Historians on Russian Revolution?

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Adam The Disabl...
Joined: 24-01-14
Jan 24 2014 19:39
Historians on Russian Revolution?

I was wondering if you knew of any historians besides Paul Avrich who looked at the Russian Revolution from a libertarian/anarchist viewpoint rather than a Bolshevik one? I'd like to be little more informed on the social realities. I think its pretty clear Leninism isn't socialism but I'm not really well-versed enough to aurge against my few Leninist friends. Any thoughts?

plasmatelly's picture
Joined: 16-05-11
Jan 24 2014 19:56

Hi Adam, there's loads on here mate, probably enough to never look anywhere else tbh. If you're looking for anarchist insights you may want to look at Maximov, Makhno or Tom Brown, failing that councilists Paul Mattick or Rosa Luxembourg are ones I gave a spin, depends on what you want specifically. As well as that - and certainly not to be sniffed at - there are some pretty clued up political history people on here (sadly not me), so if there is a specific question that you think would start a good debate, give it a punt.

Entdinglichung's picture
Joined: 2-07-08
Jan 24 2014 20:25


Tyrion's picture
Joined: 12-04-13
Jan 24 2014 20:49

I recommend Voline's The Unknown Revolution for an excellent broad history of the Russian Revolution, Peter Arshinov's History of the Makhnovist Movement for a comprehensive and rather inspiring account of the anarcho-communist movement in Ukraine, Ida Mett's The Kronstadt Uprising for the 1921 revolt of sailors at the Kronstadt garrison against the Bolshevik dictatorship, and Maurice Brinton's The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control for a concise chronology of how the Bolsheviks eroded the revolutionary gains of 1917.

The aforementioned Grigory Maximov's The Guillotine at Work is a blistering and extremely well-documented attack on the Bolsheviks and is essential reading for an understanding of how Lenin built the brutally repressive state apparatus that Stalin intensified, very effectively dispelling popular (particularly among Trotskyists) myths of the "good Lenin" contrasted with the "bad Stalin." I was already familiar with the reactionary role of the Bolsheviks after the overthrow of the Provisional Government prior to reading this book, but I was still very taken aback by the enormous number of people murdered by the Bolsheviks during the Lenin years. Maximov draws his numbers in large part from Bolshevik sources, strengthening his claims. One thing about the book that did annoy me is that Maximov continuously (over and over and over, it seems to pop up every few pages) draws a link between Marx and Lenin that I think is bogus, but that's a relatively minor complaint.

Adam The Disabl...
Joined: 24-01-14
Jan 25 2014 05:42

Thanks for the suggestions guys! If can think of any that are bit more recent and scholarly I'd appreciate that as well. But I have much reading to do. grin I wrote a paper on Kronstadt in college last year and amazed me how the rebels tried create a Libertarian socialist model if their own.

Joined: 17-02-09
Jan 25 2014 10:43
Adam The Disabled Anarchist wrote:
Thanks for the suggestions guys! If can think of any that are bit more recent and scholarly I'd appreciate that as well. But I have much reading to do. grin I wrote a paper on Kronstadt in college last year and amazed me how the rebels tried create a Libertarian socialist model if their own.

Simon Pirani's The Russian Revolution in Retreat is excellent on post civil war attempts to organise among the working class and how these were shut down. The three books by Alexander Rabinowitch - Prelude to Revolution, The Bolsheviks Come to Power and The Bolsheviks in Power are superb on the changing nature of the Bolshevik Party, the dynamics of the revolutionary movement and they read superbly too, like epic novels at times.

AES's picture
Joined: 15-02-04
Jan 25 2014 13:13

See the recommendations at Russian revolution 1917 - reading guide. Good luck.

Dave B
Joined: 3-08-08
Jan 25 2014 18:52

The problem with Voline is that he is unreliable;

CHAPTER 4: Defeat of the Revolution; Evaluation of the Jolt

Already around 1900 a major divergence of views manifested itself at the heart of the Russian Social-Democratic Party. Some of its members, clutching its "minimum program," held that the coming Russian revolution would be a bourgeois revolution, relatively moderate in its results. These socialists did not believe it possible to jump, in one leap, from a "feudal" monarchy to a socialist regime. A bourgeois democratic republic, paving the way for rapid capitalist development which would lay the foundations for a future socialism -- this was their basic idea.

A "social revolution" in Russia, was, in their opinion, impossible for the time being- Many members of the party, however, had a different opinion. In their view, the next Revolution already had every chance of becoming a "Social Revolution," with all logical consequences. These socialists dropped the "minimum program" and prepared themselves for the conquest of power by the party and for the immediate and decisive struggle against capitalism. The leaders of the first current were: Plekhanov, Martov, and others. The great creator of the second was Lenin. The final split between these two camps took place in 1903, at the London Congress.

Lenin 1905

This argument is based on a misconception; it confounds the democratic revolution with the socialist revolution, the struggle for the republic (including our entire minimum programme) with the struggle for socialism. If Social-Democracy sought to make the socialist revolution its immediate aim, it would assuredly discredit itself. It is precisely such vague and hazy ideas of our “Socialists—Revolutionaries” that Social-Democracy has always combated.

For this reason Social-Democracy has constantly stressed the bourgeois nature of the impending revolution in Russia and insisted on a clear line of demarcation between the democratic minimum programme and the socialist maximum programme. Some Social-Democrats, who are inclined to yield to spontaneity, might forget all this in time of revolution, but not the Party as a whole. The adherents of this erroneous view make an idol of spontaneity in their belief that the march of events will compel the Social-Democratic Party in such a position to set about achieving the socialist revolution, despite itself.

Were this so, our programme would be incorrect, it would not be in keeping with the “march of events”, which is exactly what the spontaneity worshippers fear; they fear for the correctness of our programme. But this fear (a psychological explanation of which we attempted to give in our articles) is entirely baseless. Our programme is correct. And the march of events will assuredly confirm this more and more fully as time goes on. It is the march of events that will “impose” upon us the imperative necessity of waging a furious struggle for the republic and, in practice, guide our forces, the forces of the politically active proletariat, in this direction. It is the march of events that will, in the democratic revolution, inevitably impose upon us such a host of allies from among the petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry, whose real needs will demand the implementation of our minimum programme, that any concern over too rapid a transition to the maximum programme is simply absurd.