Selected Texts

This is a list of selected works on totalitarianism and European history.  As there many other important works on the topics, it is not in meant to be seen as a complete list. While most links will lead you to Amazon Books, where you can buy the texts, the ones which are appropriately labelled will lead you to the text.  

Analytical 

The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper.
—“This book highlights the incompatibility of the views of two of the world’s greatest philosophers, Hegel and Plato, with modern parliamentary democracy and shows the roots of totalitarianism in world history.”  

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt.
—“Arendt wrote that totalitarianism was a form of governance which eliminated the very possibility of political action, converting human beings into classes of people who are liquidated simply because they belong to a particular social or ethnic group.  This seminal study is the most convincing warning against the temptation to repeat history.”  

Nazism And Communism: Evil Twins? (full text) by Alain De Benoist
—This article looks at the controversial debate which was sparked after The Black Book of Communism was published. People began to draw similarities between the two totalitarian regimes and this article dissects and discusses the debate. 

Rape of the Masses: The Psychology of Totalitarian Political Propaganda by Serge Chakotin
—“A study, by a noted student of Pavlov, on the technique of mass political propaganda. The author finds analogies to social psychology and to the psychology of propaganda in the theory of conditioned reflexes. After reviewing the history of the use of propaganda through the ages, he discusses the use and the aims of propaganda in pre-World War II totalitarian states.”  

Explaining Lustration in Eastern Europe: ‘A Post-communist Politics Approach’ (entire text in PDF), SEI Working Paper No 62, by Kieran Williams
—“This article discusses the process of Lustration in the former communist nations in Eastern Europe. Lustration is the process of limiting the participation of former communists, and especially informants of the communist secret police, in the successor political appointee positions or even in civil service positions.” 

Disturbing the Peace: a Conversation with Karel Hvížďala by Vaclav Havel
—“Havel discusses his transformation from absurdist playwright to activist to president of Czechoslovakia in interviews conducted during 1985 and 1986 by exiled journalist Hvizdala.” 

The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents (preview from books.google.com) by F. A. Hayek and Bruce Caldwell.
— “This book is a general argument concerning the incompatibility of democracy and comprehensive central planning. Hayek argues that the pursuit of socialist ideals leads to totalitarianism. While socialist ideals seem noble to many, those who persist in realizing these ideals will find it necessary to adopt coercive methods that are incompatible with freedom. Thus socialists must choose between their egalitarian goals and the preservation of individual liberty.”  

The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz
— “The book was written immediately after the author received political asylum in Paris following his break with Poland’s Communist government. It draws upon his experiences as an underground writer during World War II and position within the political and cultural elite of Poland in the immediate post-war years, attempting to explain both the intellectual allure of Stalinism and the temptation of collaboration with Stalinist regimes among intellectuals in post-war Central and Eastern Europe.” 

Origins of Totalitarian Democracy by Talmon Jl
— “In this work Professor Talmon demonstrates the intellectual origins of Fascism and Stalinism, both of which considered themselves to be forms of “Democracy”, as arising during the French Revolution.”  

The Essence of Totalitarianism by Richard Vetterli
—“The authors purport to bring various observations of the world of totalitarianism into a pattern which demonstrates a commonality, a development not generally seen. This book demonstrates that the content of much of what has already been written by the few who have seen the extraordinary in the modern totalitarian sequence points to a common foundation, syndrome, and echology.”  

The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe by Vaclav Havel
— “The essays explain the anti-democratic features and limits of Soviet-type totalitarian systems of power. They discuss such concepts as ideology, democracy, civil liberty, law and the state from a perspective which is radically different from that of people living in liberal western democracies. The authors also discuss the prospects for democratic change under totalitarian conditions.” 

Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War (entire text from the Ludwig von Mises Institute) by Ludwig von Mises
— “Mises was one of the first analysts to show that Nazism and fascism were totalitarian collectivist systems which had far more in common with communism than with free-market capitalism. And that they were the logical continuation of the galloping statism and militarism of the pre-fascist societies.” 

Failed Utopias: Methods of Coercion in Communist Regimes by Arch Puddington
“This book explores the routine controls exercised by Communist regimes to enforce totalitarian rule, focusing on such examples as neighbourhood watchdog committees, personal identity documents, control over the workplace, and legislation over religion.” 

Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy by Carl J. Friedrich and Zbigniew K. Brzezinski. 

Totalitarismes by Guy Hermet,  Pierre Hassner, and Jacques Rupnik  

Dictatorships and Double Standards: Rationalism and reason in politics by Jeane Kirkpatrick  

Totalitarianism by Leonard Schapiro  

Historical 

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt.
—“This book is a thorough account of the developments in Europe after World War Two, including the process of de-nazification, the Franco-German reconciliation, and the development which lead us to the Cold War.”  

Purging the Past: the Current State of Lustration Laws in the Former Communist Bloc (entire text in PDF) by Mark S. Ellis
— “This article discusses the process of Lustration in the former communist nations in Europe. Lustration is the process of limiting the participation of former communists, and especially informants of the communist secret police, in the successor political appointee positions or even in civil service positions.” 

The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of 1989 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague by Timothy Garton Ash
— In his book Garton Ash describes his eye witness account of the 1989 revolutions which swept across Eastern Europe, freeing and changing the existence of millions of people and Europe as a whole.  

Europe: a History (preview from books.google.com) by Norman Davies
—“In this book the narrative is divided into a set of 12 chapters that cover broad periods of time starting with the environment and prehistory of the continent to the Cold War era. Davies adequately covers the events which have shaped modern day Europe. His strength lies in his understanding of Eastern Europe, and in particular Poland, expanding the breadth of the continent beyond its usual eastern borders.” 

Totalitarianism: The Inner History Of The Cold War by Abbott Gleason
— “Totalitarianism offers a penetrating chronicle of the central concept of our era–an era shaped by our conflict first with fascism and then with communism. Interweaving the story of intellectual debates with the international history of the twentieth century, Gleason traces the birth of the term ‘totalitarianism’ and its development as a concept.” 

The Cold War: A History by Martín Walker
— “From the origins of the Marshall Plan, which revived Europe after World War II, and the strategic decision to rebuild a defeated Japan into a bulwark against China to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, this authoritative work reveals how the West was built into an economic alliance that overpowered the Soviet economy while also unleashing global economic forces that today challenge the traditional nation-state. The Cold War was more of a global conflict than was either of this century’s two major wars; far more than a confrontation between states or even empires, it was, as Martin Walker puts it, “a total war between economic and social systems, an industrial test to destruction”.” 

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression by Mark Kramer, Jonathan Murphy, Stephane Courtois, and Jean-Louis Panne.
—“Communism killed with ruthless efficiency, the historian authors of this book demonstrate that: 25 million in Russia during the Bolshevik and Stalinist eras, perhaps 65 million in China under the eyes of Mao Zedong, 2 million in Cambodia, millions more Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. This freely expressed penchant for homicide, the authors maintain, was no accident, but an integral trait of a philosophy, and a practical politic movement, that promised to erase class distinctions by erasing classes and the humans that represented them.”  

Lustration, Decommunisation and the Rule of Law (entire text in PDF),from the Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, by Adam Czarnota
—“This article discusses the process of Lustration in the former communist nations in Europe. Lustration is the process of limiting the participation of former communists, and especially informants of the communist secret police, in the successor political appointee positions or even in civil service positions.” 

Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution by Victor Sebestyen
— On the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, a defining moment in the Cold War, Victor Sebestyen, a journalist whose own family fled from Hungary, gives us a totally fresh account of that uprising, incorporating newly released official Hungarian and Soviet documents, his family’s diaries, and eyewitness testimony. 

The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn.
The Gulag Archipelago is Solzhenitsyn’s attempt to compile a literary-historical record of the vast system of prisons and labour camps that came into being shortly after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917 and that underwent an enormous expansion during the rule of Stalin from 1924 to 1953. Various sections of the three volumes describe the arrest, interrogation, conviction, transportation, and imprisonment of the Gulag’s victims by Soviet authorities over four decades. The work mingles historical exposition and Solzhenitsyn’s own autobiographical accounts with the voluminous personal testimony of other inmates that he collected and committed to memory during his imprisonment. Upon publication of the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn was immediately attacked in the Soviet press. Despite the intense interest in his fate that was shown in the West, he was arrested and charged with treason on February 12, 1974, and was exiled from the Soviet Union the following day.” 

