Lenin’s Moscow by Alfred Rosmer (Haymarket Books, £16.99)
WRITTEN by French revolutionary syndicalist Alfred Rosmer, this is a fascinating first-hand account of the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution.
Rosmer became a communist after the success of the Bolsheviks and was on the executive of the Communist International and the political bureau of the French Communist Party.
He spent much of the years from 1920 to 1924 in Soviet Russia, where he helped found and develop the Red International of Labour Unions.
Invited by Lenin, Rosmer’s journey to Russia was a feat of endurance which, due to the upheavals, chaos and poverty resulting from the war, took six weeks.
In Russia, civil war was still raging along with counter-revolutionary activities initiated by the Western powers.
Despite all this, Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev had gathered delegations from across Europe.
As part of Lenin’s strategy to develop a united revolutionary front, they included anarchists, communists, socialists and anarcho-syndicalists.
Not only did Rosmer play an active role in the Third International but, along with Tom Quelch from Britain, Jan Proost Jansen from the Netherlands and John Reed from the US, he accompanied Zinoviev to a congress of “all enslaved peoples” in Baku.
Later, he accompanied Trotsky on his famous train ride to witness at first hand developments at the front towards the end of the civil war.
The beauty of Rosmer’s eyewitness account of this period is that not only was he present and participating during the great debates but he understood the context and reasons why the various actors in this great drama were taking their particular positions.
He does not allow his undoubted admiration and respect for Lenin and his friendship with Trotsky to unduly affect his commentary and analysis.
While they were clearly very dangerous times, Rosmer also manages to convey the great excitement prevalent among the delegates at the wonderful opportunity that the Russian Revolution presented for oppressed workers throughout the world.
At last, the chains were loosening. Although he remained a revolutionary all his life, his friendship with Trotsky led to his expulsion from the French Communist Party in 1924.
Rosmer does not hold back his contempt for Stalin for what he saw as a betrayal of the revolution and the ideals that Lenin stood for in dedicating himself to a united front which progressed the revolution but marginalised or excluded the rightists and ultra-leftists.
Such commentary makes this book not just a fascinating insight into a crucial period of history but one which contains hard truths and lessons relevant for us today.