This is a history of the Russian Revolution by Victor Serge, a member of the Bolshevik party who later joined the Left Opposition with Trotsky to fight the growth of Stalinism. Serge describes the horrendous conditions that faced the new worker’s state being built in Russia, covering the period of the 1917 revolution and continuing through the year 1918 to the beginning of the Russian Civil War, and the period known as ‘war communism’. He ably demonstrates the difficulties faced by an underdeveloped nation standing alone against the entire capitalist world.
The book outlines the nature of the White Terror – the bloodthirsty campaign of mass murder and sabotage waged by the deposed capitalists and landlords against the workers and poor of Russia. It also describes the betrayal of the rival political parties in the Russian Soviets – the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks – who frequently invited the White Terror into power, even waging their own terrorist campaigns against the Bolsheviks. He describes the invasion of Russia by both sets of combatants in the First World War – the Allies and the Central Powers – who set aside their differences to focus their attentions on crushing the revolution. Against this background, Serge explains the rise of the Red Terror – the actions that the new Soviet government took to fight the White Terror, and discusses the fundamental difference between the actions of Red and White in the course of the Civil War.
Serge’s history is an answer to the slanders of right-wing historians, who claim that the measures taken during the Civil War are the predecessors to the methods used by Stalin’s dictatorship. In contrast, Serge shows that the methods of the Bolsheviks were the methods of self-defense, and the only barrier between the people of Russia and a merciless White Terror.
This is the 2015 edition of Serge’s book published by Haymarket Books. It includes a foreword by Spanish Civil War veteran Wilebaldo Solano, as well as both the 1930 and 1938 edition prefaces by the author, and extensive footnotes that provide historical context and update some of Serge’s descriptions with modern historical research.