Comrades!: A History of World Communism

Comrades!: A History of World Communism

Robert Service

Language: English

Pages: 592

ISBN: 0674046994

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Almost two decades after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the USSR, leading historian Robert Service examines the history of communism throughout the world. Comrades! moves from Marx and Lenin to Mao and Castro and beyond to trace communism from its beginnings to the present day. Offering vivid portraits of the protagonists and decisive events in communist history, Service looks not only at the high politics of communist regimes but also at the social conditions that led millions to support communism in so many countries. After outlining communism’s origins with Marx and Engels and its first success with Lenin and the Russian Revolution in 1917, Service examines the Soviet bloc, long-lasting regimes like Yugoslavia and Cuba, the Chinese revolution, the spread of communism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and the international links among the hundreds of parties. He covers communism’s organization and ideology as well as its general appeal. He looks at abortive communist revolutions and at the ineffectual parties in the United States and elsewhere. Service offers a human view of the story as well as a global analysis. His uncomfortable conclusion―and an important message for the twenty-first century―is that although communism in its original form is now dying or dead, the poverty and injustice that enabled its rise are still dangerously alive. Unsettling and compellingly written, Comrades! is the most comprehensive study of one of the most important movements of the modern world.

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Emperor Nicholas II murdered by communists in Yekaterinburg in July 1918; yet her name has been given to a present-day woman by her communist father.5 Kerala’s communists had shown their independent streak since flirting with Maoism for a while in the late 1940s:6 their Russophilia was a later development. In other parts of India, though, the attraction of the Chinese variant of communist exercised a permanent appeal. This was hardly surprising. Many members of the Communist Party of India were

China and the USSR, debate was intense on two great matters. One was the choice between the turbulent mobilisation demanded by Mao Zedong and the staid organisation preferred by Soviet leaders to be sanctioned. The second touched on the USSR’s role in world politics. Those who sided with Mao’s denunciation of ‘Soviet hegemonism’ broke away to form the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) – or the CPI(ML).8 The split was extremely violent in some places. In central Bihar the Maoists killed

offence to pick up a fallen coconut.9 Few local functionaries in Cambodia had administrative or economic expertise. This was as Pol wanted it. He had no use for comrades who might relapse into ideas and practices which they had learned independently of him. Cambodian communism sealed itself off from ideological erosion. Violent, arbitrary rule was pervasive. Leaders in the country’s various zones appointed their own ‘strings’ to jobs – strings were the equivalent of Soviet cliental ‘tails’.

rewards. This told only a part of the story. Appointment to particular posts gave access to shops, clinics and sanatoria denied to other citizens. The higher the position on the nomenklaturas, the greater the privileges available. The comforts of official life had not yet reached their climax. In August 1918, when an assassination attempt was made on Lenin, his sister Maria refused to send out for medicine from the nearby pharmacies. Knowing that most medical professionals were anti-communist,

Charlotte Corday, who hated his Jacobin extremism. Gracchus Babeuf maintained the fanatical tradition. Babeuf’s Conspiracy of the Equals strove after the revolutionary elimination of differences based on a person’s origins, upbringing or current condition. They made allowances solely for age and sex. The Conspiracy set up groups and canvassed for support in Paris. Babeuf enjoyed his politics until in 1796 the government ordered his arrest. By then his radicalism was thought dangerous to public

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