My vested interest is obvious but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed by the review of my Lenin for Today book by Tomás Tengely Evans in the last Socialist Review.
First the review picks an argument, about ultra-imperialism, where there is none, saying my statement that “the balance of evidence strongly favours the Leninist as opposed to the ultra-imperialist side” feels like it is “shying away from delivering a polemical blow”, which is a strange judgement in itself and ignores the book’s polemics against both Hardt and Negri and Panitch and Gindin on this matter.
The review also says that “the book is weaker when dealing with some specifics and details around Lenin’s theory” without saying what those specifics and details are.
But mainly the review fails to engage with the real project of the book, which is not just to provide “an accessible starting point for those who want to understand Lenin’s ideas” but a sustained argument that the core of Leninism remains valid and essential for socialist practice today.
Thus at the heart of the book is a major chapter which expounds and defends against all comers Lenin’s theory of state and revolution. This has huge implications for any strategy for socialist change in the world today but Evans’s review doesn’t even mention it.
Nor does Evans even refer to the long discussions in the book of the core elements in Lenin’s theory of the party, the relevance of his ideas on fighting oppression to the issue of identity politics today, the question of Lenin’s relationship to Stalinism or the book’s suggestions about how Leninist ideas can find a hearing with the international working class of today.
Naturally Evans may disagree with all or some of these arguments but simply to omit any reference to them while manufacturing a non-existent disagreement about ultra-imperialism seems odd.
In short I believe Lenin for Today has rather more to interest and offer the readers of Socialist Review than is suggested by Evans’s review.