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Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory [Paperback]

By Kevin Murphy, John Wallace (Illustrator), Steve Sakson (Editor), Vera Deutsch (Contributor), Valerij Gouschin (Contributor), Angela L. Coe, Open University (Corporate Author) & B. Teissier (Editor)
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Item description for Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory by Kevin Murphy, John Wallace, Steve Sakson, Vera Deutsch, Valerij Gouschin, Angela L. Coe, Open University & B. Teissier...

Nearly all recognition of the unparalleled democracy the Russian Revolution established has been destroyed by the legacy of the Stalinist regime that followed. Kevin Murphy's writing, based on exhaustive research, is the most thorough investigation to date on working-class life during the revolutionary era, reviving the memory of the incredible gains for liberty and equality that the 1917 revolution brought about.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   234
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.83 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2007
Publisher   Haymarket Books
ISBN  1931859507  
ISBN13  9781931859509  

Availability  0 units.

More About Kevin Murphy, John Wallace, Steve Sakson, Vera Deutsch, Valerij Gouschin, Angela L. Coe, Open University & B. Teissier

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Kevin R. Murphy, Ph.D., is Chief of the Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is a member of the advisory board of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CH.A.D.D.), which is the leading ADD organization in America, with over 25,000 members. Dr. Murphy has written extensively on the subject for professional publications and regularly speaks to and conducts workshops for professionals and lay audiences across the country. He lives in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

Suzanne LeVert is a health and medical writer with seven health care titles to her credit. She lives in Boston.

Kevin Murphy currently resides in Bloomington, in the state of Minnesota.

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > History > Europe
2Books > Subjects > History > Europe > General
3Books > Subjects > History > Historical Study > Revolution
4Books > Subjects > History > Russia
5Books > Subjects > History > World > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory?

Class Struggle in a Moscow metal factory  Jun 2, 2008
Kevin Murphy, a scholar of Soviet history at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, has written "Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory" as a bottom-up chronicle of the experience of the Russian working class in the period from the beginning of the 20th century up to the height of Stalinism. There are many histories of this period, but Murphy argues that too many of them are top-down, primarily political histories, and that they are often cherry-picked in terms of subjects to fit a particular ideological interpretation of Russia's revolutionary history. Therefore, Murphy has chosen one particular metal factory in Moscow, named "Hammer and Sickle" (formerly the Guzhon plant), stating that this way it is impossible to selectively choose examples, and also emphasizing the central role that metal production was given by successive Soviet governments, for whom the political loyalty of these workers was high priority.

What follows is a familiar (at least to people with knowledge of the period and place) but well written in-depth history of this factory, in particular focusing, as the subtitle indicates, on class and the class struggle. Murphy stresses that other factors, such as culture, daily life, the experience of women, religion, and so forth are also important topics, but these all get a fairly perfunctory nod, with the clear focus being on the traditional topics of the economic struggles and experiences of the workers and their political views and activism. There is a very extensive and precise discussion of the many committees, strikes, and other such collective undertakings of the workers, almost too much; but as such, Murphy does give us a very good view of what the general life and reproduction of the average proletarian was during this period, certainly one of the most important issues for understanding a self-declared "workers' state". He also does not fail to put the specifics of the factory into a broader context, giving the necessary background in terms of state policy, Civil War, famines, political fighting and so forth and then returning to the factory to tell us the impact of these developments. This produces an at times almost documentary movie-like day-to-day view of the factory workers' life.

