From Lenin to Stalin Paperback – 26 May 2005
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As Serge says, "Everything has changed." He takes us from the days of the textile workers strike in Petrograd on the eve of the Russian Revolution to the debates over strategies and tactics of the Spanish Civil War. One of the most compelling essays is The Condition of Women." Here Serge details the lot of thousands of young women as prostitutes, and the anti-woman legislation of the Stalinist Soviet Union. Serge writes, "the freedom of abortion, a capital conquest of the revolution, ceased to exist in the summer of 1935."
This book is a unique look at the Russian Revolution and its betrayal. It is well worth picking up.
The revolution's rise, stagnation, and betrayal come to life in this remarkable book by Victor Serge, a participant and leader of the 1917 revolution. Working people and those favoring the interests of humanity's exploited classes can learn much.
Victor was a Russian revolutionary. He supported the notion of Communism and the eventual evolution of the Workingman State. Unfortunately Stalin came along and Victor - along with numerous other individuals - went to prison in the purge of the 1930's. He has written several books about the Russian Revolution, novels and non fiction and about his experiences in prison. He managed to get out of prison and out of Russia by 1936.
This is a "quick" book. It contains many, many names and a bevy of incidences that I am not familiar with. But what is clear is that Victor knows what he is talking about - even if I don't. He knows who the heroes were and who the traitors were. A sense of straight forward honesty permeates this book. Victor was obviously a consciences and sincere individual. I know nothing about this man except what I have read in this book and that is what I find so interesting. I presume that his books were originally written in Russian but this man's power, intellect and honesty come rushing through. I am interested in how a writer can accomplish that.
I intend to read more of Mr. Serge.
I presume that it must be his "insider" approach to the Russian Revolution - but it is more than that. I have been reading Leon Trotsky's account and I have not been impressed in the same way - certainly Leon Trotsky was on the inside also. Victor makes me want to read more and Leon is a challenge. One has to have a strong desire to learn about the Russian Revolution to want to wade through Leon Trotsky - but Serge was quick and easy. Of course there is a big difference in the size of the two books. But nevertheless, I want to read more of Serge while Leon sits on the shelf gathering dust. I do intend to finish Leon's account ... just as I intend to finish "The Fall of the Roman Empire," "War and Peace," and "Crime and Punishment."
With Serge's account I'm impressed by the strong feel of getting a real intelligent look at what was happening. I've been reading "Ten Days that Shook the World" by John Reed also - and I don't get that Serge feel. Maybe it is because John Reed was an American. I don't know.
Stalin, unfortunately, was a real tragedy for the world labor movement and the Russian people. But Stalin was typical of most revolutions. George Washington is looking better and better every day. In fact that whole band of American Revolutionaries is looking very, very impressive. What happened here in the United States seems to be very rare historically - very rare indeed.
Richard Edward Noble - The Hobo Philosopher - Author of:
"America on Strike" American Labor - History
Serge and his Spanish comrades were not Marxists, but they were very excited about the Russian Revolution and much impressed with Lenin. Serge explained Bolshevism to them as being "the unity of word and deed. Lenin's entire merit consists in his will to carry out his program. Land to the peasants, factories to the working class, power to those who toil." This was the utopian ideal, an ideal that Serge never lost sight of despite the brutal reality which never came close to the ideal. However, Serge took a long view. He pointed out that "Lenin's party" and "the extraordinary success of Marxist thought . . . have left behind them a society based upon the collective ownership of the means of production" and a centrally planned economy. (141) And in closing, Serge notes that "[a]fter its victory in 1789-1793, the French bourgeoisie was to pass through several periods of reaction, several crises. Yet no one today questions the gains of 1789-1793." (142)
For history, the Russian Revolution has only begun. The day will come
when the workers of the Soviet Union will look back on the Stalinist
nightmare with the curiosity mingled with disgust which certain dismal
pages of the past inspire in us.
In the meanwhile we have neither the right to be silent nor to close
our eyes. A sort of moral intervention becomes our duty. The Thermi-
dorians of the Russian proletariat must be made to feel that we will
not tell the pious lies that will permit them to elude their
responsibilities before revolutionists and all men of good will. . . .
So much disapproval must be directed toward them that concern for
their own safety will impose upon them a more human line of conduct
at home and greater honesty abroad. (142)
Several short essays complete this book. The most interesting were "Life and Culture in 1918," "Lenin and Imperialism," "The Condition of Women," and "Managed Science, Literature, and Pedagogy."
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