Brown’s most recent book shows how Mikhail Gorbachev played the most important role in ending the Cold War. Brown used a lot of new evidence to show this. Ronald Reagan was an important part of his team, and Margaret Thatcher was a surprise player. “Iron Lady” Go-Between wasn’t as strong as her. She managed to convince Reagan that Gorbachev, whom she had good relations with and who was a very different Soviet leader from the ones before him, was a very different Soviet leader.
He thought she went too far. Cradock said that when she talked about Gorbachev in Washington as “a man to do business with,” she became “an agent of influence in both directions.” When the Cold War came to an end, though, it was Gorbachev who played a big role. He was in charge of the Soviet Union’s transition from a very authoritarian system to one that was more politically diverse, and he broke with Leninist doctrine to change the Soviet foreign policy in a big way. The Cold War started when the Soviet Union took over Eastern Europe. It came to an end when Gorbachev agreed both in principle and in practice that the people of these countries had the right to choose what kind of political and economic system they wanted to live in.
The Anatomy of Fascism By Robert O. Paxton
Fascism and Communism claimed to be able to explain everything that happened in society and politics, and so they were able to justify their authoritarian or totalitarian rule. Fascism is often used as a synonym for intolerant and autocratic political behavior, but Robert Paxton’s book, which is both lucid and easy to read, explains what fascism is and how it works. It also shows how fascism is different from other forms of political behavior, like democracy. What fascism is all about are the “mobilizing passions.” These are things like the glorification of war and violence, racism, a focus on national solidarity, a rejection of the legitimacy of different interests and values in a society, and a cult of the heroic leader, where the leader’s instincts count for more than reasoned, evidence-based argument.
Conversations with Gorbachev: On Perestroika, the Prague Spring, and the Crossroads of Socialism By Mikhail Gorbachev, Zdenek Mlynar, George Shriver
There are a lot of books about Communism, but this one is especially interesting because it tells the story of two former Communists who were best friends for five years at Moscow University from 1950 to 1955. One of them, Mikhail Gorbachev, was the last leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991, and the other, Zdenk Mlynás, was the main thinker behind the “Prague Spring” in Czechoslovakia in 1968. As a result, Mlynás resigned from his political office and was kicked out of the Communist Party. From 1977 until he died in 1997, he lived there. Mlyná was able to ask Gorbachev why he did or didn’t do certain things because of his friendship with the former Soviet leader and the time of their conversation, which took place soon after the Soviet Union broke up. Political and intellectual journeys: Both men think about how they changed their minds about Communist systems after they came to power, and how they came to see them as a betrayal of their socialist ideals.
Nineteen Eighty-Four By George Orwell
The only book on the list is this one. It was written in 1948, but Orwell changed the last two numerals to get the title. It was not meant to predict the future, but to warn people about the dangers of totalitarianism. Even though Orwell thought a lot about Stalin’s Soviet Union, he also talked about other things about totalitarian rule. Among these are control over the concepts and language people use, the destruction of historical evidence, comprehensive censorship, the surveillance and brutality of the political police that are always there, and control over everything people say and do. Many of the words Orwell came up with to describe how to control people, such as “doublethink,” “Newspeak,” “Unperson,” and “memory-holes,” are still used in politics today. Despite some literary flaws, the book is still powerful and has a message that is still relevant today, more than 70 years after it was written.
Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes By Juan J. Linz
Juan Linz, who died in 2013, was one of the best political analysts of the last 100 years. He was born in 1926. His work on how democracies can turn into authoritarianism and the characteristics and types of authoritarian and totalitarian rule was very important. As a separate book 25 years later, Linz added almost 50 pages of important “Further Reflections.” This work was first published in 1975 in a multi-volume Handbook of Political Science. Authoritarian systems include a wide range of non-democratic polities, such as absolute monarchy, military dictatorship, “sultanistic” regimes, and theocracies, which are not democratic. Totalitarianism is an even more extreme case of power being concentrated in a single person. It is “a regime form,” as Linz puts it, “for completely organizing political life and society.” It is based on an all-encompassing ideology that justifies total control now with the promise of utopia in the future, but it isn’t true (though tomorrow never comes). Linz’s well-researched book shows how many different kinds of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes there are, and it gives good advice to people who aren’t happy with democracy and want to try something else.
Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders By Sergio Bitar, Abraham F. Lowenthal
The last book I’m going to read is about how to change from a rule that is very strict. It looks at how political leaders think and feel about their own experiences in politics, rather than how scholars look at it. Then, before each interview with a leader from one of the many countries covered, there is an essay from a person who knows a lot about that country. This puts the democratization process there in context. In-depth interviews with Fernando Henrique Cardoso, President of Brazil from 1995 to 2003, Patricio Aylwin, Aleksander Kwaniewski, and Felipe González are some of the most interesting. They shed light on how these four countries came to be, how they came to be, and how they came to be again.