Spurlock reflects on Russian Revolution with self-described Marxist lecturer

Photo by Greg Gancarz | Vijay Prashad lecturing in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum, Sept. 6.

Photo by Greg Gancarz | Vijay Prashad lecturing in the Knight Auditorium of the Spurlock Museum, Sept. 6.

Greg Gancarz


The evening of Wednesday, Sept. 7, saw the Spurlock Museum’s Knight Auditorium packed to the brim with people there to hear a lecture by scholar and author Vijay Prashad.

Prashad’s lecture, “The Russian Revolution as the Mirror of Third World Aspirations,” coincided with the 100th anniversary of the communist revolution and was scheduled alongside several other academic events at the university to commemorate the anniversary of the communist upheavals of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.

Admission to the event was free.

Prashad, born in Calcutta, India, is a professor of international studies at Trinity College in Connecticut and the author of nearly two dozen books. He is also active as a journalist and historian.

Prashad has drawn controversy for his Marxist views, his support for a complete boycott of Israel, and for referring to himself as an anti-Zionist.

Prior to the lecture, dozens of the attendees partook in a reception in the museum’s main hall, where there were various snack foods and beverages. Prashad was there talking to people as well.

Those in attendance ranged from students to professors and colleagues of Prashad. Museum staff and security were on hand to assist with any questions or requests of guests.

At 7:30 p.m., the crowd began filing into the museum’s Knight Auditorium to take their seats.

After a brief introduction, Prashad stepped on stage to a round of applause. Dressed in  traditional Indian garment, Prashad spoke with a slight accent as he made a few opening quips. He mentioned how “this was the first time in [his] life that [he was] using slides” for his presentation and commented on how nice it was to “run into old friends” now that he was back on the university’s campus.

Then, he began reading aloud his presentation in a scripted manner. Almost none of the presentation was improvised or given off the cuff.

Prashad’s lecture jumped from location to location in the third world of 1917, highlighting how the events of the Russian Revolution impacted and influenced other prominent Marxist activists around the globe.

Subjects included a notable young communist in Peru, a Turkish women’s rights activist, members of the Mongolian communist party and many others. Each change in subject was accompanied by a new slide, usually with an image of the individual or group being discussed.

Prashad’s lecture seemed largely sympathetic to—even supportive—of the ideology and political revolution, but the Marxist intellectual ensured his lecture remained largely impartial.

After about one hour and roughly five separate main topics, Prashad brought his presentation to a close and was given a round of applause. The auditorium lights were brought up and the audience was encouraged to ask questions.

Prashad’s answers provided a more unfiltered glimpse into his viewpoints and political opinions as he responded without a script.

Prashad’s spoke about opinions ranging from the North Korean situation to the reputation of Cuba globally among various communist political groups and factions.

When one audience member attempted to correct one of Prashad’s claims, the man’s address was largely ignored as Prashad referred to it dryly as “a good comment.” He then pressed the audience for actual questions for himself, rather than their own opinions and interpretations.

After multiple rounds of questions and inquiries from the audience, the event came to a close with another round of applause for the speaker.

The lecture was part of the CAS-MillerComm Lecture Series, which promotes lectures at the university by distinguished scholars from institutions from around the globe.

The Spurlock’s next such lecture is “Gravitas: Qualities of Leadership” on Oct. 5, given by Richard Saller of Stanford University. It will focus on general political competence and merit in Ancient Rome mirrored against today’s modern environment.

According to the museum’s website, the upcoming lecture attempts to answer “how can we extend that understanding in ways suitable to our own multicultural, multi-ethnic society.” Admission will also be free.