Tags: communism

Top 10 Books Opposing Communism

the author holding a book surrounded by school children

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn autographs a copy of Gulag Archipelago for Russian students in 1994. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

By Tuesday, 05 January 2021 08:57 AM Current | Bio | Archive

In 1965, historian and author Dr. Lee Edwards did a profile of Ronald Reagan for Reader's Digest. He got to observe Reagan for two days at Reagan's California home. In the library, Edwards noted the many books about politics, economics and history, including The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek and Witness by Whitaker Chambers.

The Cold War was in large measure a battle of ideas. The people who won that battle used books to spread and popularize their arguments. Here is my list of 10 books that can help anyone argue against communism.

1. Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Long ago my father told me that this book "was your grandparents' life." My grandparents met as prisoners in the Gulag Vorkuta. This three-volume work allowed the world to understand the horror of the Soviet gulags. It was considered so dangerous to the Soviet system that Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974.

For 20 years, he lived in exile in the U.S. It was only after he left Russia that he was finally able to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Another Solzhenitsyn work, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, is also a (much shorter) searing critique of the Soviet labor camp system.

2. Witness by Whitaker Chambers

Whitaker Chambers was a former communist who helped Richard Nixon expose Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy. Hiss had been a darling of the Washington establishment. At Hiss' trial, two Supreme Court justices, Felix Frankfurter and Stanley Reed, testified as character witnesses on his behalf.

While Hiss had political connections, Chambers had the truth. In 1999 Maureen Dowd wrote:

The idealism that once enveloped the Old Left began dissipating decades ago. History has a way of getting at the truth, and it has brought out the terrible stench of Stalinism. These days, it's hard to find serious people who will argue the innocence of Alger Hiss or the Rosenbergs.

3. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek

During the Cold War, when conservatives talked about free markets, they often quoted Friedrich Hayek. When Margaret Thatcher was asked about her beliefs, the Iron Lady held up one of Hayek's books and said: "This is what we believe!" In 1974, Hayek won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

The Road to Serfdom influenced many of the world's leading anti-communists including Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Milton Friedman.

4. Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

This novel is an allegory set during the Moscow Trials, which were a series of show trials from 1936 to '38 by which Stalin purged his political opponents. The most important person to be influenced by this book was George Orwell. Orwell's review of Koestler's book was critical of left-wing intellectuals:

Brilliant as this book is as a novel, and a piece of brilliant literature, it is probably most valuable as an interpretation of the Moscow "confessions" by someone with an inner knowledge of totalitarian methods. What was frightening about these trials was not the fact that they happened – for obviously such things are necessary in a totalitarian society – but the eagerness of Western intellectuals to justify them.

5. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

While this book was influenced by Darkness at Noon, Orwell took many of the same ideas to the next level. The late essayist Christopher Hitchens, who was a great admirer of both authors, believed:

Orwell's more widely read Nineteen Eighty-Four, which has many points of similarity with Darkness at Noon, makes the same terrifying point that the fanatics don't just want you to obey them: They want you to agree with them.

While Orwell's other famous work, Animal Farm, is shorter and more entertaining, Nineteen Eighty-Four gave western audiences the words to explain the hypocrisy and lies that sustain communist countries. For example, the Ministry of Peace was responsible for perpetual war, while the Ministry of Plenty dealt with rationing. The Ministry of Love was involved in torture, and the Ministry of Truth was state-run propaganda.

6. The Great Terror by Robert Conquest

British historian Robert Conquest was the first person to count the millions of victims of Soviet repression.

7. Radical Son by David Horowitz

David Horowitz was the Whitaker Chambers in relation to the '60s radicals. A compelling autobiography on how a Marxist became a conservative.

8. The Black Book of Communism edited by Stephane Courtois

Several European intellectuals wanted to create a count of the number of people killed by communist regimes. According to this book, the communists killed 65 million people in China, 20 million in the former Soviet Union, 2 million in Cambodia, 2 million in North Korea, 1.7 million people in Ethiopia, 1 million in Vietnam, 1 million in other parts of Eastern Europe, and 150,000 in Latin America. A total of nearly 100 million victims during the 20th century.

9. Leaders by Richard Nixon

President Richard Nixon met every major leader of the Cold War except Stalin. For history lovers, this book provides remarkable stories about these leaders from both sides of the Cold War.

10. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

The book argues that successful nations form inclusive economic and political institutions, which provide the opportunity for people to unlock their potential. Countries with "extractive institutions" concentrate political power and money in a parasitic elite.

The Soviet Union, much like China today, had extractive institutions. In 1928, most Russians lived in the countryside. There was a great untapped potential for growth.

Once these people were forcibly transferred into industry, the workforce was initially more productive. But as the transition of these workers to industrial settings was completed, growth quickly slowed, according to the authors.

From 1928 to 1960, the Soviet economy grew by 6% per year. Yet, without creative destruction and other free market incentives for innovation and economic growth, those initial gains quickly disappeared. If history repeats itself, the same might happen to China.

Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. His work has appeared in a range of publications, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. For several years Robert worked closely with Peter Hannaford, a senior aide to Ronald Reagan, as the primary researcher on four books and numerous columns. Robert has also worked on multiple presidential, national and statewide campaigns, including as a field office staffer for the Bush-Cheney campaign. Due to his own Russian-Jewish heritage, Robert has a keen interest in the history of U.S.-Soviet relations. In 2017 he was the co-organizer of an effort that erected commemorative statue of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow. Robert graduated with a major in Political Science from the University at Buffalo, and received his Master's in Public Administration, with a focus in healthcare, from the State University of New York College at Brockport. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in Rochester, New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.

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The Cold War was in large measure a battle of ideas. The people who won that battle used books to spread and popularize their arguments.
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Tuesday, 05 January 2021 08:57 AM
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