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Reconstructing Lenin

Reconstructing Lenin: An Intellectual Biography

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 544
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  • Book Info
    Reconstructing Lenin
    Book Description:

    Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is among the most enigmatic and influential figures of the twentieth century. While his life and work are crucial to any understanding of modern history and the socialist movement, generations of writers on the left and the right have seen fit to embalm him endlessly with superficial analysis or dreary dogma. Now, after the fall of the Soviet Union and "actually-existing" socialism, it is possible to consider Lenin afresh, with sober senses trained on his historical context and how it shaped his theoretical and political contributions.Reconstructing Lenin, four decades in the making and now available in English for the first time, is an attempt to do just that.

    Tamás Krausz, an esteemed Hungarian scholar writing in the tradition of György Lukács, Ferenc Tokei, and István Mészáros, makes a major contribution to a growing field of contemporary Lenin studies. This rich and penetrating account reveals Lenin busy at the work of revolution, his thought shaped by immediate political events but never straying far from a coherent theoretical perspective. Krausz balances detailed descriptions of Lenin's time and place with lucid explications of his intellectual development, covering a range of topics like war and revolution, dictatorship and democracy, socialism and utopianism.Reconstructing Leninwill change the way you look at a man and a movement; it will also introduce the English-speaking world to a profound radical scholar.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-462-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 9-21)
  4. 1 Who Was Lenin?
    (pp. 23-75)

    Lenin did not concern himself a great deal with his family tree. He had no interest in his ancestors’ deeds, couldn’t care less about their descent, and so he knew hardly anything about them.¹ A great majority of Lenin’s revolutionary associates were of educated backgrounds, some of noble descent. For instance, G. V. Plekhanov or Chicherin, and Felix Dzerzhinsky who was born of the Polish lesser nobility. Others, such as Zinoviev and Kamenev were of middle-class backgrounds, or an expressly educated background, like Bukharin—eighteen years Lenin’s junior—to mention only a few of his most famous companions from various...

  5. 2 Russian Capitalism and the Revolution
    (pp. 77-109)

    A the beginning of the twentieth century, 82 percent of Russia’s mostly peasant population lived in the European governorates. A bare 13.4 percent of the total population of 125.7 million lived in cities. The birth rate was rather high, with nearly a quarter of the population below the age of nine. By 1914, despite rapid capital investment, industrial development, and a significant increase in the urban share of the population, agrarian overpopulation did not decrease.¹ Even today the depth of capitalist penetration remains a matter of contention among historians, especially given that Russia was a continent-sized empire composed of 140...

  6. 3 Organization and Revolution
    (pp. 111-141)

    Lenin inherited from marx the notion that “capitalism can be overthrown by way of revolution.” From the 1890s onward, Lenin was motivated to understand just how the capitalist system might be overthrown—by what means, methods, and in what organizational form. In this chapter we will discuss Lenin’s views regarding how to “seize power” and “integrate the masses” into the party. During his Siberian exile (1897–1900), Lenin began to formulate plans for how to organize the working class and for revolutionary organization in general.

    On 29 January 1900 (February 10), six days after Lenin was released from exile in...

  7. 4 The War and the National Question
    (pp. 143-175)

    After 1907, lenin was able to draw a practical lesson from the overall defeat of the 1905 Revolution: the autocratic regime could be shaken only byrevolutionarymeans. Revolution as a possibility permeated the foundations he laid in his economic theoryfor the end, the “disintegration” of capitalism.However, this theory, which appears rather deterministic at first glance, was formulated at the highest possible scientific level in Rosa Luxemburg’s famous book,The Accumulation of Capital(1913). One of the underlying notions is that capital’s global expansion and accumulation meets such obstacles because of the shrinking size of the world’s not...

  8. 5 The State and Revolution
    (pp. 177-207)

    Lenin’sthe state and revolution: The Marxist Theory of the State and the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Revolution,was written in August–September 1917 and first published in the following year. It is perhaps the most influential, most read, and most highly valued work written by Lenin.¹ The significance of this short book is unquestioned even by those biographers and analysts of his legacy who look upon it, from a theoretical point of view, as an insignificant hack job.² Not even those critics who give it an ahistorical examination, marking it off as some sort of specialized work,...

  9. 6 Dictatorship and Democracy in Practice
    (pp. 209-279)

    The RSDLP and lenin had always acknowledged the necessity of convening the Constituent Assembly as a part of what would be the minimal program for a bourgeois democratic transformation. However, historical circumstances quickly bypassed the “democratic phase” in the aftermath of the February Revolution, and Lenin’s political stance changed accordingly. Despite this, convening the Constituent Assembly was not expressly rejected even inState and Revolution,since objections were to be expected from all political parties. Nonetheless he had serious reservations about such a convention well in advance of October. As the second epigraph for this chapter demonstrates, his political evaluation...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. 7 World Revolution: Method and Myth
    (pp. 281-309)

    Where the socialist world revolution is understood as overthrowing capitalism on an international level, it is neither a freestanding phenomenon nor simply an organic element of Lenin’s and Bolshevik political practice, but a part of the history of the Russian Revolution and the Russian civil war. Since politics cannot operate without myths, beliefs, mobilizing ideals, and ideologies, and in the end every forecast or calculation of the future is wholly subject to unpredictable factors, the “scientific prediction” also constitutes a part of the struggle to determine political alternatives. All of this applies where the Marxist and Leninist traditions of world...

  12. 8 The Theory of Socialism: Possibility or Utopia?
    (pp. 311-353)

    In october 1917 lenin surely must have believed that history had confirmed his political and theoretical convictions, plans, and prophecies to a surprising degree. ButafterOctober he would observe that not a single one of his prognoses had been validated, or if they were—as in the case of the civil war—their form and course was accompanied by unforeseen catastrophes. All of this weighed heavily on the development of his theory of socialism. To begin with, a majority of the Mensheviks interpreted the October Revolution as a form of bourgeois revolution (with numerous movements to follow in their...

  13. Summary Comments in Place of a Postscript
    (pp. 355-371)

    I mentioned both at the beginning of this book and elsewhere that certain authors have deliberately eliminated from Lenin’s legacy the essential philosophical tenets and methodology that made him who he was. For one thing, they neglect his most important practical discovery, namely his precise theoretical interpretation of Marxistdialectics,its reconstruction, and his practical application of those dialectics.¹ Lenin understood, even on the basis of its Hegelian roots, thatdialectical materialism(and epistemology) incorporates theself-movementin things, phenomena, processes, as well as theconscious human activity to transform society.Thus it is not a matter of the historical...

  14. Chronology of Russian History 1917–1924
    (pp. 372-395)
  15. Biographical Sketches
    (pp. 396-434)
  16. List of Photographs and Illustrations
    (pp. 435-436)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 437-451)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 452-538)
  19. Index
    (pp. 539-552)