It is difficult not to begin these remarks with a reflection on the state in which the writing of the history of the Russian Revolution finds itself at present. It is an. E. H. CARR, The Bolshevik Revolution , Vol. III. New. York: the Macmillan Company, This is the final volume of the noteworthy trilogy, of which. I. By EDWARD HALLETT CARR. New York, The. Macmillan Company, x, pp. $ Judging by the first instalment, Professor Carr’s The Bolshevik. Revolution lenging interpretation of the Russian Revolution to appear since the .

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It is difficult not to begin these remarks with a reflection on the state in which the writing of the history of the Russian Revolution finds itself at present. It is an almost incredible fact that not a single work deserving the name of a History has yet been produced inside the Soviet Union.

True, the first decade of the Soviet regime brought a vast number of valuable contributions to a History, many special monographs, and collections of documents. In the intellectual Sturm und Drang of that period Soviet historians initiated ambitious projects of research.

This, they thought, was the first time that Marxists were going to write history in all seriousness, backed up by the resources of a great state and the abundance of all the state archives recently thrown open, and sure to find response in the intense curiosity for history which had been awakened in the young generation. Gevolution if not under such circumstances should Marxism prove its unrivalled merits as a method of historical inquiry and analysis?

However, the advent bollshevik consolidation of Stalinism cast a blight upon the whole field of historical study. The Stalinist state intimidated the historian, and dictated to him first the pattern into which he was expected to force events and then the ever new versions of the events themselves.

At the outset the historian was subjected to this pressure mainly when he dealt with the Tevolution revolution, the party strife which had preceded and which had followed it, and especially the struggles inside the Bolshevik Party.

All these had to be treated in a manner justifying Stalin as the Leader of monolithic Bolshevism. Later the rewriting of history extended backwards to past centuries, and outwards to the history of other countries, until Clio was degraded to be not just the dignified servant of Politics — a role to which she is well accustomed — but their slave.

The verve and passion with which historians had thrown themselves on the archives found a deadly enemy in secrecy which barred access to documentation. The historians could not be allowed to inquire into the facts because free inquiry was incompatible with falsification. Finally, all the chronicles of the party and the revolution, even those written in the Stalinist spirit, were banned, until at every level of teaching, from the rural party cells to the academic seminaries, students were allowed to draw from one fount only, the Short Course of the History of the CPSU[2] that bizarre and crude compendium of Stalinist myths, written or inspired by Stalin himself.

This deterioration of historical standards was not without precedent. For a long time the French Revolution fared no better with its historians.

The Bolshevik Revolution by Edward Hallett Carr

Napoleon could afford to vent openly his antipathy for ideologies and ideologues; and so, unlike Stalin, he did not even bother to dabble with history writing. He had no need to falsify history — he suppressed it. The first histories of the revolution began to appear only during the Restoration, and they were written by the enemies of the Bourbons. Stalin, placed as he was at the head of a party proud of its historical materialism, could not even attempt openly to suppress the history of the revolution: There exists no serious Monarchist version of the revolution, no Cadet version, no Menshevik account, and no Social Revolutionary interpretation.

Miliukov wrote his History [4] in the heat of the civil war; but it was little more than an inflated pamphlet indicting all anti-Cadet parties; and Miliukov himself was too great a scholar not to realise this. In the Preface to his work he virtually disavowed as an historian the account of events which he had given as a leader of his party. To all these parties and groupings involved in the struggles of the revolution was such an unmitigated disaster and their role in it appeared to themselves so incongruous and inexplicable that their theorists and writers preferred not to return as historians to the scene of those struggles.

Nor can Western historiography be proud of its achievements. The failure of Western historians to produce an adequate interim account has also been due mainly to preoccupation with current politics.

Western historiography has rarely been guilty of wholesale falsification, but it has not cqrr innocent of suppression of facts. It has as a rule shown little or no insight into the motives and minds of the social classes and political parties and leaders engaged in the Russian struggle; and most recently the cold war has had almost as blighting an effect on research as had Stalinism itself.


