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Andrew Nagorski on the Bolsheviks’ Crimes

Posted on Jan 2, 2009

By Andrew Nagorski

Right at the beginning of “History’s Greatest Heist: The Looting of Russia by the Bolsheviks,” Sean McMeekin reminds readers that on the eve of World War I Russia was a formidable power on the rise. It was the world’s largest exporter of food, especially grain, and, by 1914, it had amassed Europe’s largest strategic gold reserves. The Russian ruble was fully convertible, and personal savings were growing at a rapid rate. “Rather like China at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Russia at the start of the twentieth was turning heads in its seemingly inexorable advance in raw economic power,” McMeekin writes.

True, there were plenty of signs of troubles ahead and good reasons for social unrest: the lavish lifestyles of the super rich, starting with Tsar Nicholas II and the other Romanovs, hunger in the countryside despite bountiful harvests, harsh working conditions in factories and growing public and private debt. But McMeekin leaves no doubt that tsarist Russia in the early 20th century bore little resemblance to its portrayals in Communist propaganda later—and that, in fact, it was the Bolshevik Revolution’s destructive power that dragged the country down and condemned its people to decades of poverty and terror. Within a remarkably short time, Russia’s riches were plundered and seemingly evaporated into thin air.


book cover


History’s Greatest Heist


By Sean McMeekin


Yale University Press, 336 pages


Buy the book


“History’s Greatest Heist” meticulously spells out how this happened. In some ways, McMeekin’s account is a natural sequel to “Young Stalin,” Simon Sebag Montefiore’s vivid portrayal of the terrorist origins of the Bolshevik movement. Leading “battle squads” that robbed banks and even trains carrying miners’ wages in the Caucasus, Stalin eagerly carried out Lenin’s orders to fund and arm the party. Once the revolution was in full swing, such looting wasn’t just commonplace; its scale was breathtaking and its consequences devastating. In effect, the Bolshevik seizure of power depended on pulling off the greatest theft ever.

The irony was that the Bolsheviks often worked like bumbling amateurs. “The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie,” Marx wrote. Lenin and his cohorts appeared to overlook the cautionary words “by degrees” and immediately tried to seize all of the country’s wealth. In 1917, they nationalized the banks, apparently believing they would waltz into them and scoop up all their holdings. What they didn’t count on was stiff resistance from the banks’ employees, who went on strike or engaged in acts of sabotage to thwart the looters; nor did they understand at first that the amount of cash on hand would constitute only a fraction of the banks’ holdings. Even the safe deposit boxes proved hard to bust into at first. Their owners often ignored orders to appear with their keys, and only draconian threats—including, in some cases, hostage-taking—could force compliance.   

What the Bolsheviks did accomplish quickly was the destruction of the banking system, which led to the collapse of Russian businesses and widespread unemployment. The decision to default on all foreign debts meant that other nations quickly took steps to impede the new Russian rulers in their plan to cash in looted Russian gold, which was marked with tsarist stamps. With their initial proceeds far less than expected, the Bolsheviks called for more plunder. They targeted not only the tsar and his family, whose execution was only one of many occasions to combine murder with robbery, but also anyone with independent wealth.

At the top of the list was the Russian Orthodox Church. Announcing the nationalization of all church property in early 1918, the Bolsheviks instigated mob violence against churches and monasteries, which often led to the deaths of priests and parishioners trying to resist these assaults. While the campaign against the church is well known, McMeekin offers new details about the depth of cynicism of those who led it. The Bolsheviks would claim that the seizure of church property was needed to feed the hungry, particularly when the Volga famine broke out in 1921. But it was Patriarch Tikho, McMeekin points out, who had organized a far more ambitious program for famine relief than the Bolsheviks. In fact, when he requested permission to buy food supplies and set up relief kitchens for the hungry, the new authorities turned him down. 

As always, the Bolsheviks were really interested in plunder for one reason: to finance their own needs—first of all, more weapons, and plenty of special shipments for the emerging new ruling class. Soon ordinary Russians began to realize that those who were looting in their name were helping themselves to whatever they wanted. Not surprisingly, some of them decided to carry out their own expropriations. After Lenin claimed three luxury cars from the imperial garage for his own use, he lost one of them—a Delaunay-Belleville limousine—to gunmen in March 1918. After that, he had to console himself with two Rolls-Royces.

