- Created: Tuesday, 29 August 2017 15:06
- Written by Bruce Landau
From Revolutionary Communist 6, 1976
This is an extended review of Tony Cliff’s Lenin: Volume One: Building the Party. London: Pluto Press Limited, 1975. Hardback and paperback editions. It is a slightly abridged version of an article of the same title in Revolutionary Marxist Papers 8, July 1976.
Please also see the Editorial from Revolutionary Communist 6 which made criticisms of certain aspects of the argument put forward in this review.
Tony Cliff, the leader of the International Socialism group of Great Britain, has written the first volume of a projected three volume political biography of Lenin. The first volume deals with the period ending in 1914, and its subtitle, Building the Party, indicates Cliff’s main focus: How did a handful of Russian Marxists manage to construct the most successful mass revolutionary workers’ party in history, the only party which proved able to lead the proletariat to the conquest of state power and then to consolidate and defend that conquest in the face of the ferocious international capitalist reaction?
Writing in the magazine International Socialism, another IS spokesman Duncan Hallas assesses Cliff’s Lenin in the most glowing terms: ‘This book is the most important work on the theory and practice of building a socialist organisation that has appeared for a long time. As a biography it has its faults. It would be no great exaggeration to say that it might well have been called Building the Party – Illustrated from the Life of Lenin. No matter. A manual for revolutionaries – and that is what we have here – is needed more urgently than a fully rounded biography. This is a work whose lessons can and must be applied to the practical tasks of party building.’