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Communism: A History

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With astonishing authority and clarity, Richard Pipes has fused a lifetime’s scholarship into a single focused history of Communism, from its hopeful birth as a theory to its miserable death as a practice. At its heart, the book is a history of the Soviet Union, the most comprehensive reorganization of human society ever attempted by a nation-state. This is the story of ho With astonishing authority and clarity, Richard Pipes has fused a lifetime’s scholarship into a single focused history of Communism, from its hopeful birth as a theory to its miserable death as a practice. At its heart, the book is a history of the Soviet Union, the most comprehensive reorganization of human society ever attempted by a nation-state. This is the story of how the agitation of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, two mid-nineteenth-century European thinkers and writers, led to a great and terrible world religion that brought down a mighty empire, consumed the world in conflict, and left in its wake a devastation whose full costs can only now be tabulated.


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With astonishing authority and clarity, Richard Pipes has fused a lifetime’s scholarship into a single focused history of Communism, from its hopeful birth as a theory to its miserable death as a practice. At its heart, the book is a history of the Soviet Union, the most comprehensive reorganization of human society ever attempted by a nation-state. This is the story of ho With astonishing authority and clarity, Richard Pipes has fused a lifetime’s scholarship into a single focused history of Communism, from its hopeful birth as a theory to its miserable death as a practice. At its heart, the book is a history of the Soviet Union, the most comprehensive reorganization of human society ever attempted by a nation-state. This is the story of how the agitation of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, two mid-nineteenth-century European thinkers and writers, led to a great and terrible world religion that brought down a mighty empire, consumed the world in conflict, and left in its wake a devastation whose full costs can only now be tabulated.

30 review for Communism: A History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mik Sabiers

    Some interesting facts and points, particularly at the start, but then it just turns into a tirade about why capitalism is good and communism is wrong, by the end I was not just angry but flabbergasted, especially about his positive reference to the Pinochet coup in Chile and how they delat with the Allende regime, I'm surprised the author has any credibility in academic circles by the one sided nature of this treatise. Only worth reading as a way of understanding the blinkered viewpoint of the Some interesting facts and points, particularly at the start, but then it just turns into a tirade about why capitalism is good and communism is wrong, by the end I was not just angry but flabbergasted, especially about his positive reference to the Pinochet coup in Chile and how they delat with the Allende regime, I'm surprised the author has any credibility in academic circles by the one sided nature of this treatise. Only worth reading as a way of understanding the blinkered viewpoint of the right, but even as a know your enemy read it is too nice, I shall add notes to my copy and leave it for someone to pick up and read...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Gerald

    The proper indictment of a rotten ideology that enslaved and murdered millions of people, this book's concise expose and explanation of an idea in theory and practice is a definite must read. The proper indictment of a rotten ideology that enslaved and murdered millions of people, this book's concise expose and explanation of an idea in theory and practice is a definite must read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    This book definitely has some interesting research, but I found that the thesis was not well proven overall. Pipes has an obvious anticommunist bent, and he has a way of distorting or "cherry-picking" facts to fit his ideas. By the end of the book, I was so turned off by his arguments that I will probably never read another of his books. This book definitely has some interesting research, but I found that the thesis was not well proven overall. Pipes has an obvious anticommunist bent, and he has a way of distorting or "cherry-picking" facts to fit his ideas. By the end of the book, I was so turned off by his arguments that I will probably never read another of his books.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    Richard Pipes sets out to answer whether the failure of Communism "was due to human error or to flaws inherent in its very nature." To resolve this question, Pipes traces the history of Communism from its conceit, through its regimes in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and then to its repeated demise in those places. Then, in an excellent final chapter, Pipes annihilates both the practice and philosophy of Communism and gives a resounding answer to the book's original question. Parting word goes Richard Pipes sets out to answer whether the failure of Communism "was due to human error or to flaws inherent in its very nature." To resolve this question, Pipes traces the history of Communism from its conceit, through its regimes in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and then to its repeated demise in those places. Then, in an excellent final chapter, Pipes annihilates both the practice and philosophy of Communism and gives a resounding answer to the book's original question. Parting word goes to Pipes: "If it is ever revived, it will be defiance of history and with the certainty of yet another costly failure. Such action will border on madness, which has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Barry Smirnoff

