Revolutionary Social Democracy: Working-Class Politics Across the Russian Empire, 1882-1917

Eric Blanc, New York University

Out in June 2021 with Brill Publishers
For inquiries, contact ebb356@nyu.edu

The library hardcover edition can be bought here. An affordable paperback version from Haymarket Books will be available for pre-order soon.

This groundbreaking study rediscovers the socialists of Tsarist Russia’s imperial borderlands, upending conventional interpretations of working-class politics, the Russian Revolution, and Second International socialism. Based on archival research in eight languages, Revolutionary Social Democracy is the first comparative account of the numerous socialist parties that fought for democracy and workers’ power across the entire span of the Russian Empire, from the factories of Warsaw, to the oil fields of Baku, to the autonomous parliament of Finland. By demonstrating that the Russian Revolution was far less Russian than commonly assumed, Eric Blanc challenges long-held assumptions of historians, sociologists, and activists about the dynamics of revolutionary change under autocratic and democratic conditions.

Advanced Praise for Revolutionary Social Democracy

“Eric Blanc’s remarkable new book should revolutionize the way scholars and activists think about the Russian Revolution. By looking not just at Petrograd or Russia but at the entire Russian Empire—including Finland, Ukraine, and Poland—Blanc’s pathbreaking comparative analysis examines how and why revolutionary processes diverge under parliamentary and autocratic regimes. Drawing on far-flung sources in eight languages, Blanc breaks with the Russocentrism of earlier accounts and effectively deprovincializes the revolution. Among other things, he demonstrates that Lenin and the Bolsheviks were not nearly as exceptional as is often thought. This book is an extraordinary achievement.” – Jeff Goodwin, New York University 

“Through impressive research and erudite argumentation, this monumental study of the broad array of ‘revolutionary social democratic’ parties that operated in the non-Russian borderlands of the Tsarist Empire in the decades leading to 1917 definitively shows why there was no ‘one-size-fits-all’ revolutionary practice and why there is no reason to overgeneralize the international relevance of the form taken by the October Revolution. A tour de force which provides strong historical foundations for all those today working to develop an anticapitalist, democratic socialist political strategy for renewed working-class formation and state transformation.” – Leo Panitch, York University

“Anyone interested in the Russian Revolution will need to read this outstanding contribution. Puncturing myths, cliches, and unsupported interpretations, Eric Blanc explores a forgotten historical reality — revolutionary social democracy — by vividly documenting the actual strategic outlooks and local practices of Second International Marxists across the Russian Empire, as well as Germany, the homeland of this political current. An impressively wide reading in sources from many languages allows Blanc to demonstrate the importance of borderland socialists in the revolutionary drama, bringing to life activists at all levels of party organizations throughout imperial Russia and challenging us to rethink long-held assumptions about major figures such as Lenin and Kautsky.” — Lars T. Lih, McGill University