REVIEW ARTICLE / NALINI TANEJA*
Emergence of the Soviet Political System
Francesco Benvenuti, The Bolsheviks and the Red Army, 1918-1922, Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 264, £ 27.50
Four years ago I may have just skimmed through the book. Today I am forced to read it with greater care. Recent events in Eastern Europe have given added relevance to academic works which may otherwise have escaped notice, except by those actually working on the particular themes. Suddenly, Communist parties have once again become the central theme of discourse in studies of socialist societies. This book by Benvenuti is a translation of a work originally published in the Italian in 1982. As the title implies, this is not'a conventional military history. Its essential concern is also not the vicissitudes of military campaigns and the fate of the revolution. It is a monographic study which provides a detailed analysis of the politics of the Red Army during the Civil War. More specifically it deals with the effect of the Civil War on the Bolsheviks in the Red Army. The Civil War in turn is shown to be the central concern of the Bolsheviks during these years, a point of great significance for the construction of the Soviet State, the relations between the Party and the State, and the nature of the Red Army itself. In terms of the time period chosen, i.e. 1918 to 1922, these were years that covered War Communism and the transition to NEP. Thus determinants of two phases of Soviet history are spelled out in the effect that they have on the emergence and consolidation of the military agency of the Soviet State, and in turn the effect that the exigencies of the Civil War and the consequent military organisation has in the particular formulations given to War Communism and NEP. What renders the book really interesting from the point of view of today's questions are, however, the pointers towards the broader relationship between socialist construction and the Soviet Communist Party that emerges from the study of the debates in the Party regarding the charting out of new directions in the struc-
* School of Correspondence Courses, Delhi University, Delhi.
Social Scientist, Vol. 18, No. 10, October 1990