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Book cover of The World on Fire: 1919 and the Battle with Bolshevism

The World on Fire: 1919 and the Battle with Bolshevism

by Anthony Read

Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Pages: 320
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780393061246






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Overview of The World on Fire: 1919 and the Battle with Bolshevism

While the Western leaders were hammering out a peace treaty in Paris to end the Great War, a new war had already begun. Bolshevism—the creed of the Russian Revolution—had burst on the scene in 1917 and seared itself into the world’s consciousness even faster than al-Qaeda would some eighty years later. The Allied powers tried to destroy it at its source by intervening, controversially and unsuccessfully, in the civil war in Russia. Elsewhere there were bloody revolutions and bloodier counterrevolutions in Germany, Hungary, and the Baltic States; massive strikes and civil unrest broke out in Britain, Western Europe, and in both North and South America. In the United States, a series of terrorist bombings created a wave of hysteria, later labeled the Great Red Scare, that threatened the very foundations of a free and democratic society. This book chronicles and examines the running battle with terror during the most revolutionary year since 1789.

Synopsis of The World on Fire: 1919 and the Battle with Bolshevism

“We are running a race with Bolshevism and the world is on fire.”—President Woodrow Wilson, 1919

Publishers Weekly

Read (The Devil's Disciples: Hitler's Inner Circle) offers a lucid, gripping history of how the leaders of Western democracies reacted to the Russian revolution. Bolsheviks made clear their intention to unleash a worldwide revolution, and Churchill and others feared similar uprisings on their own soil. On December 30, 1918, bombs exploded at the houses of prominent Philadelphia businessmen and civic leaders. Fearing this was a Bolshevik attack, Philadelphians warned that other cities might come under the radicals' fire next. In Britain, unemployment was on the rise and worker morale was plummeting. Strikes rocked cities from Glasgow to Seattle. When workers and peasants in Spain began organizing, local estate owners blamed Red Russia, as did foreign journalists, like the French correspondent who opined that "[a] wave of Bolshevism is passing over Andalusia." That spring also saw a spike in American panic about radicalism-when an alert postal worker barely managed to avert mailing out more than a dozen bombs in New York, everyone noticed that the bombs would have arrived around May Day. This sweeping, brilliant history, which travels from Turin, Italy, to Winnipeg, Canada, makes one crucial year in the history of global politics and labor come alive and has obvious resonance with the present moment. 16 pages of illus. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

About the Author, Anthony Read

Anthony Read is the author of many books, most recently The Devil’s Disciples: Hitler’s Inner Circle. He lives in England.

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Editorials

Publishers Weekly

Read (The Devil's Disciples: Hitler's Inner Circle) offers a lucid, gripping history of how the leaders of Western democracies reacted to the Russian revolution. Bolsheviks made clear their intention to unleash a worldwide revolution, and Churchill and others feared similar uprisings on their own soil. On December 30, 1918, bombs exploded at the houses of prominent Philadelphia businessmen and civic leaders. Fearing this was a Bolshevik attack, Philadelphians warned that other cities might come under the radicals' fire next. In Britain, unemployment was on the rise and worker morale was plummeting. Strikes rocked cities from Glasgow to Seattle. When workers and peasants in Spain began organizing, local estate owners blamed Red Russia, as did foreign journalists, like the French correspondent who opined that "[a] wave of Bolshevism is passing over Andalusia." That spring also saw a spike in American panic about radicalism-when an alert postal worker barely managed to avert mailing out more than a dozen bombs in New York, everyone noticed that the bombs would have arrived around May Day. This sweeping, brilliant history, which travels from Turin, Italy, to Winnipeg, Canada, makes one crucial year in the history of global politics and labor come alive and has obvious resonance with the present moment. 16 pages of illus. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews

The world was ripe for revolution in 1919-so thought Lenin and Trotsky. In reality, as Read (The Devil's Disciples: Hitler's Inner Circle, 2004, etc.) demonstrates, it was ripe for repression. The end of World War I saw Russia weakened by military defeat and revolution, so much so that, as Read observes, the Germans were able to impose on it a peace treaty so punishing that "the later Treaty of Versailles, about which they complained so piteously, seems remarkably mild by comparison." Alarmed by the rise of communism, the Allied powers landed a small army in Russia, consisting mostly of Polish-Americans from Michigan and Wisconsin presumably chosen for the job because of their ethnic background. Against all this, the Bolshevik leadership committed itself to imposing a stern dictatorship pledged to sweep the nation of "bourgeois putrefaction." In the West, and particularly the United States, the Red Scare set the tone, and it enabled all manner of suppression, as when government and business collaborated to crush the radical Wobblies and other labor organizers, elements of which responded with bombs against their persecutors, bringing charges of terrorism upon their heads. Meanwhile in Russia, the Allied force, divided and scarcely reinforced or supplied, began to crumble as Trotsky's Red Army gained ground against the Whites, who were "badly led and had little stomach for the campaign." Back in Washington, thousands of citizens were arrested by the homeland-security apparatus of the time, while Woodrow Wilson trumpeted, ironically, that his Republican opponents were Bolshevik dupes. The Republicans won nonetheless, having promised to end the Red Scare and return America to "normalcy."Before they did-"normalcy" being the corruptions of the Harding administration-it was a field day for the forces of reaction, as newspapers thundered that communists were behind every door and civilization was doomed. A coherent rendering of this complex, tumultuous and little-known history.

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