Two Years of Wandering
A Menshevik Leader in Lenin's Russia
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This is a vivid picture of life in Soviet Russia during the civil war, through the eyes of Lenin’s longstanding political rival, the leading Menshevik Fedor Dan. It is the first translation into any language of Dan’s memoir, written and published in Russian in 1922.
‘Fedor Dan’s memoir of life in Soviet Russia at the close of the Civil War and beginning of the New Economic Policy provides a fascinating and immensely rich account of that time. … Francis King has provided a superb translation and introduction, and this book deserves to be read by anyone interested in the fate of the Russian Revolution a century ago.’ - Dr James Ryan, Lecturer in Modern European History, Cardiff University
Fedor Dan had been an active revolutionary and Marxist since the 1890s, and one of the Soviet leaders in 1917, but by 1920, when this memoir begins, he and his party were leading a precarious, semi-legal existence. From then until his expulsion from Soviet Russia in 1922, Dan’s life as a mobilised state employee and political oppositionist took him from Moscow to the Urals, the Russo-Polish front, Soviet congresses in Moscow and Petrograd – and to prison.
Now available for the first time in English, Francis King’s translation of Dan’s memoir sheds new light on life in the ‘war communist’ siege economy in the capitals and the provinces, on the mentalities of the supporters and critics of Lenin’s government, and on the political logic driving the development of the Soviet one-party system and its criminalisation of any dissent. The volume is essential reading for both academics and general readers interested in the crucial political and social shifts that took place in Soviet Russia during this period of great change.
Introduction: Fedor Dan, his party and his two years of wandering - by Francis King
1 An ‘official’ exile
2 In Ekaterinburg
3 To the front!
4 At the Congress of Soviets
6 In Peter-Paul Fortress
7 In the remand prison
8 The Petrograd and All-Russia Chekas
9 In Butyrki
10 Hunger strike and leaving the country
I Socialist-Revolutionary leader Viktor Chernov’s speech to the mass meeting in Moscow in honour of the British Labour delegation, May 1920
II Letter from the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party central committee to members of the British Labour delegation
III Menshevik leaflets and appeals from the time of the Kronstadt revolt, February-March 1921
IV Cheka documents on Dan’s case
V Review by A. K. Voronsky
VI Further reading
‘Fedor Dan’s memoir of life in Soviet Russia at the close of the Civil War and beginning of the New Economic Policy provides a fascinating and immensely rich account of that time. Dan, a leading figure in the Soviet structure in 1917 and in the Menshevik party, illustrates the complex and somewhat confused manner in which the Bolshevik state related to other socialist parties in the first years of Soviet power, ultimately concluding in the persecution and exile of non-Bolshevik socialists. The memoir brings the reader to provincial Russia and to the streets of Moscow during NEP, but half of it is devoted to Dan’s experiences inside early Soviet prisons, including the infamous “internal prison” at Cheka headquarters in the Lubianka. Dan’s hostility to the Bolshevik regime is clear, but his account of his dealings with it are remarkably measured. The ironic pathos of a socialist languishing in prison at the hands of his erstwhile comrades is strikingly apparent. In addition, Bolsheviks and especially Chekists, including prison warders are portrayed in differential terms, some as cruel and sadistic, others as quite pleasant and somewhat kind. Francis King has provided a superb translation and introduction, and this book deserves to be read by anyone interested in the fate of the Russian Revolution a century ago.’
Dr James Ryan, Lecturer in Modern European History, Cardiff University
‘This memoir is a rare socialist perspective on Leninist rule and King has done an excellent job in translating and introducing the memoir.’
Duncan Bowie, Chartist Magazine
‘The usefulness and importance of translations of sources for the study of history alone makes King’s book a worthwhile resource in any library. However, King’s book assumes a special value and significance because he has succeeded in bringing to light an insightful account of two crucially important years that determined the fate of the newly created Soviet Russia from the point of view of a leading Menshevik when there are still so few memoirs or biographies by or on Mensheviks. […] no one will question the value of this testimony and the major contribution it makes to our understanding of revolutionary Russia in the years immediately following 1917. Lawrence and Wishart, very economically, have done another wonderful job publishing a neat volume of significant translation that is on the whole exceptionally good and accurate.’
John Gonzales, European History Quarterly 47(4)