    Primer on anti-communism This right wing introduction to communism is not a balanced analysis. It relies on the authors view that humans are acquisitive by nature and the the socialist programs can not be carried out without coercion and conflict. None of socialism’s successes are mentioned. Millions were sacrificed for a system that is doomed for failure. Innovation is not possible. Human nature can not be adapted to create a better society. This is just bullshit!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Esra'a Chahine

    Generally, the book is a good overview of Communism history. Pipes focused mainly on Russia's Lenin and Stalin time, a bit of Cuba, China, and Cambodia. However, he kept claiming how awful is communism in theory and practice and how great is capitalism, supporting his claim with the destruction of the Soviet Union instead of the destruction of capitalism, as Marx predicted. As well as, continuously mentioning the atrocities of communism without mentioning the atrocities of capitalism. Thus, If h Generally, the book is a good overview of Communism history. Pipes focused mainly on Russia's Lenin and Stalin time, a bit of Cuba, China, and Cambodia. However, he kept claiming how awful is communism in theory and practice and how great is capitalism, supporting his claim with the destruction of the Soviet Union instead of the destruction of capitalism, as Marx predicted. As well as, continuously mentioning the atrocities of communism without mentioning the atrocities of capitalism. Thus, If he wanted to make a comparison, the comparison is apparently biased. I did not like how he covered Chile's Salvador Allende time, as he just claimed that democratic communism is infeasible as the reason of Allende removal and did not mention the U.S intervention in 9-11-1973 coup d'etat and how U.S installed Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

  7. 4 out of 5

    The Laughing Man

    A Must Read before Black Book of Communism A clear headed disillusioned look at the cancer called communism / marxism. Im also glad he didnt forget to mention the similarities of it with its sister ideologies fascism and nazism.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

    the pathway to the perdition of humanity was barged open by that masturbating philosopher i sincerely think that the perishment of ussr was a great leap forward for human civilization...but there are now those cunting Chinese commie motherfuckers...

  9. 5 out of 5

    fred

    I loved this book. As a child of the cold war I grew up with Communism being shoved down our throats as the answer to everything, while the rest of us stupid people in the entire world saw the non-answer that it was. Even now Castro can't be praised enough. How much of a absolute failure does a idea have to be before it goes to the ash heap of history? I guess the entire Russian subcontinent, or Eastern Europe is not enough apparently. I loved this book. As a child of the cold war I grew up with Communism being shoved down our throats as the answer to everything, while the rest of us stupid people in the entire world saw the non-answer that it was. Even now Castro can't be praised enough. How much of a absolute failure does a idea have to be before it goes to the ash heap of history? I guess the entire Russian subcontinent, or Eastern Europe is not enough apparently.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lucky

    Great book. I've always been so curious and have struggled to rap my mind around what Communism really meant, what life was/is like under "Communist" regimes, and how they came to power all over the world. This book answers a lot of questions I've had and fills in a lot of gaps in my understanding of it. Also, it is well written and easy to read. I'd enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone who is as curious on this subject as myself. Great book. I've always been so curious and have struggled to rap my mind around what Communism really meant, what life was/is like under "Communist" regimes, and how they came to power all over the world. This book answers a lot of questions I've had and fills in a lot of gaps in my understanding of it. Also, it is well written and easy to read. I'd enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone who is as curious on this subject as myself.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chase Parsley

    This concise 160 page book is quite simply the best book on the history of communism I have ever read. It is easy to read and explains the entire movement from Marx to 1991. To understand the 20th century this is a crucial topic to digest. Also I would like to mention that Pipes is really hard on Lenin. I used to hold Lenin to a higher standard than say a Stalin, but Pipes skillfully argues that Lenin laid all of the groundwork and was as ruthless as anyone. A great, great little book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alina

