Cover of: Retreat from the Finland Station | Kenneth Murphy

About the Book

In 1940, when Marxism seemed at its apex as a moral and political force, Edmund Wilson published To the Finland Station, his landmark work on the growth of the socialist idea from Vico and Michelet to Lenin's triumphant return to Russia in a sealed train. Picking up where Wilson left off, Kenneth Murphy, in this sweeping historical investigation, follows the decline of Marxism from the beginning of the Revolution in October 1917, through its demise in the myriad revolutions of Eastern Europe in November 1989 and the failed putsch against Mikhail Gorbachev of August 1991. This breakdown, as he shows, arose from the conviction that liberty and state control would be natural partners in the new utopian order. This belief fatally persuaded socialism's adherents that state violence could be tolerated, even managed, in the name of revolutionary change. In examining the lives of leading revolutionaries - Nicolai Bukharin, Milovan Djilas, Imre Nagy, and Alexander Dubcek - and writers - Andre Gide, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, and even the young Alexander Solzhenitsyn - who became prisoners rather than masters of the bloodshed their adherence to socialism seemed to unleash, Murphy reveals to us the terrible moral consequences they suffered as their faith in socialism crumbled. He compellingly shows how their idealistic vision spawned a world of want, anger, terror, and death. For blind obedience to the socialist cause allowed the new state to perpetuate, indeed to incarnate, the violence out of which it was born. In so doing, the idea of revolutionary liberty was devoured. Freedom surrendered to Stalinist terror, political innocence to Communist corruption, eloquence to the silence of the gulag. From Bukharin's death cell confession to Koestler's Darkness at Noon, from Dubcek's manacled summons to Moscow to Solzhenitsyn's jeremiads to the convulsions of perestroika and the disintegration of Gorbachev's rule, Murphy's interweaving of political and literary lives reveals not only the tragedy of faith in this century's most seductive ideology, but the folly of grafting abstract theories onto the lives of real people. - Jacket.

Edition Notes

Includes bibliographical references (p. 383-403) and index.


Dewey Decimal Class
Library of Congress
HX40 .M848 1992

The Physical Object

xv, 415 p. ;
Number of pages

ID Numbers

Open Library
Internet Archive
LC Control Number
Library Thing

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