Lenin Rediscovered : What is to be Done? In Context (Historical Materialism Series)
Lenin’sWhat Is to Be Done?(1902) has long been seen as the founding document of a ‘party of a new type’. For some, it provided a model of the ‘vanguard party’ that was the essence of Bolshevism, for others it manifested Lenin’s elitist and manipulative attitude towards the workers.
This substantial new commentary, based on contemporary Russian – and German-language sources, provides hitherto unavailable contextual information that undermines these views and shows how Lenin’s argument rests squarely on an optimistic confidence in the workers’ revolutionary inclinations and on his admiration of German Social Democracy in particular. Lenin’s outlook cannot be understood, Lih claims here, outside the context of international Social Democracy, the disputes within Russian Social Democracy and the institutions of the revolutionary underground.
The commentary is accompanied by a complete new translation ofWhat Is to Be Done?that focuses particularly on hard-to-translate key terms. This study raises new and unsettling questions about the legacy of Marx, Bolshevism as a historical force, and the course of soviet history, but, most of all, it will revolutionise the conventional interpretations of Lenin.
Lars T. Lih,Ph.D. (1984) Princeton, is the editor ofStalin’s Letters to Molotov,the author ofBread and Authority in Russia, 1914-1921,the chapter on ideology in the forthcoming Cambridge History of Russia and numerous articles on the Bolsheviks.