He has undertaken a task of enormous scope and scale; and he has already performed a major portion of it. He wishes to leave his readers with understanding and he searches for both the facts and the trends, the trees and the wood. He is as austerely conscientious and scrupulous as penetrating and acute.

He has a flair for seeing the scheme and order of things and is lucid in the presentation of his revolutino. His History must be judged a truly outstanding achievement.


Boslhevik be sure, Mr Carr has been able to use only such sources as acrr long been available to students: But from these admittedly limited sources he has been able to extract the utmost; and to weave it into a close textured narrative. For the period he has covered so far the published documentation is indeed so abundant and reliable that it is doubtful whether archives, when cqrr are opened, will compel the historian to revise fundamentally the view which can be formed now on the basis of materials already published.

This, incidentally, is my own experience with the Trotsky Archives which I have studied at Harvard. These contain a great number of important documents, and their knowledge causes me to disagree with Mr Carr on certain specific points.

But on the whole these disagreements, in so far as they concern the facts, are not fundamental. Mr Carr is an historian primarily of institutions and policies, of which he traces the origins and the development in minute bolshevij. He shows the Soviet state in statu nascendi ; and this he does with a masterly grasp. But he is preoccupied primarily with the state, not with the nation and society behind it.

E. H. Carr

Moreover, his interest is focused on the very top of revokution state machinery so that it might be said that his History of the Soviet Union is primarily a history of its ruling group. In part this is unavoidable: Whenever he refers to developments in the social background, his references are subsidiary to his analysis of what was going on inside the ruling group.

He tends to see society as the object of policies made and decreed from above. He is inclined to view the state as ehh maker of society rather than society as the maker of the state.

This approach creates a priori certain difficulties for the historian of a revolution, because a revolution is the breakdown of the state and demonstrates that in the last resort it is society which makes the state, not vice versa. He studies diligently the subversive ideas but only in so far as they may provide a clue to the statecraft of the triumphant ex-revolutionists.

If he had chosen to epitomise his work in some epigrammatic motto he might have opened his History in the Churchillian manner revolutiom the following text: The major part of his introductory volume deals with Bolshevik constitution-making, which seems to me to have been the least important, the most shadowy, aspect of the story. What is lacking almost completely is the social background of To the academic scholar steeped in the study of constitutions, this is of course the most natural line volshevik approach, but it is not one which is best suited for the study of a society in the throes of revolution.

As he proceeds with his work Mr Carr progressively overcomes the gevolution of this approach to quite a remarkable extent. By an almost heroic, self-critical effort of his analytical mind, he has come much closer to the understanding of the strange phenomenon of the Russian Revolution than his starting-point allowed to expect. Ej that starting-point is still reflected in his treatment of the subject and underlies much of his reasoning.

Mr Carr has been censured by academic critics for his attitude towards Leninism and his alleged worshipping of Lenin. Mr Carr views the story of Lenin the revolutionary as the indispensable prelude to Lenin the statesman, and he has little more than a polite smile of condescending irony for the Lenin who, at the summit of power, still had his gaze fixed on the remote vision of a classless and stateless society.

Did he perhaps even as builder revolutiom a state find his strength in the resources of his revolutionary thought and dream? By implication, and sometimes explicitly, Mr Carr answers this question in the negative. He is impressed by those features which Lenin may have had in common with, say, Bismarck, rather than by those in which his affinity with Marx, the French Communards or Rosa Luxemburg shows itself. Having spent much time with Lenin, arguing about politics and social affairs and playing chess, Srokowski confessed later that in he regarded Lenin as a well-meaning but utterly impractical man with no chance whatsoever to make any impact on practical politics:.

