Romancing the Revolution
The Myth of Soviet Democracy and the British Left
By Ian Bullock
Athabasca University Press
In the years immediately following the First World War and the 1917Russian Revolution, many of those on the British Left were tempted, toa greater or lesser degree, by what Ian Bullock calls the“myth” of soviet democracy: the belief that Russia hadembarked on a brave experiment in a form of popular government moreadvanced even than British parliamentarism. In Romancing theRevolution, Bullock examines the reaction of a broad spectrum ofthe British Left to this idealized concept of soviet democracy. Atconferences and congresses, and above all in the contemporary left-wingpress, debates raged over how best to lay the groundwork for a sovietsystem in Britain, over how soviets should be organized, over thevirtues (if any) of the parliamentary system, over the true meaning ofthe “dictatorship of the proletariat,” over whether Britishcommunists should affiliate to the Third International, and over a hostof other issues—including the puzzling question of what wasactually going on in Russia. As Bullock demonstrates, even in the faceof mounting evidence that the Bolshevik revolution had producedsomething closer to genuine dictatorship than genuine democracy, manyof those on the Left were slow to abandon the hope that revolutionarytransformations were indeed in store for Britain—that the sovietsystem would at long last allow the country to achieve real socialequality and economic justice.
An important contribution to our understanding of how socialist activists and intellectuals came to be deceived, and how they came to deceive themselves, regarding the authoritarian regime that emerged in Russia during the early 1920s.
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