To get spare parts for these cars—and, more important, to bankroll arms purchases and other military supplies needed to fight the Whites during the civil war—it wasn’t enough for the Bolsheviks to break the bank strike and confiscate wealth from everyone possible. They had to dispose of their loot, particularly the huge haul of gold. At first, they did so remarkably ineptly. By flooding the market with diamonds and other stolen jewelry, they triggered sharp drops in prices. Exquisite items were torn apart by the looters, reduced to their component parts that commanded nothing like their original value. As long as European nations vowed not to accept looted property, the Bolsheviks had to rely on middlemen in Estonia and Sweden, who laundered their goods for hefty commissions.

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By Mihail, December 28, 2009 at 7:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ve never seen a President — I don’t care who he is — stand up to them. It just boggles the mind. They always get what they want. The Israelis know what is going on all the time. I got to the point where I wasn’t writing anything down. If the American people understood what a grip these people have got on our government, they would RISE UP IN ARMS. Our citizens certainly don’t have any idea what goes on.”

Thomas H. Moorer
(1912 - 2004)
US Navy & Chairman,
Joint Chiefs of Staff during interview on
24 August 1983.

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By Joe Franks, January 8, 2009 at 8:49 pm Link to this comment

“It is hard to imagine a better program for destroying a country’s wealth than by robbing and murdering its most successful wealth-producers and shipping their riches out of the country,”

What!?  The Bolsheviks robbed and murdered the most productive Russian workers and shipped their goods out of the country!?  Oh… wait.  I think he’s talking about those who by birth, luck, hard work and luck, hook or by crook, or a mixture of all these, managed to get themselves at the head of the hierarchical structures of Russia’s productive enterprises.

How are these the “most successful wealth-producers” again?  Maybe I need a remedial course in neoclassical economics, the paradigm that is crashing down the world over, for me to arrive at the level of understanding McMeekin enjoys.

Thanks Truthdig for posting this, I sure couldn’t get this kind of review in The Economist or…

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By Russell Dale, January 6, 2009 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Here’s a great quote from “The German Ideology” (1845) where Marx and Engels talk about the difficulty with the very idea of simply taking over banks and things of that nature:

“Taking is further determined by the object taken.  A banker’s fortune, consisting of paper, cannot be taken at all without the taker’s submitting to the conditions of production and intercourse of the country taken.  Similarly the total industrial capital of a modern industrial country.”

Of course, Lenin probably didn’t read these words since “The German Ideology” was not published until the 1930’s.  But, the idea and the thinking is elsewhere in Marx and Engels as well. 

The idea that Lenin and the Bolsheviks were just bungling into the appropriation of the assets of pre-revolutionary bourgeois society is really dubious just on the face of it.  The idea of the depth and complexity of the problem of the transition to socialism/communism is so deeply and explicitly a part of the Marxist tradition, to paint this picture of the Bolsheviks is completely unconvincing for even the barely-literate.  Of course, the completely illiterate will not be able to recognize that this is the case and will be able to propagate stories like this and even, sometimes, believe them.

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By M Henri Day, January 6, 2009 at 2:34 pm Link to this comment

Jackpine Savage, I am not at all concerned with whether or no your post was «a continuation of a conversation with Folktruther», but rather with the intellectual dishonesty it revealed. You should, perhaps, choose your fora more carefully ; many of us here are not only literate, but have lived through some of the events being discussed. In such company, red herrings of the type «the infinite wisdom of the Bolsheviks» are unlikely to cut the mustard….


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By Louis Proyect, January 5, 2009 at 7:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have often heard this canard about the commies ruining a capitalist paradise applied to Cuba. Under Batista supposedly, the Cubans were as wealthy as the Swiss. Now we have a book making the same idiotic case for Czarist Russia. The only question is why this kind of puke is appearing on a nominally progressive website. Is it to compensate for Chris Hedges announcing that he is a socialist, even if this only means that he is for a welfare state like Sweden’s?

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By Ray Duray, January 4, 2009 at 6:51 pm Link to this comment

Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution” is available online at the Website.

I concur with the previous poster that this is a significant work, and a version of history that is at significant odds with the conventional wisdom in the Anglo-American world regarding the nature of the Russian Revolution.

