Twentieth Century Communism

Twentieth Century Communism 19

Twentieth Century Communism provides an international forum for the latest research on the history and theory of Communism across the globe. It forms an entry point into key developments and debates, many of which are not otherwise accessible to English-language historians.

The spectre of communism no longer haunts Europe, but we still need to understand its history without fighting old battles or waging new ones. Twentieth Century Communism provides an excellent platform for the post-communist history of communism.’ Donald Sassoon

Twentieth Century Communism has quickly become an indispensable forum for those interested in communist history. It is fresh, lively, wide-ranging refreshingly free of polemics.Stuart Macintyre

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Editorial: Transnational communism and anti-colonialism (Twentieth Century Communism 18, Spring 2020)

April 1, 2020

The relationship between international communism, the national communist parties, and anti-colonial political movements is a subject which has drawn heated debates both amongst activists and historians. This professed anti-imperialism attracted new recruits in the non-European world, enabling the organisation to begin to break out of the European and North American strongholds which had been basis of prior social-democratic internationalism. Within the metropoles, racialised outsiders entered party ranks determined to turn the propounded anti-colonial ideals into a political reality. Connections were forged between labour movement activists and anti-colonialists, and between different colonial nationalist campaigners. This issue of Twentieth Century Communism features a selection of papers presented at a symposium at the University of Manchester, UK in November 2018. The symposium considered new trends in the history of communist anti-colonialism and internationalism in the twentieth century. ‘Within and Against the Metropole’ drew together scholars and activists from the US, Europe and the UK.

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Deporting black radicalism: Claudia Jones’ deportation and policing blackness in the cold war (Twentieth Century Communism 18, Spring 2020)

April 1, 2020

This article looks at the relationship between Claudia Jones, the pioneering black Marxist feminist, and the border regime of the United States. The article makes the case that Jones’ denial of citizenship, legal harassment, and later expulsion was not merely a product of the transgression of the restrictive Cold War limitation of freedom of speech but instead concretely related to her Blackness. Jones is placed as a key figure in challenging the economic determinism within party thought, placing emphasis on her as a trailblazer in position racial oppression as a form of racialised social control which transcended a purely economic basis. This was a form of social control that political and economic elites exploited to control working-class and minority populations and prevent working-class unity. Her involuntary border-crossing experiences are shown to reveal how anticommunism, white supremacy, and gender-based oppression cohered in post-war America, shaping Jones’ ideas which would challenge fellow communists on both sides of the Atlantic.

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The Irish Revolution, early Australian communists and Anglophone radical peripheries: Dublin, Glasgow, Sydney, 1920–23 (Twentieth Century Communism 18, Spring 2020)

April 1, 2020

‘Communism’ and ‘Ireland’ remain, as a legacy of Cold War binarisms, two subjects that rarely converge in Australian historiography. This article explores the place of ‘Ireland’ in the political imagination of the nascent Australian Communist movement between its fractured formation in 1920 and the end of the Irish Civil War in 1923. In challenging nation-centric and essentialist treatments of ‘the Irish’ in Australian political history, it foregrounds a diffuse politicisation around ‘Ireland’ itself that transcended identitarian ontologies. This article argues that, examined within the ambivalent translation of early interwar radical cosmopolitanisms in a white settler labour movement, ‘Ireland’ was a directly ‘international’, if racialised, coordinate in the imaginative geography of early Australian communism. Although the ‘Irish Question’ circulated within the existing networks of the Comintern, this contest was also produced within other ‘routes’ on the Anglophone peripheries of the Communist world. The mobile lives of Peter Larkin, Esmonde Higgins and Harry Arthur Campbell, and the momentary alliance of the Communist Party of Australia with the Sydney Irish National Association during the 1923 ‘Irish envoys’ tour, allow for these connections to be reframed in non-primordialist terms within border-crossings and transnational encounter. An investigation of the ‘Irish Question’ within transgressions of cultural boundaries, instead of ‘shared’ national histories, can facilitate its extrication from Cold War narratives of ossified ‘identity’.

