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200 × 130 × 15 mm
240 pages
62 illustrations
01 Mar 2011
Critical Lives

Lenin Lars T. Lih

Lenin (1870-1924) was the leader of the communist Bolshevik party and founder of the Soviet Union. A key revolutionary thinker who spent much of his 30-year political career in exile, he went from relative obscurity to world fame in 1917 when the October Revolution made his party responsible for Russia's future.

In this book Lars T. Lih presents a striking new interpretation of Lenin's political outlook. The standard view portrays Lenin as a pessimist with a dismissive view of the revolutionary potential of the workers. This book reveals that beneath the sharp polemics, Lenin was more a romantic enthusiast than a sour pragmatist, one who imposed meaning on the whirlwind of events happening around him by seeing them through the lens of his own heroic scenario of class leadership.

This concise biography is based on wide-ranging new research that puts Lenin into the context both of Russian society and the international socialist movement of the early twentieth century. It also sets the development of Lenin's political outlook firmly within the framework of his family background and personal outlook.

Using contemporary photographs, posters and prints, Lih illustrates the emotional and physical features of Lenin's world. A vivid and non-partisan portrait of a key figure in modern history, Lenin will appeal to a wide range of readers.

‘Lars T Lihs short biography is hardly Why Lenin was right, although it is no less dramatic for that. Lih advances some seldom-heard historical and political arguments in an unassuming, informative way . . . . This excellent book advises us not to congratulate ourselves on our hindsight.’ — Owen Hatherley, The Guardian

‘Lihs book is a stimulating and challenging interpretation of Lenin as a person and a politician . . . well worth reading’ — European History Quarterly

‘an excellent short biography that will help to bring a more historically accurate picture of Lenin and the meaning of his lifes work to a wide readership . . . The book is written in a highly engaging and vivid, at times witty, manner.’ — Slavonic and Eastern European Review

‘in offering a comprehensive and rigorous analysis of Lenins philosophy and his emotional connections to it that contradicts theworry about workers thesis, this book offers far more to scholars than may be found in some of the larger biographies of Lenin. Additionally, Lihs pithy argument and the succinctness of the book ensure that the subject is presented in an accessible manner, offering a comprehensible reading on Lenin to scholars and non-experts alike.’ — European Review of History

‘a very valuable and stimulating interpretation of [Lenins] key ideas which, being clearly written and challenging, will be of benefit to beginners and specialists alike.’ — Revolutionary Russia

‘The book is aimed at a general audience. It is well written, accessible, and probably the snappiest book on Lenin in the English language.’ — The NEP Era: Soviet Russia 1921-1928

Lenin is a lucid, sizzling and witty account of the life of the Bolshevik leader . . . Lihs Lenin is a valuable (and well written) biography that compounds accessibility with scholarly insight and should therefore be part of the library of every person that has some interest in left-wing politics.’ — Socialist History

‘Any book that rejects the received wisdom that Lenin was intolerant, cruel and tyrannical, thus laying the basis for the inevitable rise of Stalinism, is to be welcomed. As such, Lars T Lihs concise biography of Lenin is a useful addition.’ — Socialist Review

‘This is an important contribution to our understanding of Lenin . . . . This slim volume is a welcome contribution to the battle to combat the lies and myths of both the Stalinist tradition and the right wing opponents of Bolshevism. The scholarly research which informs it makes it a valuable addition to anyones library.’ — Socialist Alternative

‘Lihs biography is both an excellent introduction to Lenin and a provocative interpretation that will challenge those familiar with his life and work.’ — New Socialist, Canada

‘Lars T Lihs excellent short biography of Lenin is a welcome addition to the serious socialist literature on classical Marxist history. Although it contains some nuggets from the archives and some references to interesting but lesser known contemporary sources, the books chief merits are its strongly contextual interpretation of Lenins life and its readable style.’ — Workers Liberty

‘This book is a very serious contribution to our understanding of Lenin, his political ideas and his revolutionary practice.’ — Counterfire

‘A carefully drawn, subtle yet compelling portrait of a revolutionary. This is probably the best and most reliable treatment we have had on Lenin in many decades, and it will fill a fair gap for scholars, students and the general public.’ — Professor Ronald Suny, University of Michigan, author of The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR and the Successor States

‘A scholarly, highly accessible book. It uniquely links Lenin to a political project for human liberation . . . the best treatment of Lenin and his ideas I have seen in recent years.’ — Immanuel Ness, Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College, City University of New York

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Lars T. Lih is an independent scholar who has written widely on Soviet history. His books include Bread and Authority in Russia, 1914-1921 (1990), the English-language edition of The Stalin-Molotov Letters, 1925-1936 (1995) and Lenin Rediscovered: 'What is to be Done?' In Context (2006).

1. Another Way
2. The Merger of Socialism and the Worker Movement
3. A People’s Revolution
4. Three Train Rides
5. Beyond the ‘Textbook à la Kautsky’
Select Bibliography