chapter  5
19 Pages

Some Observations on Bukharin and His Ideas

Bukharin was born in 1888. Thus he was only twenty-nine when the revolution happened. This may help to explain a certain basic inconsistency between his youthful 'left' enthusiasm of 1918, when he W8S all for revolutionary wars and instant leaps into full communism, and the cautious, statesmanlike acceptance of the logic of NEP after 1921. One question we can ask ourselves is: how great was the inconsistency? Peter Knirsch, the author of a survey of Bukharin's economic ideas (Knirsch, 1959), virtually ignored those of the NEP period, and justified this by asserting (in conversation) that after 1921 Bukharin subordinated his economics to political exigencies. Rudolph Schlesinger, who had known Bukharin, told me that in his view he was a genuine enthusiast in 1918-20, but that he was so shocked 'heartbroken') by the failures of war communism that he went to the opposite extreme of moderation. Schlesinger interpreted Bukharin's political position in the 1920s as objectively pro-peasant, and he believed that

Stalin was right to drive him out of politics (though not to shoot him), so he may have been a prejudiced witness.