- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Three Who Made a Revolution Paperback – 1 Jan 1984
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Shockingly, this book ends BEFORE the Bolsheviks took power in October 1917 ... just as Russia and the rest of Europe were embroiled in World War I ... so if you want to know how it all turned out and how it was when they actually had to govern and how Leninism morphed into Stalinism ... you need to find another history of the Russian revolution.
For how it all started and how Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin started as young men and evolved into who they were and what they did ... this is still ... nearly 70 years after it was published ... THE book to read.
There are thirty two chapters. The initial chapter is a thoughtful review of Russian history. Excellent!
The next nine are on Lenin, then Trotsky is introduced. Stalin appears in chapter twenty three. Wolfe shows Lenin's thinking developing over time. Warm, secure family life, to execution of his older brother, to living under the repressive police state of the Tsar, to receiving the gold medal at graduation, then numerous other events, all add up to a vivid picture of Lenin and his character. Wolfe uses Lenin's letters to reveal his thinking during the situations described. Adds insight and credibility.
Lenin's family, starting with his grandfather, is covered. His father graduated, with honors, from the university. He impressed the mathematican Lobashevsky, world famous as founder of non-Euclidian geometry. He earned his living as a mathematics and physics teacher. Respected and loved.
The initial chapter contrasts Tsarist Russia with Leninist Russia. . .
"Torture as an investigative device disappeared after the judicial reform of 1864. The torture introduced by the Cheka, and raised to a nightmarish system in the purge trials and extraction of 'confessions' which the accused could not conceivably committed, is in degree and principle somewhat new in the history of mankind. It is not derived from earlier despotism but from totalitarianism, which holds that for its apodictically noble ends 'all things are permitted'. The 'scientific experiment' to remake man totally according to an infallible blueprint is modern. Only the cruelty has roots that are age-old." (30)
This is insight from a founder of the American communist party!
The old Slavic Messianism, that believed Moscow is the third "Rome", would make Russia capable of saving Europe from evil.
This "would give Russia the leading role in the salvation and transformation of the world. . . . It was a fanaticism that served as a surrogate for the older religions. It idealized Russia, the peasant, the proletariat, science, the machine. It made a true gospel of its particular brand of salvation. It possessed singleness, exclusivism, dogma, orthodoxy, heresy, renegation, schism, excommunication, prophets, disciples, vocation, asceticism, sacrifice, the ability to suffer all things for the faith. Heresy or rival doctrine was worse than ignorance; it was apostasy. To the disciple of so rational a doctrine as that of Marx, an ipse dixit was an irrefutable proof." (35)
As Newman wrote: 'Men who will not stir for a conclusion, will die for a dogma.'
Explaining the European fascination with Russian literature, Wolfe writes:
"Dostoevsky - whose voice sounded a trifle mad - was the prophet who came nearest to foretelling whither both Russia and the optimistic, self-confident, progressive West were blindly driving. The sufferings of his demon- ridden spirit enabled him to see depths in human psychology that were covered over, to discern the fearful outlines of the age in which at this moment we live, to express the compulsive, uncontrollable furies of our war-ridden, breakdown-tortured, totalitarian time - when an old order, dying, seems powerless to die, and a new order, aborning, seems powerless to be born." (36)
Wolfe wrote this in 1948. Nevertheless, can describe the present.
Wolfe devotes many pages to Lenin's wife, Krupskaya. As a young woman, volunteered to teach literacy. She touched the hearts of her students.
"Skilled workers and artisans, stirred by the strange powers of the machines they tended, were beginning to have confidence in new laws of mechanism and power, of cause and effect, of man's dominion over the forces of nature. These drank as thirstily of science as the others of vodka." (108)
Wolfe's analysis adds understanding.
Covers Trotsky's life from childhood. Nonobservant Jewish family, who by unrelenting effort, bought and expanded their farm. Brilliant, argumentative, handsome, impulsive, Lev Davidovitch Bronstein was special. Considered many writers, Mill, Bentham, etc. before settling on Marx. Also, while in prison, read Darwin's "Origin of Species" and "Autobiography". Trotsky wrote:
"Darwin stood for me like a mighty doorkeeper at the entrance of the temple of the universe. I was intoxicated with his minute, precise, conscientious, and at the same time powerful thought. I was the more astonished when I read that he had preserved his belief in God." (208)
Trotsky clearly had not.
Wolfe does not hesitate to reach conclusions. Commenting on Trotsky's beliefs;
"Socialism itself he was to envisage as an 'effort to rationalize life, i.e. transform it according to the dictates of reason. . . . It is only socialism that has set itself the task of embracing reason and subjecting all the activities of man to it. . . . He would try to reorganize his personal life and attitudes, 'to consider from the new viewpoint of Marxism, the so-called eternal problems of life: love, death, friendship, optimism, pessimism. . ." (193)
Trotsky was one among millions, who did the same, including Wolfe.