Introduction to Before Stalinism

Against the Current, No. 36, January/February 1992

The Editors

“The extent to which Lenin’s rule in Russia was responsible for the rise of Stalinism has recently become a live issue in the USSR,” writes Samuel Farber in the introduction to Before Stalinism: The Rise and Fall of Soviet Democracy (London and New York Verso, 1990). Clearly the controversy continues (even though the USSR doesn’t!) This fact in itself would demand that socialists in the West come to grips with the issue—to say nothing of its importance in clarifying our own understanding of how revolutions may be won and lost.

In fact, Before Stalinism itself has become a provocative and controversial book within the left. The editors of ATC have invited a number of activists and writers, some though by no means all long-time students of the so-called “Russian Question,’ to contribute to a symposium on Farber’s book and the issues it raises for historical analysis and present-day political practice. We present here the first three responses. Others will be appearing in future issues and we invite our readers’ responses as well.

January-February 1992, ATC 36