Retreat from the Finland Station: Moral Odysseys in the Breakdown of Communism

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9780029223154: Retreat from the Finland Station: Moral Odysseys in the Breakdown of Communism

In 1940, Edmund Wilson published "To the Finland Station", a study of the growth of the idea of communism. This book examines the lives of such men as Bukharin, Koestler, Gide, Diljas, Silone and Dubcek, and describes the self-deception and despair of those who embraced and recoiled from communism. Murphy argues that the self-deception of the communist is not merely a product of circumstance, but integral to the very idea itself.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Murphy (Andr‚ Malraux, 1991) delivers a stimulating study of the rise and fall of the Communist dream, as seen through 11 representative European figures. Like the classic work whose title it echoes, Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station (1940), Murphy's account uses biographical portraits to trace an ideology and its consequences. Murphy, however, picks up where Wilson left off--at the initial euphoria of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution--and follows the subsequent ``disintegration of the socialist idea'' as the notion of a benevolent leviathan that would eliminate class injustices was soon transformed into a totalitarian state. Although some Communists shed their misconceptions more readily than others, self-delusion was the common experience of the two sets of heretics examined here: writer/intellectuals (Silone, Mayakovsky, Koestler, Silone, Gide, and the young and fervent Solzhenitsyn) and revolutionary/politicians (Bukharin, Khrushchev, Yugoslavia's Djilas, Hungary's Nagy, Czechoslovakia's Dubek, and Gorbachev). Only Solzhenitsyn, imprisoned in the gulag while still a young soldier, saw through Communism's contradictions early, and he is the figure treated most sympathetically by Murphy. But for all his shrewd character analysis (e.g., Gorbachev's climb up the greasy pole as Yuri Andropov's prot‚g‚), the author fails to notice his subjects' attitudes toward the Soviet-Nazi nonaggression pact of 1939, surely a seminal event in anti-Communism, and he overly credits ``utopian schemes'' as a root cause of the rise of Soviet totalitarianism, without remarking on Russia's long history of authoritarian Czarist rule. Still, an ironic, well-written post-mortem of a political system of staggering inefficiency, brutality, and self-delusion. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

This book, whose title refers to Edmund Wilson's classic study of socialism, To the Finland Station (1940), seeks to trace the decline in the belief in Communism through profiles of noted Communists who eventually abandoned the cause. Murphy includes the biographies of the movement's founders (Vladimir Lenin, Nikolai Bukharin), its disillusioned (Andre Gide, Arthur Koestler), heretics (Imre Nagy, Alexander Dubcek), and heirs (Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev). Murphy's occasionally melodramatic style and sympathies are most compatible with those who have rejected Communism. However, he also communicates the distinctive mentality of the believers, e.g., "revivalist" Gorbachev allied with Yuri Andropov in a "war constantly fought against decadence." Murphy's "moral odysseys" draw no larger conclusions beyond individual characterization and he is guilty of an occasional error, e.g., that Lenin was "blind to industrial growth in Russia." Nevertheless, his scope and psychological insight will serve those wishing a single volume about Communism. This book is recommended for both academic and larger public libraries.
- Zachary T. Irwin , Pennsylva nia State Univ.-Erie
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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