Compiled by Stephen Schwartz
Most of these books are personal memoirs or original source materials compiled by participants in the events they describe. For this reason, they are especially authoritative and useful.
Life As a Rebel
By Angelica Balabanoff
Balabanoff, notwithstanding her Russian name, was a prominent figure in the Italian socialist left, became involved with the Soviets, and then broke with them. She was the political “discoverer” of Mussolini. An outstanding account of how Western European radical leftists were drawn to the Bolshevik mirage.
Lily, Prairie Fire: China’s Road to Democracy, Yan’an to Tian’anmen, 1942-1989
By Gregor Benton and Alan Hunter
An important compilation on the unknown development of dissidence within the Communist Chinese movement and its emergence in the broader Chinese society.
By Elizabeth Bentley
A riveting personal account by a major Soviet agent who broke with Moscow and gave major testimony against the conspiracy.
of a Generation
By Joseph Berger (Comintern memoir)
A fascinating memoir by an agent of the Communist International (Comintern) involved in creation of the Communist Party in Palestine during the 1920s, who ended up in the Gulag, and, miraculously, survived.
By Franz Borkenau
An unparalleled account of the Comintern by an early functionary in its propaganda apparatus and associate of the Frankfurt School, with details and insights appearing nowhere else.
Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled
By Joseph Buttinger
Buttinger was a former left socialist from Austria. His account of the origins of the Vietnam War is immensely important. He once tried to explain Vietnam to Tom Hayden – a waste of time to say the least. His wife Muriel Buttinger was the individual whose personality was “stolen” by the Stalinist Lillian Hellman in her fabrication of the character of “Julia,” an antifascist agent.
By Guillermo Cabrera Infante
Essays on the fate of Cuba by the leading literary defector from the Castro movement.
By Whittaker Chambers
The uniquely “transforming” personal account of Communism in the 1920s and 1930s, how people were recruited as spies, and how Chambers himself decided to support the cause of freedom, leading to his testimony against the Alger Hiss ring.
By Ante Ciliga (the first and best gulag memoir)
The first memoir of the Gulag to gain major attention in the West, by a Croatian Communist. Ciliga is especially interesting because he was sent to the Gulag as a Trotskyist but shows how the prisoners he encountered had to intellectually analyze the regime that imprisoned them. He revealed the existence of a vast unknown ferment inside the Russian revolutionary movement, following the Bolshevik and Stalinist takeovers.
The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression
By Stephane Coutois, et al
Irreplaceable as an encyclopedic source.
Portrait with Fidel
By Carlos Franqui
Franqui was a comrade of Fidel Castro and the editor of the main daily Revolución after Castro took power. He was also one of the most distinguished figures to break with Castro. An extraordinarily important and enlightening book.
By Nicholas Gage
The story of the murder of the author’s mother by Communists in the little-known civil war between Communists and the U.S.-supported government in Greece after World War II.
Disillusionment in Russia
By Emma Goldman
An especially useful and important account of the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution by a leading American anarchist and feminist.
Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America
by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr
The best and most accessible account of the decryption of Soviet secret police and espionage message traffic by Western codebreakers, leading to the arrest of various spies.
Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey
By David Horowitz
The outstanding autobiographical account of an American ‘60s radical.
By Harold M. Isaacs
An exceptionally important account of Comintern meddling and Communist revolution in China in the 1920s.
Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990
By Robert Kagan
An important summary of the campaign against the Sandinistas, by a then-State Department official deeply involved in supporting the Contras.
on the Murder of the General Secretary
By Karel Kaplan
The official report of the Czech Communist authorities on the post-1945 purge trials in Eastern Europe, anti-Semitism in the trials, and the involvement of American spies. Significant for the Alger Hiss case.
Stalin’s Secret Service: Memoirs Of The First Soviet Master Spy To Defect
By Walter Krivitsky
Path-breaking expose of Soviet spying in the West, by a defector who was murdered on U.S. soil.
By Eugene Lyons
An amazing and unchallengeable examination of the influence of the Stalinist left in the U.S. during the 1930s, everywhere from the union movement to Hollywood.
By Hede Massing
Personal account of her disillusionment by a member of a Soviet spy ring in the U.S., with special knowledge of the Hiss case.
By G.P. Maximoff
An account of the suppression of the Russian anarchist movement by the Communists, written by a personal witness.
By George Orwell
Doubtless the most important single work on Communism in English – a personal record of Orwell’s participation in the Spanish civil war of 1936-39 in the ranks of the anti-Stalinist POUM, and his persecution in Spain by Soviet agents.
Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War
Edited by Ronald Radosh, Mary Habeck, and Grigory Sevastianov
Documents from the Russian archives on the Soviet intervention and subversion of the Spanish Republican government during the Spanish civil war.
Party in Action
By A. Rossi and Willmoore Kendall
A detailed account of the activities of the French Communist Party during and after the Hitler-Stalin pact, written by a former Italian functionary of the Comintern (real name Angelo Tasca), who was one of the original comrades of Antonio Gramsci. A political and organizational model that was applied all over the world.
By Robert Royal
Includes very important and rare information on Communist persecution of the Catholic church.
of a Revolutionary, 1901-1941
By Victor Serge
More vivid and wide-ranging than any other, a personal memoir by an anarchist who joined the Comintern and functioned in its network, then supported Trotsky and was sent to the Gulag. Released and allowed to come to the West, he became an early avatar of the neoconservatives and was probably murdered by Soviet agents.
A Critical Survey of Bolshevism
By Boris Souvarine
Still the best original account of the insane Russian dictator, by another former Comintern official, with access to documents nobody else had at the time the book was written.
By Jan Valtin
Memoir by a Comintern agent who operated among maritime workers in Europe and the U.S. A tremendous bestseller in America just before World War II, which opened the eyes of many to the reality of Communism.
By Allen Weinstein
Authoritative account of the Alger Hiss spy case.
By Bertram Wolfe
The most accessible and detailed account of the Bolshevik Revolution by a founder of the American Communist movement who broke with Communism.
Killing Fields (DVD)
By Sidney Schanberg
The classic account of the Pol Pot regime and its program for mass murder in Cambodia.