Communism: The Great Misunderstanding Paperback – July 21, 2016
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Reading this book prompted me to do further research into some of its claims, most notably the claim that Marx and Engels did believe it was possible to peacefully transition a society from capitalism to socialism, and found they are indeed correct. This is probably the biggest claim of the book but it does not condemn revolution either. The book definitely favors reform but the context on which it does seems to be on the basis of an already existing democratic state. This seems to be inline with a speech Marx gave which Karl Kautsky cites in his polemic, "Marxism or Bolshevism:"
"The worker must some day achieve political power, in order to found the new organization of labor; he must overthrow the old political machine upon which the old institutions are based, if, like the old Christians, who neglected and despised such matters, he does not wish to renounce ‘the kingdom of this world.’
But we do not maintain that the means of attaining this objective are everywhere the same.
We know that we must take into consideration the institutions, the habits and the customs of different regions, and we do not deny that there are countries like America, England and – if I knew your institutions better I would perhaps add Holland – where the workers can attain their objective by peaceful means. But such is not the case in all other countries."
The book recognizes that ill conceived revolutions can damage our goals as socialists and communists however it does not dismiss revolution as a method of establishing socialism when democratic institutions begin to break down. In fact the book offers this dire warning:
"If the rich minority can share its wealth reasonably -- as happened in most of the West in the 20th Century -- the balance will be maintained and revolutions will not take place. If the aristocracy tries to take to much -- as happened in czarist Russia -- the poor majority will have nothing to lose and will revolt. Heads that go out of control usually get chopped off, as happened to Nicolas II of Russia and Marie Antoinette of France. A society's path of revolution or evolution comes down to the choices made by the workers and the bourgeoisie. However, the workers' choice depends on the aristocracy's behavior, and not the other way around. What happened in the 20th Century should be a warning for the ruling class: its choices will lead to reform or revolutions. In fact, signs of possible revolutions are now surfacing in countries with the highest inequality: the UK and the US where the 'social contract' -- the agreement between the rulers and the workers -- has now been broken (by the rulers)."
This books central argument is that communism cannot be installed. It can only come about through the material conditions of society and this is inline with Marxist theory. It postulates that this was the error made in the 20th Century, ignoring this principle leading communists down the road of utopian socialism. I can find no fault with this book comrades. It has changed a couple of views of mine and given me a few things to think about. At the end of this book I recognize this as an anti-revisionist text, ironic for its criticism of Maoism, and a passionate defense of communism seeking to inject Marx and his ideas back into the public discourse. This book will be controversial amongst the comrades, but nevertheless, I think it should be read, analyzed, and critiqued on its merit.
Ermak is happy to justify and explain away every evil that communism brought to the world ("guys, Russia wasn't really communist!") but doesn't give capitalism the same credit.
He says capitalism has become increasingly mixed with socialism in the last decades, yet only the capitalist portion of the economy is to blame for inequality.
I don't want to get into the doctrinal failings of the book because that has more to do with communism than his ability to write. So let me say the book did help me understand the communist viewpoint, which is why i purchased it in the first place. However, it bore strong resemblance to a high school paper in that it repeated phrases and concepts so regularly as to make it appear he needed to reach a specific word count.
The logic is flawed, the writing is ok, the perspective is decidedly shallow. I wasn't impressed considering he is a professor at USC.
Good if you want a little bit of objective history, or are an actual Marxist-Leninist that needs to reinforce your hate for liberals.
before you buy/read, please think: Would you buy a book titled "Nazism: The Great Misunderstanding"? If your answer is yes, proceed. It is your money.
Top international reviews
Communism is misunderstood because it is understood to be in conflict with capitalism. However, the author argues, the strongest capitalist economies in the world are the ones with the largest redistribution of wealth. Therefore, the author concludes that the welfare state will, and already has, paved the way to socialism. Thus, capitalism will lead to communism naturally.
Someone with such an impoverished understanding of Marxism should not be writing books on Communism being misunderstood.
I bought this book because I couldn't find a review on it.
If you are considering purchasing this book, please reconsider reading literally any other type of socialist literature. For beginners I would suggest "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism" by Richard D. Wolff or "The Principles of Communism" by Freddy Engels.