From Lenin to Stalin
Monad Press, $2.95
A fascinating, first-hand account of the Stalinist takeover in Russia is now once again available after having been long out print.
It's from Lenin to Stalin, by Victor Serge, Monad Press. Serge had a history in left circles in Europe before the Bolshevik Revolution, and went to Russia early in 1919. He became a member of the Communist Party and worked with the Communist International. As Stalin consolidated his power, Serge threw in his lot with the left opposition. As a result he was subjected to increasing harassment and finally left the country in 1936, barely escaping the purge trials. In the west, he continued to write about the revolutionary movement. Some of his earlier works were seized and suppressed by the secret police before he left Russia, and have never been published.
The book is largely anecdotal rather than analytical, but precisely for this reason it may give a better taste of the flavour of the tines than a drier academic treatment could.
The slanders, manipulations, murders, and other tactics of the Stalinist bureaucracy are all relatively well known, although not nearly as well as they should be - many of their lies are still believed. This vividly describes their application.
But perhaps the most compelling part of the narrative is that portion dealing with the attitude of the old Bolsheviks to Stalin. Serge's description of their simple-minded faith in the party as a revolutionary instrument, which led them to remain loyal to it after it was completely taken over by Stalin and his henchmen in the mistaken belief that the party would survive any temporary aberrations forced on it by the leader, is powerfully revealing. This helps in part to explain the bogus confessions obtained from the victims of the Moscow trials.
It's a grim, gripping story.
Reviewed by Ulli Diemer
The Varsity, 1973