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Publisher's Summary

How did communism become such a pervasive economic and political philosophy? Why did it first take root in early 20th-century Russia? These and other questions are part of a fascinating story whose drama has few equals in terms of sheer scale, scope, or human suffering and belief. 

These 12 lectures invite you to go inside communism’s journey from a collection of political and economic theories to a revolutionary movement that rocked the world. Rich with historical insights, they zero in on the “how” and “why” of the Bolsheviks' rise to power and how communist ideas worked in theory and practice - and how they didn’t. 

First, you’ll examine the utopian movements that influenced Marx and Engels, and how these leaders came to develop their revolutionary philosophies. From there, you’ll discover how Lenin became the first person to put Marxist ideas into action by violently seizing power in Russia during the chaos of the First World War. Throughout, you’ll meet thinkers and revolutionaries like Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky, unpack the meaning of texts like Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto, and experience the shock and awe of events including the Paris Commune and the October Revolution. 

An uncompromising look at one of the dominant political ideologies of the 20th century, this is a fascinating, and sobering, study of how theories rise to power in a bid to create a new civilization - whatever the human cost. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2019 The Great Courses (P)2019 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin

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The Rise of a Costly Idea

AT A GLANCE:
A valuable summary of a changing idea.

CONTENT:
This is a brief history on the beginnings of Communism as an ideology and its early implementation, beginning with pre-Marxist social theories and ending with the founding of the USSR. The course is structured chronologically and easy to follow; however, there is a good deal of repetition and overlap between lectures that should have been revised before release. I went into this knowing only the broadstrokes and feel that the content is highly useful for undergraduate-level purposes.

It must be said that the structure takes a nosedive in the last few lectures. After Lenin we are given a full-length lecture on Rosa Luxemburg; it seems like a time-filler and is loaded with a level of detail elsewhere given only to Marx. I accept that this series couldn't delve too deeply into the USSR as it will probably be its own follow-up course, but this does not excuse the lackluster ending. We finally receive a treatment of Radek, Serge, Zinoview, Bogdanov, Ho Chi Minh and Stalin only in the last two lectures! This feels extremely rushed, and the course should have been either longer or actually stopped at Lenin.

NARRATOR:
Prof. Liulevicius is a well-spoken and clear lecturer, if not particularly striking in his style. I would purchase another of his courses.

OVERALL:
Highly recommended for those unfamiliar with the basics of Communism and its historical beginnings. The accompanying PDF is highly useful and differs enough from the lectures to recommend reading it concurrently or on its own.

18 people found this helpful

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Scholarly, Detailed and Objective

In the second lecture of this series, Professor Liulevicius quotes a Prussian spy who described Marx’ eyes as “demonic.” Is this evidence of bias? Perhaps not, for in the same breath Liulevicius acknowledges Marx’ “genius,” “energy” and irresistible “intellectual superiority,” again quoting the Prussian agent.

For listeners not steeped in the scholarship of early Communism, this is a very well-crafted primer/refresher. Professor Liulevicius is a great storyteller and his skillful use of primary sources often allows the historical figures involved to speak for themselves.

22 people found this helpful

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Early Communism is the model for Democrat Radicals

I found that this clear and unbiased outline of the rise of a Communism was eye opening in joining together the aspects of Democrat radicalism that we hear about daily today. Violence, threats, mobs action, and a vanguard of shallow thinking followers determined to “pull it all down” are near exact replicas of their earlier Communist counterparts. It is a sobering reminder than the events of today are not spontaneous happenstance, but rather the fulfillment of warped minds with a purpose. Your subversion.

10 people found this helpful

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One of the most dishonest Great Courses lectures I’ve hear/seen

If you want to just confirm your own “communists are bad” bias, this lecture is for you.
On class 1, the lecturer states that without that train ride that took Lenin to Russia, the world wouldn’t have known Hittler, Mussolini, Second World War, Chinese Revolution, Korean War and more. This is not even balanced with the Racist, Imperialist, Colonialist horrors perpetrated by the West. It’s justifying cause for the reaction. Communism proposed an answer to the wrongs that happened before and kept going after.

Can we blame Lenin and Marx for all the crimes that happened before they were born too? Maybe slavery wouldn’t have happened if Lenin didn’t take that train ride too.

So from class 1 onwards the lectures go back and forth from historical facts to academic dishonesty. I did finish it regardless but if you’d like to have a balanced overview of the process this isn’t it.

8 people found this helpful

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Author has a very obvious bias

The author tells history with a very heavy narrative influence. He often mocks those they disagree with in a way that would never be done in another Great Courses series. At points this is done to a degree that falsifies the history.

An example early on is the intentional mocking of Marx and Engels when they critiqued other socialist movements of the time as if Marx and Engels were the Intellectual Property owners of the concept of socialism.

6 people found this helpful

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Overview, no depth

this was a general overview of Marxism without in depth discussion of what true Marxism means or how it is to be achieved.

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Disappointed

Extremely biased and skewed to show leftists views only in a negative light. The story is told without any disguise to the disgust the storyteller has towards communism. I expected more open thought from such academia.

3 people found this helpful

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Good work. Worth the time.

Interesting and informative. The jumps in time line might necessitate re-listening and/or lecture reading, but overall organized and engaging.

3 people found this helpful

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An Objective History from Marx to Lenin

Disregard the bad review from 11/09/19.

I liked this overview of the roots and growth of Communism from Marx to Lenin. I read the review of another Audible listener (below) which gave a critical review of the lecture and called it "bad scholarship." It's clear the review author sees anything less than gushing praise for communism as right wing propaganda. As a historian, I found the scholarship to be on Paar with academic practices today. I found the lecture informative and objective and followed a logical course through the end of the 19th century and into the 20th. I would purchase another lecture from this professor.

15 people found this helpful

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Good stuff

Really enjoyed this, and learned a lot. This is a fairly straight history, which starts with Marx and ends with the death of Lenin. Another reviewer took issue with "balance" or some such nonsense. This is not a hagiography, and it's not explicitly pro or anti Socialism / Communism. But you know what? Marx and Lenin and many of their comrades were not nice people, and their fantasies led directly to misery, starvation, death and enslavement for uncounted millions. If you're a modern leftist seeking validation this is not for you. But perhaps you should listen anyway.

35 people found this helpful

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  • Neil Green
  • 05-29-20

Good straight forward history

Narrator was good. covered a lot of detail in a short book giving a good introduction to the rise of communism.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sam Tuke
  • 09-03-20

Brilliant

Fascinating, extremely well written lectures. Focuses on the visions and many visionaries which brought about communism, instead of the crimes and tragedies which occurred later. Highly engaging and accessible. Stranger than fiction.

1 person found this helpful

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  • James
  • 04-10-21

Didnt like the lecturer

Meh, not great. I still don’t understand it! FOREWORDS REQUIRED MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE

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  • Colin
  • 09-24-20

Just want I wanted

This is a big subject but this was the perfect amount of time. Covered some of the basic Marxist concepts and how the bolshevik's took power. If you want to understand communism this is a great place to start.

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  • brian s.
  • 09-09-20

Great insight

Very well structured and delivered lectures with a great accompanying PDF. Engaging throughout. I enjoyed most the unbiased view on the pivotal characters within this historical study.