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POLSC302: Contemporary Political Thought

Unit 5: Communism   In this unit, we will examine the implementation and evolution of communism in Russia and China.  We will begin with Russia after World War I, when the nation was suddenly flung into civil war.  Russian revolutionaries overthrew the Czar, and Russia and other neighboring states subsequently formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  The USSR installed communist rule under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, who was succeeded by Josef Stalin. 

Meanwhile, China suffered greatly during the 1930s and 1940s due to Japanese Occupation, World War II, and civil war.  Under Mao Tse Tung, the Communist Party of China (CPC) took over China in 1949.  During the four subsequent decades, China, the USSR, the U.S., and their respective allies engaged in both an ideological “Cold War” and a series of proxy “hot” wars in Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  The impact of the Soviet losses in Afghanistan and reforms in the USSR’s political system and economy led to the breakup of the USSR into Russia and several new states.  Following the death of Mao Tse Tung, Chinese reformers, led by Deng Xiao Ping, instituted a series of economic and government reforms that have led to China’s emergence as a global economic superpower in the 21st century.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
This unit will take approximately 14 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 5.3: 6 hours

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Summarize the primary principles of communism.
  • Identify the major political theorists of communism.
  • Discuss communism in the context of relevant historical events.
  • Assess the impact that communism has had on law, economics, international relations, and society.
  • Analyze the primary sources of communist political theory and understand how these theories can be applied to solve problems in society.

5.1 The Rise of Communism in the USSR   - Reading: The Library of Economics and Liberty: Bryan Caplan’s “Communism” Link: The Library of Economics and Liberty: Bryan Caplan’s “Communism” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the above article.
 
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  • Reading: The Foreign Language Press’ translations of V.I. Lenin’s “What is to Be Done? Chapters 1,” “What is to Be Done? Chapter 2,” and “What is to be Done? Chapter 3,” and “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” Links: The Foreign Language Press’ translations of V.I. Lenin’s What is to Be Done? Chapters 1,” (HTML) “What is to Be Done? Chapter 2,” (HTML) “What is to be Done? Chapter 3,” (HTML) and “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click the links and read these documents.  In the political pamphlet “What is to be Done?” Lenin argues that Marxists should form a political party, or "vanguard," of dedicated revolutionaries to spread Marxist political ideas among the workers. “Imperialism” posits the notion that Russia had gone through its capitalist stage of history and was ready for a second, socialist revolution.
     
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  • Reading: The Workers’ Library Publisher’s translation of J.V. Stalin’s “Mastering Bolshevism” Link: The Workers’ Library Publisher’s translation of J.V. Stalin’s “Mastering Bolshevism” (HTML)
     
    Also available in:

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    Instructions: Please click the link and read the entire document.  Stalin was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the 1917 October Revolution.  He served as both Premier of the Soviet Union and General Secretary the Communist Party from 1922-53.  This treatise is an explanation of how Stalin planned to build upon the foundations that Lenin laid in governing the USSR.
     
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  • Lecture: iTunesU: Gutenburg College: Professor David Crabtree’s “Episode 5: The Rise of Communism—Critique of Capitalism” Link: iTunesU: Gutenburg College: Professor David Crabtree’s “Episode 5: The Rise of Communism—Critique of Capitalism” (iTunes U)
     
    Instructions: Go to the above website and click on the link to podcast #5 (50 minutes).  
     
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  • Lecture: Yale University: Professor John Merriman’s “Episode 21: Stalinism” Link: Yale University Professor John Merriman’s “Episode 21: Stalinism (YouTube)”
     
    Also available in:
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    Transcript (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click the link and watch this lecture (47 minutes) which addresses the question as to whether or not the abuses of the Stalin era—i.e. ethnic persecution, widespread poverty, and dictatorial rule—were already present in the first years of the Russian Revolution.
     
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5.2 The Rise of Communism in the People’s Republic of China   - Reading: The Foreign Language Press’ translation of Mao Tse Tung’s “The Selected Works of Mao Tse Tung: China’s Two Possible Destinies” Link: The Foreign Language Press’ translation of Mao Tse Tung’s “The Selected Works of Mao Tse Tung: China's Two Possible Destinies” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click the link and read this excerpt.  In this work, Mao explains the pros and cons of supporting versus opposing a communist revolution in China.
 
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  • Reading: The Maoist Documentation Project’s translations of Mao Tse Tung’s “Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society” and “On Protracted War” Links: The Maoist Documentation Project’s translations of Mao Tse Tung’s “Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society” (HTML) and “On Protracted War” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click the links and read these two documents.  In these essays, Mao sets forth his philosophy of class struggle.
     
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  • Reading: The Foreign Language Press’ translations of Mao Tse Tung’s “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship,” “Struggle Against ‘Three Evils’ and ‘Five Evils’,” and “US Imperialism Is a Paper Tiger” Links: The Foreign Language Press’ translations of  Mao Tse Tung’s “On the People's Democratic Dictatorship,” (HTML) “Struggle Against 'Three Evils' and 'Five Evils',” (HTML)  “US Imperialism Is a Paper Tiger” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the links and read these documents.  In these essays, Mao discusses the benefits of engaging in war to defeat imperialism in all of its forms.
     
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5.3 Post-Cold War Ideology in Russia and China   - Reading: Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies: Adrian Pabst’s “The Future Role of Russia in World Politics” Link: Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies: Adrian Pabst’s “The Future Role of Russia in World Politics” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Click on the PDF link to read the executive summary of the conference, which debates the post-Cold War status of Russia.
 
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  • Lecture: iTunesU: Loyola Marymount University: Dr. John Rodden’s “Nazi/Stasi Human Rights Abuse and its Relevance for Today” Link: iTunesU: Loyola Marymount University: Dr. John Rodden’s “Nazi/Stasi Human Rights Abuse and its Relevance for Today” (iTunes U)
     
    Instructions:  Please watch this lecture (66 minutes), listed second on the podcast list. Dr. Rodden focuses his discussion on human rights abuse within the context of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Communism.
     
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  • Reading: Slate.com: Christopher Beam’s “How Communist Is China?” Link: Slate.com: Christopher Beam’s “How Communist Is China?” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this article. 
     
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  • Web Media: YouTube: Al Jazeera English’s “Frost over the World: George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev: Part 1” and “Frost over the World: George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev: Part 2” Links: YouTube: Al Jazeera English’s “Frost over the World: George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev: Part 1” (YouTube) and “Frost over the World: George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev: Part 2” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Please watch Sir David Frost’stwo-part interview (15 minutes and 9 minutes) with Bush and Gorbachev about their recollections of the fall of the Berlin Wall.   
     
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  • Web Media: UCTV: University of California, San Diego: “The 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China: Examining the Resilience of Communist Party Rule” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “U.S. Foreign Policy and the Cold War” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “U.S. Foreign Policy and the Cold War” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please complete the entire assessment.  You can check your answers against the Guide to Responding (PDF).