this famous Greenwich Village poet.

John  Reed   occupied  1 Patchin Place in the 1910s.    Reed began writing "Ten Days That Shook the World" here, his firsthand account of the Russian Revolution.  


 John   was born   in Portland, Oregon.    In 1904 he enrolled in Morristown,   a college preparatory school in New Jersey. There, through his pranks and charm, he became a popular rebel, writing short stories, poems, and essays for the school literary magazine.
Entering Harvard in 1906, Reed   began submitting articles and poems first to the Harvard Lampoon, then to the Harvard Monthly. Already a prolific writer when he graduated in 1910, Reed aimed to become a journalist but knew he needed to experience more of life.


After a trip to Europe  he moved to New York City's Greenwich Village, a magnet to writers, freethinkers, and radicals of the day.   To supplement his income, Reed sold satires, factual reporting, and essays to magazines. 
In 1913 Reed set out to cover the raging Mexican Revolution for Metropolitan Magazine and the New York World.  


 In August 1914 the Metropolitan sent Reed, a pacifist, to report from the western front. In  March 1915   he toured Greece and Serbia and traveled through Russia in attempts to reach the front lines. In Petrograd Reed saw pervasive corruption but was impressed by the friendliness and dignity of the Russian people. 


During a visit to Portland, Reed had met Louise Bryant,   the great love of his life. In the spring of 1917   Reed  was hired by the New York Mail and   sailed to Russia in August with his wife. Reed interviewed   Alexander Kerensky and  found in him "no real fixity of purpose--as the leader of the Russian Revolution should have". He also interviewed Leon Trotsky, the president of the Petrograd Soviet. Reed himself joined the Bureau of International Revolutionary Propaganda, for which he compiled prorevolutionary publications for delivery to German troops.  In January 1918 he met Lenin and addressed the Third Congress of Soviets as an example of an American sympathetic to the Bolshevik cause.


John Reed arrived back in New York City on 28th April, 1918. He was immediately arrested and charged
for violating the Espionage Act by publishing anti-war articles and cartoons. Reed’s famous  book  "Ten Days That Shook the World"  was published in 1919.    It contained a foreword from Lenin himself, who commended it to “the workers of the world”:


With the greatest interest and with never slackening attention I read John Reed's book, Ten Days that Shook the World. Unreservedly do I recommend it to the workers of the world. Here is a book which I should like to see published in millions of copies and translated into all languages. It gives a truthful and most vivid exposition of the events so significant to the comprehension of what really is the Proletarian Revolution and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.


These problems are widely discussed, but before one can accept or reject these ideas, he must understand the full significance of his decision. John Reed's book will undoubtedly help to clear this question, which is the fundamental problem of the international labor movement.

In 1928 Sergei Eisenstein filmed the book as October: Ten Days That Shook the World.

John Reed's own exploits and parts of the book itself were the basis of the 1981 Warren Beatty film Reds.
In 1982 the Soviet film maker Sergei Bondarchuk used the book as the basis of his film Red Bells (its alternative title is Ten Days that Shook the World). (...)



 Stalin later banned Reed’s text, probably because it only mentioned him once yet heaped praise on Trotsky. 

In 1919 Reed  organized the Communist Labor Party and was founder and first editor of the Voice of Labor. In 1918 Reed was named Russian consul general at New York, a status never recognized by the United States.
 After charges of treason he fled to Finland where the authorities kept him in prison before exchanging him for Russian-held Finnish prisoners of war. In prison Reed wrote more poetry and outlined a pair of novels, which he never completed.




In September 1919, at Reed's request,  his wife Louise Bryant traveled to Moscow to join him.   Weak from prison and suffering from a long battle with kidney disease, Reed succumbed to typhus. He died on October 17, 1920  in a Moscow hospital with his Bryant by his side . It was a Sunday, just days before his 33rd birthday .

For seven days the body lay in state in the Trades Union Hall, guarded by fourteen soldiers of the Red Army…On October 24, thousands of Moscow’s proletariat marched behind John Reed’s body as it was carried to the Kremlin. Snow and sleet fell. A military band played the funeral march of the revolution. At the wall, beside the Kremlin wall, comrades spoke. (Hicks, Granville, One of Us: The Story of John Reed. NY: Equinox Cooperative Press, 1935, page 30).
Reed became the first American to be buried at the Kremlin wall.


In 1994, Reed’s nephew, John Reed II, asked President Boris Yeltsin to help move the remains of his uncle to his hometown of Portland, Ore. but got no response.
Reed is not the only one American  who  been buried in the Kremlin Wall. Not far from Reed are the ashes of his political opponent, Charles Emil Ruthenberg. A native of Ohio, Ruthenberg was a popular leader of the left wing of the American Socialist party.    He died in 1927 in Chicago, but his remains were brought to Moscow and buried in the Kremlin wall by his comrades.  Another American is  William Dudley Haywood .   He  was a leader of Industrial Workers of the World. In 1918, he was accused of spying against the United States and was put on trial. While on bail, he escaped to Soviet Russia.   Later  he began to drink heavily and died in 1928. According to his wishes,   Haywood’s ashes were divided. Half were buried in the Kremlin wall and half at the site of the Haymarket Martyr’s Monument in Chicago, where   a bombing  took place during a labor movement demonstration in 1886. 

After Reed's death, his wife  Louise Bryant obtained Lenin's approval for a trip to the southern Russian border. She went by train over the Kazakh Steppe, through areas hard hit by famine, to Tashkent and Bukhara and to the borders of Iran and Afghanistan, interviewing and taking notes.   William C. Bullitt, Bryant's third husband, was the  first U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1933.  Upton Sinclair , an American author who wrote nearly 100 books   and   won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1943,  called Reed  the playboy of the social revolution.
 Greenwich village now  is   one of the most expensive (and exclusive) neighborhoods in New York.  A  small (500 square foot ) studio  with access to the building's private garden  in one of the Patchin Place townhome   will cost you $2500!