By the late 1980s and early 1990s, some people turned out to be big winners in the long history of the international communist movement; others were big losers.  What happened?
Let us return to the debate between Cohen (individual volition) and ‘Z’ (structure).  Should the Hungarian (1956) and Czechoslovak (1968) experiments with socialist reform have prepared us for the fact that Gorbachev’s efforts to reform Soviet-style communism from above would fail?  Or could something have been done (or something avoided) to put keep the European communist countries alive.

  LECTURE:   Wednesday, April   8

John Paul II comes to Warsaw
John Paul II comes to Warsaw

Two Challenges to Communism in Poland.  It is impossible to understand the fall of communism in Europe after 1989 without addressing the impact of both Karol Józef Wojtyła’s ascendancy to the Throne of St. Peter in 1978 and the formation of the independent Polish trade union movement, Solidarity (Solidarność), in 1980.

  • Homily of his Holiness John Paul II, June 2, 1979, Warsaw, Poland (look for the potentially incendiary issues in this homily):    HERE
  • Solidarity’s “The 21 Demands” (August 31, 1980) HERE  (Print and Read)
  • Program of the First Solidarność  National Congress (October 7, 1981):   HERE (Print and Read)

Your second essay assignment is HERE

34.  DISCUSSION SECTION:  Friday, April 10

In this section, we will discuss the second half of Havel’s “Power of the Powerless” and ask whether its argument is relevant to the case of Poland

35.  LECTURE:  Monday, April 13

gorbachevGorbachev’s Revolution of Reform.  Mikhail Gorbachev’s calls for “perestroika” (economic restructuring) and “glasnost” (openness) were a cause for unparalleled excitement.  Check out the two videos here.  Yet, rather than leading to a truly reformed version of socialism, the reforms ultimately resulted in revolution against the system and the death of Marxism-Leninism.

  • Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the CPSU, January 28, 1987:  HERE  (Print and Read)
  • Trabant Crash Test: HERE
  • “Z” (Martin Malia), “To the Stalin Museum,” Daedalus, 119, 1 (1990):  section IX.
  • “Stories and Totalitarianism,” in Vaclav Havel, Open Letters, pp. 328-50.

36.  LECTURE:  Wednesday, April 15

Violence Amidst Reform in China.   Was the use of force against student protesters on Tian Anmen square, as well as around Beijing and in other major  cities, “déjà vu all over again”?  Or have China’s reforms over the past three decades signified something new about world communism?

  • Deng Xiaoping’s educational policy:  HERE
  • Editorial:  “It is necessary to take a clear stand against disturbances,” People’s Daily, April 26, 1989:  HERE (Print and Read)
  • Deng Xiaoping, “Address to officers of the troops enforcing martial law in Beijing,” June 9, 1989:  HERE
  • Previously secret: CIA analysis of the speech (declassified, but it’s amusing to see what’s left): HERE
  • Tian Anmen Square:  HERE

37.  DISCUSSION SECTION:  Friday, April 17

In this  section, we will return to the familiar question:  “Is it possible to reform communism.

38.  LECTURE:  Monday, April 20

Cutting down the border fence between Hungary and Austria
Cutting down the border fence between Hungary and Austria

Gorbachev was not alone. His reforms helped to accelerate significant shifts in domestic policies that were already underway in countries like Hungary and Poland.  Yet when Gorbachev’s efforts proved to be unworkable, these governments had to decide whether they would continue with reform or simply move on to something entirely new.

  • “Z” (Martin Malia), “To the Stalin Museum,” Daedalus, 119, 1 (1990):  section X.  (Course Reader)
  • “Meeting Gorbachev,” in Vaclav Havel, Open Letters, 351-354.

39.   LECTURE:  Wednesday, April 22 

Those who refuse to learn . . . . are punished by history.   In this lecture, I will address the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing collapse of communism in East Europe by describing my own experiences in East Germany in the late 1980s.

  • “Testing Ground,” in Vaclav Havel, Open Letters, pp. 373-376.
  • Previously secret:  Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and the politburo of the Socialist Unity Party of East Germany, October 7, 1989:  HERE
  • A. James McAdams, The Idea of the Communist Party (forthcoming), Chapter 12. In your READER

40.  DISCUSSION SECTION:  Friday, April 24

A discussion on the nature of “historical change”

41.  LECTURE,  Monday, April 27

Others learned from history what we didn’t want them to learn . . . . and somehow managed to survived.  China, North Korea, and Cuba engaged in retrenchment, but significantly ‘retrenchment’ meant different things to each of them.  Also, one can legitimately ask whether these are still communist states.

"What, me worry?"
“What, me worry?”
  • An interview with Fidel Castro, “Blaming Stalin for everything would be historical simplism,” June 3, 1992:  HERE
  • A new and most dangerous class enemy in Cuba:  HERE
  • Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping,  Document 9:  HERE


Your final essay assignment is HERE 


 42.  LECTURE:  Wednesday, April 29

The Autopsy is Finished.  We return to where we began.  I seek to make sense of the “long, strange trip” that was world communism.  Some experts say that Lenin is dead.  I am not so sure.



The use of electronic devices of any kind, including laptops, cell phones, video cameras, and personal digital devices, as well as those I don’t even know about, is prohibited in my classroom!