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Lenin and the Revolutionary Party

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Lenin and the Revolutionary Party

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    Available in PDF Format | Lenin and the Revolutionary Party.pdf | English
    Paul Le Blanc(Author)
This study of Lenin's conception of the revolutionary party, and its place in Marxist thought, gives a vibrant sense of the historical context both Russian and international in which Lenin's views were shaped and upon which they had such a profound impact.

This book will appeal to all readers interested in radical history and ideas: political activists of all varieties, as well as political scientists, philosophers, sociologists, and historians.

Praise for "Lenin and the Revolutionary Party" "A work of unusual strength and coherence, inspired not by academic neutrality but by the deep conviction that there is much to learn from the actual ideas and experiences of Lenin and the revolutionary party he led. Michael Lowy Praise for "Revolution, Democracy, Socialism"We desperately need the resurrection and revival of the kind of strategic thinking and principled commitment that Lenin epitomised in the era of 1917, and all that it promised. For those interested in this rebirth of the politics of alternative to capitalism, Paul Le Blanc's account of the democratic, socialist, and revolutionary Lenin will prove indispensable. Reading it is a reminder that what is, need not be, and that what has, seemingly, failed, can be reconstituted anew. Bryan Palmer Praise for "Marx, Lenin and the Revolutionary Experience"Looking back at the tumultuous events associated with revolutionary Marxism in the past century, Paul Le Blancoffers us an insightful, sympathetic, and even-handed assessment of the sources of its dynamism as well as the causes of its decline. Walden Bello"Praise for Lenin and the Revolutionary Party"A work of unusual strength and coherence, inspired not by academic neutrality but by the deep conviction that there is much to learn from the actual ideas and experiences of Lenin and the revolutionary party he led. Michael LowyPraise for Revolution, Democracy, SocialismWe desperately need the resurrection and revival of the kind of strategic thinking and principled commitment that Lenin epitomised in the era of 1917, and all that it promised. For those interested in this rebirth of the politics of alternative to capitalism, Paul Le Blanc's account of the democratic, socialist, and revolutionary Lenin will prove indispensable. Reading it is a reminder that what is, need not be, and that what has, seemingly, failed, can be reconstituted anew. Bryan PalmerPraise for Marx, Lenin and the Revolutionary ExperienceLooking back at the tumultuous events associated with revolutionary Marxism in the past century, Paul Le Blancoffers us an insightful, sympathetic, and even-handed assessment of the sources of its dynamism as well as the causes of its decline. Walden Bello"

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Book details

  • PDF | 420 pages
  • Paul Le Blanc(Author)
  • Haymarket Books; Reprint edition (17 Sept. 2015)
  • English
  • 4
  • Society, Politics & Philosophy

Review Text

  • By M. A. Krul on 29 May 2012

    "Lenin and the Revolutionary Party" dates from 1990 and was the first monograph by Paul Le Blanc (La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA). Yet the question of the relationship between Lenin's thought, the organizational aspects and evolution of the Bolshevik current in czarist Russia, and the relative success of the Russian Revolution compared to similar attempts in other countries is one that does not go away in 1, 10, or 100 years. Many scholars from left to right have contributed to the now immense bibliography on Lenin's thought and actions, but not many of them have bothered to take Lenin's own ideas on Bolshevik organization and the detailed context in which they evolved seriously. Le Blanc's book must therefore be read as trying to go beyond the fashionable demonization of Lenin as an inherently tyrannical, dictatorial, single-minded, intolerant, anti-democratic etc. etc. figure, especially when it comes to his ideas on the 'vanguard party' and its significance for the revolution. This he does well, and no-one in good faith can read this book and emerge believing in the idea of Lenin as someone with no interest in party discussions or substantially democratic decision-making. Similarly, the hoary old myth of Lenin as the fanatic, who wanted to substitute for the working class a small group of elite intellectuals and in so doing managed to somehow conjure up a revolution in 1917, is demolished as well.The work is strong on contextualizing Lenin's theoretical and organizational writings, and in demonstrating the many twists and turns of his positions vis-á-vis those of other major figures in the Russian Social-Democratic movement (as it was then called): people like Zinoviev, Trotsky, Martov, Bogdanov, and so forth. However, the book also has some clear and persistent problems. These relate mainly to the dogmatically Trotskyist interpretation of events. Le Blanc has stated elsewhere that "[he has] always considered "Trotskyism" as the same as revolutionary socialism, associated with some of the most useful ideas and most inspiring traditions that ever existed". It is from that perspective and that one only that the entire narrative is presented. While this is not at all inherently invalid, as especially Soviet historiography is riddled with explicitly liberal or conservative readings masquerading as the voice of scientific neutrality, it does have its downsides. The first is the strongly hagiographical character of the work: there is in the entire book not a single case where Lenin is substantially seen as having been in the wrong, and while this may be justifiable on its own, it seems somewhat contradictory to the conclusion in the final chapter, where the later 'degeneration' of the USSR is presented as the result of Lenin's 'retreat' from socialism in 1921. Lenin was by all means a blunt and honest man, and made no effort to disguise the NEP, the repressive period of War Communism, and the bureaucratization of society as essential defeats for socialism. But this raises the question how such defeats can result from a correct analysis of events, as Lenin is held to always have had. This is an issue carefully avoided by Le Blanc. Similarly, the frequent quotations from Trotsky and the sneers at Stalin are but the mirror image of the Stalinist style of writing at the expense of political opponents (even in battles of long ago), and are equally annoying and historiographically unacceptable - especially when, for example, Trotsky's polemic "The Stalin School of Falsification" is quoted multiple times, without comment, as if it were a generally accepted historical source! Such methods cannot but mislead the unwary and irritate the informed readership.Finally, and this is less Le Blanc's fault but more the consequence of the book being from 1990, the bibliographical source material is somewhat limited. The emphasis is strongly on quotations, which is effective to get an impression of the political debates at the time, but the book could not benefit from the vast multiplication of excellent social-historical scholarship on pre- and post-revolutionary Russia of the last 20 years. The book also seems to retread much of the same ground covered in more encyclopedic depth by Neil Harding in his excellent "Lenin's Political Thought" (Lenin's Political Thought), as well as Alexander Rabinowitch's detailed "The Bolsheviks Come to Power" (Bolsheviks Come to Power, The). Le Blanc does indicate he has some differences with them, and his emphasis is more precisely on organizational questions, so this is not illegitimate by any means, but it would have been interesting for the more experienced reader on these subjects to have more historical discussion of the extensive material on the same field by other scholars. As it stands, one does not get a good 'feel' for the established contemporary history-writing on the subject, and that is always a bit dangerous when it comes to politically fraught topics.That said, if one reads it as the authoritative Trotskyist view of Lenin and the problem of party organization in Russia, it is readable and sound for its purpose. It makes a good addition to a library of works on the Russian Revolution, but is not to be used as the only work on the subject.

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