Kirkus Reviews QR Code
REFLECTIONS ON A RAVAGED CENTURY by Robert Conquest

REFLECTIONS ON A RAVAGED CENTURY

By Robert Conquest

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-393-04818-7
Publisher: Norton

A stimulating analysis of the role ideology has played in shaping our murderous century. Conquest (Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution; The Great Terror, The Harvest of Sorrow, etc.) has reworked old essays and added some new ones to produce this treatise. In the first part, entitled “Mindslaughter,” he concentrates on his specialty, the Soviet Union. The fallacies of Marxism and Communism are exposed in all their weakness. Conquest demonstrates the inconsistencies of the Marxian utopian vision, contrasting it with the grotesque violence the idealists Lenin and Stalin visited upon their own people in the name of building Socialism. He chronicles the corruption of the Soviet system, and shows how pathological lying at all levels of society made the U.S.S.R., with its revolutionary ideology and military might, a menace to world peace. For Conquest, the power of ideas joined the force of a restrictive mindset to make the Soviets a world power, but also kept their economy backward, leading ultimately to the nation’s demise. However, the Sovietologist stretches credulity in Part Two, entitled “Facing the Consequences.” He advocates for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, mocks as folly the concept of a “United States of Europe,” and denigrates the modest achievements of the U.N. In addition, his advocacy for an “Association” of Albion and its inheritors (the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) as the best way to spread progress in the world smacks of xenophobia. He discounts the impediments that geography imposes, and downplays the internal problems and differences inherent in Anglophile nations. Regrettably, he excludes Western Europe and Japan from this “Association,” assuming that it makes more sense for the Anglo cousins to continue holding hands with the mother country than to join in spreading the gospel of civility and freedom to their neighbors, even though the many economic and political crises since 1989 clearly show the need for shining lights in all areas of the globe. This ideological polemic, which asserts that British colonialism was not all that imperialistic, and that the McCarthyites were right because the Soviets were intent on the West’s destruction, mars what is otherwise a perceptive and informative set of essays.