In his short introduction to the book, Professor Robert Service writes that the "October Revolution gave rise to questions which remain important today, questions that find expression in their polarities of democracy and dictatorship, justice and terror, social fairness and class struggle, ideological absolutism and cultural pluralism, national sovereignty and armed international intervention".
Thus the reason to write this book, which examines not only the Russian Revolution, but also describes in great detail the efforts invested by the West to fight the Bolsheviks.To be more precise, Mr. Service came upoan the idea of writing his book after he had seen the papers of the British intelligence agent Paul Dukes, who was just one of many who tried to influence the outcome of the 1917-1918 events. In addition, John Reed and Arthur Ransome as well as two more famous foreigners and spies-Sidney Reilly and Robert Bruce-Lockhart-also make their vast appearances here. Among the primary materials used, Mr. Service checked for the first time documents found at Hoover Institution archives where he obtained permission to access the papers of Lockhart, papers from various individuals in Brtish and Russian archives and other contemporary periodicals.
The book is divided into four parts, and each one progresses chronologically. In each of them there he writes about the unfolding of the Revolution and about those who were for and those who were working against it.
The West, meaning in greater part Britain, thought that the Whites offered the chance of infiltrating and influencing Russia by intrigue. Therefore adventurers and spies, reportes and undercover agents found a ferile ground to play their game. As mentioned before, Lockhart, who was Churchill's representative in Moscow, was one of them. He and his mistress Moura Budberg(who, we are informed, was "bored by her husband"),George Hill who was another British agent and Reilly were among the most famous ones who invested their efforts to subvert the Revolution. Reilly, whose real name was Sigmund Rosenblum, was born in Odessa and was of Jewish origins. He is known as the "Ace of Spies". He was a great womanizer and was one of a long list of agents or spies who met in the Savoy Hotel in 1919 in order to discuss the most efficient ways to liquidate the "Bolo Revolution". At those lunches, which were financed by the British Foreign Office, one could also find Paul Dukes, Lockhart, Rex Leeper and John Baggge.The mission was to topple Lenin and his fellows.
It is from this point onwards where Mr. Service describes the plans and intrigues used by those individuals, showing their private lives and the various techniques they used against the Bolsheviks. The most famous plan was the one used by Lockhart, who wanted to kidnap Lenin and Trotsky. According to a secret report written by the Cheka, both Russians were to be shot after capture. The plan was foiled and during the trial in Moscow, it was revealed that dozens of other Americans and British citizens were conspiring against the Reds. Lockhart escaped to London. He and his friend Reilly as
well as others were declared "enemies of the working people" and sentenced to death if ever they were found on Soviet territory.
The main gain of the West from all these and other well-documented plots was that they got a very good picure of what was going on in Russia. To quote:"...communism was never obscured from the view of the leaders who took the big decisions.It is true that the information was often patchy and even contradictory, but it was good enough for judgements to be made". In addtion, the chances of toppling the Reds were slim, the military expeditions to Russian were constantly too small and the Whites were no match for the Reds. The main fear of the West was a communist Germany and the spread of communism elsewhere in Europe. This definitely happened after 1945.
This excellent book is a description of extremely complicated entanglements of personalities and institutions, of politicians, spies, reporters, lovers and assassins (Fanny Kaplan among them) and is a vast micro-history which adds another dimension to the most famous revolution of the twentieth century. Highly recommended!