Week 23

LECTURER: Prof. Bruce Thompson (UCSC)

Karl Heinrich Marx, May 5, 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher, critic of political economy, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary. His best-known titles are the 1848 pamphlet The Communist Manifesto and the three-volume Das Kapital (1867–1883). Marx's political and philosophical thought had enormous influence on subsequent intellectual, economic, and political history. His name has been used as an adjective, a noun, and a school of social theory. Born in Trier, Germany, Marx studied law and philosophy at the universities of Bonn and Berlin. He married German theatre critic and political activist Jenny von Westphalen in 1843. Due to his political publications, Marx became stateless and lived in exile with his wife and children in London for decades, where he continued to develop his thought in collaboration with German thinker Friedrich Engels and publish his writings, researching in the British Museum Reading Room.



Leszek Kolakowski,

Main Currents of Marxism,

P. S. Falla,

W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition (January 17, 2008),

ISBN ‎ 978-0393329438

 Leszek Kolakowski’s masterpiece, one of the twentieth century’s most important books―for the first time in a one-volume paperback. Renowned philosopher Leszek Kolakowski was one of the first scholars to reveal both the shortcomings and the dangers posed by Communist regimes. He now presents, for the first time in one paperback volume, his definitive Main Currents of Marxism: “A prophetic work,” according to the Library of Congress, that provides “the most lucid and comprehensive history of the origins, structure, and posthumous development of the system of thought that had the greatest impact on the 20th century.”

Robert Service,

Lenin: A Biography,

Macmillan paperback, 2010,

ISBN 978-0330518383

With the help of previously unpublished documents recently released from central party archives, [Service] has managed to skillfully depict the surreal life of an obsessive, brilliant and stubborn individual who usually found himself the champion of the minority opinion within a minority of just a small number of revolutionaries--who, for most of their lives, did not have a revolution in sight. (The Guardian)

In this thorough biography, Robert Service uses the abundant new archival evidence to describe Lenin's personal idiosyncracies, and also to underline, once again, his many ideological contradictions...Service then goes on to show how Lenin betrayed, in practice, virtually all of his paper principles, which had themselves changed several times in any case: far from creating a state in which ordinary workers took decisions about the running of society, Lenin created a totalitarian dictatorship. (Anne Applebaum Sunday Herald)

The wonder of this particular account is that Service succeeds in explaining how Lenin came to [his] determined confidence and the complex and ultimately tragic circumstances that led to the triumph of his ambitions...The most significant contribution of this book is the wealth of personal information that makes Lenin a far more accessible, if not appealing, individual...Such details make Lenin all the more human and so all the more vivid and frightening...Service never allows his narrative to slip into sentimentality or forgets whom he is dealing with. (Joshua Rubenstein Wall Street Journal)

The most authoritative and well-rounded biography of Lenin yet written--and the one that is, in its quiet way, the most horrifying. Oxford historian Service (A History of Twentieth Century Russia) makes good use of Party and Presidential archives that were previously closed to historians. The portrait that emerges therefore has many elements that were either altogether unknown or have only recently emerged...An important study that goes far in tracing the roots of the dire legacy Communism bequeathed to the third of mankind unfortunate enough to have suffered its rule. (Kirkus Reviews)

In Lenin: A Biography, Robert Service argues that Lenin's importance evolved from three major achievements: He led the October Revolution, he founded the Soviet Union, and he laid out the rudiments of Marxism-Leninism...This is a fascinating and engaging book, not the least because it is the first comprehensive Lenin biography to appear since crucial Soviet archives have been opened. (Amos Perlmutter Washington Times 2000-10-30)