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The Idea of Communism (What Was Communism?)
Format: HardcoverChange
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 November 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed this short book, primarily for its summarisation of the communist history over the last two or so centuries. That aspect is handled quite well. In my opinion the subject is captured well and the author appears to be far from an apologist of either the communist, or the capitalist systems, while at the same time also acknowledging the benefits of both.

His separation of communism from Stalinism that is performed is probably very necessary, if a realistic, as opposed to emotionally laden discussion of the topic is to take place.

I also completely agree with Ali's assertion that too little is actually known of the history of the communist movement today and that this is an unfortunate state of affairs. He gladly acknowledges that more substantive analysis can be found in scholarly work from the last 50 or so years, however what is offered here is a good enough start for someone with no or only average familiarity with the subject, which at least for most people growing up in a non-communist (in name or practice) state tends to be the case.

I would have prefered to also see a more comprehensive roadmap to where the journey might be going than the one provided and hope that better examples of alternative solutions can be found than Chavez. However overall the author manages to portray a much more realistic picture of the thinking behind the movement than has generally been the case in the public discourse over the last 20 years (not speaking of specialist literature, which might well have been of a higher standard throughout) and for that he should definitely be applauded.

As a final note - the graphical design of the book is particularly good.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2010
I suppose it's hardly surprising given recent events that Amazon should be awash with radical print. Depending on how you viewed the financial crisis in the first place, this is either the seizing of a golden opportunity or cynical publishers making hay while the sun shines before the inevitable retrenchment.
Tariq Ali's "The Idea Of Communism" is, I expect, an example of the former.
It's a timely potted history and whilst there's nothing new it's a useful primer for anyone puzzled with how seemingly intelligent people (I flatter myself) can defend it. If I have any reservations it would only be with his conclusion that capitalist democracy was a long time coming and had its own dictators (Cromwell, Robespierre, Napoleon etc...) so we should anticipate similar setbacks in a transition to socialism. Whilst perfectly true, it is never the less troublesome. It seems to suggest the Stalinist excesses and denial of workers liberty in Russia and the satellite states were in some sense inevitable and therefore legitimate. I suppose if you cleave to the idea of Stalinist Russia being a workers state (albeit one of the Heinz's varieties of degenerated / degenerate / deformed / with bureaucratic deformation etc...) you paint yourself into this corner. However, for someone with Ali's impeccable anti-imperialist credentials it's ironic that his position reminds me of the US's defence of My Lai - In order to save the village we had to destroy it.

That aside, as a famous German playwright said "It's a good thing for you find out more about it". This is as good a place to start as any.
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