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Can Politics Be Thought?
Alain Badiou
Duke University Press, 2018
In Can Politics Be Thought?—published in French in 1985 and appearing here in English for the first time—Alain Badiou offers his most forceful and systematic analysis of the crisis of Marxism. Distinguishing politics as an active mode of thinking from the political as a domain of the State, Badiou argues for the continuation of Marxist politics. In so doing, he shows why we need to recapture the emancipatory hypothesis of Marx's original gesture in order to actualize its radical potential. This volume also includes Badiou's “Of an Obscure Disaster: On the End of the Truth of the State,” in which he rebuts claims of Communism's death after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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Captives of Revolution
The Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolshevik Dictatorship, 1918–1923
Scott B. Smith
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011

The Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) were the largest political party in Russia in the crucial revolutionary year of 1917.  Heirs to the legacy of the People’s Will movement, the SRs were unabashed proponents of peasant rebellion and revolutionary terror, emphasizing the socialist transformation of the countryside and a democratic system of government as their political goals. They offered a compelling, but still socialist, alternative to the Bolsheviks, yet by the early 1920s their party was shattered and its members were branded as enemies of the revolution.  In 1922, the SR leaders became the first fellow socialists to be condemned by the Bolsheviks as “counter-revolutionaries” in the prototypical Soviet show trial.
      In Captives of the Revolution, Scott B. Smith presents both a convincing account of the defeat of the SRs and a deeper analysis of the significance of the political dynamics of the Civil War for subsequent Soviet history.  Once the SRs decided to openly fight the Bolsheviks in 1918, they faced a series of nearly impossible political dilemmas.  At the same time, the Bolsheviks fatally undermined the revolutionary credentials of the SRs by successfully appropriating the rhetoric of class struggle, painting a simplistic picture of Reds versus Whites in the Civil War, a rhetorical dominance that they converted into victory over the SRs and any left-wing alternative to Bolshevik dictatorship.  In this narrative, the SRs became a bona fide threat to national security and enemies of the people—a characterization that proved so successful that it became an archetype to be used repeatedly by the Soviet leadership against any political opponents, even those from within the Bolshevik party itself.  
      In this groundbreaking study, Smith reveals a more complex and nuanced picture of the postrevolutionary struggle for power in Russia than we have ever seen before and demonstrates that the Civil War—and in particular the struggle with the SRs—was the formative experience of the Bolshevik party and the Soviet state.


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China at War
Triumph and Tragedy in the Emergence of the New China
Hans van de Ven
Harvard University Press, 2018

China’s mid-twentieth-century wars pose extraordinary interpretive challenges. The issue is not just that the Chinese fought for such a long time—from the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of July 1937 until the close of the Korean War in 1953—across such vast territory. As Hans van de Ven explains, the greatest puzzles lie in understanding China’s simultaneous external and internal wars. Much is at stake, politically, in how this story is told.

Today in its official history and public commemorations, the People’s Republic asserts Chinese unity against Japan during World War II. But this overwrites the era’s stark divisions between Communists and Nationalists, increasingly erasing the civil war from memory. Van de Ven argues that the war with Japan, the civil war, and its aftermath were in fact of a piece—a singular process of conflict and political change. Reintegrating the Communist uprising with the Sino-Japanese War, he shows how the Communists took advantage of wartime to increase their appeal, how fissures between the Nationalists and Communists affected anti-Japanese resistance, and how the fractious coalition fostered conditions for revolution.

In the process, the Chinese invented an influential paradigm of war, wherein the Clausewitzian model of total war between well-defined interstate enemies gave way to murky campaigns of national liberation involving diverse domestic and outside belligerents. This history disappears when the realities of China’s mid-century conflicts are stripped from public view. China at War recovers them.


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China Under Mao
A Revolution Derailed
Andrew G. Walder
Harvard University Press, 2015

China’s Communist Party seized power in 1949 after a long period of guerrilla insurgency followed by full-scale war, but the Chinese revolution was just beginning. China Under Mao narrates the rise and fall of the Maoist revolutionary state from 1949 to 1976—an epoch of startling accomplishments and disastrous failures, steered by many forces but dominated above all by Mao Zedong.

“Walder convincingly shows that the effect of Maoist inequalities still distorts China today…[It] will be a mind-opening book for many (and is a depressing reminder for others).”
—Jonathan Mirsky, The Spectator

“Andrew Walder’s account of Mao’s time in power is detailed, sophisticated and powerful…Walder takes on many pieces of conventional wisdom about Mao’s China and pulls them apart…What was it that led so much of China’s population to follow Mao’s orders, in effect to launch a civil war against his own party? There is still much more to understand about the bond between Mao and the wider population. As we try to understand that bond, there will be few better guides than Andrew Walder’s book. Sober, measured, meticulous in every deadly detail, it is an essential assessment of one of the world’s most important revolutions.”
—Rana Mitter, Times Literary Supplement


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A TLS Companion
Edited by Ferdinand Mount
University of Chicago Press, 1993
From the overthrow of the tsars until the sudden collapse of Soviet communism, the most influential Western analysts have reflected on and debated the rise and fall of communism in the pages of the TLS. The diverse opinions gathered in Communism: A TLS Companion reflect the succession of Western attitudes to the birth, growth, and death of communism.

