PERHAPS nowhere else on the continent of Europe were the ideas of Marx accorded so wide and immediate reception as in Russia. Both Poverty of Philosophy and Critique of Political Economy had sold more copies in Russia than elsewhere; and Russia was the country where the first translation of the first volume of Capital appeared on 27 March 1872. Within barely two months, by May 25, a thousand copies, or one-third of the total edition, were sold out. And an article in the European Messanger of St. Petersburg in May 1872, gave what Marx called a "striking and generous" depiction of the method of Das Kapital. Marx, who had tended initially to dismiss the Russian interest in his work as "pure Epicureanism", not only revised his opinion but came subsequently to place his hopes for a European revolution in the developments taking place in Russia.
The question before contemporary Russian revolutionaries was:
would Tsarist Russia inevitably have to pass through a stage of capitalist development before attempting a transition to socialism, or could she bypass capitalism by making a direct transition to socialism on the basis of the existing Russian village community? Many of them turned to Marx for an answer to the question. Marx's answer to this question and the degree to which Marx was influenced by Chemyshevskii in arriving at this answer are discussed in the lead article of the current number of Social Scientist by Kalyan Dasgupta, who argues that in grappling with this problem, Marx made a transition from a theory of "historical inevitability" to a theory of "historical expediency". The issues thrown up by Dasgupta's article are complex, profound and relevant. Later Russian Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin, for example, while arguing that communal property had already disintegrated under the impact of capitalist development, posed the problem of "bypassing" or more appropriately transcendence, of capitalism in backward Russia in altogether different terms. The difference between the problematic as presented to Marx, and the problematic of Russian Marxists like Lenin, Engels' position on the question in 1894 and the precise relevance of the whole debate for today's backward societies, are all matters requiring serious discussion. We hope that Dasgupta's essay would prepare the ground for such a determination.