A History of Lenin and the Russian Revolution for a 21st-Century Left by John Medhurst
“The book is very comprehensive and insightful, and linked in perceptive ways to current affairs.”
“No Less than Mystic is a stunning work of synthetic scholarship which addresses one of the great historical questions of the modern epoch: was the Russian Revolution the worst thing ever to happen to socialism? No Less than Mystic makes a compelling case that it was. Arguing from a radical democratic, libertarian socialist perspective that is as relevant today as in 1917, Medhurst makes the strongest possible riposte to recent fashionable rehabilitations of Leninism.
“This account makes no concession to the canard that the failure of revolutionary socialism is always inevitable, but demonstrates that while socialism with democracy may be difficult, socialism without democracy will always fail.”
–Jeremy Gilbert, Professor of Cultural and Political Theory, University of East London. Author of Common Ground: Democracy and Collectivity in an Age of Individualism.
Published in the centenary year of the 1917 Russian Revolution, No Less Than Mystic is a fresh and iconoclastic history of Lenin and the Bolsheviks for a generation uninterested in Cold War ideologies and stereotypes.
Although it offers a full and complete history of Leninism, 1917, the Russian Civil War and its aftermath, the book devotes more time than usual to the policies and actions of the socialist alternatives to Bolshevism – to the Menshevik Internationalists, the Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs), the Jewish Bundists and the anarchists. It priorities Factory Committees, local Soviets, the Womens’ Zhenotdel movement, Proletkult and the Kronstadt sailors as much as the statements and actions of Lenin and Trotsky. Using the neglected writings and memoirs of Mensheviks like Julius Martov, SRs like Victor Chernov, Bolshevik oppositionists like Alexandra Kollontai and anarchists like Nestor Makhno, it traces a revolution gone wrong and suggests how it might have produced a more libertarian, emancipatory socialism than that created by Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
Although the book broadly covers the period from 1903 (the formation of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks) to 1921 (the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion) and explains why the Bolshevik Revolution degenerated so quickly into its apparent opposite, it continually examines the Leninist experiment through the lens of a 21st century, de-centralized, ecological, anti-productivist and feminist socialism. Throughout its narrative it interweaves and draws parallels with contemporary anti-capitalist struggles such as those of the Zapatistas, the Kurds, the Argentinean “Recovered Factories”, Occupy, the Arab Spring, the Indignados and Intersectional feminists, attempting to open up the past to the present and points in between.
We do not need another standard history of the Russian Revolution. This is not one.
About the Author
John Medhurst was born in London in 1962 and graduated in History & Politics from Queen Mary College, University of London. He has worked at all levels of the British civil service from front-line welfare delivery to ministerial office in Whitehall, including local Job Centres, the International Branch of the Health and Safety Executive (in which he helped deliver assistance projects to ex-Soviet Bloc Eastern European countries), and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In all of these he was an active trade unionist. He is now a full-time officer for the UK’s largest civil service trade union, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).
He was elected to PCS’s National Executive Committee 2003-06 and for six years was PCS’s representative on the European Public Services Union’s (EPSU) Public Services Network. He has written for Novara Media, the Morning Star, Red Pepper, Green Left and the Journal of Contemporary European Research. He is the author of the highly regarded That Option No Longer Exists: Britain 1974-76, a revisionist history of Britain in the 1970’s published by Zero Books in 2014, which Hilary Wainwright, author of Beyond the Fragments and editor of Red Pepper, called “A really excellent book” which had “done the left a huge service”.
He is married with two daughters. He lives in Brighton, England.
On sale: August 2017
Paperback ISBN: 9781910924471 ($14.95 US // $16.95 CAN)
eBook ISBN: 9781910924488 ($9.99 US & CAN)