Communism: A History (Modern Library Chronicles)
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With astonishing authority and clarity, Richard Pipes has fused a lifetime’s scholarship into a single focused history of Communism, from its hopeful birth as a theory to its miserable death as a practice. At its heart, the book is a history of the Soviet Union, the most comprehensive reorganization of human society ever attempted by a nation-state. This is the story of how the agitation of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, two mid-nineteenth-century European thinkers and writers, led to a great and terrible world religion that brought down a mighty empire, consumed the world in conflict, and left in its wake a devastation whose full costs can only now be tabulated.
under Communism would be unlike any creature ever known. Trotsky thus depicted him in his Literature and Revolution: Man will, at last, begin to harmonize himself in earnest. . . . He will want to master first the semi-conscious and then also the unconscious processes of his own organism: breathing, the circulation of blood, digestion, reproduction, and, within the necessary limits, subordinate them to the control of reason and will. . . . The human species, the sluggish Homo sapiens, will
to sign a nonaggression treaty with Berlin that included a secret protocol dividing Poland between Russia and Germany. He clearly counted on a repetition of the 1914–18 war of attrition, which would leave the “capitalist” belligerents so exhausted that the USSR could sweep into Europe virtually unopposed. After Germany and Russia had divided Poland, Molotov, Stalin’s closest confidant and the man who, as foreign minister, had signed the nonaggression treaty, delivered a speech in which, assailing
“Fascist” varieties lies in the fact that the former thought globally while the latter focused on the nation: “Fascist” regimes, too, accepted the notion of class conflict but saw it as one between “have” and “have-not” nations. This was articulated by Mussolini in a speech to the Chamber of Deputies in 1921, a year before he seized power. Addressing the Communist deputies, he said: Between us and the Communists there are no political affinities but there are intellectual ones. Like you, we
but a weapon. Its object is the enemy, [whom] it wishes not to refute but to destroy.” Marxism thus was dogma masquerading as science. Marxism’s adaptation to the scientific culture was only one factor in its appeal. The other had to do with concurrent changes in social conditions. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the basis of the world’s economy had been agriculture. Until then, 80 to 90 percent of Europeans and Americans had lived on and off the land: the rich derived their wealth from the
called “dictatorship of the proletariat”), during which the new ruling class would use the coercive powers of the state to dispossess the bourgeoisie of its capital and nationalize productive assets. The anarchists rejected the state in all its forms, predicting that the “proletarian dictatorship” would turn into a new instrument of oppression, this time run by and for the benefit of intellectuals. Finally, while the Marxists relied on the natural progression of the capitalist economy to bring