Contributors to this volume include Isaac Deutscher, Eric Hobsbawm, Richard Pipes, Hugh Seton-Watson, Robert Conquest, Geoffrey Hosking, C. M. Woodhouse, Max Hayward, Leszek Kolakowski, Timothy Garton Ash, and many others of equal distinction. The volume is arranged in four sections covering the period leading to the Russian Revolution, the post-Revolution era of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin; the Soviet Union from World War II to 1968; and the final period of disillusionment and collapse.


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Communism and China
Ideology in Flux
Benjamin I. Schwartz
Harvard University Press

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Communism Day-to-Day
State Enterprises in East German Society
Sandrine Kott
University of Michigan Press, 2014

First published in France in 2001 by Éditions Belin under the title Le communisme au quotidien, Sandrine Kott’s book examines how East German businesses and government carried out communist practices on a daily basis and how citizens and workers experienced the conditions created by the totalitarian state in their daily lives. Kott undertakes a social analysis of the Communist Party’s grasp on state enterprises and the limits of its power. She then analyzes the enterprises themselves and the social, generational, and gender tensions that had a profound impact on the lived experience of socialism. Finally, she considers the development and acceptance of a complex set of rituals and gift exchanges that masked latent conflicts while providing meaning to socialism’s role in ordinary life.


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Communism in Mexico
A Study in Political Frustration
By Karl M. Schmitt
University of Texas Press, 1965

The ease with which Cuba slipped into its relationship with Communism revived in the United States its recurring nightmare in which other Latin American countries, particularly Mexico, become satellites of Russia or Red China. But such an occurrence is most unlikely in Mexico, according to Karl Schmitt, former intelligence research analyst with the United States Department of State.

Communism in Mexico traces efforts during the early twentieth century to create a Soviet-style society in one of the largest and most strategically situated of the Latin American countries. Schmitt writes authoritatively of the Mexican Communist movement, tracing its development from an early and potentially powerful political-economic base to the increasingly fragmented and weakened collection of parties and front groups of the 1960s. He follows the various schisms and factional divisions to the mid-1950s, when the process of disintegration became most noticeable, and explores and analyzes in detail Communist attempts since then to establish unity among the many quarreling and frustrated groups of the now-splintered movement.

Three Communist parties in Mexico, a score of front groups, and numerous infiltration cells in non-Communist organizations such as student and labor groups, all recognize in a broad way a common and ultimate goal: the creation of a Soviet-style society. But their attempts at unity have consistently led only to further bickering and frustration. This period is subjected to a thorough study and analysis in an effort to understand and explain the Communists' lack of success. Schmitt presciently concludes that Communism's future in Mexico will be as cloudy as its past, and that the accelerating economy and improving social conditions there will serve to weaken the movement still further.


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Communism, Religion, and Revolt in Banten in the Early Twentieth Century
Mis Sea#86
Michael Williams
Ohio University Press, 1990

Twice in this century popular revolts against colonial rule have occured in the Banten district of West Java. These revolts, conducted largely under an Islamic leadership, also proclaimed themselves Communist. Islamic Communism is seemingly a paradox. This is especially the case when one considers that probably no religion has proved more resistant to Communist ideology than Islam.

Michael Williams here details the complicated history of the Bantenese revolts in the twentieth century and probes the ideological riddle of Islamic Communism. Modern history is replete with examples of regions with a long history of organizing themselves politically to resist intrusion on their territory, resources, and people. This book establishes that in Indonesia, the Bantenese were among the most practiced exponents of resistance.


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The Communist Party in Maryland, 1919-57
Vernon L. Pedersen
University of Illinois Press, 2001
This rare grass-roots account of American communism traces the rise and fall of Maryland's Communist Party from the time of the Russian Revolution to the McCarthy era. Drawing on sources including the central archives of the Communist Party of the United States of America, recovered from remote storage in Siberia in 1993, Vernon L. Pedersen presents a sharp challenge to revisionist views of American communism as a benign domestic movement detached from Soviet interests.
Bolsheviks in Baltimore charts the uneven transformation of Baltimore's fledgling Communists into underground revolutionaries in the 1920s. Pedersen documents the mercurial careers of local organizers, their devotion to the Soviet cause, and their efforts to convert the Party from a hodgepodge of ethnic groups to an effective instrument of class interests. He also tracks the public's changing perception of the Communists, from amused unconcern to alarm, and details how the Ober antisubversive law and the HUAC hearings of the 1950s dismantled the Party from without while planting seeds of paranoia that destroyed it from within.
Behind the public fear of a Communist conspiracy against the U.S. government, Pedersen finds a party fractured by conflicting agendas, ineffectual leadership, and unstable membership. However, he also uncovers new evidence that Communists in the United States, acting on Soviet orders, used their influence in unions and front groups to sway American foreign policy in ways that benefited the Soviet Union. He documents the consolidation of an espionage apparatus in Baltimore and demonstrates that while espionage activities may have involved only a few individuals, all Party members shared an attitude of willing support for the activities of the Soviet Union that made these covert practices possible.
Paying tribute to the fervor and the effort dedicated by the Maryland Communists, often at the expense of their own physical and financial well-being, to a cause that ultimately failed them, Bolsheviks in Baltimore assesses an ambiguous legacy of admirable social vision, haphazard international conspiracy, and fierce internal conflict.