The Polish Revolution: Solidarity by Timothy Garton Ash
—Timothy Garton Ash in this book offers a gripping account of the Polish shipyard workers who defied their communist rulers in 1980. He describes the emergence of the improbable leader Lech Walesa and the ensuing tumult that culminated in martial law. 

Marxism, Fascism, and Totalitarianism: Chapters in the Intellectual History of Radicalism (preview from books.google.com) by A. James Gregor
—“This work traces the changes in classical Marxism (the Marxism of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels) that took place after the death of its founders. It outlines the variants that appeared around the turn of the twentieth century—one of which was to be of influence among the followers of Adolf Hitler, another of which was to shape the ideology of Benito Mussolini, and still another of which provided the doctrinal rationale for V. I. Lenin’s Bolshevism and Joseph Stalin’s communism. This account differs from many others by rejecting a traditional left/right distinction—a distinction that makes it difficult to understand how totalitarian political institutions could arise out of presumably diametrically opposed political ideologies. Marxism, Fascism, and Totalitarianism thus helps to explain the common features of “left-wing” and “right-wing” regimes in the twentieth century.”  

Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum
—“Nearly 30 million prisoners passed through the Soviet Union’s labour camps in their more than 60 years of operation. This volume, the first fully documented history of the gulag, describes how, largely under Stalin’s watch, a regulated, centralized system of prison labour-unprecedented in scope-gradually arose out of the chaos of the Russian Revolution. Fueled by waves of capricious arrests, this prison labour came to underpin the Soviet economy. By the gulag’s peak years in the early 1950s, there were camps in every part of the country, and slave labour was used not only for mining and heavy industries but for producing every kind of consumer product (chairs, lamps, toys, those ubiquitous fur hats) and some of the country’s most important science and engineering Applebaum details camp life, including strategies for survival; the experiences of women and children in the camps; sexual relationships and marriages between prisoners; and rebellions, strikes and escapes. She includes an appendix in which she discusses the various ways of calculating how many died in the camps, and throughout the book she thoughtfully reflects on why the gulag does not loom as large in the Western imagination as, for instance, the Holocaust.” 

Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared, edited by Michael Geyer.
—“In essays written jointly by specialists on Soviet and German history, the contributors to this book rethink and rework the nature of Stalinism and Nazism and establish a new methodology for viewing their histories that goes well beyond the now-outdated twentieth-century models of totalitarianism, ideology, and personality. Doing the labour of comparison gives us the means to ascertain the historicity of the two extraordinary regimes and the wreckage they have left.”  

The Fate of the Revolution Interpretations of Soviet History from 1917 to the Present by Walter Laqueur
—“Examines issues in the study of the Russian Revolution and evaluates their coverage in history books.” 

Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe by Anne Applebaum
— “The borderlands west of Russia, in east central Europe, have endured frequent changes of hegemony. Citizens of one village may think of themselves as Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, or Moldovan regardless of where the current borders are drawn. The narrative proceeds from Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea to Odessa on the Black Sea, stopping in large cities and small towns; it combines a bit of history from the Middle Ages with tales of contemporary life without the Soviet Union to portray an eclectic mixture of ethnic identity.”  

With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows by Sandra Kalniete
— Former Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs and current Member of the European Parliament for Latvia, Sandra Kalniete was born to Latvian parents and deported to Siberia under Stalin. The author’s reconstruction of her familial history proceeds on two tracks: she chronicles her grandparents’ and parents’ daily struggles while documenting a harrowing chapter in Latvian history.  

Communist terror in Romania: Gheorghiu-Dej and the Police State, 1948-1965 (preview from books.google.com) by Dennis Deletant
—“This is the first general single-volume history in English of Romania under Gheorghiu-Dej, its first Communist ruler and predecessor of Nicolae Ceausescu. Based extensively on Securitate and Party documents inaccessible under the Communist regime and consulted since 1990 by only a handful of scholars, the book focuses on the use of terror by the Communists and the attempt to transform Romanian society totally through Communist rule. The Ceausescu regime, for all its appalling abuses of human dignity, never repeated the tactics of mass arrests and wholesale deportations that were a feature of most of the Gheorghiu-Dej era. The book provides a case-study in totalitarian methods of change, giving the reader an idea of what it was like to live in the Romania of Gheorghiu-Dej.”  

The Permanent Purge: Politics in Soviet Totalitarianism by Zbigniew K. Brzezinski

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