Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Published: The Economist; economist.com
Level of Difficulty:***
This text is a brilliant essay analyzing the reasons for the popularity of communism and fascism in the mid twentieth century. It is very well organized and extremely well written in addition to giving students valuable insight into the true picture and the real reasons behind the move towards totalitarian regimes at the time. I found the text, which is very objective indeed by the way, on The Economist website (economist.com), in the September 1999 issue. Due to copyright issues, you are going to have to access the text yourselves should you wish to use it.
It is suggested that you deal with the vocabulary while working through the text.

1.       Why does the fact that communism and fascism held such sway in the first half of the 20th century seem so incredible to modern day man?
2.       What does “to say that” in the phrase “To say that would not have been simply to make…” in paragraph 1 refer to?
3.       The writer claims that rather than a battle of ideas, we witnessed a fight between different forms of nationalism in the first half of the 20th century. How does he support this idea?
4.       Based on the information in paragraph three, contrast the claims of The Communist Manifesto and the realities in the first half of the 20th century in terms of: standard of living of the working class, means of dealing with grievances, social structure and the attitude of workers to each other. Be brief and to the point.
5.       In what two respects are Russia (1917), China (1949), Cuba and Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam similar? 
6.       Read the explanations in paragraph 5 and state clearly what they have in common.
7.       Hitler and Mussolini came to power as a result of which two factors?
8.       Why exactly did such large numbers of people rally round Hitler and Mussolini?
9.       What conclusion can we draw from the explanations provided in paragraphs 6 and 7 concerning the rise of fascism?
10.   The writer declares that communist, fascist and democratic regimes displayed certain similarities in the 20th century. What were they? State any two.
11.   Contrast communism and fascism and democratic capitalism in terms of economic policy and political organization based on the information provided in paragraph 11.
12.   What does “it” refer to in the phrase “It failed” in paragraph 13?
13.   What were the reasons for the above failure? State two.
14.   Despite the problems stated above, command economies took a long time to fail. State the three reasons for this.
15.   Why exactly did Western support for the communists begin to rise? State three reasons.
16.   What exactly does the phrase “that mind bending argument” in paragraph 18 refer to?
17.   What view does Fran├žois Furet find hard to understand?
18.   What does “they” in the phrase “They probably always will” in the last paragraph refer to?

1.       Now they are scorned as idiotic as well as barbaric.
2.       To describe the century as a war among isms
3.       Marx’ proposition had already been proved wrong by October 1917.
4.       Poorer/ better off; revolt/ not; two classes: capitalists and the proletariat/ middle class as well; class solidarity/ patriotism.
5.       The countries did not resemble the capitalist societies in which Marx’ social revolts would occur; they didn’t implement anything Marx would have recognized as communism.
6.       They are pragmatic circumstantial explanations.
7.       The destruction of social and political order after WWI; the raising of economic barriers for trade; economic failure.
8.       They offered organization instead of chaos; they amplified the nationalism of WWI into a spiritual and racial creed; they offered a unified leadership.
9.       In the absence of similarly extreme circumstances such regimes will not occur
10.   An interest in eugenics: the policy of sterilizing such groups as the mentally handicapped; celebration of physical fitness; social engineering; concern about population and resource shortages; all were running dictatorial empires where racial suppression was a strong theme.
11.   Command / market; dictatorship or top down/ decentralized democracy or bottom up
12.   The command economy failed to work over the long term; the dictatorship, therefore, failed to survive
13.   Changing the ownership of factories or farms from private to public did not make workers more motivated or direct their use to better things; command economies conducted no experiments and worked by ignoring  preferences
14.   WWII; capitalism was a dismal failure so did not offer a compelling alternative; support for communism in the West.
15.   Due to a belief that Stalin’s methods were working; Western views of egalitarian Chinese peasant communes and other romantic notions; the quasi religious quality of Marx2 theories as a call to a utopia.
16.   That all freedom is an illusion…
17.   The regime founded in October 1917
18.   Many intellectuals

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