Alan Shandro, "Lenin and the Logic of Hegemony: Political Practice and Theory in the Class Struggle" (Haymarket Books, 2015)


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Few figures stand as prominently in Marxist theory and history as V.I. Lenin. The revolutionary who played a pivotal role in one of the most important events in world history has received reverence, damnation, and everything in between, but much of that response depends on deep misunderstandings of both what he thought and what he did. This misunderstanding was deep enough that even he took notice of it at several points, remarking that readers tended to take his theories out of their context and misunderstanding the underlying points. Understanding Lenin, then, will not just mean rereading his work, but understanding the world Lenin was working in, the what’s impossible to understand without considering the where’s, when’s and why’s.

To that effect, Alan Shandro has stepped in with a book that seeks to do just that. Lenin and the Logic of Hegemony: Political Practice and Theory in the Class Struggle (Haymarket Books, 2015) is a sustained attempt to reread Lenin in light of Gramsci’s oft-ignored remark that Lenin was one of his biggest influences in developing his own theories of hegemony. The book spends the first couple chapters contextualizing Lenin by looking at some of his contemporaries, particularly Kautsky, Bernstein and Plekhanov, before turning to Lenin’s own works, and reading through them slowly and meticulously. The result is a study that works its way from Lenin’s writings in the 1890’s all the way to the end of his life in the 1920’s, giving us the ability to see Lenin’s development of ontological and epistemological themes that run throughout his life and work. While Shandro is not always easy to read, the book has a number of crucial insights for political organizers, and will repay serious effort. Many books have been written on Lenin over the years, but few have bothered to study his own work so meticulously and thoroughly.

Published as part of the Historical Materialism book series.

Alan Shandro is a professor of political theory, previously at Laurentian University, and is currently a visiting professor at York. He is on the editorial board for Science & Society.

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