Arthur MacManus

Book Review

Trotsky on Lenin

Source: Workers’ Weekly, April 24, 1925
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.

I think it is a great pity that Trotsky so hastily scraped these articles together and published them in the garb of a book on Lenin. Any scrap of information regarding Lenin, from whatever source, receives a world welcome and is of first-class interest. Most particularly is this so from the pen of such a one as Trotsky. Yet despite this, after re-reading the book, I still think it’s pity that Trotsky did not set himself to make a real job of the subject. Detached and isolated from each other and appearing merely as sundry articles in a daily newspaper from time to time, the chapters of this book might be acceptable as interesting fragments, but when bunched together and dressed up with only a short three-page foreword, no one can call it a satisfactory book about Lenin from any point of view.

The book is teeming with defects; not only does it fail to give an accurate impression of Lenin, but even as a piece of literary work it completely lacks the usual brilliance of Trotsky, and is quite his weakest piece of work. Hesitant, uncertain, undecided—one gets an uneasy impression of intense nervousness in the compilation of the book. The outstanding failure of the book, however, is the entire omission throughout of the Party. To present a picture of Lenin and to ignore the Party, is to fail completely biographically. The Russian Communist Party, more than anything else, constitutes Lenin’s real greatness. The Communist International is the enduring monument to this greatness. More than anyone in the annals of our movement, Lenin was the embodiment of the revolutionary party of the workers. More than any other, Lenin appreciated and understood the role of the party. His genius lay in appreciating the impossibility of a successful working class revolution without an iron disciplined political party as its leader. His greatness lay not only in perceiving this, but in his capacity to subordinate everything, himself included, to the creation of that party. The real history of Lenin during the period covered by this book of Trotsky, 1902-1917, is the history of the building of the Russian Communist Party. Hence, therefore, I say that if the purpose of the book was to give a portrait of Lenin in his genius, the book is a complete failure. Lenin without the party is Lenin without his genius—Lenin as he now is, in the Mausoleum in the Red Square.

In the foreword Trotsky says that the book is sketchy, and his original intention was merely to use it as material for the publication of a real book. The recent publication demands, in Trotsky’s own interest, that he carry out his intention and publish a real book on Lenin, to redeem the bad effects of this one. Altogether it is a very unsatisfactory book, and one puts it down with a feeling that it is a pity he ever allowed it to be published in its present form.

A. MacManus