THE SOVIETS: The Russian Workers, Peasants, and Soidiers Councils, 1905-1921 by Oskar Anweiler

THE SOVIETS: The Russian Workers, Peasants, and Soidiers Councils, 1905-1921

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This rather drearily scholastic book, written in 1958, provides some piquant material despite itself, especially on the immediate post-1917 period of Bolshevik rule in the Soviet Union. Anweiler takes lengthy pains to underline the obvious point that Lenin and Trotsky saw the soviets, or workers' and peasants' councils, not as ends in themselves but as vehicles of revolutionary development, and accordingly, before and after November 1917, affirmed the slogan of ""all power to the soviets"" in a way qualified by the political character of each grouping, not in an absolute one-man-one-vote spirit. The book mentions in passing the exclusion (democratically decided) of anarchists from the revolutionary soviets (except in Bialystock -- why?), but Anweiler plays down the civil war disruptions, described so fully in Victor Serge's Year One of the Revolution (1972), by those anti-Bolshevik leftists, and thus reaches little beyond the tendentious level of frowning at Bolshevik despotism. In this connection he gives a fuller account than most sources of the Kronstadt uprising of 1921 but essentially takes the orthodox, smug view that the Communists were simply oppressing the masses. The book does, however, have the virtue of clearly posing the question of syndicalist structures versus centralized revolutionary leadership in a ravaged, backward country; what Anweiler is unable to explain is how the Bolsheviks won the soviets' support in the first place, but he certainly provides a sense of the problems of victory.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1975
Publisher: Pantheon