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~Free Epub ♟ Reflections on a Ravaged Century ☨ Robert Conquest Has Been Called By Paul Johnson Our Greatest Living Modern Historian As A New Century Begins, Conquest Offers An Illuminating Examination Of Our Past Failures And A Guide To Where We Should Go Next Graced With One Of The Most Acute Gifts For Political Prescience Since Orwell, Conquest Assigns Responsibility For Our Century S Cataclysms Not To Impersonal Economic Or Social Forces But To The Distorted Ideologies Of Revolutionary Marxism And National Socialism The Final, Sobering Chapters Of Reflections On A Ravaged Century Concern Themselves With Some Coming Storms, Notably That Of The European Union, Which Conquest Believes Is An Economic, Cultural, And Geographical Misconception Divisive Of The West And Doomed To Failure Winner Of The Ingersoll Prize Winner Of The Richard M Weaver Prize A New York Times Notable Book Provides Many Glowing Embers Of Reasoned And Wise Argument Richard Bernstein, The New York Times A Book That Ought To Be Required Reading For Everyone About To Enter College, And By Every Member Of Congress Frank Wilson, Philadelphia Inquirer
REFLECTIONS ON A RAVAGED CENTURY by Robert ConquestI ve copied a few lines from the first few chapters of this book I found it interesting but a slow read Didn t agree with everything but still thought provoking.Scarcely formulated fanaticisms and closed systems of ideas are, to be found throughout the past Ignorance of history is one of the most negative attributes of modern man The basic characteristic and attraction was and is the archaic idea that utopia can be constructed on earth the offer of a millenarian solution to all human problems In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries spoke in the dialect of Theology, in the eighteenth century took up that of Reason and in the nineteenth century that of Science.Conquest goes into some details of the thoughts teachings of the so called Intellectuals that were teaching these Ideas in past history.Edmund Burke, in a famous passage pointed out that the French revolutionaries delusion that force could solve all problems was above all a slothful attempt to ignore the complexity of reality.A century and a half later Orwell similarly remarked on the mental coarseness of revolutionaries who imagine that everything can be put right by altering the shape of society He might have added that there is something infantile or childish in the whole revolutionary despotic approach, which is in effect, based on the simpleminded attitude, If I were the King The Russian writer, Dostoevsky, pointed out, in The Possessed, that causes are attractive because they provide an excuse for behaving badly the right to dishonor which, as he puts it, is endlessly fascinating.The great historian Norman Cohn stated in his Warrant for Genocide There exists a subterranean world, there pathological fantasies disguised as ideas churned out crooks and half educated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious There are times when that underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures, and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people And it occasionally happens that this subterranean world becomes a political power and change the course of history.Dostoevsky writes of a human type whom any strong Idea strikes all of a sudden and annihilates his will, sometimes forever The true Idea addict is usually something roughly describable as an intellectual The British writer A Alvarez has defined an intellectual as one who is excited by ideas Intelligence alone is thus far from being a defense against the plague Students, in particular, have traditionally been a reservoir of infection.Eric Hoffer suggests that those who become possessed by exciting Ideas and identification with causes are often selfish people who were forced by innate shortcomings or external circumstances to lose faith in their own selves A well known British writer on the USSR, Edward Crankshaw, who had much experience of it during and after WWII, wrote in his Putting Up with the Russians of the moral and mental squalor of the middle ranks of soviet officialdom,Whether in uniform, attached like toxic parasites to the unfortunate Red Army, or in civilian clothes This is a milieu almost impossible for the foreigner to present to his own countryman I have had to work with such officials in war and peace Their sycophancy, their barefaced lying, their treachery, their cowardice, are so blatant, their ignorance so stultifying, their stupidity so absolute, that I have found it impossible to convey it with any credibility to those fortunate to never have encountered it And they settled in permanently or what appeared to be permanently As Andrrei Sakharow wrote in the late 1970s of the whole late Soviet apparat, down to junior levels A deeply cynical caste has come into being, one which I consider dangerous to itself as well as to all mankind a sick society ruled by two principles blat a little slang word meaning you scratch my back and I ll scratch yours , and the popular saw No use banging your head against the wall But beneath the petrified surface of our society exist cruelty on a mass scale, lawlessness, the absence of civil rights protecting the average man against the authorities, and the latter s total unaccountability toward their own people or the whole world, this dual irresponsibility being interrelated.The doomed writer Issak Babel said in private conversation later reported to the secret police in 1938, Soviet power is only sustained by ideology Without that it would be over in ten years It permeated the whole structure As Alain Besancon remarked The moment the individual accepts the language of the ideology, he allows his mental world and his sense of self respect to be hijacked along with the language No matter how inadvertently he may have stumbled into the use of the official vocabulary, he is now part of the ideology and has, in a manner of speaking entered into a pact with the devil Ideology collapses when Communist power collapses Or , if you like, ideology and language collapsed together with the legitimacy of Communist rule The language of Communism is the power of Communism In fact, the Idea, if it is to enforce itself on a population, needs to extinguish, as far as possible, even the possibility of dissent Its aim was, after all, the unanimous society It did not achieve it, but the attempt went far enough to be ruinous to Russia and dangerous to the whole world. More of a commentary on the effects of the major events WWII and the Cold War and the ideologies behind them than a survey of them not