cover image The Tailor of Ulm: Communism in the Twentieth Century

The Tailor of Ulm: Communism in the Twentieth Century

Lucio Magri, trans. from the Italian by by Patrick Camiller. Verso (Norton, dist.), $59.95 (448p) ISBN 9781844676989

The first of Magri's works to be translated into English is an exhaustive history of 20th-century communism around the world. Magri, who passed away in November 2011, devoted his life to politics and the Italian Communist Party, or PCI (Partito Comunista Italiano). He offers a unique viewpoint on recent history, and shares information that will be new to many Western readers. Magri begins with a review of important historical moments, discussing the events and implications of the Russian Revolution, the rise of the Communist Party, the Cold War, and the Marshall Plan, all of which Magri believes led to a "bipolar balance of power, involving peaceful competition between two systems and a limitation of military conflict to regional frameworks." In its heyday%E2%80%94the 1960s%E2%80%94, the PCI "was part of an international movement that governed a third of the world, within which it had finally achieved autonomy." But 50 years later, it inexplicably "wrote itself out of history, with the aim of making a %E2%80%98fresh start'" that never came to be. Magri goes on to explain the internal conflict that ultimately led to the defeat of the PCI%E2%80%94"at the polls and in its relationship to the masses"%E2%80%94, changes in world politics in the 1980s-1990s, and the congressional swan song of the PCI in %E2%80%9891. Those with a strong interest in modern history or political movements will find this densely detailed work compelling and thought-provoking. (Jan.)