Rise and Fall of Communism (2011)Second Essay Assignment

“The Specter that Haunts McAdams”

A specter is haunting Jim McAdams.  He cannot sleep.  He has just finished reading Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” and Vaclav Havel’s “Power of the Powerless,” and he has had a startling revelation:  They are both writing about the need to speak truth to power.  Because he is giving a lecture tomorrow on the similarities and differences between the two authors, he needs to figure out if this insight is accurate.

McAdams decides that the only way to resolve this issue is to ask Marx and Havel themselves.  Havel is merely asleep, but it takes a little longer to resuscitate Marx.  Both writers are clearly not happy to be disturbed, but they agree to join McAdams for a brief visit.  When all of the parties are assembled, McAdams presents his quandary.  Marx immediately dismisses the commonality with Havel.  “I am writing about the need for the masses to stand up to their oppressors,” he asserts angrily.  Havel quickly responds, “My dear Karl, McAdams’ hunch is correct.  Our similarities on the issue of truth-telling are much greater than our differences.”

What can Havel possibly mean?  And, is he right?

Assignment:   Please write an essay of no more than four (4) typed, doubled-spaced pages in which you respond to each of these two questions.  In justifying your own stand, it is crucial that you take into consideration the counterarguments that will be raised against you.

For this assignment, I am only asking you to comment on the perspectives presented in two readings:  “The Communist Manifesto” and “Power of the Powerless.”

As you write, please keep in mind my standard advice:  state your argument clearly, be simple and direct, don’t meander off the question, and dare to be original!

Your completed essay is due next Friday, April 15. Please hand it in to your TA.  Because of this assignment, there will be two showings of a film instead of your regular discussion section assignment.  Thus, your TA will tell you how, when, and where to submit your paper. You are responsible for making sure that he receives it.

Good Luck!