Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century

The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century

  • December 10, 2012
Vladimir Tismaneanu

Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park

Adrian A. Basora

Discussant

Director, Project on Democratic Transitions


America and the West Study Group featuring Vladimir Tismaneanu speaking on his new book, co-sponsored by FPRI’s Project on Democratic Transitions:

The Devil in History is a provocative analysis of the relationship between communism and fascism. Reflecting the author’s personal experiences of communist totalitarianism, the book lays out the political passions, radicalism, utopian ideals and catastrophic consequences of the twentieth century’s experiments in social engineering.

The subjects discussed in The Devil in History are highly relevant to understanding the challenges facing post-authoritarian transitions in Europe and Eurasia – the main focus of FPRI’s Project on Democratic Transitions. A thorough understanding of the legacy of communism is crucial to understanding these nations’ successes and failures in their attempted transitions to democracy.

Tismaneanu compares communism and fascism as competing, sometimes overlapping, and occasionally strikingly similar systems of political totalitarianism. He examines the inherent ideological appeal of these radical, revolutionary political movements, the visions of salvation and revolution they pursued, the value and types of charisma of leaders within these political movements, the place of violence within these systems, and their legacies in contemporary politics. The author discusses thinkers who have shaped contemporary understanding of totalitarian movements—people such as Hannah Arendt, Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, Albert Camus, François Furet, Tony Judt, Ian Kershaw, Leszek Kolakowski, Richard Pipes, and Robert C. Tucker.

Vladimir Tismaneanu is Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and author of several books, including Stalinism for All Seasons: A History of Romanian Communism (UC Press), Fantasies of Salvation: Democracy, Nationalism and Myth in Post-Communist Europe, and Reinventing Politics: Eastern Europe from Stalin to Havel.

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