Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/599/8306

From The Socialist newspaper, 28 October 2009

Book review

Conspirator: Lenin in Exile

The making of a revolutionary
By Helen Rappaport (20, Hutchinson)
Reviewed by Niall Mulholland

In this brisk, readable account, author Helen Rappaport looks at Lenin's life during his nearly two decades in exile in conditions of great privation and hardship. Always under the threat of state persecution, he struggled to forge a revolutionary socialist party capable of contesting for power in Czarist Russia. In this he was ultimately successfully in October 1917.

Although largely relying on published memoirs, particularly those of Nadya Krupskaya, Lenin's life-long partner and fellow Bolshevik, Conspirator: Lenin in Exile usefully gathers together in one book the details of the life of the great Marxist, up to his arrival at Finland Station in Petrograd, April 1917.

The book is full of reminiscences, incidents, events and even anecdotes, as we follow Lenin's many forced moves around Europe, including to Paris, Geneva, Brussels and London (like Marx before him, Lenin made great use of the British Museum in London).

We are given a detailed picture of how Lenin single-mindedly dedicated his enormous talents to the workers' revolutionary movement. We learn of his prodigious workload and frugal lifestyle, his health problems brought on by poverty, and his great love of long walks and cycling.

After the state execution of his older brother, Aleksandr Ulyanov, for his part in a plot to kill the dictatorial Czar in 1887, the young Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (later to adopt the name Lenin) became involved in the revolutionary underground, choosing the methods of Marxism over terrorism to overthrow capitalism and landlordism.

Some of the best parts of the book examine the huge sacrifices and idealism of the "hundreds of activists", who along with Lenin worked "covertly in Russia's big cities, who had given up the personal life and gone underground... lived hand to mouth... living in safe houses without work permits..." Like scenes from a spy novel, Lenin is described jumping from a moving train, risking life and limb, to protect a suitcase of revolutionary literature from Czarist policemen.

Although forced to flee Russia, Lenin's qualities of "self-discipline, energy and austerity" meant he was soon playing a pivotal role organising the work of the underground, including founding, editing and writing for party newspapers, and corresponding voluminously with fellow revolutionaries (with the aid of Krupskaya's untiring coding and decoding of letters).

Rappaport spends a great deal of time discussing and speculating on Lenin's personal life, for example on his relations with fellow Bolshevik Innesa Armand, and on the possible causes of Lenin's death in 1924. In doing so, Rappaport repeats unproven allegations, some of which she admits in footnotes are "totally unverified claims" and cited from hostile authors on Lenin, including one with a "heavy anti-Russian bias" and "unsavoury" politics.

Weakness

The book's most serious weaknesses are apparent when Rappaport comments on Lenin's political ideas and struggles, failing to provide a balanced record. Lenin's political fights against other trends in the Russian social democratic and international socialist movement are given one-sided and often hostile treatment. However, these were essential in preparing the way ideologically and organisationally for the development and success of the Bolsheviks.

The Bolshevik leader is castigated by the author for his supposed "violent character assassination", "crude invective" and "messianic prophecy" and for treating the proletariat as "merely an amorphous mass, the collective instrument of the party's elitist will".

There is nothing new in these tired and crude views. Of course, the author is free to disagree with Lenin's politics but any serious and honest study of the history of the Bolsheviks refutes the false notion that Lenin dominated the party by underhand and autocratic methods. The reality is that Lenin was often in a minority in debates in the Bolshevik party. The colossal authority he held amongst the Bolshevik rank and file was due to the force of the logic of his ideas and their successful application to the needs and historical claims of the Russian working class. Indeed, the Bolshevik party is the most democratic and successful party of the working class in its history.

For a proper account of his ideas and methods, look elsewhere, to Lenin's works and also to the publications and websites of the Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers' International.

socialistbooks 020 8988 8789.
bookshop@socialistparty.org.uk

www.socialistbooks.org.uk for books by Lenin

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 28 October 2009:

Support postal workers

Support post workers, this is no time to equivocate

Postal strike reports: Defending the service


Anti-racism

BBC Question Time panel - Workers' voice denied against BNP

BBC Griffin protest: Jobs and homes, not racism!

Far right shut out of Newport by mass protest


Socialism 2009

Socialism 2009 forum - can we build a party for working class people?


Youth fight for jobs

Huddersfield march for jobs

Young musicians support YFJ

Cardiff Socialist Student elected


Anti-war

Afghanistan: anti-war demo

Tamil Solidarity fights for boat refugees


Socialist Party news and analysis

Darling you're talking rubbish!

Energy giant 'fanciful to the point of paranoia'


Marxist analysis

80th anniversary of the Wall Street Crash: Capitalist failure - then and now


Workplace news and analysis

Strikes sweep across Yorkshire

Leeds bin strike: 92% vote to reject council's 'final' offer

Battle for jobs in Land Registry

Ex Ford/Visteon pensioners protest in Swansea

Leicester uni cuts protest


Socialist Party feature

Call centres - public services on the cheap


Marxist analysis: history

Newport Rising 1839


Comment

Daily Mail homophobia


Socialist Party reviews

Film review - Capitalism: a love story

Conspirator: Lenin in Exile


 

Home   |   The Socialist 28 October 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Lenin:

triangleLeon Trotsky's struggle against Stalinism

triangleHeroic martyrs of German Revolution

triangleBirmingham Central Socialist Party: Lenin's book 'State and Revolution'

triangleLeeds Socialist Party: The ideas of Lenin

triangleStriking analysis in heat of 1917 will deepen any reader's understanding

Socialist:

triangleHackney Socialist Party: Barking fire - two years after Grenfell

triangleBristol Socialist Party: Defend LGBT+ rights

triangleBirmingham Socialist Party: For socialist policies to end austerity

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Marxism & Identity Politics

Russia:

triangleThe striking relevance of Leon Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution

triangleMueller report underlines Democrats' weakness

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: Russia - The rise of Stalinism

Russian:

triangleTV Review: Chernobyl - Workers' heroism vs sclerotic Stalinism

triangleInternational round-up

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

3/7/19

TV

TV: Years and Years - Engaging family drama pushes confused, reactionary message

3/7/19

Letters

The Socialist inbox

26/6/19

Letters

The Socialist inbox

26/6/19

Nuclear power

Opinion: capitalism's Fukushima showed same recklessness as Stalinism's Chernobyl

19/6/19

TV

Defend free TV licences for over-75s!

19/6/19

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

12/6/19

Review

TV Review: Chernobyl - Workers' heroism vs sclerotic Stalinism

12/6/19

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

5/6/19

George Orwell

70 years since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four: "But if there was hope, it lay in the proles"

22/5/19

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

22/5/19

Climate change

Opinion: socialists must link climate struggle to power of organised workers

15/5/19

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

15/5/19

Diggers

May 1649 - the Last Stand of the Levellers

8/5/19

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

8/5/19

TV

'Line of Duty' - twists and turns as organised crime meets police corruption

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999