The Rise and Fall of Communism in Russia

Article excerpt

Robert V. Daniels. The Rise and Fall of Communism in Russia. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007. xi, 481 pp. $55.00, cloth.

Robert V. Daniels is a leading historian who between 1960 and 1993 authored a number of books dealing with the evolution of the Soviet communist system. During his academic career Daniels also wrote a large number of articles and conference papers expanding upon these works. This book is comprised of a collection of many of these writings in order to make them available more broadly and to a new generation of students and historians who might not be familiar with them.

Following a short introduction contextual izing the book in terms of the questions raised following the sudden and largely unexpected collapse of the Soviet Union and Communist rule in Russia (i.e., what was the real nature of the Soviet system and why was it swept away?), the book is divided into seven parts. Each of the seven parts provides some answers to these questions.

Part One deals with Marxism and Leninism, tracing in five separate chapters the influence and evolution of Marxist thought in Russia from Plekhanov's somewhat dogmatic approach through to Lenin's more pragmatic and activist conception, with his stress on the "vanguard party" and disciplined revolutionaries. Lenin is portrayed as utilizing Marxist theory as a device which he adapted to Russian conditions in order to reach the intended goal of revolution. The essence of this was to be found in Lenin's conception of the party.

Part Two comprises seven chapters on the Bolshevik Revolution. The Revolution of 1917 was centrally anti-capitalist, a principle which held right through to the collapse of the system some seventy years later. It was also this element that gave the Soviet Union its appeal internationally, and it was of course also the element which gave rise to the Cold War with the capitalist West. Daniels makes the point that the Bolsheviks stuck to the economic aspect of the revolution, but forsook the social revolution. There is a separate chapter also on Trotskii's conception of Revolution, in particular his theory of "permanent revolution." The next part of the book traces the divisions and ideological controversies within the Communist Party from 1 92 1 through to the victory of Stalin and his conception of a "socialism in one country" (countering Trotskii's theory of permanent revolution). …