In This Review

Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism

Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism
By Joshua Muravchik
417 pp, Encounter Books, 2002
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An engaging narrative of the twists and turns in socialism's history with a focus on the individuals who invented, popularized, redefined, and exploited socialism across the eras. The story begins with the early harbingers of the international socialist movement, such as Gracchus Babeuf and Robert Owen. The collaboration between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and the rise of scientific socialism is also discussed -- even though the connection between their writings and the wider political developments in Europe that made them such a force in history is strangely missing. The book then turns to the political triumphs and fractured pathways of Lenin's revolution, Benito Mussolini's fascism, Clement Atlee's Labour Party, and the African socialism of Julius Nyerere. In Muravchik's view, socialism failed because of its bad economic performance and, more generally, its historical inability to gain a foothold in the United States. In the end, the book's focus on colorful individuals provides interesting reading, but it fails to deliver a satisfactory account of how ideas, individuals, industrial capitalism, and world historical forces combined to produce socialism's great drama. Nor is there any effort to explore its lasting legacies or offer lessons for modern-day ideological movements.