For those in the “short attention span” crowd, I can also recommend the highly readable and engaging “Ten Days That Shook The World” by American journalist John Reed who was a personal witness to the events of Oct-Nov 1917 in St. Petersburg. This work is easily read in an evening, and I can guarantee you that you’ll never think of the Russian Revolution in your old ways again after reading this compelling work.

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By Folktruther, January 4, 2009 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment

Actually, Jackpine, in hindsight, one could argue that the Menshiveks were right, that Russia had to go through a capitalist period historically before socialism.  this was the position of Lenin and the Bolshviks before the Feburary revolution.  Only Trotsky maintained, with his theory of permanant revolution, that the capitalist revolution would immediately go over to a socialist revolution.

I don’t agree with that argument because the Bolsheviks, under Lenin, came to the conclusion that capitalism couldn’t solve Russia’s problems.  But you seem interested in the question so you might be intereted in Trotsky’s HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, one of the great books of the 20th century.

Or, perhaps not, since it conflicts sharply with the presuppositions of the American mainstream truth.

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By Russell Dale, January 4, 2009 at 2:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

jackpine, you don’t seem to be paying close attention to what is being said here.  Please review the actual things that are written below.

Nobody has said or has even come close to suggesting that the Bolsheviks had “infinite wisdom” or that “all of their behavior” is excusable.  Please read below to verify this.  Why would you care to take such an unwarranted, exaggerated view of what is being said here?

And, the “progressiveness” of Truthdig now must be in serious question for any reader, given this book review.  Of course, like myself, many readers of Truthdig are left-leaning.  It may come as a shock to you, but the meaning of the Bolsheviks in history is not a simple, finished, matter for most people on the left:  such people generally don’t accept it as ALL good, just as they don’t accept it as ALL bad.  Perhaps you can use even a slight dose of nuance here.

I didn’t ask you to desist from your Stalin line because it “messes up the glory of the Revolution.”  I asked you to desist from that line because most people agree about the sins of Stalinism.  The controversial thing about this book and the review is the idea that long before the Stalinist era the Bolsheviks were morally on a par with Stalin.  Please, again, just read what is ACTUALLY said in the letters below.

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By jackpine savage, January 4, 2009 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment

M Henri Day,

My post was a continuation of a conversation with Folktruther.  It was not meant to be exactly on topic, but the idea that history can be sorted out into discrete little packets for discussion is rubbish anyhow.

I realize that on a “progressive” blog we should be bowing to the infinite wisdom of the Bolsheviks and excuse all of their behavior as necessary to further the cause.  But how is that different than the one sided portrayal of history espoused in the book under review?

In many ways the Bolsheviks cared nothing for the Russian people, who were secondary to the triumph of ideology.  And Stalin is pertinent because he exemplifies the anti-intellectual, thuggish wing of the Bolshevik party.  Moreover he was active in the terror and the destruction before he rose to power and extended the scale of both after he attained supreme power.

He cannot be removed from the equation simply because he messes up the glory of the Revolution for those who choose to idealize it. 

And the fact remains that the majority of the Russian people did not benefit from the revolution carried out in their name.  Not the Orthodox, not the farmers, not the independent thinkers, not even the proletariat.  If they had, all these critiques of the book might mean something.  But as it stands, they’re just a pile of excuses…exactly like the book under review.

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By dihey, January 4, 2009 at 7:52 am Link to this comment

And towards the end of WW2Russia was a beaten giant whose soldiers wanted only to go home.
Forget blaming the Bosheviki for the ensuing economic malaise. Kerenski et al. had a chance to govern with huge popular support if they had had the guts to do three things. To give Russia a modern constitution, rectify the gigantic land swindles of Russian history, and get out of the war. Kerenski et al. botched their opportunity and that sealed the fate of Russia.

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By Ray Duray, January 3, 2009 at 10:35 pm Link to this comment

Methinks Mr. McMeekin doth protest too much. Alas, if I’m reading the numbers correctly, he’s claimed that something on the order of $350 to $500 Billion in today’s money was plundered by the Bolsheviks from 1918-22. That’s a mere trifle compared with the looting of America today where we can identify about $8 Trillion in new obligations imposed on the saps, er, taxpayers by the cavalier FRB and the corporately captured national Treasury Department on behalf of their capitalist masters. 

