To the Finland Station

Last updated
First edition (publ. Harcourt, Brace) ToTheFinlandStation.jpg
First edition (publ. Harcourt, Brace)

To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (1940) is a book by American critic and historian Edmund Wilson. The work presents the history of revolutionary thought and the birth of socialism, from the French Revolution through the collaboration of Marx and Engels to the arrival of Lenin at the Finlyandsky Rail Terminal in St. Petersburg in 1917.


Form and content

Wilson "had the present book in mind for six years". [1]

The book is divided into three sections.

The first spends five of eight chapters on Michelet and then discusses the "Decline of Revolutionary Tradition," referencing Ernest Renan, Hippolyte Taine, and Anatole France.

The second deals with Socialism and Communism in sixteen chapters. The first four chapters discuss the "Origins of Socialism" vis-à-vis Babeuf, Saint-Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen, and Enfantin as well as the "American Socialists" Margaret Sanger and Horace Greeley. The second group of twelve chapters deal mostly with the development of thought in Karl Marx in light of his influences, partnership with Friedrich Engels and opposition from Lassalle and Bakunin.

The third spends six chapters, dealing two each on Lenin, Trotsky, and Lenin again. Important writings addressed include Lenin's "What Is to Be Done?" and Trotsky's Literature and Revolution , My Life , biography of Lenin, and The History of the Russian Revolution .

The book also mentions Eleanor Marx, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Annie Besant, Charles Bradlaugh and Georgy Gapon.


External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Presentation on the life and work of Edmund Wilson with Louis Menand, April 28, 2003, C-SPAN

Harcourt, Brace & Co. first published this book in September 1940. [2] Doubleday's Anchor Books imprint published a paperback edition in 1953. [3] Farrar, Straus and Giroux published a paperback edition in 1972. [4] The New York Review of Books published a new edition in 2003, with an introduction by Louis Menand. [5]

Upon publication, TIME said:

Because it makes Marxist theory, aims and tactics intelligible to any literate non-Marxist mind, To the Finland Station is an invaluable book. It is an advantage that, like Milton with the character of Satan, Author Wilson is half in love with the human side of the curious specimens he describes. [1]

To the Finland Station was one of the first four books ever published by major Brazilian publisher Companhia das Letras. The book's translation proved to be a successful seller. [6]

This book is mentioned as the reading matter of a young Bill Clinton in Hillary Clinton's biography Living History . A tongue in cheek reference is made in the Pet Shop Boys' song "West End Girls" in the lyrics "from Lake Geneva to the Finland Station". The Harvard Lampoon 's Bored of the Rings includes a tongue-in-cheek dedication, "TO The Finland Station".

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leninism</span> Communist ideology and state ideology of socialist states

Leninism is a political ideology developed by Russian Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin that proposes the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat led by a revolutionary vanguard party as the political prelude to the establishment of communism. The function of the Leninist vanguard party is to provide the working classes with the political consciousness and revolutionary leadership necessary to depose capitalism in the Russian Empire (1721–1917). Leninist revolutionary leadership is based upon The Communist Manifesto (1848), identifying the communist party as "the most advanced and resolute section of the working class parties of every country; that section which pushes forward all others." As the vanguard party, the Bolsheviks viewed history through the theoretical framework of dialectical materialism, which sanctioned political commitment to the successful overthrow of capitalism, and then to instituting socialism; and, as the revolutionary national government, to realise the socio-economic transition by all means.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Friedrich Engels</span> German political philosopher and revolutionary socialist (1820–1895)

Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, critic of political economy, historian, political theorist and revolutionary socialist. He was also a businessman, journalist and political activist, whose father was an owner of large textile factories in Salford and Barmen, Prussia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Trotskyism</span> Variety of Marxism developed by Leon Trotsky

Trotskyism is the political ideology and branch of Marxism developed by Ukrainian-Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and some other members of the Left Opposition and Fourth International. Trotsky described himself as an orthodox Marxist, a revolutionary Marxist, and Bolshevik–Leninist, a follower of Marx, Engels, and 3L: Vladimir Lenin, Karl Liebknecht, and Rosa Luxemburg. He supported founding a vanguard party of the proletariat, proletarian internationalism, and a dictatorship of the proletariat based on working-class self-emancipation and mass democracy. Trotskyists are critical of Stalinism as they oppose Joseph Stalin's theory of socialism in one country in favour of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution. Trotskyists criticize the bureaucracy and anti-democratic current developed in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

<i>Socialism: Utopian and Scientific</i>

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is a short book first published in 1880 by German-born socialist Friedrich Engels. The work was primarily extracted from a longer polemic work published in 1878, Anti-Dühring. It first appeared in the French language.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">David Riazanov</span> Russian-Soviet political revolutionary, Marxist theoretician, and archivist

David Riazanov, born David Borisovich Goldendakh, was a Russian revolutionary, historian, bibliographer and archivist. Riazanov founded the Marx–Engels Institute and edited the first large-scale effort to publish the collected works of these two founders of the modern socialist movement. Riazanov was a prominent victim of the Great Terror of the late 1930s.

Communism is a sociopolitical, philosophical, and economic ideology and current within the socialist movement, whose goal is the establishment of a communist society, a socioeconomic order centered around common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange that allocates products to everyone in the society. Communist society also involves the absence of private property, social classes, money, and the state. Communists often seek a voluntary state of self-governance but disagree on the means to this end. This reflects a distinction between a more libertarian approach of communization, revolutionary spontaneity, and workers' self-management, and a more vanguardist or Communist party-driven approach through the development of a constitutional socialist state followed by the withering away of the state. As one of the main ideologies on the political spectrum, communism is placed on the left-wing alongside socialism, and communist parties and movements have been described as radical left or far left.

