Wolfe was a founding member of the American Communist Party in 1919 who later became disillusioned with communist ideology. His account is particularly interesting because the author personally knew two of the participants in the Russian Revolution: Trotsky and Stalin. In fact, it was Stalin’s insistence on strict control of the American Communist Party that began Wolfe’s disenchantment with the creed when he attended the executive council meetings in Moscow of the Communist International.
Published in 1948, Three Who Made a Revolution almost became extinct until it was revived by publisher Sol Stein, who launched an impressive marketing campaign on its behalf. His success is evident in the fact that Wolfe’s biography went through fourteen editions and sixteen printings between 1948 and 1984. The book not only has achieved a certain popularity but has prompted serious study as well. The author has created a living drama throughout the text, heightening the reader’s interest with historical mysteries. For example, he asks whether Soviet totalitarianism would have emerged had Lenin not died in 1924 and why Malinovsky would return to face trial if he was truly guilty. Wolfe celebrates the unpredictable, the accidental, and the unexpected; therein lies the source of the book’s greatest fascination.