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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL Octobre - Bibliography: To discover the Russian Revolution (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Sun, 5 Nov 2017 10:27:51 +0200

The subject is immense, labyrinthine issues, events alternately grandiose and desolate. A selection of books to learn. ---- Orlando Figes, The Russian Revolution (1996). This epic fresco, beginning with the catastrophic famine of 1891 and ending with the death of Lenin in 1924, sweeps the political, military, economic and cultural aspects of the revolution. The author interweaves his narrative with eloquent points of view, such as those of the socialist intellectual Gorky, the Bolshevik worker Kanachikov or the progressive peasant Semenov. Despite a sarcastic and sometimes unpleasant tone, this historian who seems to have sympathy for Lev Kamenev's moderate Bolshevism paints a vivid picture of what was then Russian society, so difficult to imagine a century later.

2 volumes, 1600 pages, Gallimard, 2009.

Marc Ferro, The Revolution of 1917 (1975). The French historiography on the Russian Revolution is far below its Anglo-Saxon counterpart, but Marc Ferro has raised the level considerably with this study unequaled for more than forty years. Less good storyteller, but better analyst than Figs, Ferro enriches his book of thematic studies on the democracy of the soviets, workers' control and self-management, bureaucratisation, the role of women and national minorities. His small collection of commented texts, From soviets to bureaucratic communism (Gallimard, 1980), is less successful.

1,102 pages, Albin Michel, 1997.

Alexander Rabinovich, Prelude to Revolution (1968). Never translated into French, this founding study, focused on the July Days, broke the myth of a monolithic and disciplined Bolshevik Party in 1917. It shows the divergences and hesitations - logical in a context of revolution - but also the porosity to external influences - especially that of anarchists on its working base. Despite this, his effort to maintain organizational cohesion will have made the difference with his competitors. Rabinovich extended his study to October in The Bolsheviks take power (La Fabrique, 2016), where we take the measure of the role played by Lenin. There is little case in history where the will of a man will have weighed so much on the course of events.

304 pages, First Midland Book Edition, 1991.

Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists (1967). In a rather scholastic style, it is in spite of everything the most complete book on the subject, centered on the two phases of the libertarian activity in Russia: 1905-1908, then 1917-1921. Avrich details the singularity of Russian anarchism in its first wave, fascinated by bezmotiv violence (" without motive ") - for no other purpose than to kill rich to awaken the people. In parallel was invented in Ukraine " anarcho-syndicalism " twenty-five or thirty years before the formula is formalized in Spain and France. The study of the second wave is more disappointing. The debates and action of anarchists at the key moments of 1917-1918 are only flown over; the characters barely sketched. The book by Alexander Skirda, The Russian Anarchists, the Soviets and the 1917 Revolution (Editions de Paris, 2000) takes up more or less the same information as Avrich, adding testimonies and documents in the appendix.

400 pages, Nada, 2017.

Voline, The Unknown Revolution (1947). This is the reference libertarian testimony, bringing a lot of information first hand. Nevertheless, he remains very evasive about anarchist organizations, their debates, their differences and their actors, as if Voline had not wanted to get angry with anyone. Even the splitting of his own newspaper, Golos Truda, in 1918, is modestly ignored. On the other hand, the Memoirs and writings of Makhno (Ivrea, 2010) tell the revolutionary action of the years 1906-1918 - before the Makhnovshchina, therefore - with a luxury of details, but remain confined to Ukraine. We will complete with the excellent biography Nestor Makhno, the libertarian Cossack, by Alexandre Skirda (Editions de Paris, 2005).

720 pages, Worldworld, 2010.

Stephen A. Smith, Red Petrograd. The revolution in factories (1983). With its strong sociological component, it holds a leading book to understand the working class in the capital of the tsars. The typical proletarian was young, concentrated in a giant metallurgical factory, single without children, relatively educated and hungry: in short, dynamite. Smith explores the labor institutions spontaneously created in 1917 - popular militia, Red Guard, factory committees - and discusses their role ... before the working class evaporates in 1918-1919. The collapse of the industry will then force her to return to the fields or enlist in the Red Army ... except for the fraction that will, in the meantime, become an official in the soviets.

450 pages, The Red Nights, 2017.

Leonard Schapiro, The Bolsheviks and the Opposition (1955). A precise and richly documented book that illuminates the trajectory of the " losers " of the revolution: Mensheviks and socialist-revolutionaries mainly - the anarchists are only flown over, the Bund is ignored. Hence it appears that several key moments - the II th Congress of Soviets, the negotiations for a pluralist socialist government, the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the beginnings of the civil war ... - these parties have squandered their chance to weigh on the course of events.

560 pages, The Red Nights, 2007.

Oskar Anweiler, The Soviets in Russia (1972). The soviets were above all organs of administration, but also - palliating the absence of unions - workers' representation and coordination of struggles. And, potentially only, of popular power. The author details the architecture they adopted to structure themselves at the national level, and depicts their existence and their faults in a more concrete way than most of the history books of the Russian Revolution.

384 pages, Gallimard, 1972.

Jacques Baynac, The Social Revolutionaries (1979). This was the main socialist current in Russia from 1880 to 1917, before being locked in the caricature of Soviet historians, and erased memories. Baynac brought down many prejudices on this heterodox Marxist party, a member of the II th International, well established in the working class, without serious competitor within the peasant left rather unparliamentary and leading the armed struggle against tsarism. Only Volume 1, devoted to the pre-1917, has been published.

394 pages, Robert Laffont, 1979.

René Berthier, October 1917: the Thermidor of the Russian Revolution (1999). Besides the action of the anarchists, René Berthier gives a lengthy examination of the responsibilities of Bolshevism in the bureaucratisation of the revolution, establishing comparisons with Spanish anarcho-syndicalism in 1936. The many edifying quotations of Lenin and Trotsky ( fascinated by Taylorism, resolved to use terror against the workers to straighten out production) form an implacable plea against any dictatorship, whether " enlightened " or " revolutionary ".

288 pages, CNT-RP Publishing, 2003.
On the side of testimonials

We will read the Memoirs of a Revolutionary Victor (Lux, 2010), whose humanistic breath compensates for the shadows; The Bolshevik myth of Alexander Berkman, and his relevant observations on the degeneration of the revolution in 1920-1921 (Klincksieck, 2017); the memoirs of a Jewish anarchist Samuel Schwartzbard (Syllepse, 2010), which gets tangled a bit in the timeline, but the memories of resistance to pogroms in Ukraine, about the trials of the first Red Guards or the profiteers disorder will usefully reflect the adepts of spontaneity and non-organization.

William Davranche (AL Montreuil)

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