COMMUNISM: A Brief History

Richard Pipes, Author . Modern Library $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-679-64050-9

This opinionated introduction to communism would be better subtitled "requiem for a misguided ideology." Pipes (The Russian Revolution) focuses much of the book on his own field of specialty—the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. The Harvard historian is at his best here, providing a thorough account of the ascendancy of the Russian party in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in accessible and at times eloquent prose: "Soviet totalitarianism thus grew out of Marxist seeds planted on the soil of tsarist patrimonialism." Part of the Modern Library's series on world history, the book details Soviet atrocities, emphasizing how Communist agricultural policies not only suppressed human rights but led to famines that killed millions of Soviet citizens. The sections on communism in other countries are much shorter and not as strong, particularly the discussion of Chile, in which Pipes fails to address the involvement of the United States in the 1973 coup that overthrew Socialist leader Salvador Allende. Throughout this volume, Pipes, a longtime Cold Warrior who served as Reagan's National Security Council adviser on Soviet and East European affairs, is on a mission to prove that communism's egalitarian impulses run contrary to human nature. Whether or not they agree with Pipes's views, students and general readers alike will benefit from this concise, insightful work. (Sept.)

Forecast:The book is certain to be widely taught in its field—and will be promoted in a brochure mailing to historians—but a three-city author tour and series advertising in the New York Times Book Review, the Chronicle of Higher Education and Lingua Franca should help the book find a more general—though learned—readership as well.

Reviewed on: 07/09/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-8129-6864-4
Hardcover - 84 pages - 978-82-00-21908-8
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4498-8610-3
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