Philip Cunliffe, "Lenin Lives!: Reimagining the Russian Revolution 1917-2017" (Zero Books, 2017)


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While a number of books came out on the centenary of the Russian Revolution, few seriously considered how the 20th century would have unfolded differently if the violent forces of counter-revolution and White terror had not crushed the Marxist dreams of a new future. What if the revolution had successfully spread to Western Europe and the United States of America? What would have happened if Rosa Luxemburg was not murdered by Freikorps thugs? What if the colonial empires had turned into non-racist mechanisms for egalitarian global development? As historians, we are not supposed to ask these “what if” questions, but our friends in political science can engage in such thought experiments. Philip Cunliffe’s Lenin Lives! Reimagining the Russian Revolution 1917-2017 (Zero Books, 2017) dares to ask these questions and then to carefully think through the answers. This counter-factual history plays out the consequences of a successful Russian and, more importantly, German Revolution. Cunliffe explores how not only politics and economics would have followed different historical trajectories (for example: no fascism!), but he also considers the environmental and scientific consequences of Lenin living just a little longer. Above all, Lenin Lives! is an exercise in historical empathy and social optimism. How would early 20th century Marxists have shaped the world had they not been subjected to generations of violent repression? Could they have built a better world?

Dr. Philip Cunliffe is a Senior Lecturer in International Conflict at the University of Kent’s School of Politics and International Relations. His research interests include Peacekeeping, Humanitarian Intervention, Responsibility to Protect, Self-Determination, Sovereignty, Critical Theory, and IR Theory. He is the author of Legions of Peace: UN Peacekeepers from the Global South (2013), Cosmopolitan dystopia: International intervention and the failure of the West (2020) and The New Twenty Years’ Crisis: A Critique of International Relations, 1999-2019 (2020). He has also published several anthologies. If his voice sounds familiar, you may recognize it from Aufhebunga Bunga, which bills itself as the global politics podcast at the end of the End of History.

Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

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