Review: The Rise and Fall of Communism. Archie Brown

The Rise and Fall of Communism. Archie Brown
The Rise and Fall of Communism. Archie Brown by Archie Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Simon Heffer’s cover quote on this title was “SUPERB… A hugely readable book”, and although I can’t quite get behind this lengthy history with as much enthusiasm, this book does provide you with insights from the earliest days of communism through to the near present. Brown goes out of his way to distinguish between communism and “Communism”, the capital C moniker used when referring to political incarnations rather than broad ideological or philosophical principles. It is this political Communism that is of most interest to Brown, and relatively little time is given to the philosophy of Marx and Engels. Those wishing to get a more in depth understanding of Marxist thought should look elsewhere, as Brown is more concerned with political realities, mainly in the Soviet context.

Since so much of world Communism developed from the Soviet Union or was influenced by it, it is no surprise that much of this work deals with the development of the Soviet political system. From Lenin to Gorbachev, the Soviet leadership is analyzed, each leaders role in the development and transformation of the Soviet Communist system is discussed exhaustively. Unfortunately, although understanding of world Communism is underpinned by political developments within the Soviet Union, Brown leaves little room to discuss the many other Communist systems that have developed (aside from China) and asserted their own political will sans the influence of Moscow.

In particular, scant attention is paid to Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea; all which have political systems based upon the Soviet model but who have leaders and a citizenry whose history is so divergent from the Soviet experience that new political and ideological concepts had to develop. The North Korean Kim dynasty is elaborated on poorly, Ho Chi-Min is barely mentioned, and the development of modern Cuba is not given enough mention. If one is looking for decent analysis of the few surviving Communist states (outside of China), than this book should not be your first choice.

Still, for a deeper understanding of Soviet Communism, its development and overarching influence on Europe, you cannot find a better introduction. Brown breaks down the Iron Curtain and examines with precision all the elements, internally and externally, which led to the disintegration of the Eastern European Communist states and the breakup of the Soviet Union itself. Gorbachev’s influence, and how the Soviet leadership came to instigate reform from the mid 1980’s, is also treated with supreme precision, and it seems that no stone is left unturned by Brown. Readers hoping for a more thorough understanding of the Iron Curtains hoisting, certainly have a great starting point in The Rise and Fall of Communism.

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