Sure, the Faberge eggs were a lot more aesthetically appealing than the purchase of a trillion dollars worth of toxic CDOs and CDSs by Treasury, but the transfer of wealth is just as real, and in our case, much less noble in conception. At least the old Bolshies could kid themselves with the thought that they were righting the inequality that made life a wretched burden for the vast majority of Russians in the end days of the Czarist regime. What claims to noble goals do our banker-thief class have to offer us? That they’ll be able to keep up the payments on their Maseratis and Gulfstreams, thanks to the taxpayer?

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By Alastair H, January 3, 2009 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment
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Russia was going to be wealthy under the Tsar!! Who was going to be wealthy? Certainly not the peasants and workers.

It is in the interests of our rulers that Lenin’s great social experiment is never examined, only critised.

Any attempt to improve society is rife with problems. Look at the dubious record of the American revolution - slavery, genocide and G. W. Bush.

When the wealth of a society is spread out amongst all its population, it is not that much. Add in a blockade, sabotage and civil war and what do you get? A society that is barely able to support itself.

Lenin and Stalin tried to steer a new course based on the state caring for its citizens. We can learn from their successes and failures. If only someone was brave enough and capable enough to steer American away from empire.

Maybe Obama? (Sorry, I am just pulling your leg. I need a good laugh…)

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By Finn, January 3, 2009 at 8:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

More details re Americans and others being more than willing to buy up art, religious icons, etc., from well known author of “The Court of the Red Tsar.”  Pretty eye-opening information:

SImon Sebag Montefiore
History’s Greatest Heist: The Looting of Russia by the Bolsheviks
By Sean McMeekin (Yale University Press 288pp £25)

Go to link above to read the review and many details of the financial manipulation, sale of items and theft.

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By Finn, January 3, 2009 at 7:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I recall reading that one reason the Bolsheviks/Communists sold off art, religious icons, etc. is that they could not get capital from the banks after a point. They wanted to industrialize and expand their military. 

They welcomed expertise and resources from around the world.  More than 200 American companies were doing business there, as well as many, many others early on. Some relatives went in 1931…some of the 12K or so who went from America.  I read that some 250-300K Americans applied to go during the Depression.  Some went on their own..others through their companies.

As for buyers of Russian art and religious objects, it appears that there were many wealthy Europeans and Americans who were more than willing to buy items…including American diplomats.  Read Williams’ book “Russian Art and American Money.”

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By Russell Dale, January 3, 2009 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Folktruther, I think you are hitting the nail on the head here.  There is something deeply wrong and cynical with Truthdig’s pretending to be so progressive and then posting this review.  I find it interesting that they posted Chris Hedge’s “Why I Am a Socialist” ( just a few days ago and then this.  It’s like Chris Hedge’s safe/soft call for “socialism” (he thinks the reformist Ralph Nader somehow represents a socialist perspective!) gives Truthdig the sense of itself as having established its leftist cred, so that it is safe now to present its true-colors:  reactionary.

I’m really disgusted.

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By Folktruther, January 3, 2009 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment

That’s interesting, Allen Gurfunkle.  I don’t understand why this right wing drivel is emerging now.  There were a few capitalist that the Bolskeveks dealit with, the head of Occidental Pertroliem, whose name escapes me, bein one, who built pencil factories in the Soviet Union and had long term economic relations with it.

But note that this review is printed in a PROGRESSIVE blog.  It is mainstream progressives who were bought off en masse, public intellectuals, that were instrumental in deceiving and deluding the rank and file.  The function of mainstream progressives, like journalist hacks Boyarsky, Dioone and Robinson, is to induce rank and file progressives to support conservative policies.  Like those of Obiden. 

The reason that the American people are so clueless is because their intellectual leaders are so corrupt.