the book to read unless you are somewhat familiar with the basic facts of these events already Part One was interesting, and I appreciated the humane, narrative reflective approach as opposed to a facts and figures approach that Conquest uses to describe Cold War events and ideas Part Two dragged at times but some of Conquest s thoughts on culture were interesting and ring pretty true today, especially comments on the UK s involvement in the EU and people s commitment to ideological causes with passion than action. This book was handed to me after asking a colleague why scholars and academicians still have faith in ideologies like Marxism communism, in light of their failures in the 20th century Conquest, known for his detailing of the Stalin era Soviet Union, addresses this attraction He points out how facts have been largely ignored by scholars, in favor of theory and the possibilities of the Idea working The first part of the book focuses on the history of revolutionaries, and specifically, how the Soviet Union used this rhetoric to convince their citizens and academics alike, that they had found the path to utopia The latter part of the book focuses on where Conquest thinks the post Cold War era will take Europe and the United States This section was not as interesting as the first part But overall, the book helped me understand why so many scholars still hold on to this dead language that is communism. Insightful overview of the ideologies and utopian dreams that lead mankind into bloodshed during the 20th century, as well as a prescient anticipation of the issues to come Blunts its force at the end with speculation of an Anglosphere that is pipe dream than sober proposal. The historian and poet who first documented Stalin s Great Purge offers his thoughts on the ideological frenzies of the twentieth century, their nature and causes and their many destructive effects The second half, which is meant to give an idea of where we are headed in the twenty first century is, understandably, less specific and thus less satisfying, but still intriguing, especially for Conquest s thoughts on the rise, or resurgence, of corporatism and the future of the nations that make up the English speaking world. Robert Conquest is an expert in one field Soviet communism The problem is he thinks he is an expert in a lot of things Among other things, he advocates for the equivalent of Brexit, defends imperialism, denies climate change, and maybe least but not last, tells youth to get off his lawn.His technique is usually the same start off with a set in stone opinion, and cherrypick quotes that agree with it He s quite well read so no dearth of that Dissenting voices do not get a mention except for obviously silly ones that he likes to ridicule Even facts are left deliberately unscrutinized For example while defending British imperialism he claims the Indian government changed the definition of famine, implying famines happened after independence but were not called such The reality is that there were enough safeguards so that keeping the old definition of famine didnt make sense droughts did happen and were dealt with poorly, but with nowhere near the millions of deaths caused by utterly callous British policies that led to famine And yes, nowhere does he mention the utter theft, if you will, of the Indian economy by the Raj oh yeah his grandfather helping write a Marathi book must excuse that.I recalled while reading this book the Gell Mann amnesia effect you read a shit chapter on something you know about British Raj in India , but then read another chapter on something you dont know much about say, EU and believe it totally I wanted to avoid that In short I do not trust Conquest on any topic outside of his field of expertise.Regarding Soviet communism though, he is mostly right And the book is informative there But it s worth pointing out again that not everything the USSR did was shoddy as Conquest would have you believe Soviet science and math is highly respected, they were at or near the top of building heavy machinery, even their books were beautiful However, cars did break down and there were bread lines and they missed the computer revolution, and state control of everything is utterly horrible and soul not to mention economy killing If Conquest had just talked of communism, I d have given this book a higher rating But some of the other stuff pissed me off too much. Conquest knows his stuff, and some of this book is downright prophetic e.g warnings of Brexit and other developments from 2016 But the book wanders rhetorically, and starts to become a polemic against Stalinism, and then pivots into random musings for an international alliance of former British colonies Overall, underwhelming. Sidney and Beatrice Webb were leaders of the British Fabian Society and founders of the London School of Economics The Fabian Society believed in combining socialism and democracy, taking a position between Communism and free market capitalism The Fabians believed that academics and intellectuals were wiser than businessmen, and so should have a substantial role in guiding the economy The Fabians also played a major role in the British Labour Party During the 1930s, the Webbs wrote a positive account of the Soviet Union called Soviet Communism A New Civilisation The Webbs dismissed reports of a famine in the Ukraine, as did fellow Fabians George Bernard Shaw and Herbert George Wells Wells interviewed Stalin in 1934 and praised him for his honesty A French politician, douard Herriot, visited the Ukraine in 1933 to see for himself, but Stalin knew ahead of time that he was coming, and hid all signs of famine before Herriot arrived Reporting that there was a famine in the Ukraine was a crime, punishable by being sent to a forced labor camp for five years There were some reporters who told the truth about the Ukrainian famine, most notably Malcolm Muggeridge Even after the crimes of Stalin became known, some Westerners have treated the Soviet Union with too much respect In 1975 President Gerald Ford refused to meet with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, when he came to the United States after the publication of his expos of the Soviet forced labor camps, The Gulag Archipelago Ford did not want to offend the Soviets Conquest quotes John Kenneth Galbraith in 1984 praising its lack of unemployment Conquest says that ignorance of history has been a major cause of the disasters of the twentieth century He also mentions that Thomas Jefferson thought that history was the most important subject that students should be taught in primary school. Just a really solid readchock full of some very interesting anecdotes..