What Is to Be Done? has long been interpreted as evidence of Lenin’s “elitist” attitude toward workers. Lih uses a wide range of previously unavailable contextual sources to fundamentally overturn this reading of history’s most misunderstood revolutionary text. He argues that Lenin’s polemic must be seen within the context of a rising worker’s movement in Russia, and shows that Lenin’s perspective fit squarely within the mainstream of the socialist movement of his time.
Rather than the manifesto of an authoritarian leader, Lih reveals a guide to action to help cohere and strengthen a promising movement, which still maintains remarkable relevance to today’s world.
“Clearly written, well-reasoned, and effectively documented, it is a work that no scholar seriously examining the life and thought of Lenin will be able to ignore.”
Paul Le Blanc, author of Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience: Studies of Communism and Radicalism in the Age of Globalization
“If we are honestly to assess the lessons of the Russian Revolution, then it is essential that we unpick the real Lenin from this shared Stalinist and liberal myth of ‘Leninism’. It would be difficult to praise too highly Lars Lih’s contribution to such an honest reassessment of Lenin’s thought. At its heart, Lih’s book aims to overthrow, and succeeds in overthrowing, what he calls the ‘textbook interpretation’ of Lenin’s What is to be done? Lih thus adds to and deepens the arguments of those who have sought to recover the real Lenin from the Cold War mythology.”
Paul Blackledge, author, Historical Materialism and Social Evolution
About the Author
Lars T. Lih is the editor of Stalin's Letters to Molotov, the author of Bread and Authority in Russia 1914-1921. He has taught political science at Wellesley College and currently teaches at the McGill School of Music in Montréal.
Table of Contents
Note on the Text xii
'The Merger of Socialism and the Worker Movement' 41
A Russian Erfurtian 111
The Iskra Period 159
Lenin's Significant Others
Russian Foes of Erfurtianism 217
A Feud Within Russian Erfurtianism 279
The Purposive Worker and the Spread of Awareness 335
The World of What Is to Be Done?
Lenin's Erfurtian Drama 387
The Organisational Question: Lenin and the Underground 433
After the Second Congress 489
Section Analysis 561
Scandalous Passages 613
Note on the Translation 671
Lenin's What Is to Be Done? 673
Dogmatism and 'Freedom of Criticism' 681
The Stikhiinost of the Masses and the Purposiveness of Social Democracy 700
Tred-iunionist Politics and Social-Democratic Politics 723
The Artisanal Limitations of the Economists and the Organisation of Revolutionaries 763
The 'Plan'for an All-Russian Political Newspaper 813