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Shapurji Saklatvala, the Workers’ Welfare League of India, and transnational anti-colonial labour organising in the inter-war period (Twentieth Century Communism 18, Spring 2020)

April 1, 2020

This article focuses on the transnational organising of Shapurji Saklatvala, the communist MP for Battersea North during the 1920s. It examines his role in popularising the cause of Indian independence and the Indian labour movement within the heart of the metropole, demonstrating that he was capable of developing solidarity efforts through drawing together a border-spanning network of students, lawyers, journalists, and labour activists into his organisation, the Workers Welfare League of India. His independent practice, which relied more on Battersea’s radical milieu and his own personal connections than communist party members, is demonstrated to have prompted rivals within both the social-democratic and communist camps to approach anti-colonial activism on the subcontinent with greater vigour, and facilitated connections that were forged between the wider British and Indian labour movements. As the Third Period unfolded, Saklatvala’s organisation gained greater support within the Comintern, but conversely lost the autonomy which had defined its early years. The ecumenical network he had developed splintered owing to the proscription of key figures by the Comintern, and the Labour Party’s invigorated attempts to build alliances with labour activists on the subcontinent, ultimately undermining the basis of the Workers Welfare League and leading to its demise.

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‘A last stubborn outpost of a past epoch’: The Communist Party of Great Britain, national liberation in Zimbabwe and anti-imperialist solidarity (Twentieth Century Communism 18, Spring 2020)

April 1, 2020

The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) had been involved in anti-colonial and anti-imperialist campaigns since the 1920s and in the late 1950s, its members were instrumental in the founding of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM). In the 1960s and 1970s, this extended to support for the national liberation movement in Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe. From the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, the CPGB threw its support behind the Soviet-backed Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), instead of their rival, the Chinese-backed Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). When both groups entered into a short-term military and political alliance in 1976, the Patriotic Front, this posed a possible problem for the Communist Party and the AAM, but publicly these British organisations proclaimed solidarity with newly created PF. However this expression of solidarity and internationalist links quickly untangled after the 1980 elections, which were convincingly won by ZANU-PF and left the CPGB’s traditional allies, ZAPU, with a small share of seats in the national parliament. This article explores the contours of the relationship between the CPGB, the broader anti-apartheid movement in Britain and its links with the organisations in Zimbabwe during the war of national liberation, examining the opportunities and limits presented by this campaign of anti-imperial solidarity.

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‘Whether black or white ‚Äì united in the fight!’ Connecting the resistance against colonialism, racism, and fascism in the European metropoles, 1926-1936 (Twentieth Century Communism 18, Spring 2020)

April 1, 2020

‘This article focuses on the ways in which anti-colonialism, anti-racism, and anti-fascism were intertwined within the Third Period, and the extent to which these ideals were already being drawn together in the preceding era of the United Front. Drawing heavily on the articles and imagery of Willi Münzenberg’s Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung, the piece demonstrates the ways in which communist anti-fascist campaigning around the world facilitated the development of sophisticated anti-racist arguments which aimed at undermining the ideological basis of fascist movements and colonial rulers alike. It evidences the extent to which communists felt that countering the pseudoscience of race could play an important role in numerous facets of their campaigning. Furthermore, it highlights the attempts by activists and writers to develop a conception of anti-fascism and anti-colonialism as mutually-reinforcing strategies which could be deployed in tandem, and the ways that this ideological interweaving was drawn into campaigns both against the Nazis’ use of racial science to justify anti-Semitic policy, and fascist Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia based on Social Darwinist precepts.

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Great disappointment, shifting opportunities: a glimpse into the Comintern, Western European parties and their colonial work in the Third Period (Twentieth Century Communism 18, Spring 2020)

April 1, 2020

In early 1929, Robin Page Arnot and James Ford, both sponsored by the Comintern, each set out on a trip to investigate what Western European communist parties had accomplished in their campaigns on colonialism and racial inequality. Both men issued stern reports suggesting more could be done; but following these investigations a proposed European colonial conference never happened. The League Against Imperialism petered out. The International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers formed, but consistently dealt with discrimination and received limited, if any, help from European communist parties. Using Executive Committee politsecretariat documents, this article argues that the Comintern quickly abandoned an emphasis on colonial work, instead focusing on domestic campaigns when contacting these parties between 1929 and 1935. Highlighting the migration of these ideas transnationally, while offering a comparative analysis of the Executive Committee of the Communist International’s interventions into each party, this research serves as a starting point for further inquiry into why the Comintern elected to not press these European parties to do more. Was their inaction because the Comintern was always Eurocentrically-minded? Was it because Comintern leaders were only paying lip service to these concepts? Was it that the Comintern prioritized other matters, especially as the Great Depression and the rise of fascism brought new challenges to communism? This article sheds some light on these questions by exposing the way in which the Comintern instructed each party to focus on in their broader campaigns.

