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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography and analytical assessment of Lenin., 22 Mar 2011
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This review is from: Lenin (Critical Lives) (Paperback)
This is an excellent, well written and easily read biography of Lenin that succeeds in accurately portraying his life, political programme and also tackles and clarifies aspects of his legacy which are sometimes controversial and are frequently distorted.

Lih takes as his starting point the execution of Lenin's older brother Alexander for plotting the assassination of the Tsar and Lenin's determination to find `another way' to transform Russia. This leads Lih to build the framework for his biography which Lih sees as Lenin's constructed `heroic scenario': the construction of a social democratic party that becomes leader of the working class, the working class leads the narod (people) in the overthrow of Tsarism and, finally, the party and the working class lead the way to socialism. According to Lih, Lenin constructs this scenario in the early 1890's and sticks to it throughout his life.

Lih then constructs his biography based around Lenin's `heroic scenario'. This device, simple yet accurate, is used to explain Lenin's thoughts and actions over the next 3 decades.

Lih tackles issues such as controversy over the interpretation of Lenin's view of the spontanaiety of the working class in `What Is To Be Done?', although I would have liked more detail here, the Bolshevik attitude to the peasantry - seeing their revolutionary as opposed to counter-revolutionary potential. War Communism and grain requisition is also tackled and Lih shows how this was unlike Stalin's collectivisation programme - a charge of inspiration that is usually levelled at Lenin - and the paradox of the revolutionary democrat inhibiting democracy in the circumstances of the early 1920's. Lih is also very good at showing how Lenin was a follower of Karl Kautsky and a mainstream European social democrat and that it was social democracy, rather than Lenin, which changed in 1914.

Lih's view of the 'April Theses' as not being something of a break with previous Bolshevik thought is controversial and I would have liked to see his argument fleshed out a bit more. I would have liked to see more discussion on some of Lenin's works such as `State and Revolution' and `Imperialism', both are glossed over somewhat and there is no discussion of `Left-Wing Communism. An Infantile Disorder'. Some figures to compare Red and White Terrors would have been useful, although Lih tackles the issue of the Red Terror well by exploring the context and reality of what actually occured surrounding a now notorious telegram of Lenin's that urges mass executions, Lenin's Testament is also skimmed over and Kronstadt doesn't warrant a mention at all. Irritatingly, the book lacks an index.

Still, these gripes aside, this is an excellent counter to dominant and distorted narratives of Lenin.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary book, 7 Dec 2012
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Joseph Schwartz (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lenin (Critical Lives) (Paperback)
For anyone who has real curiosity about what Lenin was about this is the book for you. Lih shows conclusively that Lenin deeply believed in the Russian peasantry and that the peasantry needed to be won over to the superiority of socialist methods not forced to adopt them. Lih answers the fundamental question about what needed to happen for Russia to become as a successful socialist country.
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Lenin (Critical Lives)
Lenin (Critical Lives) by Lars T. Lih (Paperback - 9 Mar 2011)
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