In response to:
Bukharin's Way from the February 7, 1974 issue
To the Editors:
Leonard Schapiro’s otherwise sensitive review of Stephen Cohen’s Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution [NYR, February 7] concludes with a disappointing oversight. Apparently building from an early and acceptable assertion that Bukharin is important as one who proposed for the Soviet Union a non-Stalinist path, Schapiro culminates the review with “Bukharin offers the only alternative—a form of postrevolutionary revisionism”—to Stalinism. Mao and Trotsky aside, a number of “liberal” or “humanist” communists spring to mind, some of whom address contemporary dilemmas more directly and fruitfully than did Bukharin.
Those of us living in economically advanced societies surely have more to learn from Antonio Gramsci’s work on his concept of “hegemony,” on roles of the party and on Americanism and Fordism than from the crude determinism evidenced in Bukharin’s Historical Materialism. Moreover, those of less affluent societies who face the prospect of “Arduous Socialism” of the kind borne by Russians, Chinese and others will do at least as well to read Andre Gorz’s Socialism and Revolution (1973) as to reread Boris Nicholaevsky’s “Letter from an Old Bolshevik” or Bukharin’s The ABC of Communism. Finally, the assertion that the Czech liberal movement “was nothing but Bukharinism” ignores the influence of any number of figures and factors, from Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization campaign to the Yugoslavs’ workers’ management and more. This does not diminish the importance of Bukharin’s role in the formulation of Marxist thought and politics, nor of Mr. Cohen’s capable work; rather, by retaining a balanced perspective of Bukharin’s thought and work one may better appreciate the richness and the complexity to be discovered in Marxist studies.
James A. Young