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Editorial (Twentieth Century Communism 19, Autumn 2020)

January 11, 2020

This is the first issue of Twentieth Century Communism to be edited in a pandemic. While the pressure of other events has naturally posed certain challenges, this has also proved to be a great opportunity for the journal. It has increasingly seemed some- thing of a contradiction to have a journal of international history edited solely from the UK. We had already agreed in principle to expanding out editorial team, but it was in the context of the lockdown and ubiquity of zoom that at last in July we held our first tricontinental editorial meeting.

We welcome our new editors, Kasper Braskén, Evan Smith, Giulia Strippoli and Elke Weesjes and look forward to their contributions to the journal. This will be immediately reflected in our social media presence, with a TCC Twitter page and enhanced use of our journal blog and webpage. We have also agreed that the journal’s primary focus should continue be on themed issues of an international character – though not to the exclusion of individual submissions, which are always welcome. A number of future themes were agreed including global Maoism and anti-revisionism; communism and coalmining; the communist experi- ence in the camps and resistance; anti-fascism; communism in Latin America and Stalin as a global figure. As always, we welcome sugges- tions of future themes and the collaboration of guest-editors.

In just this spirit, the current issue comprises stand-alone articles and reviews together with two papers from the conference ‘Anti- Communism in the Twentieth Century: An International Historical Perspective’ held at Queen’s University Belfast in May 2019. We are grateful to the conference organisers Matthew Gerth and Conor McFall and hope to publish more contributions from the same conference in future issues.

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Competing visions of anti-communism in interwar Germany: Catholic and Nazi portrayals of the ‘Judeo-Bolshevik’ threat (Twentieth Century Communism 19, Autumn 2020)

January 11, 2020

This article explores the antisemitic and anti-communist ideas put forward by Catholic publicists and early Nazi activists in the aftermath of the First World War. The paper argues that one of the keys to the success of the early Nazi movement was its ability to weave together distinct, and potentially competing, strands of anti-Bolshevik imagery into a potent blend that appealed particularly to disillusioned Catholics in Munich, thus helping helping the movement survive its tumultuous infancy.

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Mandated internationalism: Sino-Soviet friendship, 1949-1956 (Twentieth Century Communism 19, Autumn 2020)

January 11, 2020

The Sino-Soviet Friendship Association (SSFA) was China’s largest mass organisation of the 1950s. Whether it was marking events on the socialist calendar, showing films, holding lectures, or arranging worker competitions, the SSFA had an inescapable presence in public life. Invariably, the Soviet Union was presented as China’s benevolent ‘elder brother,’ guiding it to modernity. By taking part in SSFA activities, Chinese were interpellated into a discourse that legitimated communist rule and defined their nation, world, and future. Yet, even within such a top-down, closed discursive system, there remained room for the inquisitive to form authentic friendships with their foreign Other. In addition to examining internal documents and public activities of the Shanghai and Beijing branches of the SSFA, this essay covers three rounds of pen-pal exchanges between Lu Shuqin and ‘Natasha,’ young women workers from Beijing and Moscow. Rather than adhering to the expected inner-socialist bloc hierarchy, their letters reveal an egali- tarian cosmopolitanism. When read against China’s state-sponsored narrative of ‘elder’ and ‘younger’ brother, these pen-pal letters complicate and expand the discourse of Sino-Soviet friendship, showing how the mandated internationalism of the 1950s interacted with the self-directed behaviours of socialist individuals.

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Eric Hobsbawm’s dialectical materialism in the postwar period 1946-56 (Twentieth Century Communism 19, Autumn 2020)

January 11, 2020

This article aims to demonstrate that Eric Hobsbawm was a dialectical materialist. It considers what dialectical materi- alism meant for him by analysing four prominent characteristics of Hobsbawm’s Marxist study of history found in his writings between 1946 and 1956. That class-struggle analysis was the primary analyt- ical lens for Hobsbawm is the major claim that this work challenges. Hobsbawm’s thinking was guided by dialectical materialism, which was a scientific outlook based on analysis. It always accounted for unpredictable human agency and, though economic factors played the principal role in the development of history, this study rejects the claim that Hobsbawm was a mechanical determinist. Further, dialec- tical materialism aimed at fostering the socialist revolution, with its ultimate goal being to overcome struggle and reach unity.