Murphy's exposition follows the general critical socialist (Trotskyist) view of the successes of the Soviet Union during the early period, despite the ravages of the Civil War (during which the original proletariat upon which the Party was based was almost entirely destroyed), with a period of stability during NEP, and then in the late 1920s an increasing take-over of Stalin and the Stalinists, which are portrayed as systematically dismantling the socialism of the USSR and replacing it by what Murphy explicitly describes as 'counterrevolution'. Many of Murphy's criticisms are apt, if well-known by now, but often the arguments also appear opportunistic, in particular when he contrasts the government's policies and views with the suggestions of the United Opposition, led by Trotsky; which follows the opportunism of that Opposition itself. For example, the Opposition immediately latched on to the grievances of the workers which concentrated on the lowering real wage due to rampant inflation and the increasing pressures of industrializing with practically no resources, as well as lack of housing, but what is not mentioned is that Trotsky et al. originally came into conflict with Stalin because they felt that industrialization should have been undertaken faster and more thoroughly! The same goes for many of the resentment against industrialization on the part of the workers, which Murphy tries to make much of - he repeatedly explains how despite the decreasing standards of living, the Opposition never really had any chance at delegitimizing the existing government, let alone overthrowing it, and that they were never a threat in terms of completely subverting the acceptance of the government by even the old proletarian activists, but Murphy never shows us how this was possible if the Stalinist government was so detested. Indeed many of the criticisms of Murphy himself as well as the workers of the time were quite correct, but one does not get the impression that there was any serious alternative available, and certainly not in the shape of Trotsky's United Opposition. This by no means justifies the Stalinist policies, but one gets the feeling the explanation for the other side of the historical story is missing. Murphy himself puts the main blame on the eradication of the old proletariat and its replacement by politically non-conscious and undisciplined peasants-turned-workers as a result of Civil War and disease, as well as the destruction from on high of the more or less independent unions.

Another issue is the perpetual problem with mainly documentary histories of this sort, which is that it is difficult to judge the 'representativeness' of given complaints and statements by individual workers - this is by no means Murphy's fault, but it does mean that even if an editorial line by Murphy is supported by one or two worker quotations, it is difficult to ascertain how meaningful those are. I do not suspect any moment that Murphy has manipulated the material, but this is just a problem that comes with the territory, which goes just as well for similar documentary works by Kotkin, Steinberg, and others.

Be this as it may, on the whole this is an excellent and insightful bottom-up history in the best socialist traditions of describing the 'people's experience'. Murphy has made good and judicious use of the archives material available, and has made the most of the limited scope of his subject matter. It is the freedom of the competent and just historian to have his/her own interpretative (political) line, as long as the facts are not stretched to fit the view instead of the other way round, and Murphy has (as he says in his introduction as well) done his best to reflect critically on the orthodox Trotskyist interpretation. As a result, this book is simply a very good monograph, and useful for all interested in the history of the period.
Politics, Historiography and the Russian Revolution  Apr 3, 2008
Kevin Murphy's Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory makes an enormous contribution not only to the study of the Russian Revolution, but to political and social historiography in general. Exploring the lives of workers in the Guzhon factory (later the Hammer and Sickle Works) in Moscow between the 1890s and 1932, Murphy deftly analyzes how "a movement based on egalitarianism and freedom transformed into a system based on exploitation and repression". An exhaustively researched micro-history of one factory in the heady days of the revolutionary events of 1917-1924 and the Stalinist counterrevolution of the mid- to late 1920s, Murphy puts paid to the Cold War textbook notion that the Russian Revolution led inescapably to the horrors of Stalinism.

Based on a wide range of archival sources opened to researchers after the fall of the Soviet Union, Murphy demonstrates that even during the harsh privations of the Civil War (in which the United States, Britain and France sent thousands of soldiers to defeat the Revolution) and the New Economic Policy (NEP) from 1921-1928, metal workers in Moscow sustained open, democratic and effective factory committees. Workers struck and organized demonstrations against conditions in the factory, but they continued to support the early Soviet state with which they felt a close political affinity. Indeed, the revolutionary Soviet government democratically negotiated a system of effective and popular dispute arbitration which involved over 6 million workers. There was an active culture of protest and shop-floor organization, most workers were union members, women workers participated in special women's meetings to advance their interests, and opposition to state policies was tolerated. Union organization was so well developed in 1925 that the factory director later complained that trade union representatives and not managers held real power in the factory. As Murphy writes: "`The early Soviet participatory institutions differed markedly from those of both the Tsarist and Stalinist eras. It was workers' trust and involvement in workplace institutions that gave the factory regime an essential degree of legitimacy."

