John Gollan

Book Review

An Historian on the Russian Revolution

Source: Labour Monthly, February 1948.
Publisher: Proprietors, The Trinity Trust
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Lenin and the Russian Revolution
Christopher Hill
English Universities Press
248 pp., 5s.

In this book the author has performed a useful service, not only for the movement, but for the much wider public which the “Teach Yourself History” series is intended to serve. When a Marxist historian of growing reputation like Comrade Hill, who has already proved his worth with his original work on the English Revolution, devotes his talent to this all-important subject, the result is bound to be interesting.

In his introductory chapter he compares Russian, French and British history, to present a background (although one may not agree with all his points) for an understanding of the development of Lenin—his ideas, and his outstanding contribution to the development of Marxism. He shows how Lenin combined Marxism with all that was best in Russia’s long revolutionary history and tradition. This is handled very well in his treatment of the growth of the Bolshevik Party and the unique role played by the foundation and development of the Soviets. The two chapters, “Towards a Workers’ and Peasants’ State” and “All Power to the Soviets,” I found particularly good from this point of view. The wider international implications of Lenin’s theoretical work, especially on Imperialism, the State, the building of socialism and revolutionary tactics, are, at the same time, adequately presented. Popularly and simply written, this will be a useful introductory study at a cheap price, something which has been lacking for a long time.

It is a pity that the idea of the books in this series, which seeks to present decisive events in history through the role played by the outstanding figure in the event, prevented adequate treatment of what is vital and necessary for our understanding of the reasons for the subsequent decisive victories of the revolution after Lenin’s death.

Because of this completely insufficient attention was paid to the history of the Communist Party and the struggle around policy in the period immediately prior to and during Lenin’s illness and death. Hence the role of Stalin as Lenin’s successor, his struggle against Trotskyism are not brought out. In his references to Trotsky, Comrade Hill correctly presents Lenin’s criticism of Trotsky’s role at decisive periods of the revolution. But Lenin did not and could not know that Trotsky and his confederates, already in those days were wreckers and plotters criminally associated with foreign powers. Stalin succeeded to Lenin’s leadership, not only because of his mastery of Lenin’s teachings, but because of his record in the pre-revolutionary days, his editorship of Pravda, his work on the national question, his leadership in the insurrection, the decisive role entrusted to him by Lenin in the Civil War, and above all, his leadership of the Party in the critical tense period of Lenin’s illness and death. If this had been done Trotsky’s “History” could never have been included in the bibliography.