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The Red Flag: A History of Communism
Synopses & Reviews
"Priestland, a lecturer in modern history at Oxford, delivers almost 700 pages of stormy history, but the pace never flags. Underlying the narrative is a nuanced understanding of communism as an ideology that took on different forms (romantic, radical, modernist) depending on local and historical context. But all were inherently unstable. According to Priestland, the Jacobins of the French Revolution planted the seeds of modern communism. They claimed to be building a modern state on principles of true, universal equality while treating those who disagreed as enemies of equality. In the following century, Marx proclaimed communism's scientific basis and the inevitability of global revolution. The 1917 Russian revolution caught everyone's attention, but despite universalist rhetoric, Soviet Communism became nationalistic and technocratic. This violated Marxist principles, but appealed to poor, rural nations after WWII. From Russia, Priestland moves to Latin America, Cuba and Africa, covering Communist guerrilla uprisings and urban terror, and the eventual lagging of economic development in the Soviet empire and China. The former collapsed and the latter has discarded Marxist ideology. Detailed and scholarly but written in lively prose, this is a rich, satisfying account of the most successful utopian political movement in history." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Communism was one of the most powerful political and intellectual movements the world has ever seen. At the height of their influence, Communists controlled more than a third of the earths surface. But perhaps more astonishing than its rapid rise and extraordinary reach was Communisms sudden, devastating collapse in November of 1989. In The Red Flag, Oxford professor David Priestland tells the epic story of a movement that has taken root in dozens of countries across two hundred years, from its birth after the French Revolution to its ideological maturity in nineteenth-century Germany to its rise to dominance (and subsequent fall) in the twentieth century. Beginning with the first modern Communists in the age of Robespierre, Priestland examines the motives of thinkers and leaders including Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Che Guevara, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Gorbachev, and many others. He also explores the experience of what it meant to live under Communism for its millions of subjects. At a time when global capitalism is in crisis and powerful new political forces have arisen to confront Western democracy, The Red Flag is essential reading if we are to apply the lessons of the past to navigating the future.
Priestland tells the epic story of Communism--a movement that has taken root in dozens of countries across 200 years--from its birth after the French Revolution to its ideological maturity in 19th-century Germany to its rise to dominance (and subsequent fall) in the 20th century.
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