To Overthrow the World

The Rise and Fall and Rise of Communism

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By Sean McMeekin

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From an award-winning historian, a new global history of Communism 

When the USSR collapsed in 1991, the world was certain that Communism was dead. Today, three decades later, it is clear that it was not. While Russia may no longer be Communist, Communism and sympathy for Communist ideas have proliferated across the globe.

In To Overthrow the World, Sean McMeekin investigates the evolution of Communism from a seductive ideal of a classless society into the ruling doctrine of tyrannical regimes. Tracing Communism’s ascent from theory to practice, McMeekin ranges from Karl Marx’s writings to the rise and fall of the USSR under Stalin to Mao’s rise to power in China to the acceleration of Communist or Communist-inspired policies around the world in the twenty-first century. McMeekin argues, however, that despite the endurance of Communism, it remains deeply unpopular as a political form. Where it has arisen, it has always arisen by force.

Blending historical narrative with cutting-edge scholarship, To Overthrow the World revolutionizes our understanding of the evolution of Communism—an idea that seemingly cannot die.

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  • "A wide-ranging examination of how the concept of communism was a key driver of the conflicts of the 20th century—and remains a significant force."
    Kirkus
  • “Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, many in the West were lulled into a sense of complacency. Fast forward to today, and the United States is locked in yet another struggle with a communist superpower, even as our liberal system is under attack at home. In his thoroughly researched but readable and entertaining new book, historian Sean McMeekin charts the evolution of communism from Karl Marx to Tiananmen Square massacre while explaining how this political system endured through the trials and tribulations of the twentieth century. Students, scholars, and policymakers will all benefit from the lessons contained in this bold and lively book.”
    Walter Russell Mead, author of The Arc of a Covenant
  • “An essential read. McMeekin is one of the few historians who understands the history of communism from the ground up. He has written a powerful and urgent book, revealing communism in all its ugly detail, and showing how its pernicious influence still lingers on into the twenty-first century.”
    Nick Lloyd, author of The Western Front
  • “This vivid history of communism, from the day Marx penned The Communist Manifesto in 1848 to the present, contains valuable insights, including that of Bakunin, the Russian anarchist who immediately pointed out the crippling contradiction of Marxism—it merely substitutes one power-hungry form of government for another. McMeekin follows this skeptical thread through the Soviet and Chinese experiences, from Lenin and Stalin to Mao and Xi, detailing the economic weakness and political madness of communist regimes in Europe and Asia that have been kept afloat over the decades as much by Western gullibility and indulgence as by their own ruthless, incompetent managers.”
    Geoffrey Wawro, author of The Vietnam War
  • “With amazing scholarship, McMeekin tells the story of the rise and fall of communism in To Overthrow the World. The utopian promises of communism have always led to dictatorship, bloody repression, and war. McMeekin punctures one myth after another, including the legend that the Soviets won World War II without much help from the West. Many people today are too young to remember the Cold War, and it is vital that they learn the facts about communism found in To Overthrow the World.”
    David Gordon, senior fellow, Ludwig von Mises Institute
  • “In To Overthrow the World, McMeekin describes in telling detail how no communist regime in history has gained power through the vote or public approval, and how its social and economic policies invariably bring about mass repression and poverty. No other book to my knowledge has demonstrated so damningly the endemic falsity of the ideology’s doctrines, together with the appalling consequences of the social experiment in a worldwide setting.”
    Nikolai Tolstoy, historian

On Sale
Sep 10, 2024
Page Count
544 pages
Publisher
Basic Books
ISBN-13
9781541601963

Sean McMeekin

About the Author

Sean McMeekin is a professor of history at Bard College. The award-winning author of several books, including Stalin’s War, The Russian Revolution, July 1914, and The Ottoman Endgame, McMeekin lives in Clermont, New York. 

Learn more about this author