AT the time when the Communists came to power in China someone remarked that commentators on the event could be divided into those who knew something about China, but nothing about Communism, and those who knew something about Communism, but nothing about China. It is indeed extremely difficult for anyone to combine the kind of knowledge of Communism which comes from a study of its ideology and mental processes with an expertise on particular countries which are affected by the world Communist movement. Yet the attempt must be made, for if it is not, interpretations of current international affairs will either fail in understanding of one of the main political ideas of our time or else be confined to analyses of abstract doctrine without taking account of the local historical settings in which the doctrine wins its followers.
This book aims at a review of the development of Communism, both in theory and practice, since the Bolshevik capture of power in Russia in 1917, with a preliminary account of the origins of Marxism and its introduction into Russia from its homeland in Western Europe. The Russian Communists modified Marxism and the Chinese Communists have modified it still more. Today a large part of mankind lives under governments which acknowledge Marx as their ideological ancestor, but Marxism has assumed strange shapes which would evoke his astonishment, and often his indignation, if he could return to this world to view the effects of his life's work.