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By Russell Dale, January 3, 2009 at 11:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Allan Gurfinkle wrote “How to reconcile this with the Allied Expeditionary Force fighting the Bolsheviks?”  This is a really interesting question.  My view is that Wall Street/the Bankers were hedging their bets with the Bolsheviks:  they didn’t want them to succeed, ultimately, but given the chance that they would succeed, they wanted to engender some sort of quid pro quo relation with them.

jackpine savage writes as if somehow the idea that Stalin helped Hitler is relevant to the question whether the book reviewed here is anything more than political cant, as marcus medler suggested, worthy of the Cold War era, as folktruther suggested.  The review gives the impression that the book (which I have not read) betrays a long-standing cynicism on the part of the Bolsheviks, extending from even before the Revolution(s) of 1917, a cynicism that was completely uninterested in the workers or anything else besides its own drive for power.  This view is simply not believable for anybody who studies the lead up to the Revolution(s) from before the 1905 Revolution on.  The review and the book (as far as the review lets on) seems to have no sense of what the Bolsheviks were about in those years.  Stalin helping the Nazis is a long way off.  While there were tendencies in Bolshevism worth criticizing, and that were criticized even at the time (famously, see Rosa Luxemburg’s criticisms of Lenin and then remember that, nonetheless, she did what she could to support the October Revolution in 1917), the idea that Bolshevism was merely cynically interested in power for its own sake is absurd.  Stalin’s later cynicism is not a reflection of what early Bolshevism was about, and it is not relevant to what the review and the book are really about.

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By M Henri Day, January 3, 2009 at 10:09 am Link to this comment

Jackpine Savage, your claim to be able to read Russian in Russia does not justify your attempt to play bait and switch with the Western allies’ (and the Japanese) invasion of Russia after the Bolshevik revolution in 1918, which is relevant to the present discussion, and that of the Germans’ and their allies in June 1941, which, while of immense import for the world in which we live today, is not. Such tricks which demonstrate both an utter lack of intellectual honesty and a striking contempt for other contributors make it as impossible to take your postings to this thread seriously as it is the book under review here and, alas, the review itself….


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By jackpine savage, January 3, 2009 at 8:10 am Link to this comment

That’s not true, Folktruther.  I do know the real history.  I do know of the Civil War and the foreign intervention involved, etc.  I certainly know of Stalin’s decrees on industrialization…which was bungled, fudged, and all that.

I know well that many Westerners freely went to the Soviet Union, and with good reason.  The revolution showed potential for the kind of world that a great many people dreamed of.  And not a few of those Westerners ended up in the gulag.  My own great-great uncle (great grandfather’s brother) was tempted back; after stepping on to the boat in Cleveland he was never heard from again.

And i’ve read history in Russian, in Russia.

The Bolsheviks may have been forced into some of their unsavory behavior, but the excuse that it was all to make a better world rings hollow when that better world never materializes.  Again, this becomes a matter of Stalin’s rise much more than theory of Marxism in Russia.  The former pretty much negated any hope for the latter.

As for Russia being invaded before it could get fully on its feet.  Almost until the first shots of Barbarossa Stalin was sending train loads of supplies to Germany.  He purged most of his best and brightest, from industry and the military.  Russia resisted Germany in spite of Stalin, not because of him.

And the Soviet power structure (within society) behaved not much differently than the old aristocracy in the end.

Again, this isn’t an attempt to prove that Marxism doesn’t/cannot work…or that it is inherently evil.  My reading of the history suggests a strong possibility that had Lenin lived at least another decade (and gotten rid of Trotsky and Stalin), then the USSR might well have become a socio-economic beacon of light.

Though i still do not see how a more perfect world would have been formed through terror, and terror was very much the MO of the Bolsheviks…even before the civil war.

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By Allan Gurfinkle, January 3, 2009 at 5:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Folktruther writes ...

......After the 2nd October revolution, and the withdrawal of Russia from WW1, 14 capitalist countries, with 200,000 troops invaded Russia to support the Czarist generals who faught the communists.

I’m not a student of the Russian revolution (i.e., I don’t know a damn thing about it) but I’m now reading ‘The Creature from Jekyll Island’ which describes the efforts of the Round Table group of Anglo-American bankers to support the Bolsheviks, and the subsequent financial arrangements between them, including for example ‘a steady stream of large and lucrative contracts issued to British and American businesses ....’ and ‘the Bolsheviks drained their country of gold .. and shipped it primarily to US and British banks’.  How to reconcile this with the Allied Expeditionary Force fighting the Bolsheviks ?

