A fiercely intelligent examination of the thought behind ruthless totalitarian communism through the account of a former Party Commissioner who is arrested and interrogated by a member of the younger generation, a native of the revolution.
It seems to me that Koestler has set out to render a great service to humanity in writing this book, and required all of his experience and insight to do so. It closes forever the possibility of ascribing confessions like Rubashov's to 'brainwashing', exposing far more frightening processes at work; the tyranny of 'logic' built on a rigid and dehumanising interpretation of Marx's historicist thought.
At times some ridiculously supremacist thinking is revealed by the prisoner himself, like so:
"It occurred to him that he had once read about the natives of New Guinea, who were intellectually on a level with this peasant, yet lived in complete social harmony and possessed surprisingly developed democratic institutions. They had reached the highest level of a lower lock basin..."
I am not sure how far Koestler identifies with his protagonist, but statements like this suggest deeper problems with the framework of philosophy in the European tradition and it's hierarchical, colonizing tendencies.
This book provided me with my central political tenet! It is that no body is acceptable fodder for sacrifice. That's my issue with communist ideology.