Author Topic: A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes  (Read 17660 times)

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Offline historywriter

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #30 on: June 03, 2006, 11:19:01 PM »
You're right, Belochka.  It's just that I have books everywhere - more since I joined bookcrossing (www.bookcrossing.com) and I haven't read a lot of them!  It's hard to choose which books to read.

Thank you for your advice Kitty.  That's very kind of you. :)  I will start with the Pipes book when I've finished Mistress of the Arts, about Georgina, Duchess of Beford.

Best Regards,

Lisa

Offline Belochka

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #31 on: June 04, 2006, 05:25:02 AM »
Quote
You're right, Belochka.  It's just that I have books everywhere - more since I joined bookcrossing (www.bookcrossing.com) and I haven't read a lot of them!  It's hard to choose which books to read.

Thank you for your advice Kitty.  That's very kind of you. :)  I will start with the Pipes book when I've finished Mistress of the Arts, about Georgina, Duchess of Beford.

Best Regards,

Lisa

[size=10]Hi Lisa,

Excellent choice! My preference always lean more towards Richard Pipes as the author of choice rather than Figes.

Best regards,

Margarita [/size]
[/color]  :)


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Offline Zvezda

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #32 on: December 05, 2006, 05:54:51 PM »
I've skimmed through pages of Figes's work and it comes across as yet another right-wing polemic that would be dessiminated from a fascist like Richard Pipes. He makes the insolent characterization of the November popular uprising as a "coup" failing to take into consideration the various economic and social factors that prompted this seizure of power by the workers' councils. With hundreds of thousands of workers, soldiers, and sailors involved in this heroic uprising, to equate this with a mundane CIA-orchestrated military coup is a manifestation of intellectual dishonesty. The fact is that the Kerensky government was devoid of any significant popular support due to its alliance with the bourgeoisie and landlords as well as its stubborn prosecution of the unjust imperialist war. These policies had resulted in food riots in the cities during the spring of 1917. The soldiers were war-weary but the war pig Kerensky would not yield to their demands.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #33 on: December 06, 2006, 05:59:38 AM »

. . . the war pig Kerensky . . . .
 

Wow.  And here I had thought all Comrade Lenin's posters had worn off the walls years ago.

Offline Zvezda

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #34 on: December 06, 2006, 04:59:52 PM »
In the eyes of the soldiers exhausted by the imperialist war, Kerensky was a war monger. Indeed he was taking into consideration the disastrous offensive in the summer of 1917.

Offline historylover

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #35 on: January 01, 2007, 02:46:20 AM »
I finished Pipe's book which I found interesting, but heavy-going.  However, I found it very well-researched and that his arguments were convincing.  When I have time I will read Figes's book as well.  I think that it's best to try to read books written by authors with many different views!

If you approach Pipes from such a strong point of view he's not likely to change your mind!

A little anecdote: My mother worked for a food company in the thirties in Brisbane.  The packers all called each other 'Comrade' (!) but said that if anyone gave them $10,000.00 they'd become capitalists in an instant!

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Lisa
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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #36 on: March 16, 2007, 11:01:40 PM »
Does anyone know if Stephen Kerensky is still posting?

I was very interested in his views considering the family that he is a part of.

I have to admit that I have neither Pipes nor Figes in my collection and so can not just go and reread them.  I never thought to compare them.

Interesting thread, though.

Offline Lyss

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #37 on: March 21, 2007, 10:17:54 AM »
I used both Pipes and Figes for my thesis on the "peace of Brest-Litovsk". (still working  it, due for may) Although Pipes had a whole chapter on the peace, I found in Figes description an anecdote that I haven"t found in any other book what so ever, even not in books by Carr or Kennan. Although I've read them all, I prefer Carr and Figes.
Especcialy Figes' "Natascha's dance: a cultural history of Russia". It realy was a marvellous introduction (around 1000 pages) on Russian cultural history. I use it as a reference book now for further reading regarding the subject.
Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance or stupidity.

Offline Zvezda

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #38 on: February 07, 2008, 12:50:49 PM »
I would advise against reading Figes's book. Figes's analysis of the October Revolution is not significantly different than the right-wing polemicist Richard Pipes. Figes with his literary writing style is more oriented towards a pop audience rather than serious scholars. As such, Figes's book has not had such a warm reception in the scholarly community:

Quote
Ronald Grigor Suny
University of Chicago
The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 71, No. 1. (Mar., 1999), pp. 263-266.

Over one third of the book, more than three hundred pages, deals with the prerevolutionary crisis. Figes positions himself between the "Marxist determinists" and "leftwinghistorians in the West," who argue that the revolution was inevitable and causedby labor, and "those historians on the Right who paint a rosy image of the Tsarist Empire on the eve of the First World War" (p. 14). In his view-and this is a stance hemaintains throughout the book-both Left and Right are wrong. Neither February nor October was inevitable; labor played a far less important role than social historians haveclaimed; and the tragedy for Russia came from the deep political traditions and culturethat made the Russian people incapable of establishing a democratic government andliving without self-appointed masters. "Centuries of serfdom and subservience hadshaped a popular political character that ill prepared the Russian people for democracy"(p. 432). His is a liberal history, dedicated to and hopeful about the virtues of democracy,furious at the ineptitude, incompetence, and brutality of both tsarist and Sovietbureaucracies, and confident that with different choices the outcome tsarist rule and revolutionary government could have been far less bloody.

