the Russian revolution and its consequences remains a living topic, attitudes towards it being woven into the fabric of liberal capitalist self-justification and into socialist ideas of all varieties, not least the shrill polemics of radical groups which trace their lineage back to one form of Bolshevism or another. It has very much been a case of ‘tell me what you think of the Russian revolution and I’ll tell you who you are.’ Although Russia’s revolution is not as important as it was at the height of the cold war, the collapse of communism has only partially slackened the pace since Russia’s post-1991 ills are still being blamed primarily on communist mismanagement.
Finally, both of us would probably see ourselves as ‘post-revisionists’, as historians attempting to look at the revolution as ‘the past’, something which has gone, which has run its course, something which no longer has deadly importance for contemporary political stances. Although the significance of October will continue to be avidly discussed, it is less vital than it was at the height of the cold war. Only time will tell if these two books are seen as the last dinosaurs of an older style of writing about the revolution or the precursors of a new, more rounded and more dispassionate historiography.
“Too often has it happened,” wrote Lenin in July 1917, “that, when history has taken a sharp turn, even progressive parties have for some time been unable to adapt themselves to the new situation and have repeated slogans which had formerly been correct but had now lost all meaning – lost it as ‘suddenly’ as the sharp turn in history was ‘sudden’.” [CW, (Moscow 1964), Vol.25, On Slogans (mid-July 1917), p.183]