Review: Marxism and Revolution: Karl Kautsky and the Russian Marxists, 1900 – 1924, by Moira Donald

This is a superb book – well-written and compelling. It tells the little-known (or little-remembered) story of the relationship between the man known as the ‘Pope of Marxism’ and the Russian revolutionaries. Karl Kautsky was a mentor to more than one generation of those Russian socialists, and one of his best-known disciples was Lenin. For that reason, Kautsky’s decision in early 1918 to break ranks with the rest of the socialist movement and write a stinging critique of the Bolshevik coup d’etat was all the more remarkable. My only gripe about the book comes at the very end. Donald writes about a memorandum Kautsky authored, later published as a book in 1925, in which he “argued … that a popular uprising against the Communist dictatorship was necessary”. She neglects to mention that the memorandum was drafted in response to the Georgian uprising of August 1924 — it was not a theoretical proposition but an actual uprising that had taken place. The great pity about this book is that it seems nearly impossible to get hold of a copy. Yet another reason why I love the London Library.