Communism: A Very Short Introduction
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If now in decline since the tumultuous events of 1989, communism was without doubt the great political movement of the twentieth century--at its peak, more than a third of the world's population lived under communist rule--and it is still a powerful force in many areas of the world, most notably in the People's Republic of China. What is communism? Where did the idea come from and what attracted people to it? Is there a future for communism? This Very Short Introduction considers these questions and more in the search to explore and understand this controversial political force. Explaining the theory behind its ideology, and examining the history and mindset behind its political, economic and social structures, Leslie Holmes considers the evolution of communism from Marx's time, to its practice in the Bolshevik Revolution, to its collapse in 1989-91. Holmes highlights the inner dynamics, crises, and demise of communism as a global system, and introduces the major players in the communist world, including Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.
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perceived as a police force focused heavily on 63 The political system of communism Even highly centralized systems cannot administer everything from the capital; this becomes even more obvious in huge countries like the USSR or China. Thus Communist states had local administrations. But the power of these varied considerably according to time and place. At least in theory, the country in which they had the most power was Yugoslavia, with its selfmanagement system. In recent years, Chinese
the long term, a new type of society – communism – would emerge, in which there would be no ruling class and no alienation. Indeed, in this ultimate society, there would be no politics as such and no need for a state, which would ‘wither away’; the ‘government of persons’ would be replaced by the ‘administration of things’. But immediately 5 The theory of communism 1. Karl Marx and an early edition of Capital (Vol. 1) Communism following the socialist revolution, before this ultimate stage
states under the Soviet thumb than as a counterweight to the West has been put forward by Robin Remington. In support of her thesis, she points out that the only time Warsaw Pact troops actually saw action was in suppressing the Prague Spring in 1968. Her argument is persuasive. On the other hand, it should also be borne in mind that one member of the WTO (other than Czechoslovakia itself!) – Romania – refused to participate in the invasion, and that leaders of most of the East European states
intentionally left blank Chronology 1818 Karl Marx born in Trier, Prussia (now Germany) 1848 Publication of the Manifesto of the Communist Party 1867 Publication of Vol. 1 of Capital 1870 Vladimir Lenin born in Simbirsk, Russia 1879 Josef Stalin born in Gori, Georgia 1883 Death of Marx 1893 Mao Zedong born in Hunan Province, China 1902 Publication of Lenin’s What is to be Done? 1917 Publication of Lenin’s The State and Revolution; Bolshevik (October) Revolution in Russia 1922
Cuban Missile Crisis 32–3, 38 Cultural Revolution 40–2, 57, 64, 89, 109 culture, political 27 Czech Republic – see Czechia Czechia 134 Czechoslovakia 28, 61, 66, 125, 129 Communist accession to power 25–6 dissolution 98 economy 80, 82 and international blocs 105, 107–8 1968 14, 34–8, 105–6, 109, 121 political parties, aspects of 53, 60 Deng Xiaoping 42–3, 49–50, 83, 134 de´tente 39–40 determinism 15–16, 84, 127 Deutscher, Isaac 19 developing world 115–16 dialectics – see materialism, dialectical