As Friedrich Hayek dedicated The Road to Serfdom (1944) to “the socialists of all parties,” we might use May 1 to declare a counter-revolution of Marxist materialist science. For this purpose Hayek’s works are an invaluable resource. But an even more fitting response to international socialism was given by a figure Marx actually admired and wrote about—Abraham Lincoln.
No tourist, I think, ever said ‘If it’s Tuesday, this must be North Korea;’ for whatever else might be said about that country, it is certainly distinctive. Whoever has been there, as I have, is unlikely ever to forget it; indeed he is also likely, from a combination of continued horror and fascination, to buy books about it whenever they appear. Fortunately this is not a great call on anyone’s income.
Recently in Paris I came across a volume entitled (in English, though the book was published in France) Kim Jong Il Looking at Things. It consists of a series of photographs, taken from the official North Korean news agency, of the late Dear Leader on his tours of inspection of his country, examining close-up its agricultural produce and its industrial products. The pictures come with lapidary captions, always in the form of ‘Kim Jong Il looking at x’ or ‘Kim Jong Il looking at y.’
The idea to put these photographs together was that of an art director of a Portuguese advertising company, João Rocha. He put them first on a website that is said in the book, in that inelegant but expressive phrase, to have ‘gone viral.’ It was a clever and original idea, and well worth consecration in book form.
Both the London Times and the Washington Post carried at the week-end (Jan. 12 & 13) reports that Lenin’s embalmed corpse might later this year finally be buried, after having lain on public display in a mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square for the past eighty years, since the Soviet leader’s death in 1924.
Both newspapers linked their respective reports to the recent closure of the mausoleum to the public, pending major structural repair, as well as to remarks in defence of the continued display of Lenin’s remains there, made last month by President Vladimir Putin at his first meeting with campaign supporters since his inauguration in October.
This lively and readable volume by the distinguished British historian, Robert Service raises the thought-provoking question: what are the proper topics or subject matter for historians to address and investigate? How much detail adds up to the whole, or to a larger picture of whatever is chronicled, and how much detail deserves to be recorded and scrutinized? Service has written many books about the Soviet system and its founders (even a world history of communism I had the pleasure to review a few years ago) and has an impressive knowledge of Soviet history and the various source materials which shed light…