Friday, September 1, 2017

My Amazon Review of Sean McMeekin's "The Russian Revolution: A New History"

Russia Turns Red

Historian Sean McMeekin has written a very readable revisionist history of the Russian Revolution.  The perspective of the book is to look at the revolution from outside in. Hence we learn more about the opposition to Lenin rather than an inside out view which would focus more on the Bolshevik leadership. According to his archival sources McMeekin clearly portrays Lenin as a German agent who brought the financial resources of Hohenzollern Germany with him to overwhelm both his critics on the left and the forces of the provisional government.

In McMeekin’s view both the Tsar and the Russian army were in far better shape than what other historians have argued. I think he stretches here, because if it were that strong the army would not have collapsed as fast as it did under the weight of the Leninist policy of turning an imperialist war into a civil war by subverting the Russian draftees.

He argues, I think correctly, that Lenin was blessed by his opponents. The liberals who brought on the February/March Revolution were inept and the Socialist Revolutionary government under Kerensky was perhaps even more inept. When the time came for Lenin to strike in October/November, the provisional government was a mere shell.  Thus the revolution was more a coup d’état than a real revolution. The revolution would come with the bloody civil war that followed the coup.

During the civil war period McMeekin highlights how split the opposition was and how unified the newly formed Red Army was under the leadership of Trotsky. Trotsky wisely utilized the officer corps of the defeated Tsarist army to build his new army and utilizing Russian gold reserves, Lenin was able to keep the army in the field. Nevertheless millions of lives were lost in the three year civil war as the country nearly starved to death and was saved by Herbert Hoover’s relief mission. One last note McMeekin tells us that the Cheka, the predecessor to the KGB, was founded to break the strike of banking, railroad and communication workers, so much for proletarian solidarity.

Therefore I highly recommend the ”The Russian Revolution” for history buffs like myself. 

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