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Verse from the battlefield: Russian poetry of the Great Patriotic War (Twentieth Century Communism 19, Autumn 2020)

January 11, 2020

This article considers the historical, political, and cultural contexts of both Russian Soviet and Russian émigré poetry about the second world war. It outlines the reasons for and the foundations of the extraordinarily abundant outpouring of Russian Soviet poems during the war (unmatched by any other country taking part in the war), including the platforms created by the state to receive and broadcast poetry, the importance of war correspondents, and the role of propaganda. It delineates the way poets were viewed as important allies and moral compasses during the war (their poems were consid- ered weapons), and shows how and why this was all changed after the war. It also considers the situation in the main émigré literary centres when the war broke out, and the difference in attitudes toward the Soviet Union.

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Anticommunism as regime legitimisation strategy in South Korea in the 1960s (Twentieth Century Communism 19, Autumn 2020)

January 11, 2020

Since its founding in 1948, South Korea existed on the forefront of the Cold War divide between the two rival blocs. The ‘communist threat’ was never far from the South Korean leaders’ minds, yet it was not until the 1960s that anti-communism was turned into a strategy for regime legitimisation. In 1961, as a result of a coup d’état, a military regime came to power. Its first and most important goal was to legitimise itself both domestically and internationally. General Park Chung-hee, the leader of the military junta, chose anticommunism as part of his strategy. It was deployed to convince the US of the new regime’s commitment to defending the country against any possible threat; to prevent American military and economic withdrawal from Korea, and to justify the intensive drive for rapid economic development, for which the general later became renowned. This article argues that South Korean anticommunism in the early 1960s was a complex and conscious strategy aimed at establishing the foundations for the new military regime and ensuring its continued survival. Based on Park Chung-hee’s speeches and books and the available archival sources, the article illustrates the way in which anticommunism was presented and how it was used as part of the regime’s legitimising strategy.

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Reviews (Twentieth Century Communism 19, Autumn 2020)

January 11, 2020

Oleksa Drachewych and Ian McKay (eds), Left Transnationalism: The Communist International and the National, Colonial, and Racial Questions, London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019, ISBN 9780773558731, vii + 436pp
Reviewed by George Odysseos, University of Manchester

Oleksa Drachewych, The Communist International, Anti-Imperialism and Racial Equality in British Dominions, London & New York: Routledge, 2019, ISBN 9780367582500, pp175
Reveiwed by Irina Filatova, National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Moscow. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.

Anne Hartmann, ‘Ich kam, ich sah, ich werde schreiben’. Lion Feuchtwanger in Moskau 1937. Eine Dokumentation, Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2017, ISBN 978-3-8353-3152-5, 456pp
Reviewed by Tauno Saarela, University of Helsinki

Alison Light, A Radical Romance, London: Penguin Random House, 2019, ISBN: 9780241975350, pp229
Sophie Scott-Brown, The Histories of Raphael Samuel: A Portrait of a People’s Historian, Canberra: ANU Press, 2017, ISBN: 1760460362, pp266
Reviewed by Geoff Andrews, Open University

Thomas Beaumont, Fellow Travellers. Communist Trade Unionism and Industrial Relations on the French Railways, 1914-1939, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019, ISBN 978-1-78962-080-1, 272pp.
Reviewed by Gavin Bowd, University of St Andrews

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‘Legends have a tenacious life’: Ernst Thälmann, the First World War and memory in the GDR (Twentieth Century Communism 17, Autumn 2019)

November 1, 2019

Despite Ernst Thälmann’s prominence in the German Democratic Republic’s official antifascist narrative, there was no ‘scholarly’ biography of him until 1979. The reasons for this shed light on the political culture of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) and its history-writing arm, the Institute of Marxism-Leninism – especially in the regime’s early years under Walter Ulbricht. The refusal to falsify Thälmann’s relatively conventional war record by the SED’s appointed biographer, party veteran Rudolf Lindau, was a refusal to expunge his own party history from official memory. As a founding member of the International Communists of Germany (IKD), which was close to Leninism during and immediately after the war, Lindau did not want to contribute to myth-making which failed to account for the actual wartime antimilitarism of his own proto-communist grouping. The feud was part of wider debates in the SED about the nature of the November Revolution and the origins of the German Communist Party (1918), which ultimately identified the Spartacist tradition as the party’s official heritage. Of course, Lindau could not change the party line; but he was given very considerable latitude to disseminate his own views within party circles. He only came into conflict with the party leadership after being accused of building a ‘platform’ (i.e. taking collective action) in the early 1960s and even then met no serious sanction. In short, the SED was not the monolith of cold-war cliché. Instead, it tried to maximise the latitude given to old Communists from a diversity of party traditions.

