4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2013
To write an objective and neutral biography of Lenin is an impossible task, he was not a neutral figure. Neither his thinking, nor his life, are objectively analyzable, as he was always seeking out one end - the communist revolution - in everything he said and did. And to this degree, the idea that Lenin was an unprincipled pragmatist is demonstrable false, he had one principle to be sure.
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.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2013
Very good brief overview of the life the man who set socialism back 100 years. Very good on his relationship with Kautsky. At the end, even Lenin admitted that Kautsky was right. Could use more detail about the post Oct 1917 period.