The Unfinished Revolution: Russia, 1917-1967 (Galaxy Books) 0195007867, 9780195007862

The George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures delivered in the University of Cambridge, January-March 1967. A brilliant assessm

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The Unfinished Revolution: Russia, 1917-1967 (Galaxy Books)
 0195007867, 9780195007862

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The Unfinished Revolution Russia i917-1967

The Unfinished Revolution RUSSIA



The George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures delivered in the University of Cambridge January-March 1967



New York

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS Oxford London Glasgow New York Toronto Melbourne Wellington Ibadan Nairobi Dar es Salaam Lusaka Cape Town Kuala Lumpur Singapore Jakarta Hong Kong Tokyo Delhi Bombay Calcutta Madras Karachi

Copyright© 1967 by Isaac Deutscher _ Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 67-23012 First published by Oxford University Press, 1967 First issued as an Oxford University Press paperback, 1969

This reprint, 1977 Printed in the United States of America


These Lectures are published here as they were delivered in the University of Cambridge in January-March 1967. I cherish the memory of the warmhearted response with which I met in the University from extraordinarily attentive audiences, from the Electors of the Trevelyan Lecturer, and in particular from the Master of Peterhouse, and the Master, Vice-Master, and Fellows of Christ's College. I am indebted to my wife for ideas on how to deal within the compass of these six lectures with the great and complex problems of half a century of Soviet history. She has helped me to bring clarity into the difficult composition of this survey; such faults as readers will undoubtedly detect are entirely my own. I am grateful to my friend Professor E. F. C. Ludowyk for the critical understanding and patience with which he read the manuscript; and my thanks are due to Mr. John Bell and Mr. Dan M. Davin for their helpful suggestions for improvements: London March 17

I The Historical Perspective

What is the significance of the Russian revolution for our generation and age? Has the revolution fulfilled the hopes it aroused or has it failed to do so? It is natural that these questions should be asked anew now that half a century has passed since the fall of Tsardom and the establishment of the first Soviet government. The distance which separates us from these events seems long enough to yield a historical perspective. Even so, the distance may well be too short. This has been the most crowded and cataclysmic epoch in modern history. The Russian revolution has raised issues far deeper, has stirred conflicts more violent, and has unleashed forces far larger than those that had been involved in the greatest social upheavals of the past. And yet the revolution has by no means come to a close. It is still on the move. It may still surprise us by its sharp and sudden turns. It is still capable of re-drawing its own perspective. The ground we are entering is one which historians either fear to tread or must tread with fear. To begin with, there is the fact, which we all take for granted, that the men who at present rule the Soviet Union describe themselves as the legitimate descendants of the Bolshevik Party of 1917. Yet this circumstance should hardly be taken for


THE UNFINISHED REVOLUTION 4 granted. There is no precedent for it in any of the modern revolutions that bear comparison with the upheaval in Russia. None of them lasted half a century. None of them maintained a comparable continuity, however relative, in political institutions, economic policies, legislative acts, and ideological traditions. Think only of the aspect England presented about fifty years after the execution of Charles I. By that time the English people, having lived under the Commonwealth, the Protectorate, and the Restoration, and having left the Glorious Revolution behind them, were trying, under the rule of William and Mary, to sort out, and even to forget, all this rich and stormy experience. And in the fifty years that followed the destruction of the Bastille, the French overthrew their old monarchy, lived under the Jacobin Republic, the Thermidor, the Consulate, and the Empire; saw the return of the Bourbons and overthrew them once again to put Louis Philippe on the throne, whose bourgeois kingdom had, by the end of the 1830s, used up exactly half of its lease on life-the revolution of 1848 was already looming ahead. By its sheer duration the Russian revolution seems to make impossible the repetition of anything like this classical historical cycle. It is inconceivable that Russia should ever call back the Romanovs, even if only to overthrow them for a second time. Nor can we imagine the Russian landed aristocracy coming back, as the French came under the Restoration, to claim the estates, or compensation for the estates, of which they had been dispossessed. The great French landlords had been in exile only twenty years or so; yet the country to which they returned was so changed that they were strangers in it and could not recapture their past glories. The Russian landlords and capitalists who went into exile after 1917 have died out; and surely by now their children and grandchildren must have parted with their ancestral possessions even in their dreams. The factories and mines their parents or grandfathers once owned are a tiny fraction of the Soviet industry that has since been founded and developed under public ownership. The revolution seems to have outlasted



all possible agents of restoration. Not only the parties of the ancien regime but also the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, who dominated the political stage between February and October of 1917, have long ceased to exist even in exile, even as shadows of themselves. Only the party that gained victory in the October insurrecti