Revitalizing Communism

We know that the communist dream ultimately failed.  But it is also true that the dream led to the creation of states that were viable throughout much of the Twentieth Century.  Why did the dream survive for so long?  A large part of the answer is that communism changed, first in the Soviet Union and East Europe and later in China, into a phenomenon the great  Czechoslovak dissident, Vaclav Havel, called “post-totalitarianism.”  We will read Havel’s provocative essay “Power of the Powerless” and see why he offers a useful way of distinguishing between the extremes of Stalinism and Maoism and the less draconian regimes that came afterward.

19.  Tuesday, March 31

Discussion:  Trying to rescue Communism.  Trying to renew Communism.

Death is not only a time for mourning.  It is a time for renewal. (WATCH THE FIRST PART OF THIS IMPORTANT VIDEO)   In 1953, a single event changed the communist world forever: Stalin died!  In 1976, another communist leader performed the same heroic act:  Mao Zedong died!

Stalin’s and Mao’s successors, Nikita Khrushchev and Deng Xiaoping, attempted to renew the original ideals of the communist revolution.  Two questions:  1) how did they propose to do this? and 2) was it realistic to think that these ideals could be renewed?

        • Nikita Khrushchev, “Secret Speech at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” February 25, 1956.  READ AND PRINT
        • A. James McAdams, Vanguard of the Revolution, pp. 268-78, 286-90.
        • Deng Xiaoping, “The “Two Whatever Policy” does  not accord with Marxism,” May 24, 1977:  READ AND PRINT
        • John Teicher, “Why is Vatican II so important?”:  READ AND PRINT (compare this article with the article you read previously on Vatican I).

20.  Thursday, April 2

Great Debate #2:  “Holy Father, you’re going too darn far to reform the institutions and practices of the Catholic Church!”

John XXIII in 1959, before Vatican II

Prepare for the debate by watching these videos:

History and Genesis of Vatican II: WATCH

Opening of Vatican II: WATCH

And, this article:  READ

21.  Tuesday, April 7

Today, we will have a “virtual” visit with Natasha Lyandres to discuss the Library’s collection on dissent in communist countries.

22.  Thursday, April 9

Today we begin our discussion of Vaclav Havel’s brilliant “Power of the Powerless”

You absolutely MUST have the book in front of you for our discussion to work well.

      • Read Chapters 1-11, in Open Letters  A PDF version is here!  READ
      • “Declaration of Charter ’77,” January 1, 1977:  HERE (Read and Print)

April 10-13   Easter

23.  Tuesday, April 14

Finish reading “Power of the Powerless”

        • A PDF version is here!  READ
        • Plastic People of the Universe:  HERE  (Do you have to be a good musician to be a good dissident?
        • “Declaration of Charter ’77,” January 1, 1977:  HERE (Read and Print)
        • Ilinca Calugareanu,  “VHS vs. Communism”:  READ AND WATCH VIDEO

Living within the truth in America:  What do these articles tell you about the possibility of living within the truth and the difficulty of convincing people to live within the truth?

        • “Covid-19: A Dress Rehearsal for the Climate Emergency?”  READ
        • Pray and Wash: Religion Joins With Science Amid Virus Crisis   READ

NOTE: Please leave your technology at home. This includes electronic devices of any kind, such as laptops, Kindles, i-Pads, I-phones, video cameras, video games, dog fences, or other personal digital devices.

My class is a no-tweet zone. Some things are just not dignified!