Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

A side comment on the Russian Revolution

This is sparked by reading (of all things) a mystery novel (by John Lescroart, Rasputin's
), but actually dating back to thoughts I had when taking a course on the Russian revolution(s) (of 1905, 1917, and 1918), taught by Jack Wilson at DePauw University in 1968.  What occurred to me then, and was brought back to me by reading a work of fiction set in Russia in 1915, is how strangely cramped the political landscape of Russia was then.

On the one hand was the autocracy, Nicholas II and those dedicated to maintaining autcratic rule, a 20th century of Louis XIV's "I am the state."  On the other hand were the various factions of the extreme left--the Menshiviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries, the Peasant's Party--and the Bolsheviks.  And the middle was, essentially, empty.  There was no bourgeois faction, no real movement for political democracy, capitalist development, the rule of law, and the rights of individuals.  In one way or another, such groups had existed in England in the 17th and 18th and 19th and 20th centuries; in France in the 18th and 19th and 20th (albeit somewhat less effectually), in Italy, in Spain, in Germany...but not in Russia.

The consequence, and it was not surprising to me as I read about the revulutions in Russia, often written by the participants (N. N. Sukhanov, The Russian Revolution, 1917: A Personal Record; N. Bukharin, The ABCs of Communism; Trotsky's "biography" of Stalin), others not (B. Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution; E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1923 in 3 volumes; I. Deautcher's three volume biograpgy of Trotsky--The Prophet Armed, The Prophet Unarmed, The Prophet Outcast--amazing, but hardly objective; L. Shapiro, The Russian Revolutions of 1917: The Origins of Communism) that the Bolsheviks--the most radical, the least compromising, the most willing to use violence, subversion, and misrepresentation, the most disciplined--won.  Poor Russia never really had a chance.



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