Romancing the Revolution

The Myth of Soviet Democracy and the British Left

How often does one consider the true meaning of hte term


In the years immediately following the First World War and the 1917 Russian Revolution, many of those on the British Left were tempted, to a greater or lesser degree, by what Ian Bullock calls the “myth” of soviet democracy: the belief that Russia had embarked on a brave experiment in a form of popular government more advanced even than British parliamentarism. In Romancing the Revolution, Bullock examines the reaction of a broad spectrum of the British Left to this idealized concept of soviet democracy. At conferences and congresses, and above all in the contemporary left-wing press, debates raged over how best to lay the groundwork for a soviet system in Britain, over how soviets should be organized, over the virtues (if any) of the parliamentary system, over the true meaning of the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” over whether British communists should affiliate to the Third International, and over a host of other issues—including the puzzling question of what was actually going on in Russia. As Bullock demonstrates, even in the face of mounting evidence that the Bolshevik revolution had produced something closer to genuine dictatorship than genuine democracy, many of those on the Left were slow to abandon the hope that revolutionary transformations were indeed in store for Britain—that the soviet system would at long last allow the country to achieve real social equality and economic justice.