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Before Stalinism: The Rise and Fall of Soviet Democracy Hardcover – 1 Sep 1990

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′This is a book that everyone interested in the future of socialismshould read, and a book that will inform and enlighten all who areinterested in the history of the Soviet Union.′ Professor S ASmith, University of Essex

′When did the Russian Revolution go wrong and why? Whether oneshares Samuel Farber′s views or not, his is an important, at oncethoughtful and passionate contribution to one of the major debatesof our time.′ Daniel Singer

′An honest and searching attempt to identify the roots ofStalinism in the pre–Stalin period. It can be recommended as apainstaking and scrupulous assessment, animated by a commitment tosocialist democracy.′ New Left Review

′The author surveys comprehensively the ′moments of choice′between the Bolshevick Revolution and the death of Lenin.′Labour History Review

′Farber has done much to enrich our understanding of thetradition which was never reducible just to Lenin.′Socialist

From the Back Cover

This book provides an historical study of democratic life andinstitutions and their decline in the early years of the RussianRevolution. Rather than an event–by–event description of thisperiod, it is an attempt at interpretation and synthesis of thevast and relatively recent specialist literature on a subjectusually neglected by those analysing Soviet politics for the publicat large.

While attempting to synthesize a wealth of historical materials,Farber also assesses the extent to which the disappearance ofSoviet democracy was due to objective circumstances, for example,the impact of the Civil War, and the extent to which it was theresult of Bolshevik politics and ideology. In this context, theauthor shows how there were, contrary to later Stalinist and ColdWar mythologies, considerable and significant disputes within thepre–Stalinist Bolshevik camp on matters relevant to thepreservation of the substantial democratic elements of the Octoberupheaval.

As the processes of glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Unionfind a response from below in a movement for democracy that may notbe willing to respect the limits of Gorbachev′s programme, Farber′swork acquires a timely quality for those who, inside or outside theSoviet Union, are searching for a usable past in which to root thenew Soviet Spring.

In presenting data known only to specialists to a larger publicion an original, novel and accessible interpretative framework,Farber adds an important new dimension to our thinking about theRussian Revolution and the origins of the Soviet state.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Excellent reflection on the Russian Revolution 2 Jan. 2010
By J. O'Brien - Published on
Format: Paperback
Samuel Farber has written an excellent political reflection from a libertarian socialist point of view on the failure of the Russian revolution. He attempts to work out the institutional failings of the Bolshevik regime, e.g. its disdain for the rule of law or its leadership's hostility to a compromise coalition with Left Mensheviks.

Farber pays due attention to the lively debates occurring within the Bolshevik party during this period and shows how a significant section of the party had severe doubts about one party government and the incipient totalitarian form the state itself was heading towards. For example Bolshevik trade unionists often opposed encroachments on the unions' independence while the Bolshevik leadership wanted to incorporate them into the state machinery as a vehicle for imposing discipline on workers.

The book is not - and does not purport to be - a narrative history of the revolution so if you're looking for a basic account of the events of 1917-1924 then try another work. If, however, you are familiar with the basic history and you are interested in the type of institutions needed to secure a democratic, socialist society then Before Stalinism is one of the most thoughtful books written on the profound mistakes made during the most serious attempt in history to establish such a society.
2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
revisionist history 6 May 2005
By New Labor Forum - Published on
Format: Paperback
I do not suggest this book for those seeking to understand theories of revolution, socialism, or workers democracy. The writer provides a shallow descriptive narrative of selected events leading up to the Soviet Revolution and its aftermath. The work is dressed up in the language of socialism and workers democracy but has no viable alternative to liberalism as the solution to the problems that any emerging revolutionary state may encounter. To advance the argument the writer conjures a sudden break that--for most careful historians on the revolutionary era--is not so clear cut. The history demonstrates that workers continued to promote democracy and workers control under Stalin and beyond. The national political move toward bureaucratic socialism in an era of war surely would have taken place with or without Stalin, given the enormity of the forces working against Russian socialism. Stalin represents a break with Lenin's bolshevik vision but this writer does not explain the elements of the break. For those interested in the soviet revolution, the rise of Stalinism, and workers' democracy, Isaac Deutscher's trilogy is far more comprehensive, coherent, and readable.
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