Review: Lenin’s Last Struggle, by Moshe Lewin

Moshe Lewin was certainly one of Lenin’s admirers. Though this short book is anti-totalitarian and sympathetic to Trotsky, it is surprisingly uncritical of Lenin on key issues. But it is clear from reading it that Lenin’s last struggle — his political activities in the final two years of his life — were focussed on what would now be seen as minor issues. Instead of doing his utmost to get rid of the toxic Stalin, Lenin suggested in one letter that perhaps the Communist Party should consider someone else for the job Stalin held. The one bit of genuine moral outrage that we see is Lenin’s fury at how Stalin addressed Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife, in a phone call. That got Lenin’s attention and a demand for an apology (which Stalin then offered). For years I heard that this book was essential reading to understand Russian Communism and the Soviet Union. Having now finally read it, I don’t think that’s the case. Lewin is too much in Lenin’s thrall to take an objective and critical look at the dictator. Others have done better work on the subject.