Tag Archives: Russian Revolution

Down the steps, …over the corpses, …careers the pram with the child.

potemkin001

Red mutiny : eleven fateful days on the battleship Potemkin  Neal Bascomb  Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2007  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xiii, 386 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [321]-333) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Potemkin003

In 1905 after being served rancid meat, more than 600 Russian Navy sailors mutinied against their officers aboard what was then Imperial Russia‘s newest and most powerful battleship. Theirs was a life barely worth living–a life of hard labor and their rebellion came as no surprise. Against any reasonable odds of success, the sailors-turned-revolutionaries, led by the firebrand Matiushenko, risked their lives to take control of the ship and raise the red flag of revolution.

potemkin005

What followed was a violent port-to-port chase that spanned eleven harrowing days and came to symbolize the Russian Revolution itself. A pulse-quickening story that alternates between the opulent court of Nicholas II and the razor”s-edge tension aboard the Potemkin, Red Mutiny is a tale threaded with terrific adventure, epic naval battles, treachery and bloodlust. A single-minded band of revolutionaries led the sailors to overthrow their tyrannical officers, but the POTEMKIN finds itself steaming around the Black Sea with the rest of the fleet in pursuit. Hunted from port to port, the mutineers enter Odessa, sparking a bloody insurrection and bringing Imperial Russia to its knees.

potemkin002

A rallying cry to revolution that would steer the course of the twentieth century Lenin and many others recognized at the time, this was the key event that would make the Russian revolution possible. The political consequences of this mutiny were profound, but the author concentrates on the individuals involved in these dramatic events but it is also a work of scholarship that draws on the long-closed Soviet archives to shed new light on this seminal event in Russian and naval history.

potemkin004

Advertisements

Comments Off on Down the steps, …over the corpses, …careers the pram with the child.

Filed under Book Reviews

“By means of demoralizing methods, which convert thinking communists into machines, destroying will, character and human dignity,” wrote Rakovsky in 1928, “the ruling circles have succeeded in converting themselves into an unremovable and inviolate oligarchy, which replaces the class and the party.”

Lev Davidovich Bronshtein revolting against the Tsar, helping Lenin overthrow Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky’s government and setting up the modern Russian Soviet state.

Since these indignant lines were written,the degeneration of the regime has gone immeasurably farther. The GPU [State Political Directorate (Gosudarstvennoe politicheskoe upravlenie–GPU] has become the decisive factor in the inner life of the party. If Molotov in March 1936 was able to boast to a French journalist that the ruling party no longer contains any factional struggle, it is only because disagreements are now settled by the automatic intervention of the political police. The old Bolshevik party is dead and no force will resurrect it… Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, 1936

If you are looking for an objective biography of Trotsky [ Lev Davidovich Bronshtein ] this is not it. His crimes are presented as historical necessities and in the true Marxist dialectic so is his assassination. The value of the book is that it is mercifully brief, seems to have an accurate timeline and is well enough categorized that you can skip most of the leftist drivel. The Berlin Wall may have been torn down in 1989 but it still stands strong as a bulwark against any common sense entering the leftist mind and this book is one of its many bricks.

Leon Trotsky was the leading proponent of exporting Soviet Marxism to first western Europe, then Latin America – especially Mexico and finally the world. Stalin exiled him in order to solidify his hold on Russia and had may have him murdered probably to prove that no one – and especially Russians abroad – was beyond his grasp. The doctrine of revolution and the structure of leftist dissident organizations – including terrorists cells – owes more to Trotsky than is does to Marx, Lenin or Stalin and is still in vogue as a substitute for open armed aggression against the West.

Trotsky    London : Haus, 2004    David Renton Revolutionaries  Soviet Union  Biography, Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940 Book. 180 p. : ill., ports. ; 20 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight   and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG

Leon Trotsky was the leading spokesman of the Russian Revolution, the founder of the victorious Red Army, and was instrumental in the creation of the early Soviet State. Yet despite being recognized as Lenin’s obvious successor, Trotsky was out-maneuvered by Stalin. In the years that followed, he developed the first systematic critique of Stalin’s dictatorship. In 1929, he was forced out of Russia, moving from Turkey, to France, and finally to Mexico, where, in 1940, he was assassinated.

Renton has produced a clear and informative biography of “the man who refused to compromise, who followed the revolution to its end, who wrote and argued and never gave up”, which constitutes a sympathetic portrait of perhaps the most controversial left-wing figure in the history of the 20th century.

Renton also does a good job of charting the factors that led to the degeneration of the Russian Revolution, giving a sense of how civil war and the resulting near-extinction of the Russian working class set the scene for the ascendency of Stalin and the bureaucratic strata that coalesced around him, and of how the fate of the revolution was eventually sealed by the fact that revolution failed to materialise in the more advanced economies of Western Europe.

Renton’s presentation allows us to formulate some difficult questions about how things would have been different if Trotsky’s Oppositional faction in the Communist Party had triumphed in the 1920s over the Stalinist bureaucracy. If Stalinism was the product of isolation and the failure of revolutionary socialism in Western Europe, factors outside the control of the Russians, wouldn’t trying to save the revolution by overthrowing Stalin be like trying to put out a fire by blowing away the smoke? Would the victory of the Opposition have resulted in just another form of bureaucratic degeneration? Renton writes “Stalin’s success compelled the people of the Soviet Union to live in conditions of isolation and blockade, under a leadership committed to the most extraordinary policies of shock industrialisation”.