The two-stage theory, or stagism, is a Marxist–Leninist political theory which argues that underdeveloped countries such as Tsarist Russia must first pass through a stage of capitalism via a bourgeois revolution before moving to a socialist stage.

The ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was Bolshevist Marxism–Leninism, an ideology of a centralised command economy with a vanguardist one-party state to realise the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Soviet Union's ideological commitment to achieving communism included the development of socialism in one country and peaceful coexistence with capitalist countries while engaging in anti-imperialism to defend the international proletariat, combat capitalism and promote the goals of communism. The state ideology of the Soviet Union—and thus Marxism–Leninism—derived and developed from the theories, policies and political praxis of Lenin and Stalin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marxist schools of thought</span> Group perspectives regarding Marxism

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that originates in the works of 19th century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism analyzes and critiques the development of class society and especially of capitalism as well as the role of class struggles in systemic, economic, social and political change. It frames capitalism through a paradigm of exploitation and analyzes class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development – materialist in the sense that the politics and ideas of an epoch are determined by the way in which material production is carried on.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Georgi Plekhanov</span> Russian philosopher (1856–1918)

Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov was a Russian revolutionary, philosopher and Marxist theoretician. He was a founder of the social-democratic movement in Russia and was one of the first Russians to identify himself as "Marxist". Facing political persecution, Plekhanov emigrated to Switzerland in 1880, where he continued in his political activity attempting to overthrow the Tsarist regime in Russia. Plekhanov is known as the "father of Russian Marxism".

Revolutionary socialism is a political philosophy, doctrine, and tradition within socialism that stresses the idea that a social revolution is necessary to bring about structural changes in society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for transitioning from a capitalist to a socialist mode of production. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as a seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">International Marxist Tendency</span> Political international

The International Marxist Tendency (IMT) is an international Trotskyist political tendency founded by Ted Grant and his supporters following their break with the Committee for a Workers' International in 1992. The organization's website, or In Defence of Marxism, is edited by Alan Woods. The site is multilingual, and publishes international current affairs articles written from a Marxist perspective, as well as many historical and theoretical articles. The IMT is active in over 40 countries worldwide.

Socialism in one country was a Soviet state policy to strengthen socialism within the country rather than socialism globally. Given the defeats of the 1917–1923 European communist revolutions, Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin encouraged the theory of the possibility of constructing socialism in the Soviet Union. The theory was eventually adopted as Soviet state policy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Orthodox Marxism</span> Official philosophy of the majority of the socialist movement until World War I in 1914

Orthodox Marxism is the body of Marxist thought that emerged after the death of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and which became the official philosophy of the majority of the socialist movement as represented in the Second International until the First World War in 1914. Orthodox Marxism aims to simplify, codify and systematize Marxist method and theory by clarifying the perceived ambiguities and contradictions of classical Marxism.

A socialist state, socialist republic, or socialist country, sometimes referred to as a workers' state or workers' republic, is a sovereign state constitutionally dedicated to the establishment of socialism. The term communist state is often used synonymously in the West specifically when referring to one-party socialist states governed by Marxist–Leninist communist parties, despite these countries being officially socialist states in the process of building socialism and progressing toward a communist society. These countries never describe themselves as communist nor as having implemented a communist society. Additionally, a number of countries that are multi-party capitalist states make references to socialism in their constitutions, in most cases alluding to the building of a socialist society, naming socialism, claiming to be a socialist state, or including the term people's republic or socialist republic in their country's full name, although this does not necessarily reflect the structure and development paths of these countries' political and economic systems. Currently, these countries include Algeria, Bangladesh, Guyana, India, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Utopian socialism</span> Political theory concerned with imagined socialist societies

Utopian socialism is the term often used to describe the first current of modern socialism and socialist thought as exemplified by the work of Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Étienne Cabet, and Robert Owen. Utopian socialism is often described as the presentation of visions and outlines for imaginary or futuristic ideal societies, with positive ideals being the main reason for moving society in such a direction. Later socialists and critics of utopian socialism viewed utopian socialism as not being grounded in actual material conditions of existing society. These visions of ideal societies competed with revolutionary and social democratic movements.

<i>Anti-Dühring</i> 1878 book by Friedrich Engels

Anti-Dühring is a book by Friedrich Engels, first published in German in 1878. It had previously been serialised in the newspaper Vorwärts. There were two further German editions in Engels' lifetime. Anti-Dühring was first published in English translation in 1907.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Permanent revolution</span> Concept in Marxist theory

Permanent revolution is the strategy of a revolutionary class pursuing its own interests independently and without compromise or alliance with opposing sections of society. As a term within Marxist theory, it was first coined by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as early as 1850, but since then it has been used to refer to different concepts by different theorists, most notably Leon Trotsky.

The history of socialism has its origins in the 1789 French Revolution and the changes which it brought, although it has precedents in earlier movements and ideas. The Communist Manifesto was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1847-48 just before the Revolutions of 1848 swept Europe, expressing what they termed scientific socialism. In the last third of the 19th century parties dedicated to Democratic socialism arose in Europe, drawing mainly from Marxism. The Australian Labor Party was the world's first elected socialist party when it formed government in the Colony of Queensland for a week in 1899.


  1. 1 2 "Revolution's Evolution". TIME. 14 October 1940. Archived from the original on October 14, 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  2. "To the Finland Station". Library of Congress. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  3. "To the Finland Station". Library of Congress. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  4. To the Finland Station. Library of Congress. 1972. ISBN   9780374278335 . Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  5. To the Finland Station. Library of Congress. 2003. ISBN   9781590170335 . Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  6. "Rumo a uma nova estação editorial - Cultura". Estadão.