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Review (Twentieth Century Communism 17, Autumn 2019)

November 1, 2019

Helena Sheehan, Navigating the Zeitgeist: A Story of the Cold War, the New Left, Irish Republicanism, and International Communism, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2019, (pb) 308pp., ISBN 978-1-58367-727-8.

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Forging socialism through democracy: a critical review survey of literature on Eurocommunism (Twentieth Century Communism 17, Autumn 2019)

November 1, 2019

The article provides a critical overview of the latest phase of scholarly engagement with Eurocommunism, firstly, by pointing out the resilience of a ‘Cold War framing’ in many of the new studies of the phenomenon, secondly, by stressing the resulting blind spots in the assessment of its geographical scope (e.g., the lack of attention paid to Spain, scarce contributions on Eurocommunism’s ramifications beyond West Europe). It then proposes a de-centred perspective on the phenomenon that is able to encompass its global roots and outreach, especially regarding the Third World; contrary to the prevalent focus on individual national cases of Eurocommunism, the article calls for a framing of Eurocommunist coordination as a transnational formation, so that both the leading role of Italian communists and the cross-border exchanges that shaped it can factor into a revised scholarly engagement with the topic. From this vantage point, Eurocommunism emerges as a strategy of transition for the global conjuncture of multiple crises that the 1970s represented, one that nevertheless failed to present a viable alternative to neoliberalism, another product of the decade in question. The article concludes by approaching the little explored gender dimension of Eurocommunism, visible in its entanglement with the second-wave feminism.

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Communist history, police history and the archives of British state surveillance (Twentieth Century Communism 17, Autumn 2019)

November 1, 2019

In Britain as in other countries security service files have come to provide an important resource for the writing of communist history. This paper discusses some of practical, ethical and methodological challenges they pose for historians. In Britain the selective release of small batches of redacted files was undertaken from the 1990s as part of the post-Cold War rebranding of the MI5 state security service. No meaningful public consultation took place regarding the principles governing the release of these materials. Nor were details made available of the scope of state surveillance or of the individuals and organisations subjected to it. The lack of transparency and accountability was compounded by the asymmetry between observers and observed and the withholding of information regarding the identities, associations and career histories of security operatives. Drawing on published and unpublished examples, the paper characterises this as a project for the ‘securitisation’ of communist and wider left history: one that seeks to validate MI5’s past and continuing role by accentuating issues of espionage while filtering and in many cases destroying evidence of the routine surveillance of political and social movement activism.

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Meeting the communist threat in Greece: American diplomats, ideology and stereotypes 1944-1950 (Twentieth Century Communism 17, Autumn 2019)

November 1, 2019

This paper focuses on four US officials serving in Greece at a critical period in both Greek and American political history. The Greek Civil War (1946-9) was decisive in the development of the Cold War confrontation. The Truman Doctrine (1947) represents an ideological milestone in this respect. In particular, the paper explores the views of Lincoln MacVeagh (ambassador 1944-7), Paul A. Porter (chief of the American Economic Mission to Greece, 1947), Dwight Griswold (chief of the American Mission for Aid to Greece 1947-8) and Henry Grady (ambassador 1948-50), namely their perceptions of the Greek post-war crisis in relation to the strategic goal of anticommunism. The emphasis of the analysis is on their understanding of the Greek social and political conditions - and especially of the nature of the communist threat – and of the goals involved in the American aid to the country. These four case studies highlight the interaction between the prevailing ideology in foreign policy objectives and the personal belief systems. Cultural preconditions and stereotypes constitute the framework in the context of which US officials sought to contain the communist challenge in Greece both though military as well as through economic and ideological means.