Murphy does not deny that the period from 1921-1928 saw the rise of a Stalinist counter-revolution that effectively smashed the impressive democratic gains of the revolution in the workplace and in society as a whole. But, contrary to the traditional historiography, he convincingly argues that this was not a preordained destiny nor a linear path. The gradual weakening of workers' control from 1921-1928 was not based on a popular mandate among the workforce for Stalinism, but on management repression and the control of food distribution that was used to discipline the workers. The implantation of the coercive policies of forced industrialization, and political repression in society at large, was a highly contested process in which workers and citizens fought to maintain control.

Revolution and Counterrevolution effectively challenges the academic orthodoxy and political conservatism among historians of the Russian Revolution that there was a straight line between 1917 and Stalinism. This position has been used ever since the Revolution as a stick with which to beat any attempt at social and political transformation. Murphy effectively demolishes the notion that the early Soviet state terrorized the working class and that Stalin had a popular base among the population. He joins an impressive group of radical historians such as Steve Smith, David Levine and Alexander Rabinowitch who stress the popular, democratic nature of the Russian Revolution and the real if short-lived gains that Russian workers achieved through actively taking part in their own emancipation. This book is highly recommended to all those interested not only in the Russian Revolution, but to readers interested in twentieth-century political and social history, social movements, the working class and radical historiography.

Prof.Dr. Sean Purdy, Departamento de Historia, Universidade de Sao Paulo
great perspective on russian working class  Jan 18, 2008
By looking at the development of the Russian working class and the Russian Revolution through the lens of workers at one factory, Kevin Murphy provides an invaluable resource for understanding the dynamics of workers' struggle.

With access to hitherto closed archives, Murphy traces the debates and militancy amongst workers in one factory. We learn how the rise of Stalinism required a concerted effort to destroy workers' organizations and that it was a battle. Workers didn't simply roll over or embrace Stalinism.

For anyone interested in this period of history, I highly recommend this book.
Fantastic New Book--Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory  Oct 31, 2007
I read "Revolution and Counterrevolution--Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory" by Kevin Murphy (published by Haymarket Books) and found it to be one of the most interesting and useful books I've
read in a long time.

My understanding of the process of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalinism was profoundly altered by reading it.The interpretation that I had always gotten was that the working class disintegrated during the civil war and though it grew numerically during the New Economic Policy , it never recovered its economic strength or any political will and the bureaucracy grew apace with the decline of the working class. From Murphy's book, we learn that there was a real economic revival of the working class,
that workers' control was at least somewhat reasserted and that the class
struggle was alive through the whole period up to the rise of Stalinism.

Murphy's emphasis on the reformist strategy of the bureaucraticly degenerated workers' state coopting the early New Economic Policy militancy helps explain why the working class never developed a strong enough independent alternative to defeat rising Stalinism. The other factor of course was the confusion of the Opposition and its sporadic opposition to rising Stalinism. Russia thus shows the need for
a revolutionary party positively in 1917 and the failure that resulted
from the lack of one in the late 20's.

The overall impression I get from Murphy's book is even more optimistic than before. In spite of the total destruction of
the economy, millions of deaths, cannibalism, the loss of 40% of its
territory in 1918 and almost all of it outside the Moscow and Petrograd districts at the depth of the Civil War, some form of workers state ,however degenerated, persisted until 1928-9. With all the horror the workers of Russia faced, it still took Sate Capitalism ( Stalinism) nearly 12 years to consolidate power. Far from revolution automatically producing tyranny, the prospects for success in a much more developed world economy are so much greater than they were in 1917. But it does put an even stronger imperative on internationalism.

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the Russian Revolution or the prospects for fundamental social change today.

Thanks so much to Kevin Murphy for putting in the time and effort to produce such an important addition to our understanding!


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