American journalist and radical Louise Bryant (1885-1936), was, with her husband and fellow newspaper reporter John Reed, a sympathetic eyewitness to the 1917 October Revolution and beginning of the Communist regime, meeting most of its leaders. Both wrote favourable articles and books about it: Reed's 'Ten Days that Shook the World' and Louise Bryant's 'My Six Red Months in Russia'. The latter portrays the Bolshevik regime in its early months as genuinely idealistic, offering hope for the future, and while not a Western style democracy using only mild methods against its opponents. However, she then returned to live in the West, spending her last years in Paris.
John Reed died in 1920, probably too early to risk full disillusionment. However, Louise lived until January 1936, in the time of the famine caused by the forced collectivization of agriculture and on the eve of Stalin's Great Purge. By that time most of the leaders of the Revolution whom she had known (Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Trotsky and the Left Socialist Revolutionary Marie Spiridonova) had fallen from power. We now know they were to be executed or murdered in the next few years by the orders of Joseph Stalin, a figure who had been around behind the scenes during the Revolution but so obscurely that in her contemporay writings about the Revolution Louise Bryant had not mentioned him.
Had she become disillusioned with the Soviet Union by then and did she have any sense of the frightening tyranny it was becoming?
By then she had retired from journalism, so Louise B was no longer writing opinion pieces about it. Such questions were possibly overshadowed for her by her divorce (having remarried after Reed's death) and health problems of her last years. Even so, she remained protective of the reputation and legacy of John Reed, who had believed in the Russian Revolution and Soviet Communism.