Figes is least convincing, however, when he attempts to reconstruct the motives and policies of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Here his judgments are closer than he seems to realize to the historians on the Right that he criticizes throughout. Like his nemesis Richard Pipes, Figes sees Lenin as a power-hungry adventurer, a coward, and a tyrant. He argues that Lenin's insistence on carrying out the insurrection before the opening of the Second Congress of Soviets was a planned provocation to divide the democratic and socialist camp (the so-called democracy) and eliminate politically his principal rivals, the Mensheviks and Right Socialist Revolutionaries. But in fact these parties were empty shells by October, discredited by their collaboration with the increasingly unpopular Provisional Government, and the Bolsheviks, along with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, dominated the urban popular forces almost without challenge. While there was much sentiment for a broad multiparty all-socialist government based on the soviets in the fall of 1917 (something Lenin resisted at this point), the moderate socialists had never agreed to such a government, and their subsequent walkout from the Second Congress, along with Iulii Martov's Menshevik-Internationalists, made such a government impossible. The real question to be asked is: even if such a government had been formed, how long could it have lasted, given the two fundamentally contradictory visions of the revolution held by the moderate and radical socialists-one inclusive of the whole population, including the bourgeoisie, and committed to a capitalist democracy,the other based on enfranchising only the working people and moving rapidly toward international revolution and socialism? Figes's monochromatic Lenin is a kind of Russian nationalist (his concessions to the non-Russians were "no more than tactical" [p. 704]), notwithstanding his stated internationalism ("a bluff for the sake of party morale and propaganda" [p. 550]), and a cynical politician who intended all along to establish a party dictatorship, despite what he wrote in his "anarchistic" pamphlet State and Revolution. "In everything he did, Lenin's ultimate purpose was the pursuit of power. Power for him was not a means-it was an end in itself" (p. 504). Here the complexities, anomalies, reversals, and inconsistencies of the revolutionary leader are reduced to a cliche.

At the end Figes rejects the arguments associated with the historiographic Left-that backwardness and isolation made socialism impossible in Russia-and instead comes close to the perspective of another analyst of The Soviet Tragedy, Martin Malia, and concludes that the "fundamental problem" of the Soviet model has "more to do with principles than contingencies." "The experiment went horribly wrong, not so much because of the malice of its leaders, most of whom had started out with the highest ideals, but because their ideals were themselves impossible" (p. 823). Though it will be difficult for some to see Bolshevism as a "very Russian thing" (p. 812) or to blame the Russian people for their fate, readers of this impressive work will come away enlightened and provoked, informed and moved. In his engaging account, Orlando Figes has not pronounced the final valedictory to the Russian Revolution; instead he forces us to suspend ultimate pronouncements and revive the debates over the Soviet past because, as he says in his last line, "the ghosts of 1917 have not been laid to rest" (p. 824).

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #39 on: February 07, 2008, 01:08:27 PM »
I would advise against reading Figes's book. Figes's analysis of the October Revolution is not significantly different than the right-wing polemicist Richard Pipes. Figes with his literary writing style is more oriented towards a pop audience rather than serious scholars. As such, Figes's book has not had such a warm reception in the scholarly community:

 

How typical of a Bolshevik to encourage someone to not read something! It's too bad Reds are so frightened to let people be exposed to differing points of view. The truth can set you free.

I would encourage anyone interested in the Revolution to read broadly from many sources. If you are a thinking person, you will be able to figure out for yourself how you feel about these issues. You have a fairly honest representation of what the Bolshevik point of view is/was through Zvezda - so if you think that having someone else make up your mind for you is a good thing, act and read accordingly.

Offline Olga Maria

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #40 on: February 06, 2009, 07:24:46 AM »
As I read on Volkov's memoirs, i noticed some Russians were also intimidated with the sight of Reds.
Although they're neutral with the Tsardom, they seem to hate Reds.
My question is that did they really hate the Bolshevist government?

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Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: A people's tragedy
« Reply #41 on: May 02, 2009, 12:10:38 AM »
As I read on Volkov's memoirs, i noticed some Russians were also intimidated with the sight of Reds.
Although they're neutral with the Tsardom, they seem to hate Reds.
My question is that did they really hate the Bolshevist government?

Since they ruled for 70 odd years, it's hard to answer that question. Many people hated the Tsarist regime. It was frequently narrow-minded and bigoted. However, it was incredibly inefficient so many of its worst aspects never got through. In contrast, the Bolsheviks were equally bigoted and narrow minded, but they became much more efficient, especially about killing people. This alone may account for more hatred toward the Reds and their government.

Offline historylover

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Re: A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes
« Reply #42 on: May 02, 2009, 06:24:21 PM »
I think that today when there's so much anger towards the wealthy, especially the bankers, people should remember the dangers of Revolution and Communism. In the early days after his coup, Lenin even organised murder squads to kill the rich!