Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 6 No. 1


The USSR 1987–1991

Marilyn Vogt-Downey (ed.)
The USSR 1987–1991: Marxist Perspectives
Humanities Press, New Jersey, 1993, pp. 544, $60.00

ALTHOUGH THE main aim of this book is to provide an understanding of the process of change as it happened over the period covered by its title, and therefore deals with current events that lie outside the scope of this magazine, it contains a number of very valuable contributions that serious historians of the Soviet Union would ignore at their peril, particularly those in the third section, entitled History is Knocking at the Door (pp. 265–330). Apart from one item from the Redgraves’ Marxist Monthly and another from the British Socialist Organiser, most of the pieces have appeared either in International Viewpoint, the monthly press journal of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, or in the Bulletin in Defense of Marxism, the most readable of the various Mandelite magazines inside the USA.

Ernest Mandel’s essay The Causes and Consequences of Bukharin’s Rehabilitation (pp. 267–70) is a very useful analysis of why it was politically useful for reformers ‘to publicly [sic] rehabilitate Bukharin and his co-thinkers’ (p. 268), identifying the prime movers as the surviving families of Stalin’s victims, young historians and the supporters of Perestroika, who for a time sought inspiration from the Right Opposition for their own economic policies. Mandel’s prediction in March 1988 that rehabilitating Bukharin could not be done without doing the same for Trotsky, is based on the fact that the verdict passed on Bukharin in the Third Moscow Trial depended in its turn on that passed on Trotsky in the First, and was confirmed in a matter of months (Soviet Press Agency Does a Turnaround on Trotskyism, pp. 277–9). This is followed by two very revealing reports by the editor, Marilyn Vogt-Downey. The first, Current Events in the Soviet Union (pp. 280–7), is a fascinating record of how historical truth is finally making its way in Russia via the press, the protests of survivors, and the re-emergence of the relatives of the murdered Bolshevik leaders. The second, Trotsky’s Voice Heard Again in the USSR (pp. 288–98), shows how Trotsky has gradually come into recognisable focus as a major figure in Russian history for the first time after 70 years. The section ends with a summary of the new image of Trotsky put out by the regime in V.P. Vilkova and A.P. Nenarokov’s “Afterword” to the Soviet Edition of Leon Trotsky’s The Stalin School of Falsification (pp. 309-–16), and Aleksandr Pantsov’s The New School of Falsification (pp. 317–30).

Nor is important historical information limited to this section of the book. Other reports by the editor, A Visit to the USSR (pp. 373-–84), and Potential for a Conscious, Working Class Revolutionary Movement in the USSR (pp. 425–37), are especially revealing about the then current Soviet perceptions of Trotsky and Trotskyism (especially pp. 428–30).

So however much we may agree with Vasetsky that the USFI, with its uncritical acceptance of all the liberal shibboleths of third worldism, the politics of the personal, ecology, etc., is ‘left reformist’ (p. 278), or disagree with Marxist Perspectives as the title of a book put out by a tendency that had no inkling that these events were about to happen, or any understanding of what was going on while they were, there can be no doubt at all that it contains some very valuable information indeed.

Al Richardson

Updated by ETOL: 28.9.2011