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Cedar and Eden Paul’s Creative Revolution: The ‘new psychology’ and the dictatorship of the proletariat, 1917-1926 (Twentieth Century Communism 17, Autumn 2019)

November 1, 2019

This article contributes to the history of the international communist movement by investigating the role of the ‘new psychology’ as a theoretical justification for bolshevism in the years immediately following 1917. It focuses on Cedar and Eden Paul, two almost forgotten theorists whose works were key texts for the socialist movement of the 1920s. Drawing on a range of ideas to supplement Marxist political economy, including Freudian psychoanalysis, biological instinct theory, and the philosophy of Henri Bergson, the Pauls fashioned a striking critique of capitalist democracy and defence of proletarian dictatorship. This heterodox approach was influential within the early communist movement even beyond Britain, and parts of their writings were copied by Li Dazhao, the ‘first Marxist in China’ and mentor of Mao Zedong. The art icle concludes by advancing an explanation for why the Pauls fell out of favour in the CPGB in the mid-1920s: as the prospects for world revolution receded, the party’s leaders sought to erase the heterodoxy and intellectual experimentation that characterised the communist movement in favour of ‘iron proletarian discipline’.

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An Enduring Enchantment: The Fairy Tale in the DDR, from the Brothers Grimm to ‘The Singing Ringing Tree’ (Twentieth Century Communism 16, Spring 2019)

June 1, 2019

The Marchen/Fairy Tale films produced by the state DEFA studio in East Berlin have proved to be among the DDR’s most enduring cultural achievements. This article examines at the ways in which the works of the Brothers Grimm were brought within an explicitly socialist pedagogy and how official Marxism attempt to comprehend and refashion folk and fairy tales. It is argued that this was most surely accomplished through the creative partnership of Anne Geelhaar, an East German writer, and Francesco Stefani, a West German director. Their creation, in 1957, of the apparently timeless but in reality entirely new tale of ‘The Singing Ringing Tree’ – despite an element of official opposition – has enjoyed enduring popular success and, through its inclusion within the BBC’s ‘Tales from Europe’ managed to circumvent and transcend the suspicions and stereotypes fostered by the Cold War.

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Some lost worlds of Eric Hobsbawm: interviews with a communist historian: 1990-2001 (Twentieth Century Communism 16, Spring 2019)

June 1, 2019

By common consent one of the finest historians of his generation, Eric Hobsbawm was also a longstanding member of the British Communist Party. In particular, his formative years as a historian spanned the period from the popular front communism of the 1930s to the post-war Communist Party Historians’ Group. The background and activities of the Historians’ Group have been described many times, including by Hobsbawm himself. Nevertheless, in these interviews recorded between 1990 and 2001 Hobsbawm opened up regarding the role of key networks and personalities that did not always figure in accounts like his autobiography Interesting Times. These included Dona Torr and John Morris, the historian of the classical world with whom Hobsbawm launched the journal Past and Present at the height of the Cold War.

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Reviews (Twentieth Century Communism 16, Spring 2019)

June 1, 2019

Books reviewed:

  • Richard J Evans; Eric Hobsbawm: A¬†Life in History (London: Little, Brown; 2019), 1408707411, 785pp. Reviewed by Willie¬†Thompson.
  • Chris Holmsted Larsen, Den folkek√¶re stalinist: En biografi om Carl Madsen, Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2017, ISBN 9788702220353, 543pp. Reviewed by Tauno¬†Saarela.¬†
  • Massimo Asta, Girolamo Li Causi, Un rivoluzionario del Novecento, Rome: Carocci, 2017, ISBN 978884309048-3, 327pp. Reviewed by Marzia¬†Maccaferri.¬†
  • Katherine Verdery, My Life as a Spy. Investigations in a Police File, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2018, ISBN9780822370819, xvi + 323 pp. Reviewed by Gavin¬†Bowd.¬†
  • Balazs Apor, The Invisible Shining: The Cult of Matyas Rakosi in Stalinist Hungary, 1945-1956, Budapest: Central European University Press, 2017, ISBN 9789633861929, 415pp. Reviewed by Stephen¬†Gundle.¬†
  • Russell Campbell, Codename Intelligentsia: the Life and Times of the Honourable Ivor Montagu, Filmmaker, Communist, Spy, Stroud, History Press, 2018, ISBN: 9780750987059,¬†448pp;¬†
  • Nicholas Griffin, Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World, New York, Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, ISBN: 9781634505567, 336pp. Reviewed by Geoff¬†Andrews.
  • Geoffrey Swain, A Short History of the Russian Revolution, London, I. B. Tauris, 2017, ISBN 9781780767932 (pbk), 9781780767925 (hbk), 256pp. Reviewed by Francis¬†King.¬†
  • Kristen Ghodsee, Second World, Second Sex. Socialist Women‚Äôs Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2018, ISBN 978-1-4780-0181-2 (pbk), 978-1-4780-0139-3 (hbk), 328pp. Reviewed by Tanja R.¬†M√ºller.
  • Jeremy Friedman, Shadow Cold War: The Sino-Soviet Competition for the Third World, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015, ISBN 9781469645520, x + 294pp. Reviewed by George¬†Odysseos.¬†
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‘Be a better communist’. A militant life history (Twentieth Century Communism 16, Spring 2019)

