[Marxism] The Russia Question
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 23 16:02:14 MST 2009
Paul Flewers wrote:
> What I found somewhat worrying about some of the 'revisionist' historians in
> respect of the Terror was that there seemed to be an attempt to detect a
> democratic impulse during the purges, as if denouncing your boss for
> sabotage to the secret police was somehow on a par with the workers'
> struggles for their class interests in the soviets during the time of the
> October Revolution.
> I wonder if the former is a conscious or unconscious reflection of the
> Maoists' romantic portrayal of the Cultural Revolution as a working-class
> uprising, rather than as a squalid dog-fight within the Chinese bureaucracy.
The Institute of Historical Research
Paul Flewers, The New Civilisation? Understanding Stalin’s Soviet Union
1929-1941, Francis Boutle, 2009
Reviewed by Geoffrey Foote
This is a very carefully researched and well-written account of
reactions within Britain to the Soviet Union during the
industrialisation and forced collectivisation programmes of the 1930s.
It brings to light much new material, and should be a valuable
contribution both to the origin of Soviet studies in Britain and to the
political nature of British intellectual assumptions in the face of what
appeared to many as the final collapse of capitalism.
Dr Flewers writes with a sense of urgency and direct interest which
makes a refreshing contrast to the languid wit and detachment which
often surrounds intellectual history. His commitment is openly Marxist,
a courageous stance in the academic world during the last 20 years, but
that commitment is generally unobtrusive in a study which avoids crude
rhetoric and polemic, and avoids the simple ‘Stalin-or-Trotsky’
alternatives usually attributed to Marxist writers on the USSR. He draws
on an impressive range of references, and demonstrates a thorough
acquaintance with authorities such as Paul Hollander and Abbot Gleason.
Most importantly, he refuses to be hypnotised by the deification (or
demonization) of Stalin and the USSR; he recognises that, while moral
outrage is understandable, it is no substitute for a cool analysis.
An important aspect of this book is its attempt to classify the broad
and varied contemporary literature on the USSR in a comprehensible
manner, something regarded as impossible by Walter Laqueur in The Fate
of the Revolution back in 1967.(1) Dr Flewers distinguishes a critical
if inchoate third group, a ‘centre ground’ distinct from apologists and
enemies, and in his organisation of their arguments he is able to
demonstrate a multiplicity of approaches and motivations among observers
and political activists. In doing so, he valuably extends our knowledge
of the variety of reactions to the USSR.
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