St. Petersburg: 1895. Item #41
, 287 pp. 22x15 cm. In owner’s contemporary wrappers. The title of the book in ink on the spine. Spine is rubbed, it lacks a small part at the bottom. The rear wrapper lacks a piece in the corner. Otherwise in good condition. Some minor soiling on the title-page. Occasional underlining in text. Rare.
Rare first edition of one of Plekhanov’s most important books. By the time of its publication, the author was in exile, banned from returning to Russia for 15 years. According to Lenin: “On this book the whole generation of Russian Marxists was taught.”
Georgi Plekhanov (1856- 1918) was the founder of Russian Marxism and its main theoretician. It was as a result of his efforts that Russian revolutionaries turned from the Narodniki (populists) movement fashionable in the 1860s and ’70s to Marxism. Friedrich Engels, who was in constant correspondence with Plekhanov, read and endorsed this book just before his death in 1895. He wrote to Vera Zasulich (01/30/1895) “it’s great that the book will be printed in Russia - Georgy will have huge success”. Indeed it remains unclear why censors allowed this book to be printed in St Petersburg – Plekhanov’s work had typically been printed in Geneva.
Engels was proved right: according to Martyn Lyadov (a member of RSDLP) the book was sold immediately and a lot of socially active young men turned to the Social-Democrats after reading it. It was called “The gospel of Russian Social-Democracy” by Mikhail Ivanovich Bulgakov (a socialist and a party member) in 1907.
During the Soviet years this book became iconic. It was translated into 12 languages and 580,000 copies were printed.