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History of the Russian Revolution [Paperback]

By Leon Trotsky & Max Eastman (Translator)
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Item description for History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky & Max Eastman...

“During the first two months of 1917 Russia was still a Romanov monarchy. Eight months later the Bolsheviks stood at the helm. They were little known to anybody when the year began, and their leaders were still under indictment for state treason when they came to power. You will not find another such sharp turn in history especially if you remember that it involves a nation of 150 million people. It is clear that the events of 1917, whatever you think of them, deserve study.”
--Leon Trotsky, from History of the Russian Revolution

Regarded by many as among the most powerful works of history ever written, this book offers an unparalleled account of one of the most pivotal and hotly debated events in world history. This book reveals, from the perspective of one of its central actors, the Russian Revolution's profoundly democratic, emancipatory character.

Originally published in three parts, Trotsky's masterpiece is collected here in a single volume. It serves as the most vital and inspiring record of the Russian Revolution to date.

“[T]he greatest history of an event that I know.”
--C. L. R. James

“In Trotsky all passions were aroused, but his thought remained calm and his vision clear.... His involvement in the struggle, far from blurring his sight, sharpens it.... The History is his crowning work, both in scale and power and as the fullest expression of his ideas on revolution. As an account of a revolution, given by one of its chief actors, it stands unique in world literature.”
--Isaac Deutscher

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Item Specifications...

Pages   969
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 6" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   1.96 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2008
Publisher   Haymarket Books
ISBN  1931859450  
ISBN13  9781931859455  

Availability  0 units.

More About Leon Trotsky & Max Eastman

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Product Categories

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

Reviews - What do customers think about History of the Russian Revolution?

There's nothing like being there!  Aug 31, 2008
If you're looking for a light read, Trotsky's History of Russian Revolution is not the way to go by any means. But, despite its length, and despite the enormity of its topic, this is an amazingly accessible and engrossing account of one of the modern world's most important political and historical events, written by one of its main players. There are certainly some parts that are more difficult than others, and some where clearly Trotsky assumes an understanding of what happened in Russia during 1917 - an expectation of his readers that would have been utterly reasonable for the audience he was writing for, at the time he was writing, but which at times can be a bit confusing for a Westerner reading it almost 100 years later. But this is only occasionally frustrating and there is, in any event, a very helpful set of appendices and glossaris at the back that help you know who's who and what's what. It is, undoubtedly in my view, well worth the effort that it will take you to get through it. I don't think any other history of the revolution is as detailed, as comprehensive, and as engaging as this. There are times when it really has you on the edge of your seat - and that, no doubt, is largely because it is written by someone who was actually there.

Max Eastman, who was a friend of Trotsky, gives us a translation that feels tremendously fresh and was enthusiastically endorsed by Trotsky himself.
Leon Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution is partisan history at its best. One does not and should not, at least in this day in age, ask historians to be `objective'. One simply asks that the historian present his or her narrative and analysis and get out of the way. Trotsky meets that criterion. Furthermore, in Trotsky's case there is nothing like having a central actor in that drama, who can also write brilliantly and wittily, give his interpretation of the important events and undercurrents swirling around Russia in 1917. If you are looking for a general history of the revolution or want an analysis of what the revolution meant for the fate of various nations after World War I or its affect on world geopolitics look elsewhere. E.H. Carr's History of the Russian Revolution offers an excellent multi-volume set that tells that story through the 1920's. Or if you want to know what the various parliamentary leaders, both bourgeois and Soviet, were thinking and doing from a moderately leftist viewpoint read Sukhanov's Notes on the Russian Revolution. For a more journalistic account John Reed's classic Ten Days That Shook the World is invaluable. Trotsky covers some of this material as well. However, if additionally, you want to get a feel for the molecular process of the Russian Revolution in its ebbs and flows down at the base in the masses where the revolution was made Trotsky's is the book for you.

