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III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate Santiago de Compostela

III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate
Santiago de Compostela, 14-18 de julio de 2004


Protagonistas individuales y colectivos en la historia


Round Table C Individual and Collective Protagonists in History

Lenin and mass action in the Russian Revolutionary War 1917-21
(Christopher Read, Department of History, University of Warwick)

For generations the history of the Russian Revolution of 1917 has been subject to crude ideological distortions, including Stalinist, Trotskyist and neoMcCarthyite and Cold War (the totalitarian thesis). Since 25/12 (1991 - the European-style date of Gorbachev's resignation and, effectively, the last day of the Soviet Union's existence, a date far more epoch-making than either 9/11 or 3/11) it has been easier to approach that history with less weight of expectation. One aspect which can now be approached in a cooler analytical fashion is the role of Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership. Lenin's reputation has suffered most at the hands of two groups, his supporters and his detractors. Standing aside from polemic it is now easier to examine the role of leadership in the Russian revolution and the wars to which it gave rise.

The topic provides a unique example of comparing the actions of leaders who themselves were fluenced by a heavily deterministic view of history and the individual derived from Plekhanov's influential text 'The Role of the Individual in History'. The paper will examine the interaction between Plekhanov's conceptions and the actions of Lenin and other leaders of the revolution and also compare the role of the masses whose independent contribution to events has frequently been overlooked. Behind the faade of Bolshevik leadership there was one of the most extraordinary, self-generated popular revolutions in history. The theme provides an excellent example for studying the interaction of ideas, 'great individuals' and the masses.