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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reflections on the destructive side of Leninism and Stalinism, 11 May 2009
This review is from: The God That Failed (Paperback)
The famous collection "The God that Failed" contains reflections by three famous writers/activists who were members of the Communist Party in their nation (Koestler, Silone and Wright), and three who were, at least in the view of some, fellow travellers (Gide, Fischer, Spender). Each of them explains in short anecdotal style, mixed with philosophical and political musings, how they came to be an orthodox Communist, and how they came to leave this position.

All of these contributions make for excellent reading, and together they form an entirely and incontrovertibly damning picture of both the strategies and the mindset of the various Marxist-Leninist Parties and their leading adherents. In that way this book forms an excellent companion to the works of Orwell, Edmund Wilson and similar people who were also sympathetic to socialism of various kinds, but came to see the "official" Marxism of the USSR and its followers as a destructive and evil force. Because that is what goes for all these writers as well as for Orwell - despite the claim of conservatives to books like this, all of the contributors to this collection still supported socialism at the end, only a different kind of socialism, more humane, more sensitive, and for some even more religious. None of them regretted their initial motives in joining the Party, but all of them felt that the Party is rather the kind of thing they wanted to fight against in the first place - the ultimate deception, caused by the dangers in the political methodology of Marxism-Leninism.

It is well-known by now, but it wasn't so evident then. Marxism-Leninism necessarily rests on two main axiomas: first, that the Party is inherently the most progressive force and representative of the struggle for socialism and the proletariat's role in this; and second, that the ends, as embodied in the Party, always justify the means. Together, these two rules risk forming a deadly recipe for totalitarianism and tyranny over the mind, regardless of how well-intentioned its adherents may or may not have been. One need but look at the many revealing 'incidents' mentioned in this book, or even at Orwell's excellent memoirs of the Spanish Civil War (which Koestler has also written about), to see why this is true.

Conservatives and liberals use this book as ammunition, incorrectly assuming that this is meant for them and to support their views. That is not so. All of the writers in this collection despised professional anti-communism and went on doing so until their death. It is not they who should read this book, but all socialists in this world who should read it, so that we know what happens when we abdicate the search for truth and make it subservient to opportunistic politics, regardless of what goals we have in mind in doing so. People of unfree mind can never build a free world.
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