The life of Leon Trotsky is intimately intertwined with the rise and decline of the Russian Revolution in the first part of the 20th century. As a young man, like an extraordinary number of talented Russian youth, he entered the revolutionary struggle against Czarism in the late 1890's. Shortly thereafter he embraced what became a lifelong devotion to a Marxist political perspective. However, except for the period of the 1905 Revolution when Trotsky was chairman of the Petrograd Soviet and later in 1912 when he tried to unite all the Russian Social Democratic forces in an ill-fated unity conference, which goes down in history as the `August Bloc', he was essentially a free lancer in the international socialist movement. At that time Trotsky saw the Bolsheviks as "sectarians" as it was not clear to him at that time that for socialist revolution to be successful the reformist and revolutionary wings of the movement had to be organizationally split. With the coming of World War I Trotsky drew closer to Bolshevik positions but did not actually join the party until the summer of 1917 when he entered the Central Committee after the fusion of his organization, the Inter-District Organization, and the Bolsheviks. This act represented an important and decisive switch in his understanding of the necessity of a revolutionary workers party to lead the revolution.

As Trotsky himself noted, although he was a late comer to the concept of a Bolshevik Party that delay only instilled in him a greater understanding of the need for a vanguard revolutionary workers party to lead the revolutionary struggles. This understanding underscored his political analysis throughout the rest of his career as a Soviet official and as the leader of the struggle of the Left Opposition against the Stalinist degeneration of the Russian Revolution. After his defeat at the hands of Stalin and his henchmen Trotsky wrote these three volumes in exile in Turkey from 1930 to 1932. At that time Trotsky was not only trying to draw the lessons of the Revolution from an historian's perspective but to teach new cadre the necessary lessons of that struggle as he tried first reform the Bolshevik Party and the Communist International and then later, after that position became politically untenable , to form a new, revolutionary Fourth International. Trotsky was still fighting from this perspective in defense of the gains of the Russian Revolution when a Stalinist agent cut him down. Thus, without doubt, beyond a keen historian's eye for detail and antidote, Trotsky's political insights developed over long experience give his volumes an invaluable added dimension not found in other sources on the Russian Revolution.

As a result of the Bolshevik seizure of power the so-called Russian Question was the central question for world politics throughout most of the 20th century. That central question ended practically with the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's. However, there are still lessons, not all negative, to be learned from the experience of the Russian Revolution. Today, an understanding of this experience is the task for the natural audience for this book, the young alienated radicals of Western society.

The central preoccupation of Trotsky's volumes reviewed here and of his later political career concerns the problem of the crisis of revolutionary leadership of the international labor movement and its national components. That problem can be stated as the gap between the already existing objective conditions necessary for beginning socialist construction based on the current level of capitalist development and the immaturity or lack of revolutionary leadership to overthrow the old order. From the European Revolutions of 1848 on, not excepting the heroic Paris Commune, until his time the only successful working class revolution had been in led by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917. Why? Anarchists may look back to the Paris Commune or forward to the Spanish Civil War in 1936 for solace but the plain fact is that absent a revolutionary party those struggles were defeated without establishing the prerequisites for socialism. History has indicated that a revolutionary party that has assimilated the lessons of the past and is rooted in the working class allied with and leading the plebian masses in its wake is the only way to bring the socialist program to fruition. That hard truth shines through Trotsky's three volumes. Unfortunately, this is still the central problem confronting the international labor movement today. Read this book many times.
One of the best books ever written about revolution  Apr 17, 2005
In spite of its length, I've read this book several times. It isn't just a widely acclaimed historic and literary masterpiece, written by a leading participant in the events he describes. It isn't just vividly written and thoroughly researched.

More importantly, it's one of the best books ever written about revolution, as relevant today as ever.

The most important conclusion that emerges is the crucial role of a revolutionary party with an overwhelmingly working class membership, leadership and political orientation: a party that has trained itself in the many years of partial struggles that precede a revolutionary crisis; studied together the lessons of past revolutionary struggles throughout the world; and done everything possible to educate broader layers of workers in those lessons.

(The point is illustrated both positively and negatively. More than once, Lenin had to turn to the Bolshevik's working class rank and file against wavering intellectuals in the party leadership.)

