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The Recovery

It is easy for us to say that the communist dream was destined to fail.  But, communism was a viable form of  state formation and ideological inspiration until the later half 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.”  It’s not the greatest concept in the world, but as you see when you read Havel (below), it is a useful way of distinguishing between the extremes of Stalinism and Maoism and the types of regimes that came afterward.

21.  Wednesday, November 12

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

Death is not only a time for mourning.  It is a time for renewal.  (LISTEN)   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 communist dream by returning to its essentials.  Two questions:  1) how did they propose to renew the dream? and 2) could the dream be renewed?

  • Nikita Khrushchev, “Secret Speech at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” February 25, 1956.  READ AND PRINT
  • Rosenberg and Young, Transforming Russia and China, pp. 252-256 and 313-334.
  • Deng Xiaoping, “The “Two Whatever Policy” does  not accord with Marxism,” May 24, 1977:  READ AND PRINT

What was Vatican II and why am I even bringing up the topic??  READ AND PRINT

22.  Monday, November 17  

We will meet at the Nanovic Institute to see and discuss a short film, “Journey to Russia.”

23.  Wednesday, November 19 

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.




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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