A Short History of Communism
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.
the American leadership on the hop, but had progressed no further; his economic reforms were soon effectively stalled – with Russians grumbling bitterly about his vodka ban; the press was somewhat less tightly controlled and Sakharov had been released as a gesture. The withdrawal from Afghanistan was a major step – but not a sign of the new spirit of reform, rather an acknowledgement of Soviet defeat and disengagement from a costly and unwinnable enterprise. In reality, for ordinary Russians,
captures the scene: Different people have different memories of when they became convinced the regime was finished. Some thought so from the beginning, others remember when Alexander Dubcek, looking, as [Timothy] Garton Ash puts it, as if he had stepped out of an old black-and-white photograph, appeared together with Havel on the balcony of the Socialist Party publishing house in the middle of Wenceslas Square. The crowds cheered him ecstatically, honouring him as a symbol of honourable
official: ‘They’re individual.’ Individuality is to be extended. The main economic reforms now being considered in the 12th Soviet Five-Year Plan which is likely to be ready early next year (Mr Gorbachev tore up the first draft on taking office) are: • Giving individual plants greater independence. They will have freedom to fix their own prices and wages and to re-invest profits. • Breaking the big ministries up into ‘regional planning units’, which can coordinate industrial activities at a
previous Chinese examples. So Mao’s revolution was ultimately victory in a civil war: victory over a force almost as new as his, but weakened by the misjudged strategies of a stubborn but tactically inept leader. The revolutionary element in the victory was simply that Chiang’s army was hierarchical and based upon the social structure, whereas Mao’s was a hierarchy of merit and ability. Otherwise Mao was merely the latest in a long succession of Chinese warlords. The third of the three
realized it might have to fight a full-scale war, with which they had little sympathy, in a faraway country of only questionable strategic importance to the United States. As early as April 1966, 5,000 students had demonstrated in front of the White House. By November two people had burnt themselves to death, one in front of the Pentagon, the other in front of the UN building. The basis of the anti-war argument at that stage was largely that Americans were dying, although soon the principle of