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In retrospect, it is easy for us to say that the communist dream was destined to fail.  But in fact, communism remained a viable form of  state formation and ideological inspiration until a couple decades ago.  (Some people say that it still functions today, though I am not persuaded about this).  Why did the dream survive as long as it did.  In this section of our seminar, we will examine attempts to save the dream.

24.  Thursday, April 10

Discussion:  Can Communism be rescued?  Can it be renewed?

Death is not only a time for mourning.  It is also a time for renewal.  (LISTEN)   In 1953, something  happened that changed the communist world:  Stalin proved his mortality by dying!  In 1976, another communist leader performed the same mortal act:  Mao Zedong died.

In both cases, Stalin’s and Mao’s successors, Nikita Khrushchev and Deng Xiaoping, respectively, attempted to renew the communist dream by going back to its essentials.  For this discussion section, please ask yourself two questions:  1) how did they propose to renew their dream? and 2) could the dream be renewed.

Please read the selections below as carefully as you can.  I realize you won’t know many of the figures or facts they are mentioning.  Just concentrate on their general arguments and ask how they fit into the material we have covered thus far.

Finally, I am including a short statement about Vatican II.  What was Vatican II and why am I even bringing up the topic?

  • Nikita Khrushchev, “Secret Speech at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” February 25, 1956.  READ AND PRINT
  • Deng Xiaoping, “The “Two Whatever Policy” does  not accord with Marxism,” May 24, 1977:  READ AND PRINT

What is Vatican II so  important?  READ AND PRINT

Your Second Essay Assignment  HERE

25.  Tuesday, April 15

Discussion:  What is post-totalitarianism?  What is it like to live under this system?  What makes the “green grocer” tick?

  • Vaclav Havel, “The Power of the Powerless,” in Open Letters:  Selected Writings.  Please Read chapters 1-11.

26.  Thursday, April 17

We will meet today in the Nanovic Institute to see and discussion a short film, “Journey to Russia.”

27.  Tuesday, April 22

Discussion:  Who dissents, how, and why?

  • Vaclav Havel, “The Power of the Powerless,” in Open Letters:  Selected Writings.  Please read the remaining chapters of the essay.
  • Ilinca Calugareanu,  “VHS vs. Communism”:  READ AND WATCH VIDEO

28.  Thursday, April 24

We will meet in the Hesburgh Library Rare Books Books Room to view a selection of dissident documents from the Soviet Union.

“I would have definitely been a dissident under communist rule!”  True?


NOTE:  Please turn off and do not use your technology during class.  This includes electronic devices of any kind, such as laptops, clouds, i-Pads, cell phones, Kindles, video cameras, video games, or other personal digital devices.




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