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4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent overview of a vast topic, 10 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Comrades: Communism: A World History (Kindle Edition)
Like Communism itself, this text of this book is dominated by the history of the USSR from 1917 to 1991. The result of this is that pre-1917 the often disparate ideas of those who called themselves "Communists" forms the basis of the text, but afterwards any spirit of intellectual enquiry vanishes, and the book is simply a straightforward history of the countries of the Eastern Bloc (and China from 1949).

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. The leaders in Eastern Europe post-1945 do not have the page-count to get across any sense of individuality or motivation behind their actions (with the possible exception of Tito) making these sections of the book more of a slog, though it may be that this colourlessness accurately reflects the regimes in question.

The excellent final chapter of the book suggests that Communism as demonstrated in the world should be seen as a peculiar accident of Russian history; if the "Ten Days That Shook The World" had failed to shake then it is unlikely that other Communist regimes would have either formed, or been allowed to form by the capitalist states. Speculation of this kind is absent from the earlier parts of the history, and while this makes for a shorter book it suggests that a longer work may well have been an even more rewarding one.
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Location: England

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