    gonna rip every page and wipe my ass with it

  13. 5 out of 5

    sage

    This is AWFUL. For a far more balanced and significantly less ethnocentric view, read The Red Flag: Communism and the Making of the Modern World by David Priestland. (No really. Pipes attacks the KGB but doesn't acknowledge the covert security services of any of the many other countries active in the Cold War. Also, there are numerous factual errors and misleading arguments in the Latin American section, especially concerning Nicaragua and Chile. And he repeatedly conflates examples separated by This is AWFUL. For a far more balanced and significantly less ethnocentric view, read The Red Flag: Communism and the Making of the Modern World by David Priestland. (No really. Pipes attacks the KGB but doesn't acknowledge the covert security services of any of the many other countries active in the Cold War. Also, there are numerous factual errors and misleading arguments in the Latin American section, especially concerning Nicaragua and Chile. And he repeatedly conflates examples separated by more than sixty years and then tries to claim they demonstrate a pattern, while refusing to admit to any other historio-political circumstances playing a role. This is a FANTASTIC example of terrible scholarship. I am appalled.)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Fitzpatrick

    A short book that you should give to every college student to counter all the Marxism-Leninism thrust on them.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elyse

    I wanted to read a book about communism after serving my mission in Hungary and seeing the aftermath. It solidified my belief in the wickedness of the communist system. This book covered Lenin and Stalin in Russia, as well as a little of Mao Ze Dang in China, and Fidel Castro in Cuba. The focus was on Russia and Lenin and Stalin.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jon Beadle

    An incredible little read! I found the part on Maoism most curious; especially western intellectuals particular fascination with such a willing murderer.

  17. 4 out of 5

    RyanJ C1

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This has been a great book that taught me about how communism was made. I love the amount of fact and realism this book includes it has been really fun to read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lurch

    A very brief history of the USSR, the reception in the west, and brief mentionings of communism in the east. It summarizes the main criticisms of communism, and offers his explanation why the communist regimes of the past failed and the horrors it inflicted on people. His points are mostly well backed and he offers sources, except when he tries to argue against the overall philosophy of socialism and human nature. His arguments become weak in those respect. Obviously when you read the author's b A very brief history of the USSR, the reception in the west, and brief mentionings of communism in the east. It summarizes the main criticisms of communism, and offers his explanation why the communist regimes of the past failed and the horrors it inflicted on people. His points are mostly well backed and he offers sources, except when he tries to argue against the overall philosophy of socialism and human nature. His arguments become weak in those respect. Obviously when you read the author's biography you will notice the anti-communist and anti-socialist orientation, as such is also this book. Generally he almost never considers the role of capitalism on people's life, be it to to the shortness of the book, or the authors own ideological orientation. Nevertheless it is a quick and easy read, and worth if you want to engage yourself into a debate what the flaws of the communist regimes were, and what the flaws of orthodox marxist theory are. Of course this book does not offer a well rounded perspective on that.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    An informative overview/review of one of the driving forces of the 20th Century that I realized I did not know about in nearly enough detail. Pipes lays out the rise and fall of the Big C, from idealism to oppression, and examines why it is a flawed concept at its core. Here's a part I found particularly fitting for our current political climate: "Most...sympathizers were not oblivious to the odious aspects of Communist rule, but they rationalized them in various ways: by blaming extraneous caus An informative overview/review of one of the driving forces of the 20th Century that I realized I did not know about in nearly enough detail. Pipes lays out the rise and fall of the Big C, from idealism to oppression, and examines why it is a flawed concept at its core. Here's a part I found particularly fitting for our current political climate: "Most...sympathizers were not oblivious to the odious aspects of Communist rule, but they rationalized them in various ways: by blaming extraneous causes, such as the legacy of tsarism and the hostility of the 'capitalist' West." (97) And then there's this: popular estimates of the global number of Communism's victims is placed between 85 and 100 million. Staggering. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot--all madmen.

  20. 4 out of 5

    sologdin

    a gratuitous contribution by a lying CIA thug. attempts to argue that the commie system had no accomplishments and was a waste. text demonstrates numerous defects regarding doctrine and misleading usage of historical data, as usual for this author.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    This was most definitely a very informative book on communism. the best, if you want a quick & understandable read about its history. makes me want to read more about communism honestly. i really adore history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    Great book. Perfect for the reader with little or no knowledge of communism. Offers wonderful context for the major events of the last 100 years.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dakota

    Excellent, succinct work. Pipes presents a thorough summary of the philosophy and the practice of Communism, and finds it wanting.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steven Passmore

    Obviously communism failed, but Jesus Christ this book is biased.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Yogy TheBear

