An inquiry into the nature of Soviet politics at the top: how power has been seized, contended for, transferred and denied, not just at intervals but continuously from Lenin's time forward. The bulk of the book, covering the 1920s and early 1930s, presents a kaleidoscopic picture of debates and intrigues in which Stalin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin and others were engaged in official collaboration combined with deadly struggle amid changing alignments and a mixture of issues. The issue of world revolution versus socialism in one country is much too simple a guide to the Trotsky-Stalin relationship in the 1920s-despite what Trotsky wrote about it later-as the author shows by reference to contemporary material. The latter part of the book is sketchier and less interesting; the author posits, but does not prove, a decisive role for Suslov in all the power struggles from the late Stalin period until the 1980s. It is a curious book, remarkable for its research and originality, but not free of error and at times dizzying in its effects on the reader.