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

John Medhurst. Repeater, $14.95 trade paper (654p) ISBN 978-1-910924-47-1
In this cheerfully chaotic account of Lenin’s political legacy aimed at those involved in modern anticapitalist movements, British trade unionist Medhurst seeks to dispel the mystique still surrounding the Russian revolutionary leader. Drawing on relevant scholarship and primary texts, Medhurst asserts that the Russian Revolution encompassed much that was “inspiring and positive” but argues that Lenin and the Bolshevik revolution should serve as a “cautionary tale” for modern leftist movements. Beginning with Lenin’s early writings, Medhurst contends that Lenin “had little to no interest in genuine political debate” and “put so much effort into preparing for revolution that he neglected to plan for its aftermath.” Medhurst is more sympathetic to Lenin’s contemporary Leon Trotsky, whose greatness, he says, “derives from his struggle against Stalinism,” but who is responsible “as much as Lenin” for bringing about the oppressive “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” that resulted in mass deaths and the ultimate betrayal of the revolution’s goals. Devoting frequent asides to modern leftist movements and cultural phenomena, Medhurst in his enthusiasm often resorts to clichés and odd pronouncements, such as “Stalinist art was a chocolate-box cover on an ocean of dead peasants.” Most non-Leninist leftists will sympathize with Medhurst’s aims, but unfortunately his book has little utility as a primer for leftist organizing. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/12/2017
Release date: 08/22/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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