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Comrades: A World History of Communism

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  328 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
From Marx to Mao, from Engels to Allende, from Lenin and Stalin to Ceaucescu and Castro, "Comrades" tells the story of communism from its inception to the present day. It offers a succession of incisive pen-portraits of outstanding leaders and decisive events and spans the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries. It draws on material from many national collections and severa ...more
Hardcover, 571 pages
Published by Macmillan _ (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30)
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Paul Bryant
The rise and fall of Communism is obviously a very fascinating subject, full of drama, pity, horror and the intensest of hopes - what could be more horrible than to see the fiery optimism of the young comrades of the 1920s and 30s fed into the gory charnelhouses of Uncle Joe, Mao and the rest of those old man vampires? But Robert Service in this fat book drains all the drama out like an embalmer replacing blood with formaldehyde. He is such a terrible terrible writer. I give you two examples cho ...more
Jason
Jul 16, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history-politics
Pop history at its worst. The book full of non-sequiturs, absurd pop psycho-analysis, broad generalizations with no supporting citations and just plain ridiculous claims. The writing is also horrible. The last two sentences of the book read, "Communism has proved to have metastasising features. It will have a long afterlife even when the last communist state has disappeared." I suppose Service is now trying to pass for a fortune-teller in addition to a bad historian.
Elyse
Oh boy. I've never been so relieved to finish a book in my life. I don't have the energy to write what I want about this book, so just go read Paul's review because I agree 150%. Yeah, I'm not kidding. The whole 150%.

I've read lots about communism but I'm in no way an expert. Still, I'm skeptical about two of Mr. Service's views. First, he completely buys the whole "the US made Castro a communist" line, which is blatantly absurd, I'm sorry. Second, he gushes over Gorbachev like a sycophant, taki
...more
H Wesselius
Very simplistic and despite the 500 some odd pages not much is being said. The Red Flag by Priestland is far better and although shorter is far more complex recognizing the diversity of thought that is communism. For Service, communism is nothing more than a totalitarian single entity. Even though his own narrative demonstrates conflict between differing groups and theories, he is amazingly simplistic and one point Stalin's mustache is offered as evidence of authoritarianism -- just bizarre
Tim Pendry
This is a sound one volume narrative history of communism, written from a fairly predictable liberal democratic perspective.

Marxism is philosophically unsound. Leninism was astute at the process of seizing power but unable to manage the possession of power.

The result was (and Robert Service is persuasive in this), inevitable brutality, oppression, bureaucratism and sclerosis with failure inbuilt into the system.

However, the book is, like the liberal democratic strategy for dealing with communis
...more
Andrew
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history-world
I picked up the hardcover edition of Comrades by chance from a display at the local library. I haven't studied Communism in depth since college, so I thought this survey would be a good way to re-introduce myself to the subject from the top down.
I enjoyed the first few chapters on pre-Marx communism, but the writing style soon bogged me down. Service's account is too cursory and clumsy to really engage the reader. At times, I feel like I am reading a wikipedia entry - there is a decent amount o
...more
Katie Parsons
Nov 16, 2007 rated it did not like it
Horrible writing!
James
Out of Service's books on Communism, this is both his broadest and unfortunately, his weakest. The scope is impressive, particularly in the particulars of communism in lesser-known situations such as in Chile or during the Spanish Civil War. However, it often feels like the author is merely rushing over facts without much time for further analysis or in-depth study.
Ayan Dutta
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A world history of communism is indeed an ambitious and equally audacious endeavour, however Robert Service does a good job of it . At times you may find him glossing over important events and periods but then that's all you can afford to do in a single volume.

The font size is really small and reading it , at times may be quite arduous. Contrary to the criticism vented by other readers the book is quite fast paced with short and crisp chapters .

Good beginning for some one wanting to get an insig
...more
Ilya
May 24, 2012 rated it liked it
A few weeks ago I re-read "This Godless Communism", a very cheesy Cold War-era American anti-Communist comic book. This caused me to want to read a scholarly book on Commmunism, and this is such a book, written by a well-known British historian of Russia. It does not have much that I didn't already know, but it organizes this common knowledge.