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By carl moore, January 3, 2009 at 2:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

claim now your love for the future your lies of the past

  nearly everyone knows the real truth

bolsheviks stole the pelf of the wealthy to build hospitals just so they could
secretly medicate all who needed doctors with heroin and turn them into junkies

  bolsheviks electrified the country just so they could supply power for the
  electric chair to murder all found guilty of accusing the cadre of the
  communist party of stealing state’s wealth just to buy rolls royces
bolsheviks industrialized a nation just to pollute the water and the land

  bolsheviks did not defeat the nazis - - there had been a secret pact between
  hitler and stalin to kill 22 million russians ‘cause stalin didn’t like them and
  hitler got so jealous he took his own life

bolsheviks electrified and industrialized a nation, provided health care and
housing, no taxes, developed, communized and mechanized farming, increased
wages and improved living conditions while the remainder of the industrialized
world was suffering through the dark days of economic collapse - - just so they
would have more people with money in their pockets - - to steal from

  the stinkers!

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By Roger Hollander, January 2, 2009 at 9:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am surprised that Truthdig would publish an uncritical review of a work that is so short on historical accuracy.  Talk about conspiracy therorists!

McMeekin’s book completely ignores the daynamic of the two Russian Revolutions (April and October 1917), three if you count 1905.  It ignores the rise of the workers, peasants and soldiers Soviets and the politcal, social and economic background in which they developed.  It ignores the progressive reforms in the first years of the Revolution (before the Stalin counterrevolution), and it ignores the civil war and the Allied Expeditionary Forces attempt to defeat the Leninist regime.  It reeks of cold war anti-Communism and fails the basic tests of legitimate scholarship. 

I remain puzzled about how this review got past your editorial vetting; is there no one there familiar with the history of the Russian Revolution?

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By Folktruther, January 2, 2009 at 3:11 pm Link to this comment

Jackpine, although you analyze power relations well, you are a victim of Amereican mainstream history, which is a tissue of lies from beginning to end.  And the deceit is primiarly instilled by WHAT IS NOT STATED.

After the 2nd October revolution, and the withdrawal of Russia from WW1, 14 capitalist countries, with 200,000 troops invaded Russia to support the Czarist generals who faught the communists.  The civl war, lasting about three years,  caused about 13 million Russian deaths from war, massacres, starvation and disease, especially typhus.

The war was blacked out of the history textbooks in the US, and even the Oxford Military History is cryptic on the US and capitalist countries defeat.  Many of the invading soldiers rebelled and went over to the communists, whole units waving red flags and even officers disgusted with the venality of the poeessing classes.

So Americans do not understand the historical problem that the communests faced and why they, including Stalin, did not trust the capitalist powers historically.  In 1931 Stalin, whose group usurped the revolution, gave a famous speech, unknown to Americans, which stated that they must industrialize in a decade or they would be crushed.  Germany invaded a decade later.

I cannot here refute decades of mainstream American history but, by its routine evasion and exclusion of major historical events, has distorted our views of poltiical and social reality as much as the mainstream media does routinely.  The above book and review is gross even by that standard.

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By jackpine savage, January 2, 2009 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment

Oh come on now, Folktruther.  We can debate whether Marxism is good or bad/right or wrong.  And there is no doubt that the Tsarist regime was not good for the average Russian.  But there is also no doubt that what happened to Russia when it became the Soviet Union was no worker’s paradise, and in many cases the Bolsheviks were plundering, murderous bastards.

Lenin had to misapply the methods and ideals of Marx to make it fit Russia in 1917…and he had to seriously mold Russia to even obtain that fit.  But he wasn’t stupid and he saw that the great leap (funny how in the 90’s another great leap failed just as miserably) wasn’t working at all.  So he instituted the NEP…which Gorbachev basically reconstituted.

But that didn’t last long, because Stalin got the reins of the Party.  Stalin wasn’t a communist; he was just Stalin.  And the nation that he molded was as imperfect as its creator.

As to the author of the book under review and his political motivations…i don’t know.  But there was no good reason for purging the Church and stealing what it possessed.  And the behavior of the Bolsheviks in the countryside was beyond appalling, especially since the countryside already operated closer to communism than the Bolsheviks would ever get.

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By Folktruther, January 2, 2009 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment

It’s curious that gibberish like this, which was standard at the height of the Cold War, would be published now and puffed by Truthdig, an ostensibly Progressive site.

