The Rise and Fall of Communism, By Archie Brown

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The Independent Culture

Balanced, insightful, illuminated by intriguing detail and flashes of humour, this worldwide panorama is a miracle of compression.

Brown's focus switches from minutiae – Marx had just 12 mourners at his funeral; Engels rode with the Cheshire hunt; on the eve of the 1917 revolution, Tsar Nicolas's diary was concerned with other matters, "I will take up dominoes again" – to sweeping revelations.

Brown notes that the massive Soviet losses in the Second World War were "much greater than they need have been" due to Stalin's decree that any troops who surrendered to the Germans "should be destroyed by all means available".

According to Brown, the recent collapse of Communism will not be undone: "Consolidated democracies are hardly ever exchanged for authoritarianism...."