No Less Than Mystic: A History of Lenin and the Russian Revolution for a 21st-Century Left

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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 prioritises 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.


We do not need another standard history of the Russian Revolution. This is not one.

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John Medhurst

John Medhurst was born in London in 1962 and graduated in History and 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, 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 1970s published by Zero Books in 2014. He is married with two daughters. He lives in Brighton, England.

"The book is very comprehensive and insightful, and linked in perceptive ways to current affairs."

Noam Chomsky

"A stunning work of synthetic scholarship which addresses one of the great historical questions of the modern epoch."

Jeremy Gilbert

"Essential reading for all socialists."

Eric Lee, editor of Labour Start and author of The Experiment: Georgia's Forgotten Revolution 1918-1921

"This is a big, energetic, ambitious book that deserves every success. A hell of a performance."

Warren Ellis, author of Gun Machine

"Stands out for its range and critical force."

Capital & Class