A Short History of Communism
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In the 1970s, with the fall of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, the march of Marxism-Leninism across the world seemed irresistible. Less than two decades later the experiment had collapsed, leaving perhaps 100 million dead, as well as economic devastation spanning continents. Even China now increasingly embraces free market economics. Only in a few backwaters does communism endure, as obsolete as rust-belt industry.
This book is the first global narrative history of that defining human experience. It weighs up the balance sheet: why did communism occur largely in countries wrenched from feudalism or colonialism to twentieth-century modernism, rather than--as Marx had predicted--in developed countries groaning under the weight of a parasitic middle class? Were coercion and state planning in fact the only way forward for backward countries? What was the explanation for its appeal -- not least among many highly intelligent observers in the West? Why did it grow so fast, and collapse with such startling suddenness?
A Short History of Communism sets out the whole epic story for the first time, a panorama of human idealism, cruelty, suffering and courage, and provides an intriguing new analysis.
special flats equipped with the latest Western gadgetry, their own hospitals, and country retreats. These were often large country houses, misleadingly called dachas (which originally in Russian meant a cottage or small country house) mostly clustered around the village of Uspenskaye near Moscow with many others in the enchanting village of Zhukovka on the Moscow River. They could travel, they enjoyed preferential access to restaurants, cultural events and Western films, and their children,
President Reagan at which the two men got along but without real progress. In January 1986 he proposed to the startled Americans the elimination of all nuclear weapons by the year 2000; both sides should also remove all intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe. This was received with deep scepticism in the West. At a private meeting in the Kremlin in mid-1985, when I raised the issue of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Boris Ponomarev, the Politburo member, told me unequivocally that
the bottom with an iron rigidity of the kind exercised by the harshest Tsar; nationalism – the assertion of Russia’s national interests at every opportunity; and feudalism, as already defined. As already observed, one man had to stand at the apex of this tripod, as the Tsars had. The system would be no mere abstract; Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev embodied it – until Gorbachev, another demigod, used his power to dissolve the heavenly pantheon and return it to man. Three elements,
particular reason for fearing that such a phenomenon could one day become more widespread. With the collapse of Communism, American free-market doctrines have proliferated across the developing world, as has Western culture – pop music, television, jeans and so on. For an entire generation accustomed to the bleakness of poverty, the drabness of communist rule or the stultifying inertia of their parents’ societies, these values have provided a liberating beacon of light. But there could easily be
Black market records and tapes circulated freely around the Soviet campuses, costing over $100 a copy, because the Soviet authorities tolerated it: the leadership’s own children were among the most ardent addicts. Only those considered thoroughly safe performers, like Elton John and Cliff Richard, were allowed to grace Russian auditoria. The domestic pop scene tended to be a slightly tame copy of the West, epitomized by the most popular singer, the 40-year-old Alexei Koslov, whose complex