Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. George Munro

Second Advisor

Dr. Joseph Bendersky

Third Advisor

Dr. Frederick Corney


In 1919, Nikolai Bukharin, the leading theoretician of the Bolshevik Party, published a manual entitled The ABC of Communism meant to put the governing ideology of the newly formed Soviet State into eminently readable terms. Alexander Berkman, a Russian Anarchist who strongly supported the October Revolution, became disillusioned with the new regime in 1921 and left the country. He later published his own tract entitled The ABC of Anarchism. This thesis pits these two theoretical works against each other as historical documents embodying the nature of leftist polemics that has characterized the movement since the dissolution of the First International. Both Bukharin’s and Berkman’s books engage in polemical self-definition by means of defining the other. By emphasizing Bukharin’s contributions to Bolshevism, this paper rescues the nature of the Bolshevik Party as a group of thinkers with wide-ranging beliefs in contrast to the historiographical trends that continue to emphasize Lenin as the only important figure in the party. I translate and analyze under-utilized articles that Bukharin published in New York from 1916-1917, and in Moscow in 1917 before the Revolution. In looking at Berkman’s critiques of Bolshevism in practice, the historiography of the Russian Revolution is enriched with analyses of the Party from the left, where it usually emphasizes criticism from the right. No major historiography exists on Berkman, and thus I typify his thought by reconciling his letters with his published works. The tension in both Bukharin and Berkman in matching theory and practice is also a major component of this work and has its roots in the original splits of the Russian narodnik movement on the need for a vanguard.


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