Regular price: $38.50
Buy Now with 1 Credit
Buy Now for $38.50
This is an excellent bio of Vladimir Lenin, one of the key figures of the twentieth century. Lenin was a fascinating figure, who succeeded against incredible odds in creating the first Communist nation the world had ever known. Lenin’s entire adult life was unwaveringly focused by his rigid ideology and personal sense of historical destiny. As a virtual dictator in Russia in following the 1917 revolution, he could be ruthless and murderous. Yet Lenin was occasionally capable of compassion and even possessed a sense of humor of sorts. The author does a fine job of fleshing out Lenin as a person, as well as a historical figure. The book provides a closeup view of the Russian Revolution, the left-wing revolutionaries who made it happen, and the chaotic early days of the Soviet Union. We also learn of Lenin’s relationships with those closest to him, including his comrades, his mistress, his wife, and his mother, as well as Lenin’s hobbies and interests. The Berlin Wall has fallen and only a handful of Communist still remain in the world. Yet Lenin still seems like a modern individual, and his ideas about economics and class conflict remain germane to the controversies of the present day. The narrator does a very good job, adding drama where called for and providing different voices for the historical figures who are quoted from time to time. Highly recommended.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
Sebestyen’s emphasis is on narrative, telling a story rather than giving multitudinous obscure facts. He has new details from Soviet archives but they don’t derail the biography. Good for him. I now understand the difference between Menshevik and Bolshevik factions: the former wanted popularist socialism after the Tsar fell that would be nationally participatory, the latter wanted strict central control by a committee that would force true communism. The masses are NOT revolutionaries, said Lenin; the most revolutionary thing they ever do is form labor unions. A cadre of iron-willed professional revolutionaries must take power to direct everything and keep the transformation from socialism to communism on track. True to his theories, Lenin instituted tight and frightful central control after 1917, ordering thousands of foot-draggers executed. Bolshevik committees chose what was best for the masses and pushed their choices through at whatever the cost in suffering. Ends justifies means. Sebestyen portraits Lenin as a generally decent and often kind man when interacting person-to-person: brilliant since childhood, very loyal to friends who stayed loyal to him, living simply, having the common touch speaking to workers, polite, personally tidy, playing with children, prone to tantrums and grudges, a fanatic socialist, near nervous breakdowns several times from revolutionary zeal. This man who was all that ordered the deaths of hundreds of thousands he perceived as in the way of the workers’ state, although he never witnessed the killings personally. The sight would have unhinged him. Nevertheless, necessary executions, Lenin preached, are how revolutions are sustained to bring change. The true revolutionary realizes this and steels himself to what he has to do—or, in Lenin’s case, what he told others to do. Sebestyen writes that, regretfully, this horrible tenant marked Soviet Communism for decades—all traceable to Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov’s original thinking on seizing and maintaining control to serve the overall good. I enjoyed this book. If this era of history interests you I recommend buying it. It’s 20 hours long so figure 2 weeks to get through it.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful