I have been reading avidly piles of books on the Russian Revolution, one of which I acquired second hand some time ago: the collection of essays by Max Weber now called The Russian Revolutions. Apparently, Weber spent much time on these, learning enough Russian to read the papers and following affairs closely. The majority were written after the 1905 revolution and then some after the February revolution of 1917 (ie. before the Bolsheviks took over). My anticipation was matched by my profound disappointment.

Why? Weber completely misreads the situation. The key for him is the bourgeoisie, represented by the Cadets (Constitutional Democratic Party), so much so that he ignores the socialists, allocating but four misinformed and dismissive pages to them and Lenin. The reason is that, according to him, they are so marginal and extreme that they have no influence on events – which misses the massive popularity of both the social-democrats and socialist-revolutionaries. Weber’s political colours show through no better than in his assessment of Marxism: ‘Like the thoroughgoing Jesuit, the devout Marxist is imbued by his dogma with a blithe superiority and the self-assurance of a somnambulist’ (p. 69). Nice turn of phrase, even if Weber was a champion of the bourgeoisie. No wonder he completely missed the possibility of the commuists taking power. But in this work another Weber emerges: one who extremely pro-German in relation to Russia and in the context of the war. How can this policy benefit Germany? He asks. He constantly uses ‘we’ and seeks to forward the German cause.

Probably Weber’s worst work.

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