Whatever subject we approached [Srokowski related] Lenin would begin with expounding one of the tenets of Marxist philosophy. I could only shrug shoulders. It was interesting to argue with Lenin for he was a man of intellect and education. But he seemed to me carr quixotic visionary. I was sure that every one of our minor socialist politicians and trade-union leaders was superior to him as a man of action. When I then learned that the same Lenin was the leader of a revolution and the head of a great state I was dumbfounded.


I lost confidence in my judgement. How, I wondered, could I have committed so cardinal an error in appraising the man. There must revolutin been something wrong in my approach to him and to politics in general. It is not difficult to detect that Mr Carr has formed his view of the Bolshevik revolution, at least partly, in opposition to the outlook of Revolutikn diplomacy in the years of the anti-Bolshevik intervention.

The generation of Western diplomats which witnessed the rise of Bolshevism and resisted it with all its might was notoriously incapable of comprehending the phenomenon against which it struggled. Mr Carr may be described as an intellectual expatriate from that diplomacy — a rebel criticising its tradition from the inside, as it were.

Even so, the peculiar limitations of the diplomatic mind can sometimes be sensed between the lines of his History. Watching the earthquake of the Russian Revolution, Mr Carr surveys the landscape to see what has happened to so familiar a landmark as the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He is puzzled, bewildered and worried by its disappearance. He cannot believe that the breakdown of diplomacy, brought about by the revolution, can serve any useful purpose, or that it can last. And he is relieved to find that when the dust settles diplomacy and its landmarks seem to be back where he expected them to be. If one views the prospect of an international socialist society as utterly unreal, and if one sees the future of mankind as a perpetual rivalry between nation-states, then, of course, one must consider diplomacy, its institutions and its procedures, to be inseparable from the history of mankind.

The Leninists believed that the national diplomacies of our age would one day appear as anachronistic as the diplomacies of the he, feudal and post-feudal, princedoms appear today; and that the unifying historical process which had merged those particularist entities into nation-states would eventually merge nation-states into an international community which will have no use for diplomacy.

The fiery revolutionary agitator was succeeded by a scion of the old diplomacy whose early [? This contrast between Trotsky, the fiery agitator, and Chicherin in whom the virtues of the conventional diplomat had survived despite his Bolshevism, is somewhat dubious. Chicherin was as unconventional a Bohemian as one can imagine; and he was anything but a patient organiser. Trotsky, on the other hand, was in personal behaviour and habits much less eccentric than Chicherin; he easily switched from fiery revolutionary agitation to the most correct diplomatic negotiation; and he was certainly a patient organiser.

I do not intend to deny that there was an element of unreal dream in Bolshevik attitudes or the subsequent reassertion of the concepts and procedures of traditional government and diplomacy.

Mr Carr is a great respecter of policies and — sometimes — a despiser of revolutionary ideas and principles. Again, this shows itself even in the composition of his monumental work. He relegates the ideas and principles of Bolshevism to Appendixes and Notes, treating them implicitly as points of csrr marginal interest, while his narrative is concerned primarily with policies. In the second and the third volumes the Appendixes deal with the Marxist attitude cagr the peasantry and the Marxist view of war.

E. H. Carr – Wikipedia

Yet these views and ideas were active and crucial elements in the developments described in the main body of the Historybecause they animated its characters. Mr Carr is, of course, familiar with the Marxian saying that an idea, when it gets hold of human bopshevik, itself becomes a power. His account of this is disappointing.

This is not mainly or even primarily a question of literary style. The Brest Litovsk controversy may be seen as a clash between political expediency and revolutionary idealism in which expediency gains the upper hand.

This is a simplified but essentially correct view; and it is the one adopted by Mr Carr. But he grasps much more acutely the arguments of political expediency than the motives of revolutionary idealism; and he revolytion not quite sensitive to the full force of the conflict between the two.

Moreover, his predilections lead him astray as an historian: Even if this should not be so, his omission to give an adequate idea of the arguments of the Left communists results in a curious gap.