The Collapse of Communism
Leinbach, Glenn, Aerospace Power Journal
The Collapse of Communism edited by Lee Edwards. Hoover Institution Press (http://www-hoover. stanford.edu/presswebsite/hooverpress2. html), Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-6010, January 2000, 207 pages, $18.95 (paper).
There are several reasons for reading The Collapse of Communism, not the least of which is the impressive array of academics who, knowing communism well, have contributed to this collection. Several of its essays in particular serve as an important building block in expanding one's understanding of the demise of communism. This book should find its way to the bookshelves of people who appreciate the failure of one of history's most repressive forms of government but who are not necessarily well versed in the reasons for that failure.
Two themes emerge in this collection. One is that Western observers were caught off guard by the instability of the Soviet Union-and by its sudden demise. The other is that many Western communist sympathizers were more than willing (and still are) to shill for the communist state. The essayists who cover these two themes are disturbed by the implications.
In his brief essay "The Year of Miracles," Edwards sets the stage for what will follow. He lays out four main reasons for the fall of communism (its leaders' lack of faith in communist ideology; geography; communism's inherent stagnancy and corruption; and the growing influence of mass media during the 1970s and 1980s).
Richard Pipes's "The Fall of the Soviet Union," perhaps one of the most eye-opening essays, discusses several of the author's explanations for the demise of the Soviet empire and finally arrives at the one "decisive catalyst" that brought about the collapse of communism. In doing so, he anticipates some of the essays to come. Noting that the fall of the regime was brought on by "the utopian nature of its objectives" (42), he then explains the problems inherent not only in utopia itself, but also those in the Soviet pursuit of utopia. Finally, Pipes chastises Western academics who failed to see the imminent collapse.
Michael Novak's "The Silent Artillery of Communism" deals with communism's destruction of one of the most important aspects of life in a thriving society-human capital, specifically as it affects the economic world. He notes that "for communism, there is in man no internal source of dignity" (100) and that "it destroyed the human capital on which a free economy and polity are based" (113). Novak feels that the strength of personal will is stronger than any political system and looks toward a difficult but manageable transition from a repressive society to one that encourages enterprise and imagination.
Andrzej Brzeski follows with "The End of Communist Economics," in which he contends that "the economic system of the Soviet Union. …