My modest goal in this course is to provide you with a systematic way of understanding the evolution of world communism. I seek to acquaint you with two topics: 1) the theoretical issues in the study of communism, and 2) the formative historical experiences of countries like the Soviet Union and China. My approach should enable you to interpret the history of any communist state in the 20th or 21st century.

This course has a substantial reading component. We will read both secondary and primary sources. Both are equally important Make sure you follow the schedule on the Web Syllabus closely. I will take advantage of this virtual medium to add readings and change assignments.

Books. There are four required books in this course as well as a Reader which you can purchase in the Decio copy center..

  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (International Publishers). Although the Manifesto is short, it is one of the most important readings in the course. Concentrate on the pamphlet's big picture. You should devour its ideas, predictions, and revolutionary spirit.

  • Rosenberg and Young, Transforming Russia and China (Oxford, 1982). This book provides useful historical background to all of the themes in the course. It is also one of the few successful comparative studies of Russia’s and China’s journey with communism. Some of the chapters are a little too sympathetic for my taste to the Chinese Communist Party. In particular, please keep this in mind when you read the chapter on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which seems strangely neutral about Mao Zedong’s atrocities.

  • Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon (Bantam). This is one of my favorite books. It provides a persuasive answer to the question: why do smart, educated people do evil things?  Imagine that you are Rubashov.  Why would you be willing to die for your beliefs?

  • Vaclav Havel, Open Letters: Selected Writings (Vintage, 1992). We will read the long chapter entitled “The Power of the Powerless.” This is a difficult but incredibly provocative essay. My past students routinely report that Havel’s ideas have shaped their lives.  We will also read some of the shorter chapters to get a feel for Czechoslovakia in the 1970s.

Virtual Sources: As the father of two Notre Dame graduates, I am acutely aware of the cost of textbooks. To save you money, I have posted many of our required reading assignments, as well as some nice videos, on the Course Syllabus. These articles and readings are as important as the books in the course. We will expect you to have read all of them.

: We will have two or three films.  Two of these films will probably be in the evening. We will have two showings of the evening films, giving you some flexibility about when you choose to attend. Evening films will be shown at 7:00 p.m. in locations TBA

First Film: "Interrogation" (Przesluchanie), by Ryszard Bugajski. A terrific and sometimes appropriately terrifying depiction of Stalinist Poland in the early 1950s.

Second Film:  “A Journey to Russia,” PBS Frontline Series (in class showing).

Possible Third Film (depending on what happens during the semester):  "The Lives of Others," a film by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. A Stasi operative listens into the private lives of other people. Reminds me of old times in East Berlin!

Your Performance: Your performance in this course will be evaluated on the basis of reflective writing assignments, and active, enthusiastic participation in discussion section. You will have three essays and multiple short paragraphs.

First Essay Assignment 15 percent
Second Essay Assignment 20 percent
Final Essay Assignment 35 percent

Discussion Sections:
Short Paragraphs 10 percent
Participation 20 percent

Office Hours: I hold regular office hours on Tuesdays, 3:00-4:00 and Wednesdays, 2:00-4:00. If you absolutely cannot make those times, please ask me for an appointment. I enjoy meeting with all of my students, so please feel comfortable visiting me. We do not have to talk specifically about the course.

My office is in 211 Brownson Hall in the Office of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, of which I am director.  Brownson is located behind the Main Building.  It is one of the few remaining original structures on campus that has not yet been replaced with a modern parody of neo-Gothic architecture.

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The use of electronic devices of any kind, including laptops, I-pads, cell phones, trap and trace tools, video cameras, and personal digital devices, is prohibited in my classroom!