How can humankind avoid another century like the 20th? Blind devotion to obscene ideologies--Communism, Nazism--made the final hundred years of the millennium the bloodiest in human history. As Robert Conquest, author of Reflections on a Ravaged Century, notes, "Over this century the human race has survived experiences that, to put it mildly, should have been instructive. Scores of millions have been slaughtered, and it cannot be said that the avoidance of the even worse catastrophe of nuclear war was foreordained." Might it happen again? As Conquest is the author of The Great Terror, a devastating account of Stalin's crimes (and widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most important and influential works of history), any reflections he may have are worth noting. He's clearly worried, quoting, for example, the astonishing statement by Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm in 1994 that the construction of a Communist utopia can justify the murder of 20 million people.
Reflections on a Ravaged Century is primarily focused on the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, but he remains consistently forward-looking. "The power of fanaticism and of misunderstanding is by no means extinct," warns Conquest. The 20th century will be a prelude to even greater evils unless intellectuals engage in "a careful consideration of what needs to be learned, and unlearned." This book, both wise and accessible, is a good start. --John J. Miller [via]