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Posted April 17, 2005
In spite of its length, I've read this book several times. It isn't just a widely acclaimed historic and literary masterpiece, written by a leading participant in the events he describes. It isn't just vividly written and thoroughly researched. More importantly, it's one of the best books ever written about revolution, as relevant today as ever. The most important conclusion that emerges is the crucial role of a revolutionary party with an overwhelmingly working class membership, leadership and political orientation: a party that has trained itself in the many years of partial struggles that precede a revolutionary crisis; studied together the lessons of past revolutionary struggles throughout the world; and done everything possible to educate broader layers of workers in those lessons. (The point is illustrated both positively and negatively. More than once, Lenin had to turn to the Bolshevik's working class rank and file against wavering intellectuals in the party leadership.) Please don't be put off by the first chapter, the driest and most difficult in the book. The basic idea is that capitalism arrived late in Russia, imported from abroad in the form of huge factories, which laid the basis for the rapid development of a strong, militant labor movement. As a result, the emerging capitalist class was reluctant to mobilize the masses against the feudal nobles and landlords that stood in their way, for fear that the aroused workers might turn on the capitalists themselves. Under the impact of war and economic crisis, the resulting mixture of different forms of class oppression exploded in a combined revolt of workers, farmers, and oppressed nationalities, destroying both feudalism and capitalism by the time it was through. Several postcripts: (1) If you're wondering what went wrong in the Soviet Union after such a promising start, I recommend 'The Revolution Betrayed' by Trotsky; also 'Lenin's Final Fight' by Lenin. (2) I disagree with Trotsky's assessment of the pre-1917 differences between himself and Lenin concerning the role of working farmers, the relationship between democratic (anti-feudal) revolution and socialist revolution, and Lenin's formula, 'the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry'. I think Trotsky's discussion of this is confusing. I recommend 'Their Trotsky and Ours' by Jack Barnes. There is also a good debate in 'Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution' by Doug Jenness, Ernest Mandel, and V.I. Lenin. (3) I strongly recommend making full use of the chronology and glossaries in the back of the book. I relied very heavily on all of these, so much so that I used color-coded post-its to turn to them easily. (4) Finally, I recommend the ads in the back of the book. Pathfinder Press is defined by a political goal, not commercial success. It aims to provide a platform for revolutionary leaders speaking in their own words. If you like one book, you will probably like others.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 7, 2003
This is one of the most exciting books I¿ve ever read. It tells the amazing story of the Russian revolution of 1917, from the overthrow of the Czar to the Bolshevik Revolution of October. What makes it an incredible read is that the author, Leon Trotsky, was at the middle of it all, as one of the central planners of the insurrection that took power. Trotsky was a great revolutionary and great writer. But one thing I especially like about the book is that Trotsky uses excerpts from many other accounts, including those who hated him with a passion, to tell the story accurately. It is an inspiring story, especially for new generations of young people, workers and farmers who need to learn about an example showing that the dog-eat-dog system of capitalism we live in can be overthrown. For the definitive account of how this great revolution was later derailed, see Trotsky¿s Revolution Betrayed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.