Many dictators write books, although few have any talent—except, perhaps, in their sheer ability to produce words on an industrial scale. But while practically all dictators, left and right, would commit crimes against literature in the 20th century, it was the communists who were especially prolific generators of stultifying text. As self-proclaimed standard-bearers of the vision of history outlined by Karl Marx, they were participants in a tradition whereby demonstrating theoretical expertise via books, pamphlets, and articles was key to establishing their authority as superior thinkers uniquely qualified to lead the proletariat into the future. But if you open many of these books it is difficult to find any expertise or much theory. If anything, they demonstrate the opposite: that the authors are monumental bores with few original thoughts. Yet still the books continued to stream, mercilessly, from the printing presses. So how...

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