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The Agony

The communist dream inspired its believers with visions of human emancipation. Yet in nearly every case, from the Soviet Union to China, Hungary, North Korea, and East Germany, it led to the formation of dictatorships that deprived their populations of the most elemental characteristics of human life.  It also led to the destruction of lives and the deaths of millions of people.

15.  Wednesday, October 15

The Roots of Terror:  Part 1

Discussion:  The Authoritarian Personality

We will meet at the Nanovic Institute to see a film about Obedience.

  • Selection from Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin  (Handout)  READ
  • Selection from Li Zhisui, The Private Life of Chairman Mao  (Handout) READ
  • Do you know anyone who has a “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”?  PRINT AND READ
  • In class video:  “Obedience”


MID-SEMESTER BREAK:  October 18 – October 26


16.  Monday, October 27

The Roots of Stalinist Terror:  Part 2

Film:  “The Inner Circle”

We will meet at the Nanovic Institute during class time to see the first half of the film.  We will then meet at the Institute later to see the rest of the film.  Pizza on me!

17. Wednesday, October 29

The Roots of Terror:  Part 3

Discussion:  For today’s meeting, our goal is dissect Koestler’s protagonist, Rubashev.  What is Rubashev like?  What drives him? Is he a nice person?

  • Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon:  Read at least the first half of the book, if not more.
  • Rosenberg and Young, Transforming Russia and China, pp. 120-124, 147-156, 210-219.

18.  Monday, November 3

The Roots of Terror:  Part 4

  • Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon:  Complete the book, if you have not already done so

19.  Wednesday, November 5

The Roots of Terror:  Part 5

Discussion:  We examine one of the greatest human disasters of the twentieth century:  Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward.

Please be prepared to discuss different explanations for this tragedy.  I can see at least 5 contending explanations in our reading, maybe more.

  • Yang Jisheng, Tombstone (selections), a handout:  READ
  • Rosenberg and Young, Transforming Russia and China, pp. 244-251, 258-266.
  • VIDEO:  “Great Leap Forward Summary”:  WATCH

Additional Reading:  In focusing on the Great Leap Forward, I have had to make the hard decision not to cover Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, an equally devastating period in modern Chinese history.  Alas, there is too little time in the semester.  Please read the following pages. Among many things, they are important for understanding Chinese politics in the 1970s and 1980s:

  • Rosenberg and Young, Transforming Russia and China, pp. 296-312.

20. Monday, November 10

Second Great Debate

“Gletkin is the inevitable result of the Communist Manifesto!”


Your Second Essay Assignment is HERE


 The scourge of collectivization in the Soviet Union, 1929-1933



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

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