Book Review: Communism for Kids by Bini Adamczak, translated by Jacob Blumenfeld and Sophie Lewis
I read the article "Communism for Kids Sparks Conservative Backlash" from Publisher's Weekly and was immediately intrigued.
Looking at the polarized reviews on Amazon was entertaining enough to get me to buy the Kindle version of this book.
Does this book brainwash kids into believing that communism is the ideal form of government?
Nope. Sure does not. Anyone who thinks otherwise has not read the whole book.
Someone who merely reads the first few sections of the book that define communism, capitalism, work, the market, and crisis, might assume that the book is a piece of pure propaganda.
The first sentence about communism states, "Communism names the society that gets rid of all the evils people suffer today in our society under capitalism."
Later the author restates this thought as communism "doesn't heal all suffering but rather only the suffering caused by capitalism."
The section on work, under capitalism, anthropomorphizes the factories as bosses.
Within these sections defining various economic terms, the people learn two things: "First, they know that capitalism doesn't make them happy, and second, they know that communism does. So they decide to try communism."
If anyone stops reading at this 32% mark, I could completely see how this book would appear to be pro-communism, even indoctrination.
However, the next section outlines five different scenarios in which communism was tried. None of which worked.
Every scenario clearly identifies how that version of communism failed.
The sixth trial described is the future scenario where people have evaluated the problems of communism and want to discover the secret to making this idealistic ideology a reality.
Has this scenario occurred?
Nope. Sure hasn't. And the book makes that fact clear as well.
The book's epilogue is overly ponderous evaluating the end of history as proposed by Francis Fukuyama, and analyzing various critiques of both communism and capitalism.
Ultimately, the book leaves the reader with a challenge.
Communism is presented as a suggestion. One that needs some serious tweaking to put theory into practice.
The message of this book to kids is to think.
I'm sure conservatives don't want that. People who think vote intelligently. That would be a problem for conservatives. Dangerous even.
While I understand the conservative backlash over this book, the propaganda allegation is just bunk. But you do have to read the entire book to see the entire picture of communism and capitalism.
Why a two-star review then?
Well, the book is close to awful!
To be fair, I'm not sure how much of the writing was altered in translation. I truly hope the original German makes much more sense, especially with the examples described.
Otherwise, I would question whether the author has ever met a child. A real one. Not Pinocchio.
Ostensibly, kids are the audience for this book. Communism for Kids is the title. When I think kids, I think elementary school age.
I know no elementary school child who could wrap their head around the awkward writing and various descriptive scenarios in this book, which is supposedly an illustrated fable.
Sure, the author anthropomorphizes the factory. She also tries to simplify concepts into tangible nouns. The idea of free time becomes movie tickets. Sometimes workers get more movie tickets and in different circumstances the workers get fewer movie tickets.
The factory as one of the characters makes irons, texts, and pistols. I don't know a child who wouldn't be distracted by that odd combination. They would question the "logic" behind a factory making such different products.
When the author tries to explain the capitalist market, the factory goes to the market and sees a competing factory underselling them. "'Damn, damn, damn!' our factory thinks."
Yeah, I want to be the teacher reading those lines to a group of elementary kids. Most kids are conditioned to a certain conformity in textbooks, so this line and a few other damns thrown in for good measure would be potentially distracting. Sure, a good teacher could mitigate the disruption with some well-placed preteaching, but I don't think I'd want to waste my time with this book on an elementary audience.
I don't think most kids would understandthe various definitions or the different trials. The epilogue would fly over their heads. At best I would describe this fable as awkward.
Finally, the National Review labeled the illustrations as "creepy" and I can't disagree.
I wanted to read a book that would explain communism to kids. I wanted to like this illustrated fable. While I applaud the effort put into breaking a complex ideology into parts a child maybe has a shot at understanding, the execution falls short, much like the promises of communism.