From The Other Shore: Russian Social Democracy After 1921. Harvard University Press, 1997, US$48.00, by André Liebich, BA'68.
Eighteen years ago, Andre Liebich, BA'68, now professor of International Studies in Geneva, began to reconstruct the history of the Menshevik movement in exile. This authoritative book is the fruit of his long labour.
The Mensheviks were members of the Social Democratic Labour Party who broke with Lenin and the Bolsheviks. After 1917, their leaders went abroad, where, despite hardships and disappointments, they continued to engage passionately in political debate, remaining faithful to their vision of democratic Marxism. In this their story smacks of heroism. Yet it is also sad: for these were leaders without many followers; advocates of a cause that turned out to be doomed.
The core group were mostly of an age (born in the 1880s), many of them self-educated, at least half of them Jewish, but in temperament typical Russian intellectuals: alienated from society, disputatious, and as intense about relationships as they were about ideas. Despite their break with Bolshevism, the Mensheviks' goal was world (or at least European) revolution and fellow-socialists welcomed them when they left Russia. Berlin became their centre. German SDs subsidized them, found commissions and jobs for them; socialists in other countries and sympathizers in America also helped. Soon they were able to publish a newspaper, The Socialist Courier, "to serve the needs of the SD movement in Russia" with which they maintained contact by means that included Baltic smugglers and invisible ink.
By the time their charismatic leader, Martov, died in 1923, their hopes had faded and gradually their mission changed. Instead of promoting revolution they became mere monitors and critics of Soviet developments, guarding the purity of Russian socialism. But they also maintained a high profile in the Labour and Socialist International and were respected by such Marxist luminaries as Karl Kautsky, Rudolf Hilferding and Otto Bauer (though not by the theory-suspicious British Labour Party). And when Hitler came to power in Germany it was Leon Blum who provided visas enabling them to move to Paris.
When France fell in 1940 they transferred to New York. But they found adjustment to their new circumstances difficult. Hope for a genuinely socialist revolution on which they had been nurtured had faded, a rigid Soviet regime dominated Russia, and they were getting old. Some, like Fedor Dan, moved towards acceptance of the Soviets if only as a safeguard against fascism; but others, like David Dallin, became professional Cold Warriors, and others again threw their remaining energies into recording their past - though feisty old Olga Domanevskaia, veteran of the 1905 Revolution, was last sighted in the 1960s at an anti-war demonstration in Washington.
How important were the Mensheviks? Certainly they made an important contri-bution both to the corpus of socialist polemic and to Western Cold War ideology. Liebich argues they defined a democratic Marxist alternative to Communism, creating an historical "option", a might-have-been which could have worked. This could be wishful thinking, but he has provided us with a story rich in human experience - of steadfastness and comradeship, rivalries and fallings-out, disillusionment, anguish. The Mensheviks may have been failures, but historical interest is not contingent on success.
McGill Professor of History
Transmutations: music for voice, piano & electronics (New Music from the Americas, 3), SHELAN, 1996, CD $20. (Meg Sheppard, voice; alcides lanza, piano & electronics. Works by lanza, Celona, Saint-Marcoux, Jones, Pennycook and Kasemets.)
In the contemporary music community, alcides lanza is known as a professor of composition and director of McGill's Electronic Music Studio, where he has unrelentingly promoted what is often perceived as "inaccessible" or "elitist" music for many years. Transmutations presents avant-garde collaborators Meg Sheppard and lanza in six eclectic works. The first, lanza's own vôo, marks the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage to America, and is evocative rather than provocative (despite the political weight of the issue) by its repetitive and fragmented use of words. Isolated words are sung, exclaimed or spoken, and often coloured or transformed by digital signal processing.
In John Celona's Player Piano, the layering of simple melodic cells creates the now very recognizable "minimalist" complexity. Robert Jones's Sangeet is a set of two static devotional melodies supported by an ever-evolving piano accompaniment. The first, amaram ham, madhuram ham, is particularly refreshing in its economy.
The last and most puzzling piece is Udo Kasemets' Calendar Round: Megalcides. The score is described as "the calendar of the ancient Maya," which can be played "in real time (52 years)" - that's right, 52 years - "or compressed time (at any chosen scale)." Esoteric? Yes, but intriguing as well. Unfortunately, the piece needs a theatrical element to make an impact. In concert, the distraction of a giant rotating calendar and the presence of Meg Sheppard, instruments in hand, chanting and singing, would surely add another dimension.
For the curious, initiated or not, Transmutations gives a glimpse of how musical artists are integrating technology into their art.
Cette Architecture qui nous parle ... et façonne notre monde. Par Harry Mayerovitch, BArch'33. Editions Multi-media Robert Davies 1997. $18. Translation of a book originally published in English. This is a non-technical approach to architecture for everyone. Mayerovitch shows how buildings not only provide shelter but help us to understand and fashion our own lives.
The Post-Cold War Trading System. Who's on first? by Sylvia Ostry, BA'48, MA'50, PhD'54, LLD'72. The University of Chicago Press. 1997. US$17.95. Identify-ing the historical and legal issues crucial to understanding postwar trade policy, Ostry uses the lessons of the past to help chart a course for the future. She examines the role played by the United States in the renewal of economic growth in postwar Europe and Japan, and analyzes the growing importance of multinational enterprises in shaping the new trade policy agenda.
Secret Montreal. The Unique Guidebook to Montreal's Hidden Sites, Sounds and Tastes. by Tod Hoffman, BA'85, MA'88. ECW Press. 1997. This alternative to regular guidebooks directs the reader to places that are off the beaten track. Some of the section headings are "Secret Antiques", "Secret Coffee Breaks", "Secret Gardens", "Secret McGill" and many more - 75 in all.
The Montreal Family Violence Resource Directory. McGill University School of Social Work and the Montreal Urban Community Police Service. 1997. $15. Bilingual. A directory for all people needing help to ensure that they are directed to the most appropriate resources. Includes emergency and other important phone numbers, sections for various population groups, men, women, children, seniors, gays, immigrants, available programs and a list with descriptions of useful directories.
Manual of Skin Surgery. A Practical Guide to Dermatologic Procedures. By Dr. David J. Lefell, MD'81, and Marc D. Brown. John Wiley and Sons Inc. $67.50. Offers a clear, step-by-step introduction to the fundamentals of dermatologic surgery from anatomy and diagnosis to preoperative preparation and assessment, operative technique and postoperative care.
Montreal Entrepreneur's Guidebook. Youth Employment Services. Editor: Charles B. Crawford, Researcher: Armand Benitah, $30 or $35 by post. (514) 878-9788. A unique all-in-one reference that explains the steps necessary to become a successful entrepreneur. It is directed mainly to young, English-speaking Montreal youth. It includes expert advice, checklists, references, and the second section is an "Entrepreneurial Resource Guide."