Renton is too hard on the old Bolsheviks slaughtered in Stalin’s purges of the 1930s: “Almost none of Lenin’s former colleagues had the courage to deny the charges. Instead they showed a mistaken loyalty to the Party of 1917. Had they won, it would have meant the defeat of the Party, which was unthinkable”. This is unconvincing: the confessions were tortured out of the old Bolsheviks, many of whose families were also under threat of torture and death from Stalin’s thugs. How many of us would refuse to “confess” in the face of such threats?

That Renton’s book throws these difficult questions into relief is in the end no criticism: the questions are real, and need to be faced square on by the 21st century when the new Stalin, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – or is he the Czar [or does it make a difference?], is ascendant in Moscow.

Leon Trotsky having been exiled from the Soviet Union and having tried to export soviet communism to Turkey, France and Spain waits in Mexico for Stalin’s assassins.

Comments Off on “By means of demoralizing methods, which convert thinking communists into machines, destroying will, character and human dignity,” wrote Rakovsky in 1928, “the ruling circles have succeeded in converting themselves into an unremovable and inviolate oligarchy, which replaces the class and the party.”

Filed under Book Reviews

“Asia is not going to be civilised after the methods of the West. There is too much Asia and she is too old.” ― Rudyard Kipling

The playing fiels of the Great Game

Tournament of shadows : the great game and race for empire in Central Asia      Karl E. Meyer & Shareen Blair Brysac  Great Britain Relations Asia, Central  Washington, D.C. : Counterpoint, c 1999 Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. xxv, 646 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Map of Asia on endpapers. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The original Great Game (1800–1917), the clandestine struggle between Russia and Britain for mastery of Central Asia, has long been regarded as one of the greatest geopolitical conflicts in history. The prize, control of the vast Eurasian heartland, was believed by some to be key to world dominion. Teeming with improbable drama and exaggerated tensions, the conflict featured soldiers, mystics, archeologists, and spies, among them some of history’s most colorful characters.

While the original Great Game ended with the Russian Revolution, the geopolitical struggles in Central Asia continue to the present day. Beginning with the soldiers and propagandists of the Victorian era, Tournament of Shadows chronicles nearly two centuries of conflict in the Eurasian heartland, conflict that has spawned wars in Afghanistan, the invasion of Tibet, and economic scrambles for control of Caspian oil.

Karl E. Meyer and his wife Shareen Blair Brysac have created a vivid narrative that brings to life the engaging personalities in this colorful conflict:

• Russia’s greatest explorer, Nicholas Przhevalsky, who died trying to shoot his way to Lhasa;

• Nicholas Roerich, the Russian artist and mystic who searched for fabled Shambhala under the patronage of Henry Wallace, the American Secretary of Agriculture;

• Philadelphia socialite Brooke Dolan, like a figure out of Hemingway, who reached Lhasa as an OSS operative;

• SS Captain Ernst Scha;fer, who led an expedition to Tibet in the late 1930s in an attempt to confirm Nazi racial theories;

• William Rockhill, the first American to befriend and advise a Dalai Lama;

Sarat Chandra Das, the Bengali explorer who went to Lhasa in the secret service of the Raj.

Revealing a wealth of new material that has never before been published, Meyer and Brysac have written a sweeping history of a riveting tournament, a two-century joust with political and economic implications that remain as topical today as this morning’s newspaper.

Comments Off on “Asia is not going to be civilised after the methods of the West. There is too much Asia and she is too old.” ― Rudyard Kipling

Filed under Book Reviews

The history of the Potemkin takes a severe list to port.

Red mutiny : eleven fateful days on the battleship Potemkin  Neal Bascomb  Russia History Revolution, 1905-1907, Potemkin [battleship]  Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2007 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xiii, 386 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [321]-333) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

In 1905 after being served rancid meat, more than 600 Russian Navy sailors mutinied against their officers aboard what was then the most powerful battleship in the world. Theirs was a life barely worth living – a life of hard labor and bitter oppression, an existence similar in its hopelessness and injustice to most of the working class in Russia at the time. Certainly their rebellion came as no surprise. Still, against any reasonable odds of success, the sailors-turned-revolutionaries, led by the charismatic firebrand Matiushenko, risked their lives to take control of the ship and raise the red flag of revolution.

What followed was a violent port-to-port chase that spanned eleven harrowing days and came to symbolize the Russian Revolution itself. A pulse-quickening story that alternates between the opulent court of Nicholas II and the razor’s-edge tension aboard the Potemkin, Red Mutiny is a tale threaded with terrific adventure, epic naval battles, heroic sacrifices, treachery, bloodlust, and a rallying cry to freedom that would steer the course of the twentieth century. It is also a fine work of scholarship that draws on the long-closed Soviet archives to shed new light on this seminal event in Russian and naval history.

Comments Off on The history of the Potemkin takes a severe list to port.

Filed under Book Reviews