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Author: A. James McAdams
Part II: Competitors. Lectures and discussions for the course, "The Rise and Fall of World Communism" in the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.

Part II: Competitors


Enemies of the People

High Stalinism was an era of extremes.  Some of these extremes were reflected in the explosive growth of the Soviet economy in the 1930s and the  glorification of the “heroic worker,” as you can see in these images of the Stakhanovite movement and in the construction of the industrial city, Magnitogorsk:

the industrial city, Magnitogorsk

But, there were also the indescribable and incomprehensible extremes of Stalin’s purges and nothing less than the systematic extermination of the old communist elite.  It is both disturbing and puzzling to think that so many people went along with these polices.

Trial of so-called “rich peasants” in 1929. Courtesy of the Central Russian State Film and Video Archive. Accessed from on 5/3/12.

For the Soviet Union, the suffering was devastating, as these slides attest:

But paradoxically, many people, both high officials and ordinary Russians, seemed to love Stalin all the more, as you can see in this video and this hymn:

  • “Z”, “To the Stalin Mausoleum,” section VI.
  • Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon. (first half of the book)
  • Nikolai Bukharin’s secret letter to Stalin, December 10, 1937.
13 Film:  “Interrogation“ (movie review)

The Stalinist Model spreads to East-Central Europe

In this lecture, I jump a bit into the future to examine Stalinism’s impact on other European settings immediately after WWII.

  • Wolfgang Leonhard, Child of the Revolution, “The Comintern School”


The Path of Armed Struggle

Now that we have considered Stalin’s rise to power, I will address the Chinese revolution and the quite different path that Mao Zedong followed, especially during the formative period of the “Long March” of 1934-1935.  Mao’s ability to foment revolution in the countryside occurred as much because of the unintended consequences of others’ actions as it did of his own designs.  There is no greater symbol of Chinese communism than the Long March.

Mao Zedong riding a horse during his trip to Shaanbei

  • Map: Long March
  • William Rosenberg and Marilyn Young, Transforming Russia and China, pp. 135-47.
  • Mao Zedong, “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work,” February 1, 1942.

The Path of the Populist Revolutionary

Today, I will consider the path to power of two populist revolutionaries, Fidel Castro and (at least mythologically)  Kim Il-Sung.  Just as in China, guerrilla warfare had a decisive impact on Cuban and North Korean communism. In fact, Castro only proclaimed his allegiance to world communism after coming to power.  To get a feel for the distinctive culture of Cuban socialism, watch these interviews with some of Fidel’s former guerrilla fighters:

Likewise, one cannot overstate the distinctive character of North Korean communism.  Here’s a little “Arirang”:

Death of the Great Leader Kim Il-Sung:

18 No discussions this week.
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