There is a certain romantic attraction in the history of lost causes. The losers are usually nicer guys; in the case of the Russian Mensheviks, they were the humanitarian shadow of communist inhumanity. But the Mensheviks’ fate was not a tragic one just because they lost. Their real tragedy in exile was that their unique potential for understanding the evolution of communism was vitiated by their philosophical dogmatism and their petty internal disputes.
In its basics the story of the Mensheviks is well known to anyone familiar with the history of socialism: Russian Marxists of the democratic persuasion who, long before the revolution, broke with Lenin and the Bolsheviks over the future winners’ authoritarian methods; who tried vainly to sustain the democratic experiment of the provisional government in 1917; who were suppressed and exiled by the victorious communist regime. What Liebich adds to the tale is the intricate history of the Mensheviks and their thinking in the years of adversity after 1917, as oppositionists during the early years of the Soviet regime, and as critics of the Soviet system from afar throughout the subsequent decades, until they literally died out after midcentury....
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