June 1, 2019

The history of the Portuguese Communist Party – PCP – can be explored from different perspectives. From the viewpoint of a communist militant, this study discusses some issues linked to the history of communism and its supporters’ political apprenticeship. Based on a series of conversations between a Portuguese communist and the author, historians of different generations, the article focuses on a life story, where autobiography, biography, episodes from the history of Socialism and the Communist Party are mixed and questioned.

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The Communist Party of Cyprus, the Comintern and the uprising of 1931: thoughts on the ‘apologia’ of Charalambos Vatyliotis (Vatis) (Twentieth Century Communism 16, Spring 2019)

June 1, 2019

Drawing on primary material from the Soviet archives, this article considers the attitude of the Communist Party of Cyprus (CPC) to the failed revolt of 1931 against British colonialism. The CPC’s contradictions and shortcomings are exposed through outlining the course of the revolt, along with a presentation of the Comintern’s position on these events. The argument put forward is that there were a number of more general problems facing the Comintern at this time that paved the way for the CPC’s pursuit of this specific contradictory line. Among these general problems were the failure to achieve a further revolutionary breakthrough in Europe, the rise of fascism and the characteristics of the anti-colonial struggles of that time.

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Editorial: Communist states in postwar Africa (Twentieth Century Communism 15, Autumn 2018)

September 1, 2018

The notion of ‘Red Africa’ can perhaps be dated to the period immediately following the Russian Revolution of October 1917. From that time, many Africans gravitated towards the revolutionary events in Russia and to Communism, seeing in them a path to their own liberation from colonial rule. The Communist Party in South Africa, founded in 1921 and one of the few on the African continent in the early twentieth century, soon had many black as well as white members. As one of its early leaders explained: ‘the influence of the Russian Revolution is felt far beyond the boundaries of the vast soviet Republic and probably has even more immediate appeal to the enslaved Coloured races of the earth than to Europeans’.

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The imaginary of socialist citizenship in Mozambique: the School of Friendship as an affective community (Twentieth Century Communism 15, Autumn 2018)

September 1, 2018

It is early November 2014, almost twenty-five years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall – in fact a few days before the anniversary. In Maputo, Mozambique, the Instituto Cultural Moçambique-Alemanha (ICMA) opens an exhibition in its foyer with the title ‘da ditadura – a democracia’ (from dictatorship to democracy), which tells the often rehearsed story of the oppressive former East German (GDR) regime and its fall. Shortly after that opening, in the adjacent ICMA auditorium, an event of a very different kind takes place that evening, also to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Cold War: a podium discussion on the lasting legacies of this period of socialist experimentations, in all their complexity. The three key participants are graduates of the Schule der Freundschaft (the School of Friendship, SdF), the biggest educational exchange programme between the then People’s Republic of Mozambique and the former GDR, all of whom I first met in 2008 when conducting research on a book about the SdF.1 The three participants speak
vividly about how they remember the time when they first came from poor urban or rural backgrounds in Mozambique to the GDR, with its first-class railways, high-rise buildings, paved roads and unfamiliar but tasty foods.

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A fragile alliance: the Congo crisis and Soviet-Ghanaian relations 1960-61 (Twentieth Century Communism 15, Autumn 2018)

September 1, 2018

When Kwame Nkrumah published one of the first comprehensive accounts of the Congolese crisis, he portrayed himself as an advocate of African liberation, who had firmly and consistently pursued the line on Africanising the settlement of the crisis, supported left Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba as much as he could, and sought to rid the Congo of ‘external pressure’. Until recently, this interpretation has largely determined assessments of Ghana’s role in the Congolese crisis. This article puts forward a different assessment of events.

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Two days of the Six Day War (Twentieth Century Communism 15, Autumn 2018)

September 1, 2018

Vladimir Shubin remembers the 1967 Six Day War.

