Marxism ex Machina: Pulling Back the Curtain on Soviet Economics

Nikita Khrushchev with the Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander in a rowing boat, 1964 by Arne Schweitz/ScanpixIt’s notable during the run-up to America’s presidential primaries that the candidates include uber-capitalist Donald Trump and the self-described socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Their competing ideologies underscore the great extent to which America’s political economy appeals both to naked self-interest and to popular concerns for social goods—but still goes by the name “capitalism.” Conversely, behind the utopian rhetoric of communism, the Soviet Union regularly appealed to the workers’ acquisitive desires. And when the Communist Party’s vaunted planning didn’t pan-out in the marketplace—out it went!

In this month's highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, we expose some of the arcane machinery underlying the seemingly monolithic communism of the Soviet Union, beginning with the machine shop itself.


How the Bonus System is Conducted in the Machine Building Industry
Politicheskoye Samoobrazovaniye (Political Self-Education) No. 6, Moscow - 01 June 1963

Marxism ex Machina: Pulling Back the Curtain on Soviet Economics

Interface Training: Make the Most of Your Readex Collections

Readex interface training sessions present a brief overview of collection content, highlight key interface features and functionality, and offer suggestions for classroom instruction. Specific examples of how faculty and students use the content are also provided.

Sessions are organized around major Readex collection families. Register today for one or more today.


America’s Historical Newspapers and World Newspaper Archive
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The West African Coffin-Squadron: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

From African History and CultureThe August release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes multi-volume illustrated works by 19th-century Englishmen who detail their extensive explorations of Africa.


Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery to Africa and Arabia (1835)

By Captain Thomas Boteler, R.N.

From 1821 to 1826, Captain Thomas Boteler of the Royal Navy served as a member of an expedition to survey the eastern coast of Africa, during which time “he commenced a journal for his own amusement, and afterwards continued it with a view to publication.” Due to a series of tragedies, his work was published posthumously, nearly ten years after the expedition had ended. The editor of Boteler’s work offers this biographical information:

 At a very early age Mr. Boteler entered the naval service, with a degree of ardor and enthusiasm seldom if ever surpassed, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant on the 5th October 1816. He continued actively employed in the West Indies till the end of 1818, when he returned to his family; but, soon tiring of a life of inactivity, he undertook a pedestrian tour through France and Italy, during which his enterprising mind was employed in acquiring information, and in perfecting himself in the French and Italian languages.

From African History and Culture

The West African Coffin-Squadron: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“Unspeakable losses of treasure, love and life”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

The current release of imprints from the American Antiquarian Society’s American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes strikingly different assessments of the war’s origins as described a half century apart by two very different men. In 1862 the governor of Virginia’s Union sympathetic rump government left no doubt as to where the responsibility for the war lay. By contrast, writing 50 years later a veteran of the Union Army is not nearly so certain as the governor.


To the People of Virginia (1862)

A supporter of Abraham Lincoln, Francis Harrison Pierpont [sometimes Peirpont] was a native Virginian opposed to his state’s secession. When Virginia voted to secede, a number of counties in the northwest refused to go along. They formed an alternative government in Wheeling which they called the “Restored government of Virginia,” sent representatives to the U.S. Congress, and elected Pierpont to be their governor. He was reelected in 1863 and led the successful campaign to establish the new state of West Virginia. In 1862 he wrote and published this letter “To the people of Virginia.”

“Unspeakable losses of treasure, love and life”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

Hitler, Heroes, and Harmony: Newly Digitized Reports from the Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

In this month’s release of JPRS Reports, 1957-1994, we’re exploring psychology—dark & light, hortative & theoretical, aspirational and actual.


Hitler’s Former Headquarters Now a Tourist Attraction in Poland

On a road in Rastenburg (now Ketrzyn), Poland, past the wild swans and the birches, the Polish Society for Tourism and Home Lore erected a sign leading travelers to the “Wolf’s Lair.” Upon arrival in 1963, for the price of ten zloty the curious visitor could tour the numbered ruins of the massive complex of reinforced concrete which served as Adolf Hitler’s headquarters from 1941-1944, where the Fuhrer narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. The presence of schoolgirls and wild strawberries are noted among the graves and mine fields in this short, poignant report.


From JPRS ReportsThe Lei Feng Campaign: A Pictorial Report on a Chinese Communist Hero

Lei Feng was literally the poster child for Chinese communism beginning in February 1963, although there is disagreement as to the existence of the actual person depicted. Some of the visual details were lost during the reproduction process, but there’s still a great deal to be learned through the captions and especially the numerous cartoons. If you’ve seen this Chinese Everyman once, you’ll recall having seen him a thousand times, which was the point, after all, as he was held to be the best guide and highest realization of the ideal communist citizen.

From JPRS Reports

Hitler, Heroes, and Harmony: Newly Digitized Reports from the Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

“This Is a White Man’s Country”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The July release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an English abolitionist’s perspective on the slave trade, a speech advocating for equal suffrage in post-Civil War America, and an incredible advertising circular for a book about Henry Morton Stanley’s adventures in Africa.


