Book imagines what life would be like if the Russian Revolution had been a success

A new book by a Kent political scientist imagines a revolutionary 20th century in which the Russian Revolution spreads westward to Europe and the US, upending the course of 20th century history.

In this version of events, Eleanor Roosevelt ends up living her life as a lesbian and Yiddish is a major European language.

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution (November 7, 2017) Dr Philip Cunliffe, senior lecturer in the School of Politics and International Relations, asks what if communism had worked?

In Lenin Lives! (Zero Books) Dr Cunliffe presents an alternative version of what might have happened if the revolutionaries’ dreams had come true and how history would have differed if Lenin had lived long enough to see the spread of the revolution to Western Europe and the USA.

Most alternative, virtual and counter-factual histories explore dark and misanthropic ‘what if …’ scenarios, such as what might have happened if the Nazis had won the Second World War or if the Confederacy had succeeded in splitting from the USA. Dr Cunliffe argues that while fascism only offered war and dictatorship, everyone knows that communism was supposed to have been better, and to have offered a radically better world.

Instead of building up a much worse world by imaginatively altering the past, Lenin Lives! imagines a world that would have been much better and more advanced than our own.

Dr Cunliffe suggests that instead of the grim authoritarian states of the East, socialist revolution in the world’s most advanced economies could have ushered in an era of global peace, progress and prosperity.

The book recounts how history, culture and politics would have unfolded differently in this timeline, including a re-imagining of the lives of a host of renowned leaders, scientists and writers, from Gandhi to Winston Churchill, among many others, including Eleanor Roosevelt.

Lenin Lives! shows how, with a revolution in the US, a radically improved US political system means that the New Deal never happens, FDR never becomes president and thus FDR’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, is freed to divorce him and pursue a more authentic and emancipated life. With successful revolution in Europe, fascism is still-born and thus World War II and the Holocaust never happen, meaning that Israel is never established, and Europe retains a large, lively and assimilated Jewish population, leaving Yiddish as a major pan-European language.

Known as the October Revolution, the anniversary is now celebrated on November 7 after the Bolsheviks changed to the Gregorian from the Orthodox calendar.