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.
incentives to agricultural producers: this enabled harvests to recover to around 16 million tons by 1982. By 1982, industrial production had risen by 12.7 per cent. Per capita income in Vietnam, which had fallen from $250 a year in 1975 (after the ravages of war) to an appalling $150 in 1982, began to pick up slightly. The new economics supremo, Vo Van Viet, was behind the reforms: they included piecework for factory workers and ‘production contracts’ for peasants, under which they could keep
we launched a serious radical reform in planning, price formation, the financial and crediting mechanism, the network of material and technological production supplies, and the management of scientific and technological progress, labour and the social sphere. The aim of this reform is to ensure – within the next two or three years – the transition from an excessively centralized management system relying on orders, to a democratic one, based on the combination of democratic centralism and
step off the pavement, although occasional black or white limousines slide out of the distant fleet parked across the emptiness of the square. The leaders are remote, all-powerful, spared traffic. This seems to impress, not anger, ordinary people. Absolute authority appears to impress absolutely, and its cold invisible hand has the city in its thrall. This is not immediately apparent to Westerners, who are pleasantly surprised to see that ordinary Russians look, laugh, and pet their children
half of 1936 or maybe from the end of 1936 he was hurrying with a coup … And it is understandable. He was afraid that he would be arrested … We even knew the date of the coup … 1937 was necessary … We were obligated in 1937 [to ensure] that in time of war there would be no fifth column. Really among Bolsheviks there were and are those who are good and faithful when everything is good, when the country and the Party are not in danger. But if anything happens, they shiver and desert. I don’t think
temporary, while elections watched by Canada, Poland and India were held. Elections were a dead letter: the Vietminh would not install democracy in the North. The population of both Vietnams behaved as though partition were permanent. Thousands of Vietminh guerrillas moved north while some 100,000 civilians from the north moved south. The Americans accepted their new responsibility to support the South. In October 1954 Eisenhower pledged to their favoured candidate to head the government, Ngo