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Vanguard of the Revolution:
The Global Idea of the Communist Party
A. James McAdams

Hardcover | 2017 | $35.00 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691168944
584 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 25 halftones.
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The first comprehensive political history of the communist party

Vanguard of the Revolution is a sweeping history of one of the most significant political institutions of the modern world. The communist party was a revolutionary idea long before its supporters came to power. In this book, A. James McAdams argues that the rise and fall of communism can be understood only by taking into account the origins and evolution of this compelling idea. He shows how the leaders of parties in countries as diverse as the Soviet Union, China, Germany, Yugoslavia, Cuba, and North Korea adapted the original ideas of revolutionaries like Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin to profoundly different social and cultural settings.

Taking readers from the drafting of The Communist Manifesto in the 1840s to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, McAdams describes the decisive role played by individual rulers in the success of their respective parties—men like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Fidel Castro. He demonstrates how these personalities drew on vying conceptions of the party’s functions to mesmerize their followers, mobilize their populations, and transform their societies. He also shows how many of these figures abused these ideas to justify incomprehensible acts of inhumanity. McAdams explains why communist parties lasted as long as they did, and why they either disappeared or ceased to be meaningful institutions by the close of the twentieth century.

The first comprehensive political history of the communist party, Vanguard of the Revolution is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand world communism and the captivating idea that gave it life.

A. James McAdams is the William M. Scholl Professor of International Affairs and director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His many books include Judging the Past in Unified Germany and Germany Divided: From the Wall to Reunification (Princeton). He lives in South Bend, Indiana.


"The historiography on Marxism, as well as communist movements in general, is notoriously inaccessible; McAdams delivers a lucid and beautifully written volume that defies the norm, providing a highly readable study of the party."--Publishers Weekly


"A highly informed and beautifully written history of the rise and decline of world communism - and of the theory and practice of the ‘leading role of the party.’ Vanguard of the Revolution is ideal for students and general readers alike."--George Breslauer, University of California, Berkeley

"Vanguard of the Revolution is a brilliant overview of communism from A to Z, from Lenin to Xi Jinping. McAdams not only provides a fascinating and detailed history of the evolution of communism among its most prominent practitioners, he shows us why so many have fought and died for it despite the ideological persecution and economic disaster wrought in its name. A terrific read."--Lowell Dittmer, University of California, Berkeley

"This is a very welcome and engaging book that traces the history of the communist party from Karl Marx to the lowering of the red flag over the Kremlin in 1991. McAdams knows his stuff and is an excellent analyst."--Norman M. Naimark, author of Stalin's Genocides

"Beautifully written, convincingly argued, and absolutely stunning in its historical sweep. McAdams has produced a volume that will be savored by a very wide readership in the years ahead."--Jeffrey Kopstein, author of The Politics of Economic Decline in East Germany, 1945–1989

Table of Contents:

Preface ix
Note xiii
Abbreviations xv
1 Introduction 1
2 A Revolutionary Idea 18
3 A Revolutionary Party Emerges 59
4 Internationalizing the Party Idea 102
5 Creating the Leninist Party 141
6 A Different Type of Party 183
7 Monolithic Socialism 222
8 Rediscovering the Leninist Idea 268
9 The Charismatic Leader and the Party 310
10 The Revolution Returns 337
11 The Party Comes Back 380
12 The Party in Peril 428
13 The Party Vanishes 475
Photo Credits 501
Notes 503
Suggested Readings (Books in English)
Index 543

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