Archive | July, 2013

Book Review: Scott B. Smith’s Captives Of Revolution, The Socialist Revolutionaries And The Bolshevik Dictatorship, 1918-1923

10 Jul

Smith’s book chronicles how the Party of the Socialist Revolutionaries (PSR, or as they were more commonly known, the SRs) reacted to the Bolshevik dictatorship, and eventually succumbed to it. Given that the SRs were eliminated, and that they are only dimly remembered now as foil in triumphalist Bolshevik lore, why would anyone want to read a postmortem on an also-ran political party, let alone write one?

Captives is about revolutionary discourse; its relevance to theory and policy, its application as propaganda, and the central role it plays not only in determining which party will prevail, but in the outcome of the revolution itself. The SRs were by far the largest socialist faction in Russia. If Las Vegas offered odds on such things, the PSR would have been heavy favorites to be the party in power after the fall of the provisional government. Indeed, in elections to the body which was to succeed Kerensky’s regime, the Constituent Assembly, the SRs fared best, outpacing the Bolsheviks by a wide margin. So how was it that they ended up not only outmaneuvered but answering for their “crimes” in a Bolshevik courtroom? Smith suggests it is because they lost the war of words.

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