 The History of Uncle Tom's Countrymen: with a Description of Their Sufferings in the Capture, the Voyage, and the Field (1853)

By Humanity

Although slavery had been abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833, Great Britain continued to import products produced by slave labor. Calling for an end to the importation of American cotton and the tacit support of slavery, the author writes:

The plea that we are compelled from necessity to purchase the fruits of the slave is feeble in the extreme. It is either from a willful negligence or postulated blindness on our parts, that we have so long allowed ourselves to become thus dependent, and we now wish to make a virtue of necessity; but of all evils under the sun, that of making vice commendable is the greatest. The Times of November the 25th, 1852, says—“Show me the man chiefly benefitted by this crime, and I will show you the greatest criminal.” If then the people of England reap the chief benefit, they are certainly the chief criminals.

“This Is a White Man’s Country”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“The Synagogue of Satan”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The July release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society contains a review of the debate before the Virginia Legislature on the abolition of slavery, a defense of the Methodist Episcopal Church’s position on slavery, and an essay interpreting the liberal philosophy that inspired the U.S. Constitution through the lens of religion.


 An Essay on Slavery (1849)

By Thomas Roderick Dew  

Thomas Roderick Dew was an educator and writer who served as the 13th president of the College of William & Mary. In 1832, Dew published a review of the debate in the Virginia legislature on the merits and ramifications of the abolition of slavery following Nat Turner’s slave rebellion.

Dew favored the continuation of slavery, arguing that laws should not be changed in the aftermath of a crisis:

“The Synagogue of Satan”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

Now Available on Video: “Battle Logs: Visualizing the Destruction of Forests in the American Civil War”

With her Civil War expertise, passion for environmental history, and quick wit, Megan Kate Nelson, author of Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War, offered a compelling presentation at the Readex-hosted breakfast during the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in San Francisco.

The acclaimed historian shared her journey through thousands of images created during the Civil War, including sketches, photographs, newspaper illustrations, and engravings. Through these visuals, Nelson unlocked the story of war held in trees. By the end of the hour, her passion for injured landscapes had convinced the audience that trees are, in their own way, veterans of war. They played a critical role in the “destructive creation” by both Union and Confederate soldiers. By the end of the war in 1865, more than 4 million trees had been consumed.

But, the destruction of trees only tells half the story. During the Civil War, trees played a crucial role in construction, providing the necessary material to create sturdy housing structures, critical for soldiers’ survival, especially through cold winter months. These simple buildings gave soldiers a sense of place and community, a small inkling of security in unfamiliar territory hundreds of miles from home. Through her research, Nelson uncovered evidence that soldiers even gave their homes addresses.

Now Available on Video: “Battle Logs: Visualizing the Destruction of Forests in the American Civil War”

San Francisco Conference Founds the United Nations: A Look Back through Three Readex Collections

From America's Historical Newspapers

Beginning on April 25, 1945, as World War II entered its final months, delegates from dozens of nations gathered at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Their goal was the creation of an international organization that would lessen the chances of a third global conflict.  The meeting’s official name was the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), but it was more typically called the San Francisco Conference.  

The participants debated the institutional framework that had been negotiated earlier in the year by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C.  Chaired by U.S. diplomat Alger Hiss, and addressed by President Harry Truman, the San Francisco Conference ultimately produced the United Nations Charter, which was signed on June 26, 1945.

Readex collections offer three different ways to see real-time accounts of this historic meeting. The first is through the daily press accounts in America’s Historical Newspapers.  The actions of the delegates in the build-up to the final charter can be traced through news stories, editorials, opinion columns, photographs and cartoons.

From America's Historical Newspapers

San Francisco Conference Founds the United Nations: A Look Back through Three Readex Collections

“Free from Care”: Resort and Hotel Brochures from the American Pamphlets collection

From American PamphletsThe first days of summer are a fine time to highlight pamphlets advertising the glories of two resort hotels and one city establishment. These three documents are from this month’s release of American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society. They are among many other pamphlets celebrating country rambles, local histories, and recreational pastimes.


Echoes from the Sea: Coleman House [by] Frank B. Conover (1901)

We begin our holiday tour at the ocean, specifically at Asbury Park, New Jersey, where “stands the Coleman House, the centre of coast life and gaiety.” Mr. Conover, the author, has the highest praise for this grand hotel and for “Mr. Frank B. Conover, whose management of the hotel has been most successful for the past three seasons.” His fulsome description of Asbury Park is a striking contrast to the contemporary condition of the resort. It has been undergoing significant revival but only after having fallen on hard times.

In 1901 Conover was able to write that “it is a refined resort, abounding in great natural beauty and numerous forms of enjoyment. It is not merely a seashore resort, but it is a city of the sea, comprising a beautiful blending of country, seashore and city life.”

From American Pamphlets

“Free from Care”: Resort and Hotel Brochures from the American Pamphlets collection

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