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Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience: Studies of Communism and Radicalism in the Age of Globalization.

Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience: Studies of Communism and Radicalism in the Age of Globalization. By Paul Le Blanc. (New York, NY: Routledge, 2006. Pp. xiii, 337. $36.95.)

This volume is an unabashedly sympathetic invocation of Marxism taken from a vantage point at the early years of the twenty-first century. With confidence that Marxism provides the most valid and hopeful critique of capitalism, Paul Le Blanc pleads for the relevancy of Marx and Lenin in an increasingly polarized and globalized world. While heralding the eventual demise of capitalism and imperialism under their own self-contradictions, Le Blanc sounds the additional alarm that the world is on the eve of destruction in the face of escalating environmental degradation due to these evils.

To Le Blanc, the coup of the Bolshevik Revolution led by Lenin is an ideal template. The author views the cause of Lenin as one of the most legitimate roads that movements striving for human liberation can follow. As he defends Lenin's personality and strives for a historical reinterpretation of Lenin as a democracy-centered leader, mistakes made under Lenin are admitted. Acknowledging the Russian Civil War and the Red Terror as unfortunate, but necessary, aberrations, Le Blanc justifies the bloodshed in the war as a reaction to the White and interventionist forces who intensified and brutalized the conflict. To dissuade common revulsion against Soviet power, Le Blanc concedes the bloodletting under Stalin and the totalitarian bureaucratization that took a hold as anathema to Lenin's then dictatorship of the proletariat.

Le Blanc's challenge is also to distance the vision of Marx and Lenin from the real, existing socialism established in former communist states. He identifies the failure of these states as a misguided thoroughfare, comparing such differences to those between the purity of Jesus's teachings and Christianity's brutal history of murders and persecutions. Hoping to find commonality between Marx and Jesus, Le Blanc emphasizes the desire of both to realize a kingdom on earth far removed from exploitation on which mankind can achieve its full potential in humane service to each other. Just as Le Blanc justifies the failure of communism as an elitist takeover of popular revolution, Christianity and Judaism are perceived as revolutions from below that over the course of time became top heavy and oppressive. Both convictions were subject to a fall from grace: a brutal medieval authoritarianism under the Catholic Church and a brutal modern totalitarianism under Stalin.

The purpose in all this appears to be an unsubtle plea for communists and the religiously inclined to form a kind of united front. At times virulent and characterbashing, objections to this stance are dismissed as absurd, and an underlying vitriol is reserved to those in opposition. Anticommunists are depicted as pathetic and former communists as confused apostate backsliders. To ally this cause, anarchism is also invoked as sharing similar goals with Marxism but lacking in organizational focus and susceptible to a descent into terror, as in the Spanish Civil War. After considering the peculiar periods of popular radicalization of the American public in the 1930s and 1960s, the work closes with recommendations for a possible revolutionary future.

Victor Barraza

Provo, Utah

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Author:Barraza, Victor
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2014
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