Comrades: Communism – A World History by Robert Service - review by Richard Overy

Richard Overy

Hijacking Marx

Comrades: Communism – A World History


Macmillan 547pp £25 order from our bookshop

Many years ago now, when communism collapsed in Europe, I recall an unrepentant Marxist friend arguing the case that at long last a real Marxist revolution could take place in the former Soviet bloc. Perhaps he was right. Marx always worked on a long historical trajectory. Anyone reading Robert Service’s new history of what is popularly regarded as communism would find this suggestion utterly implausible. Service has consigned communism to the dustbin of history as thoroughly as those communist regimes in Asia and Eastern Europe consigned the patchwork of monarchies and right-wing dictatorships to an earlier refuse heap.

Service has taken a huge subject but he more than succeeds in doing it justice in this sparkling and thought-provoking narrative. He is tough on communism from start to finish, but they were always tough on themselves too. The title ‘Comrades’ is a parody. From the early stirrings

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