    Indead this is an accusatory history of communism. Yet is it not a legit accusation ? Pipes, who is on the right is accused by some of being against the left... what a naive surprise for the left...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dylan Chuang

    Communism: A History by Richard Pipes is a biased, unethical piece of writing. It covers the entire key points of communism, from Karl Marx to Vladimir Lenin to Stalin to Mao and Castro. It is historically accurate, and covers the main ideology of communism, from Marx's critique of capitalism in his volume Capital, Vol. 1: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production, to Marxism-Leninism, and lastly, to Maoism. Richard Pipes also clearly describes the human flaws in communism and the mass murde Communism: A History by Richard Pipes is a biased, unethical piece of writing. It covers the entire key points of communism, from Karl Marx to Vladimir Lenin to Stalin to Mao and Castro. It is historically accurate, and covers the main ideology of communism, from Marx's critique of capitalism in his volume Capital, Vol. 1: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production, to Marxism-Leninism, and lastly, to Maoism. Richard Pipes also clearly describes the human flaws in communism and the mass murder committed by power-hungry leaders, such as Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, and Sankara. But, Richard Pipes is an anti-communist way, and his writing style is like any other westernized stereotype. What about the human part of communism? The advanced political system in the Soviet Union? When the Soviet Union took ten years to industrialize as opposed to the monarch, democratic Europe? Richard Pipes just finds the bad parts of communism and leaves out the parts where communism has claimed victorious. He even goes on and mentions how the communist countries today rely on capitalism, but capitalist countries also rely on capitalism. Canada, America, Britain, Australia, and lots of other countries rely on leftist or communist values. This book is a must-read if you want to know how the West's perception of communism.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Matheus Araujo

    The author is so biased that from the middle of the book until the end I’ve started to question if any of the things that I didn’t have previous knowledge about were true. From blaming the communist party of the soviet union for the rise of Hitler to power, because it didn’t joined forces with the socialist party, to justifying Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship while complaining about the soviet union totalitarianism. If you’re actually looking for a book about the history of communism, this is not The author is so biased that from the middle of the book until the end I’ve started to question if any of the things that I didn’t have previous knowledge about were true. From blaming the communist party of the soviet union for the rise of Hitler to power, because it didn’t joined forces with the socialist party, to justifying Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship while complaining about the soviet union totalitarianism. If you’re actually looking for a book about the history of communism, this is not it. This is a collection of cherry-picked facts, 80% of them focused on Stalin. Got 2 stars instead of 1 because some of these facts were interesting (although I may still doubt that all of them are true).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Shewmaker

    A concise and accessible exposé of Communism and its practice, perversions, and revisionisms. Above all else, Pipes does well in revealing Communist parties not as adherents to Marxist canon but self-serving interests (much like all political groups). I've never understood just how the system spread globally, but the author easily explicates former Soviet preeminence and the functions of the Comintern. Perhaps some more time could have been spent detailing the West's interactions with Communist A concise and accessible exposé of Communism and its practice, perversions, and revisionisms. Above all else, Pipes does well in revealing Communist parties not as adherents to Marxist canon but self-serving interests (much like all political groups). I've never understood just how the system spread globally, but the author easily explicates former Soviet preeminence and the functions of the Comintern. Perhaps some more time could have been spent detailing the West's interactions with Communist states so as to provide a more holistic understanding of the international implications of warring economic and political philosophies.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    This isn’t really a history of communism. It’s a diatribe against it. Once you’ve gotten your head around it being a polemic, and thus adjusted your expectations, it does have some merit and it’s a worthwhile read. To hear the other side of the argument, I’d suggest reading Terry Eagleton’s ‘Why Marx Was Right’. It’s equally biased, but openly so, and regardless of where you stand politically, a far more entertaining read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristjan Lukk

    This book talked only little about the theory of communism and much more about the reality of what happened when different people tried to turn the world into a communist society in the 20th century. It's a good summary of what happened, but does not dive into the topic. Still it was a good (and fast) reading experience. This book talked only little about the theory of communism and much more about the reality of what happened when different people tried to turn the world into a communist society in the 20th century. It's a good summary of what happened, but does not dive into the topic. Still it was a good (and fast) reading experience.

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