Norman Stone

On Red Alert

Russia’s Cold War: From the October Revolution to the Fall of the Wall


Yale University Press 523pp £25 order from our bookshop

‘I’ll launch a few proclamations and then shut up shop,’ announced Trotsky when he took over as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs in 1917. The policy did not quite work out. Soon he was going in for the usual secret diplomacy, playing the Germans off against the Western powers. By 1921 there was a regular Soviet diplomatic service. White ties were worn, excellent French was spoken, and in the interstices a remarkable espionage machine was created. But there were also organisations devoted to fostering communist revolutions abroad, and there have been good descriptions of these political schools: all pseudonyms, no sex or drink, grim females, bare floorboards and relentless Marxism-Leninism as the adepts struggled to understand a given capitalist or third-world society. 

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