Communism: The Vanished Specter

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Communism: The Vanished Specter

By Richard Pipes
Oxford University Press, 1994
84 pp. $15.95

These essays constitute two lectures delivered by the author to the Norwegian Nobel Institute last year. Pipes, the foremost American historian of the Russian revolution, considers the question of why communism collapsed so suddenly and unexpectedly and what larger lessons that might teach us about our own situation. In the first essay, which concentrates on the Bolshevik revolution, the author continues his dispute with revisionist historians who argue that the revolution was in some sense a reflection of deep popular forces. The revolution was rather, according to Pipes, highly artificial and contingent in its outcome, which partly explains why the communist experiment fell apart so quickly when the leadership fumbled in the 1980s. He also continues a dispute with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in which he argues that the revolution had deep roots in traditional Russian culture. In the second essay, the author goes on to suggest, in a way that will infuriate liberal critics, that some of the same rationalistic vices present in Bolshevism remain present in America's tax rates and efforts toward political correctness.

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