The Conscience of the Revolution: Communist Opposition in Soviet Russia

The Conscience of the Revolution: Communist Opposition in Soviet Russia

The Conscience of the Revolution: Communist Opposition in Soviet Russia

The Conscience of the Revolution: Communist Opposition in Soviet Russia

Excerpt

This book is a history of the differences within the Communist movement in Russia and of all the groups that disputed with the movement's leaders. It is also, naturally, a history of the issues that divided the movement, from the establishment of the Bolshevik Party by Lenin until the last voices of real opposition were stifled by Stalin. The underlying purpose of this work is to examine the changes in the Communist movement which came about during the first decade or so in its initial and primary seat of power.

The study of the Communist Opposition groups in Russia affords a unique opportunity for insight into the Soviet regime, its development, and its real meaning. As successive issues arose and successive divisions occurred among the Russian Communists, the basic forces shaping the revolutionary state were dramatically revealed. The history of the Opposition is a documentary record of political evolution as, one after another, protesting groups of Communists found themselves thrust aside during the profound transformation which Soviet Russia experienced over the years following the revolution.

For some twenty-five years the main political and social characteristics of the Soviet system have been more or less fixed in the form of what is generally described in the West as totalitarianism. The history of the Communist Opposition is primarily significant in explaining how this system took shape. Except as history the Opposition has been dead -- figuratively and literally -- for twenty years. There is no direct survival of any of the opposiition movements, either in the Soviet Union or in the foreign Communist parties, although in Communist Eastern Europe there have been echoes of some of the old issues.

Following the death of Stalin in 1953, the earlier history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union regained a measure of topical interest, as the succeeding leadership headed by Khrushchev renounced some of the excesses of Stalin's rule and ventured to correct some of the official misconceptions of the party's past. These gestures -- above all the attack on Stalin at the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956 -- have revived interest in the history of the party both abroad and in the Soviet Union itself. At this juncture, Soviet attitudes toward the history of the party and especially of the Opposition deserve to be carefully watched: they are potentially significant as indicators of any change in the dogmatism of the official "mentality." So far, despite the corrections which the government has allowed, the party his-

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