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Lenin (Reaktion Books - Critical Lives) Paperback – May 15, 2011
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(Ronald Suny University of Michigan )
“A scholarly, highly accessible book. It uniquely links Lenin to a political project for human liberation . . . the best treatment of Lenin and his ideas I have seen in recent years.” —Immanuel Ness, City University of New York
(Immanuel Ness )
About the Author
Lars T. Lih is an independent scholar who lives in Montreal. His other books include Bread and Authority in Russia, 1914–1921 and Lenin Rediscovered: “What is to be Done?” in Context.
Top Customer Reviews
Common themes in much anti-Lenin scholarship (ranging from Adam Ulam and Alfred Meyer to Richard Pipes and Robert Service) are: Lenin distrusted the capacity of the working class to be truly revolutionary; he consequently veered away from Marxist orthodoxy in order to develop a "vanguard party" dominated by intellecutals such as himself in order to accomplish the revolutionary task; he was so utterly fanatical that he refused to tolerate any and all disagreement, and even turned away from music because he feared it would make him too "soft.Read more ›
Lars Lih is no Leninist, nor probably a socialist. As far as I know he comes from Duke University and used to work for a Democratic House Congressman in the US. So this isn't a book written for Marxists by a Marxist, but unlike all the recent Lenin and Bolshevik works (Ulam, Pipes, Service, etc), Lih does not paint Lenin as a rabid psychopath hellbent on death and destruction. Instead Lih believes Lenin is an almost hopeless (because he's so hopeful) romantic, convinced that the claims of Historical Materialism must come true, and his job is to help the proletariat achieve their historical goal; but it is not to force them to do so. Throughout the book Lih demonstrates that Lenin never doubted the Proletariat, he never wanted to force them or coerce them into anything, and he always thought that the vanguard should walk alongside them, never over and above them.
The only reason I can't give this book 5 stars is due to a few missing details I was looking forward too. One was more discussion of Lenin's break with Plekhanov, which is barely discussed. The other was Lenin's role and legitimacy in the October Revolution (was it a coup? wasn't it? what support did he have, etc)? Also more discussion of, does Leninism lead to Stalinism? Lih says it does not, and he offers a few bits of information as to why it doesn't, but the question doesn't feel consummated.
Overall this is a good bio, and although it's not neutral -because it can't be neutral- it's at least more sympathetic and understanding than anything Service ever wrote.
I found this to be an honest, short introduction. I don't read any of the recent biographies of Lenin. I skim them with the "inside this book" feature, and I find lies, more lies, and conjecture. But this doesn't mean there aren't a lot of good books that contribute a understanding Lenin. Trotsky wanted to write a biography of Lenin, but his publisher wanted one of Stalin. Trotsky did however leave us with The Young Lenin and a collection On Lenin: notes towards a biography;]. His History of the Russian Revolution is also essential.
Other essential works are Reminiscences of Lenin by Nadezhada Krupskaya, Reminiscences of Lenin, Moscow under Lenin, Leninism Under Lenin, and Lenin's last struggle.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not a apologist nor a critical view of Lenin, simply a historical one. About time. With any luck Lih will continue to research this fascinating subject.Published 23 months ago by Amazon Customer