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Richard Pipes, Baird Professor of History, Emeritus, at Harvard University, is the author of numerous books and essays, including The Russian Revolution, Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, and Property and Freedom. In 1981-82 he served as the Director of East European and Soviet Affairs on the National Security Council, and in 1992 he was an expert witness in the Russian Constitutional Court's trial against the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Chesham, New Hampshire.
Pipes brings to this short study unsurpassed credentials as a historian of 19th- and 20th-century Russia. His Russia Under the Old Regime (LJ 3/15/75. o.p.) offered, at much greater length than here, his views on the Bolshevik Revolution and the ensuing course of Soviet history. For him it is a tale of unremitting failure and tragedy, even more apocalyptic than that told in Martin Malia's The Soviet Tragedy (1994). Here he sketches out a background to the idea of communism, then outlines its application in Russia by Lenin, Stalin, and their heirs and its reception in the West and the Third World. Pipes is relentless. Communist leaders are ruthless or psychotic killers (in Pol Pot's case, fair enough), starry-eyed idealists, or corrupt and cynical party hacks. Castro is little better than a pimp for Cuban women. A final section, "Looking Back," emphasizes the human and psychological cost to Russia and the world of this illusion. As a brief, polemical diatribe by one of its fiercest Western critics and historians, this short account of communism should provoke and instruct. For general and academic libraries. Robert Johnston, McMaster Univ., Hamilton, Ont. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"In the name of great good, Communism has brought great evil. . . . If you've wondered how your children and grandchildren are going to grasp this large and alien reality, a good move is to make sure they own this book." --The Weekly Standard "The publication of Richard Pipes' Communism: A History . . . is of signal importance. One cannot put it down without realizing, once and for all, that the road to utopia is paved with the bodies of the innocent--and leads nowhere." --Baltimore Sun "I wish every university student . . . would read this grim book." --Paul Johnson In the name of great good, Communism has brought great evil. . . . If you ve wondered how your children and grandchildren are going to grasp this large and alien reality, a good move is to make sure they own this book. "The Weekly Standard" The publication of Richard Pipes "Communism: A History" . . . is of signal importance. One cannot put it down without realizing, once and for all, that the road to utopia is paved with the bodies of the innocent and leads nowhere. Baltimore "Sun" I wish every university student . . . would read this grim book. Paul Johnson"