Please don't be put off by the first chapter, the driest and most difficult in the book. The basic idea is that capitalism arrived late in Russia, imported from abroad in the form of huge factories, which laid the basis for the rapid development of a strong, militant labor movement. As a result, the emerging capitalist class was reluctant to mobilize the masses against the feudal nobles and landlords that stood in their way, for fear that the aroused workers might turn on the capitalists themselves.

Under the impact of war and economic crisis, the resulting mixture of different forms of class oppression exploded in a combined revolt of workers, farmers, and oppressed nationalities, destroying both feudalism and capitalism by the time it was through.

Several postcripts:

(1) If you're wondering what went wrong in the Soviet Union after such a promising start, I recommend "The Revolution Betrayed" by Trotsky; also "Lenin's Final Fight" by Lenin.

(2) I disagree with Trotsky's assessment of the pre-1917 differences between himself and Lenin concerning the role of working farmers, the relationship between democratic (anti-feudal) revolution and socialist revolution, and Lenin's formula, "the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry". I think Trotsky's discussion of this is confusing. I recommend "Their Trotsky and Ours" by Jack Barnes. There is also a good debate in "Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution" by Doug Jenness, Ernest Mandel, and V.I. Lenin.

(3) Another reviewer pointed out that this book is available online. However, the printed version has glossaries of people, places, organizations and unfamiliar terms; a more complete chronology; and a thorough index. I relied very heavily on all of these, so much so that I used color-coded post-its to turn to them easily. Also, parts of the online version are full of obvious typos; books from Pathfinder Press are proofread very thoroughly.

(4) Finally, I recommend the ads in the back of the book. Pathfinder Press is defined by a political goal, not commercial success. It aims to provide a platform for revolutionary leaders speaking in their own words. If you like one book, you will probably like others.
How to overthrow the profit system  May 7, 2003
This is one of the most exciting books I've ever read. It tells the amazing story of the Russian revolution of 1917, from the overthrow of the Czar to the Bolshevik Revolution of October. What makes it an incredible read is that the author, Leon Trotsky, was at the middle of it all, as one of the central planners of the insurrection that took power. Trotsky was a great revolutionary and great writer. But one thing I especially like about the book is that Trotsky uses excerpts from many other accounts, including those who hated him with a passion, to tell the story accurately. It is an inspiring story, especially for new generations of young people, workers and farmers who need to learn about an example showing that the dog-eat-dog system of capitalism we live in can be overthrown. For the definitive account of how this great revolution was later derailed, see Trotsky's Revolution Betrayed.
Powerful account of a great revolution!  Apr 27, 2003
This is a huge and wonderful book-- three volumes in one book, some 1200 pages in all. The story Trotsky lays out is most inspiring and encouraging: how revolutionary-minded workers and peasants in Russia, led by the Bolshevik party, overthrew the centuries-old Czarist monarchy, defeated the attempts to impose a capitalist dictatorship and went on to establish a worker and peasant revolutionary government, opening the road to the possibility of building a socialist society. It's a book you can read repeatedly, getting more out of it each time.

Trotsky explains with rich detail the growing social crisis that wracked Russia, the devastating impact of World War I, the economic collapse, and the incapacity of the old regime to offer any way out. He takes up political developments amongst workers and peasants and the oppressed nationalities of the Russian Empire, including the many millions forced into the Russian army. You understand their growing conviction that the old society had to be and could be overturned and a new order established. And Trotsky gives real insight into the leadership that made possible an actual revolution under these conditions-- the development of the Bolshevik party led by V.I. Lenin and it's successful fight to win the allegiance of the struggling millions.

Trotsky was, along with Lenin, a central leader of the 1917 revolution and of the government it established. After Lenin's death in 1924, he led the international fight to defend the Bolshevik's revolutionary course against the conservative and reactionary bureaucracy headed by Joseph Stalin that came to power later in the Soviet Union. This work was a key part of Trotsky's efforts to make the real facts and lessons 1917 available to future generations of workers, farmers and radicalizing young people. Read it along with some of his many other important works, including The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution, In Defense of Marxism, The Revolution Betrayed, and The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany.


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