To Overthrow the World: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Communism
Sean McMeekin

To Overthrow the World: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Communism

It is now three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which prompted Francis Fukuyama to proclaim the “End of History.”  Confident post-mortems of Communism then filled the airwaves.  At the height of American triumphalism in 2001, Richard Pipes, a historian who had come to fame with a history of the Russian Revolution published just as the USSR was falling apart, opened his short study Communism. A History by announcing that his book was not only “an introduction to Communism” but also, “at the same time, its obituary.”


Twenty years later, things look different.  Russia may no longer be Communist, but Stalin is more admired there than at any time since his death in 1953.  Thrown off its perch by the 9/11 attacks, ineffectual military interventions abroad, de-industrialization and spiraling debts eroding the value of the dollar, the United States has bled power and prestige in uncanny parallel with the rise of Communist China in economic power and global influence, not least in the U.S. itself, where institutions from corporate America and Hollywood studios to the NBA, from universities to Congress, have become beholden to the Chinese market and Chinese interests.  With the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020-21, the Chinese model has spread globally, as once-inviolable freedoms – of movement, travel and association, of speech and robust debate over controversial public policies – have been all but abandoned.  Liberal democratic capitalism seems moribund, while Chinese Communism assimilates the world.  How did this happen, and why did no one see it coming?


In To Overthrow the World, the author investigates the evolution of Communism from a seductive ideal of a classless society into the ruling doctrine of tyrannical regimes, along with the mysterious revival of Communism after its apparent eclipse in 1991.  The book will reveal:


-          The seeds of statist tyranny and control being laid in Karl Marx’s writing and political career, from the Communist Manifesto to Marx’s feud with the anarchist Bakunin, who foresaw earlier than any other critics what Communism would mean in practice


-          The violence and economic devastation unleashed upon every country which fell under Communist rule, along with the draconian levels of surveillance, censorship, and media manipulation used to camouflage state crimes


-          The evolution of Communism from ideal to a supple ruling philosophy in Moscow and Beijing which jettisons the unrealistic goal of a “classless” economy in order to maximize state power and wealth, while still eradicating independent civil society


-          The export of the “China model” to the U.S. and the world via trade and investment in academe and cultural institutions, media and sports, business and government


Blending narrative with cutting-edge scholarship, To Overthrow the World will revolutionize our understanding of the evolution of Communism. 

Book Details:

  • Author: Sean McMeekin
  • Published Year: 2024
  • Rights Sold
    • US: Basic
    • Japan: Soshisha
    • UK: Hurst
    • Spain: Ediciones Palabra
Sean McMeekin

Sean McMeekin

Sean McMeekin was born in Idaho, raised in Rochester NY, and educated at Stanford and UC Berkeley.  He has been fascinated by modern history ever since playing Winston Churchill in a school reenactment of the Yalta Conference at age 15, and Joseph McCarthy in an even more outlandish reenactment of the Army-McCarthy hearings at age 17, which involved camcorders and double agents in the Russian Club. He pursued this interest into various American and European battlefields, libraries, and archives, venturing as far east as Russia, before settling down to teach for some years in Turkey, wh...
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Book Reviews

  • "    Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, many in the West were lulled into a sense of complacency.  Fast forward to today, and the United States is locked in yet another struggle with a communist superpower even as our liberal system is under attack at home. In his thoroughly researched but readable and entertaining new book, historian Sean McMeekin charts the evolution of communism from Karl Marx to Tiananmen Square massacre, while explaining how this political system endured through the trials and tribulations of the 20th century. Students, scholars, and policymakers will all benefit from the lessons contained in this bold and lively book."
    Walter Russell Mead, author of The Arc of a Covenant
  • "  This vivid history of communism, from the day Marx penned The Communist Manifesto in 1848 to the present, contains valuable insights, including that of Bakunin, the Russian anarchist, who immediately pointed out the crippling contradiction of Marxism -- that it merely substitutes one power-hungry form of government for another.  McMeekin follows this skeptical thread through the Soviet and Chinese experiences, from Lenin and Stalin to Mao and Xi, detailing the economic weakness and political madness of communist regimes in Europe and Asia that have been kept afloat over the decades as much by Western gullibility and indulgence as by their own ruthless, incompetent managers."
    Geoffrey Wawro, author of The Vietnam War: A Military History
  • "An essential read. Sean McMeekin is one of the few historians who understands the history of communism  from the ground up. He has written a powerful and urgent book, revealing communism in all its ugly detail, and showing how its pernicious influence still lingers on into the twenty-first century."
    Nick Lloyd, author of The Western Front
  • "  With amazing scholarship, Sean McMeekin tells the story of the rise and fall of Communism in To Overthrow the World. The utopian promises of Communism have always led to dictatorship, bloody repression, and war. McMeekin punctures one myth after another, including the legend that the Soviets won World War II without much help from the West. Many people today are too young to remember the Cold War, and it is vital that they learn the facts about Communism found in To Overthrow the World."
    David Gordon, Senior Fellow, Ludwig von Mises Institute
  • "  In To Overthrow the World, Sean McMeekin describes in telling detail how no Communist regime in history has gained power through the vote or public approval, and how its social and economic policies invariably bring about mass repression and poverty. No other book to my knowledge has demonstrated so damningly the endemic falsity of the ideology’s doctrines, together with the appalling consequences of the social experiment in a worldwide setting."
    Nikolai Tolstoy, historian