The author is a member of a right wing EastWest Institute, co-chaired by Bush 1, and consisting of CEO’s of the West and their minions.  I suppose the idea is that the Czar’s Russia was really developing great guns under its feudal ruling class, and therefore the US is also developing despite its reactionary leadership.

It’s good that truthdig publishes drivel like this; it tends to destroy illusions that it is on the side of the people against power.  Like all mainstream progressive institutions, it strives to induce progressives to support conservative policies.

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By Mark, January 2, 2009 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Paulson and his Wall Street beneficiaries make the bolsheviks look like pikers!

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By bob brendle, January 2, 2009 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

That this book
was written…
should give rise to
current cautions.

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By Russell Dale, January 2, 2009 at 11:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Right:  the Tsarist regime was a bowl of cherries for everyone, and those nasty Bolsheviks came in and spoiled the fun!

It’s convenient for capitalism to have scholars to write things like this book and this book review at the beginning of a terrible economic crisis that may get people thinking about socialism and alternatives to capitalism again.  The fact of the matter is we desperately need an alternative to what has been going on.  I hope that readers here will think more deeply about the history and political-economics here than what this book and review suggests that they should.

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By M Henri Day, January 2, 2009 at 11:28 am Link to this comment

At long last - a book that reveals just how evil those dastardly Bolsheviks were and how much better everything would have been if l’ancien regime had been allowed to continue ! Just what I’ve been looking for - and how nice to find it on Truthdig, known for fearless journalism which dares to investigate regions where angels fear to tread !...


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By paul krugman, January 2, 2009 at 9:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not so much..

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By SpiderMonkey, January 2, 2009 at 9:20 am Link to this comment
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More revisionist trash from someone shilling a pathetic book. Does it ever end? Oh yes, I forgot Czarist Russia was moving right along towards a true egalitarian society. Please

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By Allan Gurfinkle, January 2, 2009 at 7:42 am Link to this comment
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It should be noted that Solzhenitsyn has a book that covers the same material, titled ‘Two Hundred Years Together’, that can’t seem to get translated into English.  Solzhenitsyn focuses on the Jewish role for the 200 years that they have played a major part in events in Russia.  As an indication of their significance in the Bolshevik Revolution, and how it is typically under reported in the US, note that Nagorski describes the Bolshevik campaign against the Orthodox church, and fails to note that there was no campaign against the synagogues.

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By kloe, January 2, 2009 at 7:10 am Link to this comment

“It is hard to imagine a better program for destroying a country’s wealth than by robbing and murdering its most successful wealth-producers and shipping their riches out of the country,”

Interesting parallel to the current financial melt down led by the Wall Street tycoons and political elites who have plundered the countries resources utilizing our taxes and creating policies that opened the gateways that allowed corporations to find cheap labor in the name of Globalization (another word for international capitalism) in order to continue to prop up their failed economic policies which only served to benefit them.  Even while the economy is still imploding these same charlatans are desperately attempting to convince the middle working class to buy back into investing their money into 401k’s in order to fuel the credit driven (read - paper monopoly money) scam.

A Professor once told me it doesn’t matter what country you live in and/or what the political ideology is, as long as you have the money you are the one that is really “free”.  Simple words, yet very true.  Its the same old story.  Money Talks Bulls**t walks.  Bulls**t being all these grandiose political and economic theories (Captialism - Free market enterprise, Commuinism - state owned equally divided wealth, Socialisim, etc. etc.) that sound good in theory but that’s just about where it ends.  When the theories are actually carried out the reality of the effects usually on the middle class, peasants, lower class, proletariat, etc. is far from the original intent and they tend to only benefit those who plundered the resources in the name of the ideology as presumably this book reveals.  Seems strikingly similar to current events with just different players?

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By marcus medler, January 2, 2009 at 4:30 am Link to this comment
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This review gave me the impression that this book is a simple political tract. Sometimes, a book hunter can tell just by the publisher what template the author is going to make his study fit. This is done by poor historians both left and right. I tend to avoid their works. However, a reader may get something of historical value but I think it will be meager and suspect.

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By hourglass, January 2, 2009 at 1:41 am Link to this comment
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... it was, you mean.

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