This book, along with Richard Pipes' THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, ranks as one of the two most useful and enlightening treatments of the subject. Malia is no novice when it comes to Russian history, having written ALEXANDER HERZEN AND THE BIRTH OF RUSSIAN SOCIALISM many years ago. Unlike many other historians, who tend to euphemize when it comes to the subject of the USSR, Malia has the courage to refer to absurdities as absurdities. Other historians quite often discuss Soviet internal terrorism and irrational economic policies as things that HAD to be done, due to a variety of circumstances--as if these policies were either rational or sensible. Malia's analysis is far more astute; it demonstrates repeatedly that these "circumstances" were the RESULTS of trying to follow an irrational ideology and the fantastic economic policies that it dictated. One simply cannot understand the Soviet experience without emphasizing these points. Similarly, Malia shows that Stalinism was not an aberration, but an inevitable consequence of Lenin's model of government. The only way to keep such a state going was by terror, as Malia shows us. If the N.E.P. had been allowed to continue, the Leninist form of socialism in Russia would eventually have lapsed into Social Democratic reformism instead of the one-party dictatorship that alone could march along Lenin's path. It's no coincidence that either terror or economic collapse (or some mixture of both) have resulted everywhere the Leninist model has been tried; and Malia's most valuable contribution is showing us how and why this is so, and cannot be otherwise. As he pointed out, "socialism leads not to an assault on the specific abuses of 'capitalism' but to an assault on reality..." Of course, idle coffee-house intellectuals like Lenin and Trotsky spend their lives trying to escape reality; for them, this is the whole point. Reality is too painful for them because it is a glaring reminder of the fact that they spend their hours reading and writing while others toil.