The Russian Revolution: A Verso Reading List
One hundred years on from the Russian Revolution we look back at the events that turned the world upside down. All our Russian Revolution reading is 50% off until Jan 1.
"The year 1917 was an epic, a concatenation of adventures, hopes, betrayals, unlikely coincidences, war and intrigue; of bravery and cowardice and foolishness, farce, derring-do, tragedy; of epochal ambitions and change, of glaring lights, steel, shadows; of tracks and trains...
This was Russia’s revolution, certainly, but it belonged and belongs to others, too. It could be ours. If its sentences are still unfinished, it is up to us to finish them." — China Miéville
Award-winning writer China Miéville has long been inspired by the ideals of the Russian Revolution and here, on the centenary of the revolution, he provides his own distinctive take on its history.
In a panoramic sweep, stretching from St Petersburg and Moscow to the remotest villages of a sprawling empire, Miéville uncovers the catastrophes, intrigues and inspirations of 1917, in all their passion, drama and strangeness. Intervening in long-standing historical debates, but told with the reader new to the topic especially in mind, here is a breathtaking story of humanity at its greatest and most desperate; of a turning point for civilisation that still resonates loudly today.
"Without Lenin there would have been no socialist revolution in 1917. Of this much we can be certain."
On the centenary of the Russian Revolution, Tariq Ali explores the two major influences on Lenin’s thought—the turbulent history of Tsarist Russia and the birth of the international labour movement—and explains how Lenin confronted dilemmas that still cast a shadow over the present. Is terrorism ever a viable strategy? Is support for imperial wars ever justified? Can politics be made without a party? Was the seizure of power in 1917 morally justified?
V. I. Lenin’s originality and importance as a revolutionary leader is most often associated with the seizure of power in 1917. But, in this new study and collection of Lenin’s original texts, Slavoj Žižek argues that his true greatness can be better grasped in the last two years of his political life.
In today’s world, characterized by political turbulence, economic crises and geopolitical tensions, we should revisit Lenin’s combination of sober lucidity and revolutionary determination.[book-strip index="4" style="buy"]
Reflecting on the fate of the Russian Revolution one hundred years after October, Ronald Grigor Suny—one of the world’s leading historians of the period—explores the historiographical controversies over 1917, Stalinism, and the end of “Communism” and provides an assessment of the achievements, costs, losses and legacies of the choices made by Soviet leaders.[book-strip index="5" style="buy"]
It was the 1917 Russian Revolution that transformed the scale of the Communist Manifesto, making it the key text for socialists everywhere. On the centenary of this upheaval, this volume pairs Marx and Engels’s most famous work with Lenin’s own revolutionary manifesto, "The April Theses,"which lifts politics from the level of everyday banalities to become an art-form.[book-strip index="6" style="buy"]
This classic book provides a historical overview of feminist strands among the modern revolutionary movements of Russia, China and the Third World. Sheila Rowbotham shows how women rose against the dual challenges of an unjust state system and social-sexual prejudice. Women, Resistance and Revolution is an invaluable historical study, as well as a trove of anecdote and example fit to inspire today’s generation of feminist thinkers and activists.
Women in Russia Before and After the Revolution by Sheila Rowbotham - read an extract from this book on the Verso blog.
In Revolution at the Gates, Slavoj Žižek locates the 1917 writings in their historical context, while his afterword tackles the key question of whether Lenin can be reinvented in our era of “cultural capitalism.” Žižek is convinced that, whatever the discussion—the forthcoming crisis of capitalism, the possibility of a redemptive violence, the falsity of liberal tolerance—Lenin’s time has come again.[book-strip index="8" style="buy"]
One hundred years after the Russian Revolution the Soviet Union remains the most extraordinary, yet tragic, attempt to create a society beyond capitalism. Yet its history was one that for a long time proved impossible to write.
In The Soviet Century, Moshe Lewin follows this history in all its complexity, guiding us through the inner workings of a system which is still barely understood. In the process he overturns widely held beliefs about the USSR’s leaders, the State-Party system and the powerful Soviet bureaucracy.
Jewish radicals manned the barricades on the avenues of Petrograd and the alleys of the Warsaw ghetto; they were in the vanguard of those resisting Franco and the Nazis. They originated in Yiddishland, a vast expanse of Eastern Europe that, before the Holocaust, ran from the Baltic Sea to the western edge of Russia and incorporated hundreds of Jewish communities with a combined population of some 11 million people. This book traces the struggles of these militants, their singular trajectories, their oscillation between great hope and doubt, their lost illusions—a red and Jewish gaze on the history of the twentieth century.
[El Lissitzky’s 1919 poster Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge]
Written in the white heat of revolutionary Russia's Civil War, Trotsky's Terrorism and Communism is one of the most potent defenses of revolutionary dictatorship. In his provocative commentary to this new edition the philosopher Slavoj Žižek argues that Trotsky’s attack on the illusions of liberal democracy has a vital relevance today.[book-strip index="11" style="buy"]
Thoughtful and intimate, Fear of Mirrors unfolds an expansive plot that touches on the greatest political upheavals of the twentieth century. Its protagonist captures the hopes once roused by the Bolshevik Revolution and the hard realities that followed; Vlady Meyer is a mirror reflecting impeccably the intellectual milieu of an incomparable period.[book-strip index="12" style="buy"]
Few political figures of the twentieth century have aroused such intensities of fierce admiration and reactionary fear as Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. His extraordinary life and extensive writings have left an indelible mark on the revolutionary consciousness. Yet there was once a danger that his life and influence would be relegated to the footnotes of history.
