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Alexander Shlyapnikov, 1885-1937
Life of an Old Bolshevik
The first biography—in any language—of Alexander Shlyapnikov, a leader and founder, along with Kollontai, of the Workers’ Opposition.
Based on extensive research in the archives of the Soviet Communist Party, and the Russian secret police, Alexander Shlyapnikov, 1885-1937: Life of an Old Bolshevik stirringly recounts the political life of Alexander Shlyapnikov. Though purged from Soviet history books, Shlyapnikov was a leading member of the Workers’ Opposition (1919-21), and the most prominent of their ranks to call for the trade unions—as distinct from the Communist Party—to play a direct role in realizing workers’ control over the economy. Despite the defeat of this position, Shlyapnikov continued to advocate views on the Soviet socialist project that provided a counterpoint to Stalin’s vision. Arrested during the Great Terror, Shlyapnikov refused to confess to his alleged crimes against the party, openly declaring the charges illogical and unsubstantiated.

What emerges from Allen’s political portrait is an Old Bolshevik who stands in striking contrast to Stalin’s and the NKVD’s image of the ideal party member.
Reviews
  • "Drawing on a vast body of previously untapped archival sources, including top secret FSB files, Barbara Allen presents a nuanced, insightful, and compelling portrait of the leading worker-Bolshevik, Alexander Shlyapnikov, and of the time in which he lived. Her highly readable study is vital for all those seriously interested in the Russian revolution and the fate of the Russian labor movement under Lenin and Stalin.”
    —Alexander Rabinowitch, The Bolsheviks Come to Power

    "This biography of a Bolshevik worker–intellectual provides a vivid alternative to the common focus on the party’s best-known leaders, and insight into Bolshevik political culture, internal debates and all."
    —China Miéville, October

    “Allen’s book is life writing at its best, and what a life! … The book is a cracking good read. The drama is replete with touching and amusing personal detail and builds to a poignant, tragic end. Shlyapnikov’s story enriches our understanding of Soviet political history and Allen delivers a model for a new generation of biographical studies of the remaining neglected leaders of the Russian Revolution.”
    —Lara Cook, Revolutionary Russia.

    "Barbara Allen has given us a fascinating perspective on the Russian Revolution, showing its strengths and weaknesses through the remarkable but ultimately tragic story of a Bolshevik worker-intellectual."
    —Ian Birchall, Revolutionary Socialism For the 21st Century.

    “The biography is an exemplary study of the rise and fall of a group of people commonly subsumed under the term "Old Bolsheviks". ... Shlyapnikov's life journey possesses illustrative and explanatory potential and it can contribute to a better understanding of historical processes and phenomena which go beyond the individual. … While endeavouring to understand Shlyapnikov, Allen constantly retains the required critical distance towards her protagonist. … Barbara Allen has applied the biographical approach in exemplary fashion. Her book, which reads well throughout, should serve as encouragement to historians of Eastern Europe to pay more attention to the biographical form.”
    —Andreas Oberender, H-Soz-u-Kult (translated by Ben Lewis).

    “Drawing on material from seven archives, five in Russia and two in the United States, as well as extensive conversations with the Shlyapnikov family, Barbara Allen has provided the definitive biography of Alexander Shlyapnikov and made a lasting contribution to Soviet history in its first two decades”
    —Alexis E. Pogorelskin, Canadian Slavonic Papers
  • "Drawing on a vast body of previously untapped archival sources, including top secret FSB files, Barbara Allen presents a nuanced, insightful, and compelling portrait of the leading worker-Bolshevik, Alexander Shlyapnikov, and of the time in which he lived. Her highly readable study is vital for all those seriously interested in the Russian revolution and the fate of the Russian labor movement under Lenin and Stalin.”
    —Alexander Rabinowitch, The Bolsheviks Come to Power

    "This biography of a Bolshevik worker–intellectual provides a vivid alternative to the common focus on the party’s best-known leaders, and insight into Bolshevik political culture, internal debates and all."
    —China Miéville, October

    “Allen’s book is life writing at its best, and what a life! … The book is a cracking good read. The drama is replete with touching and amusing personal detail and builds to a poignant, tragic end. Shlyapnikov’s story enriches our understanding of Soviet political history and Allen delivers a model for a new generation of biographical studies of the remaining neglected leaders of the Russian Revolution.”
    —Lara Cook, Revolutionary Russia.

    "Barbara Allen has given us a fascinating perspective on the Russian Revolution, showing its strengths and weaknesses through the remarkable but ultimately tragic story of a Bolshevik worker-intellectual."
    —Ian Birchall, Revolutionary Socialism For the 21st Century.

    “The biography is an exemplary study of the rise and fall of a group of people commonly subsumed under the term "Old Bolsheviks". ... Shlyapnikov's life journey possesses illustrative and explanatory potential and it can contribute to a better understanding of historical processes and phenomena which go beyond the individual. … While endeavouring to understand Shlyapnikov, Allen constantly retains the required critical distance towards her protagonist. … Barbara Allen has applied the biographical approach in exemplary fashion. Her book, which reads well throughout, should serve as encouragement to historians of Eastern Europe to pay more attention to the biographical form.”
    —Andreas Oberender, H-Soz-u-Kult (translated by Ben Lewis).

    “Drawing on material from seven archives, five in Russia and two in the United States, as well as extensive conversations with the Shlyapnikov family, Barbara Allen has provided the definitive biography of Alexander Shlyapnikov and made a lasting contribution to Soviet history in its first two decades”
    —Alexis E. Pogorelskin, Canadian Slavonic Papers