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Can We Write the History of the Russian Revolution? A Belated Response to Eric Hobsbawm

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Ten years ago, Eric Hobsbawm presented his Deutscher Lecture on 'Can We Write the History of the Russian Revolution?' This essay argues that Hobsbawm articulated a perspective on the Russian Revolution that was shared by a much wider audience on the Left after the fall of the Soviet Union and that many of these arguments continue to resonate today. Placing the contours of the historiographical discussion of the Russian Revolution within a broader political context, I argue that Hobsbawm has underestimated the extent to which the standard academic accounts intentionally have marginalised Marxist interpretations. Hobsbawm's own ambivalence toward the October Revolution and his lack of clarity on the origins of Stalinism are not supported by the latest empirical research and concede much ground to strident anti-Marxists. Rather than refuting the Marxist classics, new evidence from the archives of the former Soviet Union actually offers substantial support. The renewed academic attacks on the Russian Revolution, including the deliberate omission of evidence that support the Marxist interpretation, should be challenged rather than embraced by socialists.

Affiliations: 1: University of Massachusetts Boston

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