Simon Pirani is Honorary Professor at the University of Durham. He has been travelling to, and writing about, Russia and Ukraine since Soviet times, and is the author of The Russian Revolution in Retreat 1920-24: Soviet workers and the new communist elite (Routledge, 2008) and Change in Putin's Russia (Pluto, 2010). As Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (2007-2021) he wrote widely about the energy industries of the former Soviet states. His most recent book is Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption (Pluto, 2018).
These voices of rank-and-file worker communists, from the early 1920s, convey not only accurate diagnoses of the situation then, but also prophetic warnings of the consequences of the Bolshevik party's bureaucratic degeneration and of workers' alienation from control over power. This book is an important contribution to the study of early Soviet history, and necessary for understanding the overall legacy of those Soviet dissidents who criticised the ruling regime from the left, from socialist and democratic positions. - Ilya Budraitskis, author of Dissidents Among Dissidents: ideology and the left in post-Soviet Russia (Verso, 2022)
This slim volume offers a valuable addition to our insights and understandings of worker resistance and opposition in the early Soviet period. The documents themselves are captivating. They are expertly translated and annotated, and the introduction provides crisp and scholarly contextualisation. It will be particularly useful in the classroom for undergraduate and graduate students. Professor Sarah Badcock, author of Politics and the People in Revolutionary Russia: A Provincial History (Cambridge, 2007)
Given how the Soviet Union developed and the persistent anticommunism around the world today, it is easy to forget that early Soviet Russia was a time and place rich in possibility and in diversity of experience and vision, even among Marxists themselves. The dissident communist voices in Simon Pirani's compact collection of well introduced, contextualized, annotated, and translated documents from 1920-22 brings this vital era alive intellectually, ideologically, and even emotionally. We hear in this small but diverse selection of largely forgotten communist voices great uncertainty and determination, disillusionment and hope, desire and despair. These voices offer critical viewpoints on ideology and politics, but also richly textured feelings about the condition of the revolution in these key years. Frustration, anger, shame, disgust, and melancholy are among the interpretive emotions weaving through these texts. And we hear important critical perspectives on the failings of the new society - inequality, corruption, bureaucratism, authoritarianism, dishonesty, poverty of thought - and important principles for a new society, including democracy, collectivism, and worker power. This collection is ideal for stimulating student discussion in courses and will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand the experience of revolutionary Russia beyond dismissive stereotypes and simplifications. Mark Steinberg, author of The Russian Revolution, 1905-1921 (Oxford, 2017) and Russian Utopia: A Century of Revolutionary Possibilities (Bloomsbury, 2021)