From the Other Shore: Russian Social Democracy after 1921

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Overview

This book is an inquiry into the possibilities of politics in exile. Russian Mensheviks, driven out of Soviet Russia and their party stripped of legal existence, functioned abroad in the West--in Berlin, Paris, and New York--for an entire generation. For several years they also continued to operate underground in Soviet Russia. Bereft of the usual advantages of political actors, the Mensheviks succeeded in impressing their views upon social democratic parties and Western thinking about the Soviet Union.

The Soviet experience through the eyes of its first socialist victims is recreated here for the first time from the vast storehouse of archival materials and eyewitness interviews. The exiled Mensheviks were the best informed and most perceptive observers of the Soviet scene through the 1920s and 1930s. From today's perspective the Mensheviks' analyses and reflections strikingly illuminate the causes of the failure of the Soviet experiment.

This book also probes the fate of Marxism and democratic socialism as it tracks the activities and writings of a remarkable group of men and women--including Raphael Abramovitch, Fedor and Lidia Dan, David Dallin, Boris Nicolaevsky, Solomon Schwarz, and Vladimir Woytinsky--entangled in the most momentous events of this century. Their contribution to politics and ideas in the age of totalitarianism merits scrutiny, and their story deserves to be told.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review - Maurice Isserman
[An] important new book...From the Other Shore raises the question of what would have happened if the Mensheviks had prevailed in 1917. Would they have gone the route of the Bolsheviks, laying the groundwork for the repressive totalitarianism to follow? Or would they have found another path committing themselves to a radical transformation of Russian society while at the same time...respecting the political liberties of their opponents?...Although Liebich identifies closely with Martov's group, he avoids the temptation of reading back into its history an early and absolute division from the Bolsheviks...Liebich asks us to see the Mensheviks as something more than political losers. They stand, he writes, 'at the very heart of the crisis of Marxism.' Our judgment of them as political actors and thinkers--as a possible alternative leadership for a revolutionary Russia--can help determine whether Marxism has any legitimate claim as a serious and honorable political tradition or deserves nothing better than its current consignment to the dustbin of history.
Workers' Liberty - Paul Hampton
This book is a tremendous piece of scholarship, charting the evolution of the Russian Menshevik leaders during 40 years of exile and their influence within the wider social-democratic parties, especially in Germany and Austria…for uncovering the extent of their influence and the significance of their analyses, Professor Liebich deserves our gratitude.
New York Review of Books - Theodore Draper
While the Bolsheviks have long had books--even libraries--devoted to them, the Mensheviks have had to wait until now for a first-rate account of their work and fate. André Liebich...has finally done justice to a group which history had dealt with unjustly.
New York Times Book Review
[An] important new book...From the Other Shore raises the question of what would have happened if the Mensheviks had prevailed in 1917. Would they have gone the route of the Bolsheviks, laying the groundwork for the repressive totalitarianism to follow? Or would they have found another path committing themselves to a radical transformation of Russian society while at the same time...respecting the political liberties of their opponents?...Although Liebich identifies closely with Martov's group, he avoids the temptation of reading back into its history an early and absolute division from the Bolsheviks...Liebich asks us to see the Mensheviks as something more than political losers. They stand, he writes, 'at the very heart of the crisis of Marxism.' Our judgment of them as political actors and thinkers--as a possible alternative leadership for a revolutionary Russia--can help determine whether Marxism has any legitimate claim as a serious and honorable political tradition or deserves nothing better than its current consignment to the dustbin of history.

— Maurice Isserman

New York Review of Books
While the Bolsheviks have long had books--even libraries--devoted to them, the Mensheviks have had to wait until now for a first-rate account of their work and fate. André Liebich...has finally done justice to a group which history had dealt with unjustly.

— Theodore Draper

Workers' Liberty
This book is a tremendous piece of scholarship, charting the evolution of the Russian Menshevik leaders during 40 years of exile and their influence within the wider social-democratic parties, especially in Germany and Austria…for uncovering the extent of their influence and the significance of their analyses, Professor Liebich deserves our gratitude.
— Paul Hampton
Booknews
The Russian Mensheviks were driven out of Soviet Russia, their party stripped of legal existence; yet continued to exist in the West<-->in Berlin, Paris, and New York<-->for an entire generation. Drawing on archival materials and interviews, this study documents the experiences of individuals involved, explores Menshevik perspectives on the Soviet scene through the 1920s and 1930s, and, more broadly, examines the possibilities of politics in exile. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
New York Times Book Review

[An] important new book...From the Other Shore raises the question of what would have happened if the Mensheviks had prevailed in 1917. Would they have gone the route of the Bolsheviks, laying the groundwork for the repressive totalitarianism to follow? Or would they have found another path committing themselves to a radical transformation of Russian society while at the same time...respecting the political liberties of their opponents?...Although Liebich identifies closely with Martov's group, he avoids the temptation of reading back into its history an early and absolute division from the Bolsheviks...Liebich asks us to see the Mensheviks as something more than political losers. They stand, he writes, 'at the very heart of the crisis of Marxism.' Our judgment of them as political actors and thinkers—as a possible alternative leadership for a revolutionary Russia—can help determine whether Marxism has any legitimate claim as a serious and honorable political tradition or deserves nothing better than its current consignment to the dustbin of history.

— Maurice Isserman

New York Review of Books

While the Bolsheviks have long had books—even libraries—devoted to them, the Mensheviks have had to wait until now for a first-rate account of their work and fate. André Liebich...has finally done justice to a group which history had dealt with unjustly.

— Theodore Draper

Workers' Liberty

This book is a tremendous piece of scholarship, charting the evolution of the Russian Menshevik leaders during 40 years of exile and their influence within the wider social-democratic parties, especially in Germany and Austria…for uncovering the extent of their influence and the significance of their analyses, Professor Liebich deserves our gratitude.
— Paul Hampton

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674325173
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1997
  • Series: Harvard Historical Studies Series , #125
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.55 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Meet the Author

André Liebich is Professor of International History and Politics, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva. The manuscript of this book was awarded the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History, Wiener Library, London.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Menshevik Family 10
A Group Portrait 10
A Portrait Gallery 20
2 Mensheviks and Bolsheviks 29
A Phenomenology of Factions 29
The Second Congress and Its Aftermath 33
Revolutionary Rehearsal 43
After the Revolution (1905) 48
Into the Great War 55
3 From Exile to Exile 58
War 58
Revolution 62
Facing Bolshevik Power 70
Within the Party 77
Personal Itineraries 88
4 Inside and Outside 99
Settling into Exile 99
The Political Economy of NEP 107
The Nature of NEP Russia 113
The Party Underground 123
Watching the Kremlin 140
5 Mensheviks and the Wider World 152
Into the International Arena 152
Menshevik Foreign Relations 163
Fraternal Parties 171
6 Stalin's Revolution 182
The Great Turn 182
Socialist Debates 191
The Menshevik Trial 199
7 Hard Times 217
Life in France 217
Contacts 225
The Totalitarian Nexus 235
Purges and Politics 242
Search for Unity 252
Division and Defeat 260
8 Sea Change 271
New Roads and Old 271
The Last of the Martov Line 283
The End of the Foreign Delegation 287
Waging the Cold War 297
The American File 309
The Final Campaign 317
Conclusion 327
Biographical Summaries 333
Abbreviations 343
Notes 345
Sources 437
Index 465
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