Breaking with Communism

Breaking with Communism

The Intellectual Odyssey of Bertram D. Wolfe

Editor: Robert Hessen
ISBN: 978-0-8179-8882-1
Publication Date: 3/1/1990
Pages: 311

Bertram Wolfe (1896-1977) was the pre-eminent U.S. historian of Soviet Russia and author of the classis Three Who Made a Revolution, a triple biography of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. His autobiography, A Life in Two Centuries,, ends around 1937-1939, after he has related how his opposition to World War I led him to become an early admirer of V.I. Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution, how he helped create communist parties in the United States and Mexico, how he was expelled by Joseph Stalin in 1929, and how during the next decade he hoped for a reconciliation with Stalin. Wolfe's account breaks off, however, before he could explain how he reached the conclusion that Soviet communism, which he had once idealized and defended, would destroy human liberty if not opposed.

Breaking With Communism documents the second half of Wolfe's life, drawing from his papers in the Hoover Institution Archives. This volume, consisting chiefly of Wolfe's letters from 1939 on and supplemented by unpublished speeches and writings, illuminates his struggle to uncover the truth about the history of Soviet Russia and his anguish over renouncing his earlier allegiances not only to Lenin, but to Karl Marx as well. At a time when intellectuals in Eastern Europe and China are going through the same painful, soul-searching process, this book is especially timely and insightful.

Robert Hessen is a historian educated at Queens College, Harvard University, and Columbia University. He is a senior fesearch fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace and the general editor of the Hoover Archival Documentary series.

Unlike most collections of letters, this one has a theme that gives the work a narrative thread. The documentary skillfully traces how Bert Wolfe's ideas evolved, how he changed, slowly and reluctantly, from being an ardent defender of Lenin, communism, and Soviet Russia, to being a leading adversary. Wolfe's Voice of America radio scripts, published here for the first time, contain some of the most eloquent words ever penned by a critic of communism and a defender of democracy." —Sidney Hook

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Robert Hessen

Robert Hessen, a Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a historian specializing in American economic and business history. He received his B.A. from Queens College, his M.A. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He taught in the Graduate School of Business at Columbia until 1974. Since then, when he joined the Hoover Institution, he has taught in Stanford's Graduate School of Business.


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