Sunday, October 15, 2017

A. James McAdams's "Vanguard of the Revolution"

A. James McAdams is the William M. Scholl Professor of International Affairs and director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His many books include Judging the Past in Unified Germany and Germany Divided: From the Wall to Reunification.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Vanguard of the Revolution: The Global Idea of the Communist Party, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Vanguard of the Revolution, I outline the circumstances under which Lenin and other Bolshevik revolutionaries debated whether Russia should withdraw from participation in World War I.  Lenin was angry that his associates should dare to disagree with him at all, but he ultimately got his way.  He argued that they should act according the wishes of the party--i.e., his wishes--because their association was a "comradely family." A few months later, he also secured their agreement to rename their party the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks).  Of equal importance, Lenin also embraced the notion that the party needed to be more than a source of inspiration.  It also needed to be the source of clearer lines of commend in order to effect its wishes.

At this point in Vanguard of the Revolution, I am setting up two themes that run throughout the book.  The first is that on this occasion, and on many others, there persisted a culture of debate among the Bolsheviks that frustrated even the party's preeminent leader, Lenin. On these particular issues, he got his way.  But this was not always the case. Later, in the 1930s, Joseph Stalin waged war on this "comradely family" by ordering the execution of nearly all of the early Bolsheviks.  The second theme on this page is Lenin's endorsement of the principle that the party should not only be driven by a central idea; it should have the organizational means to put the idea into practice.  This point allows me to set up a juxtaposition that suffuses the book: the tension between the party as a motivating idea and the party as a practical organization.
Learn more about Vanguard of the Revolution at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue