ahorbinski: My Marxist-feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.  (marxism + feminism --> posthumanism)
Bibliographic Data: Radchenko, Sergey. Two Suns in the Heavens: The Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy, 1962-1967. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009.

Main Argument: What doomed the Sino-Soviet alliance was not ideology but above all Mao Zedong's hostility to the alliance, its inherent inequality, and cultural factors on both sides.

You don't know how lucky you are )

Critical assessment: I didn't like this book either, and I didn't have time to finish it. Overall it's in the "here have this pile of facts isn't it cool!" school of historiography, but Radchenko manages to raise a number of interesting questions despite himself and his tendency to make up details about which he cannot possibly have factual evidence (such as what Nikita Krushchev thought about while riding in trains around the USSR), including the question of what did the revolution consist of at this point in time in the communist imaginary--was it an ossified rote repetition of anti-imperialism, or did it still have a pulse? Radchenko also tends to ascribe events to "culture" without defining culture or explaining his ascription, which would irk me even if he didn't follow Samuel Huntingdon in blathering about the "clash of civilizations." I'm with Lydia Liu: civilizations do not clash; empires do. I also can't sanction Radchenko's blithe discounting of ideology in favor of "power;" power is in part a function of the mastery of ideology, just to begin, and to think otherwise, particularly in communism studies (communism being founded on a supposedly scientific ideology), seems willfully naive.

It's fine to want to spice up your recitation of facts with human details or whatever, but the finely sourced anecdotes Radchenko does dredge up, such as the Chinese ambassador's wife drinking Soviet functionaries under the table in a drinking contest at a banquet, or a Soviet official's drunken ranting about China at another banquet, are way more amusing than his wild speculations. 

Further reading: Odd Arne Westad, Brothers in Arms; Lorenz Lüthi, The Sino-Soviet Split.

Meta notes: What is actually meant by "revolution"? and "revolutionary"? Is it possible to be a "revolutionary" without actually having participated in a revolution (I don't think so)? For the communists over time the meaning of "revolutionary" ossified into some sort of vaguely "anti-imperialist" stance, becoming a chimera that could be deployed in internecine political warfare at will. Fascinating, in that vaguely enraging way that all totalitarian politics is. NB: Half of the Gulf of Tonkin incident was fabricated (where are Abraham Lincoln and his spot resolutions when you need them?). Also, Edgar Snow probably ≠ a CIA agent. Also, when your embassy is being besieged as a consequence of X domestic government policy, you may be forgiven for thinking that X is aimed at you---just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

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Andrea J. Horbinski

May 2016

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