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Communists in Harlem during the Depression
Mark Naison
University of Illinois Press, 2004

Winner of the Ralph Bunche Award, American Political Science Association

No socialist organization has ever had a more profound effect on black life than the Communist Party did in Harlem during the Depression. Mark Naison describes how the party won the early endorsement of such people as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and how its support of racial equality and integration impressed black intellectuals, including Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Paul Robeson.

This meticulously researched work, largely based on primary materials and interviews with leading black Communists from the 1930s, is the first to fully explore this provocative encounter between whites and blacks. It provides a detailed look at an exciting period of reform, as well as an intimate portrait of Harlem in the 1920s and 30s, at the high point of its influence and pride.


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A History of World Communism
Robert Service
Harvard University Press, 2010
Almost two decades after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the USSR, leading historian Robert Service examines the history of communism throughout the world. Comrades! moves from Marx and Lenin to Mao and Castro and beyond to trace communism from its beginnings to the present day.Offering vivid portraits of the protagonists and decisive events in communist history, Service looks not only at the high politics of communist regimes but also at the social conditions that led millions to support communism in so many countries. After outlining communism’s origins with Marx and Engels and its first success with Lenin and the Russian Revolution in 1917, Service examines the Soviet bloc, long-lasting regimes like Yugoslavia and Cuba, the Chinese revolution, the spread of communism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and the international links among the hundreds of parties. He covers communism’s organization and ideology as well as its general appeal. He looks at abortive communist revolutions and at the ineffectual parties in the United States and elsewhere.Service offers a human view of the story as well as a global analysis. His uncomfortable conclusion—and an important message for the twenty-first century—is that although communism in its original form is now dying or dead, the poverty and injustice that enabled its rise are still dangerously alive. Unsettling and compellingly written, Comrades! is the most comprehensive study of one of the most important movements of the modern world.

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Confronting Communism
U.S. and British Policies toward China
Victor S. Kaufman
University of Missouri Press, 2001

In Confronting Communism, Victor S. Kaufman examines how the United States and Great Britain were able to overcome serious disagreements over their respective approaches toward Communist China. Providing new insight into the workings of alliance politics, specifically the politics of the Anglo- American alliance, the book covers the period from 1948—a year before China became an area of contention between London and Washington—through twenty years of division to the gradual resolution of Anglo-American divergences over the People's Republic of China beginning in the mid-1960s. It ends in 1972, the year of President Richard Nixon's historic visit to the People's Republic, and also the year that Kaufman sees as bringing an end to the Anglo-American differences over China.

Kaufman traces the intricate and subtle pressures each ally faced in determining how to approach Beijing. The British aspect is of particular interest because Britain viewed itself as being within "three circles": Western Europe, the Atlantic alliance, and the Commonwealth. Important as well to British policy with respect to China was the concern about being dragged into another Korean-style conflict. The impact of decisions on these "circles," as well as the fear of another war, appeared time and again in Britain's decision making.

Kaufman shows how the alliance avoided division over China largely because Britain did the majority of the compromising. Reliant upon the United States militarily and financially, most U.K. officials made concessions to their Washington counterparts. Readers of Confronting Communism will come away with a better understanding of alliance politics. They will learn that such decision making, for both Great Britain and the United States, was a highly complex process, one that posed serious challenges to the Anglo-American alliance. Despite those challenges, accord between London and Washington prevailed.


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The Conservative Turn
Lionel Trilling, Whittaker Chambers, and the Lessons of Anti-Communism
Michael Kimmage
Harvard University Press, 2009

The Conservative Turn tells the story of postwar America’s political evolution through two fascinating figures: Lionel Trilling and Whittaker Chambers. Born at the turn of the twentieth century, they were college classmates who went on to intellectual prominence, sharing the questions, crises, and challenges of their generation.

A spy for the Soviet Union in the 1930s, Chambers became the main witness in the 1948 trial of Alger Hiss, which ended in Hiss’s conviction for perjury. The trial advanced the careers of Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy and marked the beginning of the Cold War mood in America. Chambers was also a major conservative thinker, a theorist of the postwar conservative movement.

Meanwhile, in the 1940s and 1950s, the literary critic Trilling wrote important essays that encouraged liberals to disown their radical past and to embrace a balanced maturity. Trilling’s liberal anti-communism was highly influential, culminating politically in the presidency of John F. Kennedy.

Kimmage argues that the divergent careers of these two men exemplify important developments in postwar American politics: the emergence of modern conservatism and the rise of moderate liberalism, crucially shaped by anti-communism. Taken together, these developments constitute a conservative turn in American political and intellectual life—a turn that continues to shape America’s political landscape.


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