Communism, which is to say destroying the existing social order and replacing it with a new one based on human equality, is a very old idea, though the mod
...more
Michael T.
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting subject, written by a historian who is very knowledgeable about his subject matter, but who is unfortunately (at least in this one) not a very good writer. So this was a bit of slog, despite some innately compelling material. (Nary a mention of the Rosenbergs nor the Internationale, either -- very strange.) Also Mr. Service's analysis is a bit right of center. An Englishman, he is (according to the book jacket) a "Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Hoover Institution." Pretty cons ...more
Sandy
Nov 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Service's book provides a fairly detailed, comprehensive survey of the origins, development, and partial collapse of the international communist movement spearheaded by the Soviet Union. Being already fairly well-versed in this subject, a lot of the discussion of Soviet history and foreign relations during WWII and the Cold War was review for me, but I still learned quite a bit from reading this book. Particularly enlightening to me were the discussion of the philosophical and social origins of ...more
Adrian
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Robert Service has provided a decent, detailed, yet highly readable account of the world communist movement, that leaves no stone unturned.
Most of the book, especially the earlier part, is focused on the USSR, but there is decent insight into Yugoslavia, Cuba, and China. However, Comrades is not a simple chronology of the world communist movement, it is an account of the factors, the attitudes, and the evolving nature of communism, and why it ultimately failed.
Service begins with a theoretical a
...more
Titus Hjelm
Interesting. I thought Service's biographies of Lenin and Stalin were very good, putting the personalities in the context of their times, as an academic approach should. 'Trotsky' showed a more piquant Service that never missed an opportunity to remind the reader of his subject's penchant for terror and oppression, but the book was still convincing. 'Comrades', however, reads more like Margaret Thatcher's memoir than academic history. Communism is a 'malaise', communists nothing but 'thugs' and ...more
Ricardo
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical
Interesting topic. Poor writing. This pretty much sums up (for me) the book. Robert Service did a great investigation job (even if a little biased considering the source of most of the information). The discussion of the role of communism in the world is a cumbersome task considering the span of time it encompasses as well as the amount of countries involved. However, even with that in mind, the structure of the book and even of the chapters is rather confusing. The author is constantly jumping ...more
Patrick
Oct 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
While well written and an engaging read, the book left me wanting a bit more. On the more positive end, Robert Service does a good job at taking key facts and information that I already knew and expanding upon them and offering in-depth analysis. On the more negative end, Service focuses far too much on the Soviets and Chinese and too little focusing on the Eastern European states -- at least beyond the Prague Spring and Hungarian Revolution. Service hammers the point of Marxism's failures to th ...more
Michał Lucedarski
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My first book on communism. At the beginning I had some difficulties with the terminology, but sometimes (read "google" multiple passwords) started to go more easily. Generally, I am struck by how much I was ignorant of this topic and how interesting it is for all to know the area (I admit at the beginning I thought it might blow boredom). Certainly in the future, reach for the thematically similar items.
From the position of an amateur - I sincerely recommend, broadens horizons :)
Vera
Jul 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
Awful book . I though I was going to get a good look of communism in the Soviet Union and other countries but instead all I got was an opinionated repetition of concepts already told quite a few times.book is not written very well . I already knew much of the infos exposed so nothing new or interested in in here . The black book of communism is much better if you want a book against communism but if you look for an informative book about the Soviet Union this ain't one of them .
Mihai Popa
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Wonderful storytelling, unfortunately, the grim history, criminal idealism or dark personalities of its characters made the story sad and shocking. But the storyteller did his homework. The story goes like this: we have a sick, mad world, let's make it worse by ruining the idea that we can make this world better. The history of world communism is told from its beginning to its end, simplified and attractive.
Diane
Jan 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
A history of Communism, from its antecedents, through Marx, the founding of the Soviet Union, the Chinese Revolution, to the fall of Communism. The author includes a lot of information about Communism in small countries that generally don't get a lot of press. The book is somewhat sweeping, given all the ground the author has to cover, but overall, a worthwhile read.
Christopher
I don't disagree with criticisms other readers have leveled at Service's book, however I do think this book has great utility as a brief one volume history of communism. At a minimum, the book provides a useful reminder of how communism almost universally manifested itself under the brutish totalitarian control of a small self-selected elite. A useful introduction to a complex subject.
Daniel Simmons
A serviceable (pun kinda intended) overview of world communism that works as a good launching pad for learning more about the movement but fails to lift off due to sludgy prose and odd organization. Surely there must be better one-volume compendiums about communism than this one.
Hugh Collins
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mike Cognato
Terrific on the theory and application of communism, and how they developed in various countries over time. Only problem is it's such a big subject some incidents in Soviet history get glossed over. But it's still brilliant.
David Badgery
Perhaps to broad a scope. The narrative flits around the world rather too much and the thread of his hypotheses are sometimes difficult to follow and his conclusions not always clear. Not quite of the same quality as his biographies
Nick Wallace
Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have liked more in-depth coverage of the various Eastern European incarnations, and even China's place is smaller than would be expected. However, considering the breadth of material, it does well for itself.
Syed
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Excellent effort to compose the complete history of communism, it would be excellent, if he kept his biased opinions in control. All I can say, is it is another effort of talk low about communism in general. The author should have given due credits as well.

Overall, a good book to read!!!
Anthony Zupancic
Fantastic.
Christopher Earl
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great book but from a right wing view
Jill Rice
Feb 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
A bit dense, but an interesting read.
Sonia Benayas
Nov 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politic
A good and general view of communism in the world
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Robert Service is a British academic and historian of modern Russia and the Soviet Union. He is a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford and a Fellow at St. Antony's College, Oxford.


He is the author of the highly acclaimed Lenin: A Biography, A History of Twentieth - Century Russia, Russia: Experiment with a People and Stalin: A Biography, as well as many other books on Russia's
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