Comrades: A World History of Communism Hardcover – Unabridged, 4 May 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
Most of the book, especially the earlier part, is focused on the USSR, but there is decent insight into Yugoslavia, Cuba, and China. However, Comrades is not a simple chronology of the world communist movement, it is an account of the factors, the attitudes, and the evolving nature of communism, and why it ultimately failed.
Service begins with a theoretical analysis of pre-Marxist communist, followed with examination of Marx and Engels, the early communist movement, leading to the Russian Revolution. While it focuses on the policies, power struggles, and other key factors, it frequently backtracks to the attitudes, and fortunes of people in communist parties all around the world, particularly Great Britain, Italy, France and the USA.
The only criticism one can have with Comrades is that certain countries, perhaps some of the most severe, such as Albania and North Korea, could have done with some more insight, but with a book so decently constructed, one can hardly quibble.
Service reaches a conclusion, held by many, that Communism, as we knew in the Soviet or Maoist models, is highly unlikely to ever return in such a guise. However, the legacy of communism is strongly ingrained and is unlikely to ever disappear in the near future. Such a legacy is the burden on democratic development, authoritarian practices, and the continual nature of the Chinese state, which retains all the key characteristics of communist authoritarianism.
Robert Service decently accounts for the failure of communism, and with regard to the pivotal moment, Perestroika, he delivers a fairly positive portrait of Gorbachev, but concedes that ultimately Gorbachev held a romanticized view of a caring, humanitanitarian Lenin who ultimately never existed.
It is also a subject on which it is impossible to be neutral. Communism as a monstrous ideology which led to more deaths than Facism, a brutal system implemented by thuggish dictators? Or a utopian idea whose time was not right, or that was implemented in the wrong places? A brave attempt at challenging age old iniquities, or an concept with a foolish disregard for human weaknesses. With this in mind it is important to note that Robert Service does have a bias, but that all historians do, and he does his job as an academic historian well with a thorough grasp of the sources available.
Some have commented that Service does not come across as a fan of communism. To be fair this might be true, but then given the raft of evidence at hand of the excesses in the Soviet system this is unsurprising. What is more important is that as far as possible Service approaches the subject dispassionately and does not become a slave to an ideological dogma. Instead he is thorough in his research, and lets the evidence speak for itself.
Unsurprisingly he is an expert in the history of Russia, a fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford and was one of the first historians to gain access to the Soviet archives after the collapse of the USSR.Read more ›
There are digressions into the West, particularly the Italian and French Communist Parties - and an amusing look at the splintered history of the British Communist movement - but the majority of the book is an overview of the history of those countries that called themselves "Communist" or "Socialist". The unchecked nature of the policy pursued in those countries is established, and while the book presents a factual base for all assertions the occasional authorial sideswipe at a regime or leader does sometimes jar; however, this slight editorial mis-step does rather pale against the crimes taking place in the countries themselves.
Covering such a vast number of countries does mean that any individual focus can be lost: the fall of the Ceaușescu regime takes two pages, while there is hardly a mention of what happens to the Baltic states from 1945 to 1989. Latin America is covered in more depth: both Cuba and Chile are given a relatively sympathetic hearing, with the government of Allende in Chile repeatedly shown to be the only near-Communist state that did not repress its population.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Comrades is probably the best one-volume summary of the rise and fall of Communism you will find. Certainly overshadowed in specific detail by books focusssing on certain leaders... Read morePublished on 29 Nov. 2012 by Paul Reynolds
It is notoriously difficult to get a neutral view of communism. Read any review of Das Kapital or The Communist Manifesto and you will frequently find them either awe-struck or... Read morePublished on 28 Dec. 2011 by Magic Lemur
It is notoriously difficult to get a neutral view of communism. Read any review of Das Kapital or The Communist Manifesto and you will frequently find them either awe-struck or... Read morePublished on 10 Jun. 2011 by Magic Lemur
A decent and quite well written run through of the history of communism and communists.
This is a huge subject and for me ,who is by no means an expert, the book was just the... Read more
i have really enjoyed reading this book so it has opened up my mind a views thank you so very muchPublished on 15 Oct. 2009 by wolfie o'riordan
Robert Service, well-known conservative historian of Russia, has undertaken a difficult task in attempting to write a concise and accessible history of Communism as a political... Read morePublished on 24 May 2009 by M. A. Krul
This book receives two stars for having a good contents, index and references for further reading and ease of access for students or readers wishing to make a quick reference. Read morePublished on 28 Sept. 2008 by Lark