Published over the course of ten years, beginning in 1954, Deutscher’s magisterial three-volume biography turned back the tide of Stalin’s propaganda, and has since been praised by everyone from Tony Blair to Graham Greene. In this definitive work, now reissued in a single volume, Trotsky’s true stature emerges as the most heroic, and ultimately tragic, character of the Russian Revolution.
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In this vigorous riposte to revivionist historians who would denigrate the history of emancipatory struggle, Losurdo captivates the reader with a tour de force account of modern revolt, providing a new perspective on the English, American, French and Russian revolutions.[book-strip index="14" style="buy"]
Re-launch of the Collected Works of the legendary revolutionary in paperback[book-strip index="15" style="buy"]
Ranging across Trotsky’s struggles against Stalin’s bureaucracy, his formulation of an alternative economic strategy, his theories relating to the Third World, fascism and the national question, his extensive literary criticism, and concluding with a moving assessment of an extraordinary life, this book is a fitting testimony to a man who, in Mandel’s words, "will be judged by history as the most important strategist for the socialist movement."[book-strip index="16" style="buy"]
In History and Revolution, a group of respected historians confronts the conservative, revisionist trends in historical enquiry that have been dominant in the last twenty years. Ranging from an exploration of the English, French, and Russian revolutions and their treatment by revisionist historiography, to the debates and themes arising from attempts to downplay revolution’s role in history, History and Revolution also engages with several prominent revisionist historians, including Orlando Figes, Conrad Russell and Simon Schama.
With contributions by Daniel Bensaïd, Geoff Eley, Marc Ferro, Florence Gauthier, Mike Haynes, Geoff Kennedy, Lars T. Lih, Enzo Traverso, and Jim Wolfreys.
How do mass protests become an organized activist collective?
Crowds and Party channels the energies of the riotous crowds who took to the streets in the past five years into an argument for the political party. Rejecting the emphasis on individuals and multitudes, Jodi Dean argues that we need to rethink the collective subject of politics.
During the first decades of the twentieth century, Rosa Luxemburg was the leader of the workers’ movement in Poland and Germany. She made a remarkable contribution to socialist theory and practice, yet her legacy remains in dispute. In this book Geras brings new light to bear on one of the most misrepresented figures in radical history, illustrating her inspiring lack of complacency and her commitment to questioning those in authority on both the Right and the Left.[book-strip index="19" style="buy"]
A giant of the political left, Rosa Luxemburg is one of the foremost minds in the canon of revolutionary socialist thought. But she was much more than just a thinker.
In this beautifully drawn work of graphic biography, writer and artist Kate Evans has opened up her subject’s intellectual world to a new audience, grounding Luxemburg’s ideas in the realities of an inspirational and deeply affecting life.
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No-one and nothing, not even the Congress of a Communist Party, can abolish the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is the most important conclusion of this book by Etienne Balibar. Balibar spells out his reasoning against the background of the 22nd Congress of the French Communist Party, which decided to ‘drop’ the aim of the dictatorship of the proletariat and to substitute the objective of a ‘democratic’ road to socialism. His concrete references are therefore usually to arguments put forward within the French Party. But it is quite obvious that the significance of this book is much wider, not least because, in spite of the important political and economic differences separating the nations of western Europe, many of their Communist Parties are evolving in an apparently similar ideological direction, and indeed appear to be borrowing arguments from one another in support of their new positions.
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This book was produced in 1928 as a practical insurrectionary manual for communists. It discusses the role of armed insurrection in the Marxist-Leninist theory of revolution, analyses a number of insurrections—both successful and unsuccessful—with the aim of determining the conditions for victory, and gives detailed information on the tactics of street fighting—ranging from the respective advantages of offensive or defensive action to the best method of building a barricade. Written in Moscow under Comintern auspices, it is a classic Third Period document. Its republication will contribute to the recovery and appraisal of the early years of Soviet and Comintern history which is so essential an ingredient in the forging of all revolutionary theory and practice today.
Published under the pseudonym of 'A. Neuberg', the work was in fact written by a group of leading Comintern political and military experts.
Revolutionary novelist, historian, anarchist, Bolshevik and dissident – Victor Serge is one of the most compelling figures to have emerged from the history of the Soviet Union. Carefully wrought and meticulously researched, Susan Weissman’s Victor Serge is the definitive biography of an extraordinary man.[book-strip index="23" style="buy"]
A serious and measured exposition of the terms on which arguments for socialist strategy currently move.[book-strip index="24" style="buy"]
A lasting collection of some of Deutscher’s most powerful texts.[book-strip index="25" style="buy"]
A trenchant account of Leninism from a giant of Marxist philosophy.[book-strip index="26" style="buy"]
Tactics and Ethics collects Georg Lukács’s articles from the most politically active time of his life, a period encompassing his stint as deputy commissar of education in the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Including his famed essay on parliamentarianism—which earned Lukács the respectful yet severe criticism of Lenin—this book is a treasure chest of valuable insights from one of history’s great political philosophers.[book-strip index="27" style="buy"]
This anthology, global in scope, presents voices of dissent from every era of human history: speeches and pamphlets, poems and songs, plays and manifestos. Every age has its iconoclasts, and yet the greatest among them build on the words and actions of their forerunners. The Verso Book of Dissent should be in the arsenal of every rebel who understands that words and ideas are the ultimate weapons.[book-strip index="28" style="buy"]
Ernest Mandel's book provides the first ever synthetic account of the development of Trotsky's Marxism in its successive encounters with the key problems and crises of the epoch. The Russian revolution and the theme of uneven development, the construction of revolutionary parties, the struggle against fascism and imperialism at large, the nature of Stalinism and the prospect of a full socialist democracy, are all discussed in a compact study that makes a fitting and long overdue counterpart to Lukács's historic study of fifty years ago.[book-strip index="29" style="buy"]
Finally, raise a toast to the bearded one: a history of Vodka!