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Mao Zedong’s China and Africa (Twentieth Century Communism 15, Autumn 2018)

September 1, 2018

From October 1949 until the end of the Korean War (1950-1953), the newly-founded People’s Republic of China (PRC) was preoccupied with a number of domestic and external problems which precluded it from actively engaging in Africa. A large amount of Beijing’s political energy was expended on effectively stabilising China’s borders with her neighbours and unifying the Chinese people under the Communist Party. During this period, Chinese foreign policy was greatly influenced by the Soviet Union’s support, as expressed in the Sino-Soviet Alliance of 1950, and China’s foreign policy outside of Asia was closely tied to that of Moscow’s.

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Into Africa: Nicolae Ceausescu’s tour of March-April 1972 (Twentieth Century Communism 15, Autumn 2018)

September 1, 2018

Right from the very first years of his leadership – which began in 1965 – foreign policy was one of Nicolae Ceausescu’s favourite domains. The tense relationship with the Soviet Union and Romania’s uncomfortable position in the control organisations of the Communist bloc (Comecon and Warsaw Pact) were later supplemented by other issues that were designed to demonstrate – alongside the wider development of the Ceausescu personality cult – the great man’s capacities as ‘brilliant strategist’, ‘visionary’ and negotiator in the domain of international relations.

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Hungarian foreign policy towards Africa during communism and in the post-Soviet era (Twentieth Century Communism 15, Autumn 2018)

September 1, 2018

During the communist era (1949-1989) Hungary experienced a number of different kinds of one-party rule, and the period therefore needs to be analysed in three stages. The first period can be characterised as totalitarian dictatorship, classical Stalinism – which
began developing from the late 1940s and lasted until 1963. During these decades, the Communist Party, which was re-organised in November 1944, ‘proclaimed itself the exclusive repository of all social interests’. Under Stalin’s favoured local leader, Mátyás Rákosi,
the Hungarian people were put under the strict control of the party, and every walk of life was scrutinised, which soon created a society in which people withdrew into their shells. The second stage was triggered by the 1956 uprising, which gave the signal that people
rejected Rákosi’s rule and Soviet-style totalitarianism; although the uprising failed, it contributed to a fundamental change in the long run. The second phase, in particular in the 1970s, was determined by less political control and a growing distance from the ideological
legitimacy of the Rákosi regime. János Kádár, who became prime minister after the uprising was suppressed, wanted to ‘consolidate’ the country after 1956, and increasingly allowed the private sector space in society, both in economic and cultural terms.

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South Africa’s Soviet theoretical legacy (Twentieth Century Communism 15, Autumn 2018)

September 1, 2018

The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, came to power with the agenda of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). The NDR had been the official aspiration of the ANC since 1969, and before then (since 1962), it had been part of the programme of the South African Communist Party (SACP). Since 1994, commitment to the NDR has become the rallying cry of the left in South Africa, not just of the SACP and the ANC, but also of COSATU and other trade unions, as well as of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Its resonance in South African politics was such that in 2007 Jacob Zuma was elected president of the ANC on the promise of implementing the NDR. This pledge was never fulfilled, but on the eve of the 2017 ANC National Conference Zuma, under political pressure from all sides, again promised to implement the goals of the NDR. Its currency within South African politics today is proof of the popularity of this ideological agenda. But what does the NDR actually mean? And how did this important theoretical construct come about? Were South African communists solely responsible for its introduction to the South African political landscape? The purpose of this article is to identify the roots and meaning of the NDR project and to trace its route to South Africa.

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Introduction (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

Kevin Morgan introduces an issue exploring further reflections on the 1917 centenary.

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Communism + Transnational: the rediscovered equation of internationalism in the Comintern years (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

After October 1917, communism was embodied in an International that was organised by and centred on Moscow. This was known as the Third International, the Communist International or the Comintern, which existed from 1919 to 1943. Communism also spawned a new internationalism which connected people around causes from Harlem to Moscow, Hamburg to Buenos Aires, Marseille to Durban, London to Shanghai; it gave rise to global moments of protest and struggle, and myriad diverse organisations of many different acronyms. This internationalism proved to be, through its revolutionary, anti-fascist and anti-imperialist scope, both more enduring and more global than the International which had given it life. In what ways did the Comintern serve as a ‘start-up’ for worldwide projects and struggles which have left their imprint on the contemporary world, in particular outside of Europe? In this article we try to offer some answers to this question.

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Reviews (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

Books reviewed: 

  • John Green, A Political Family: The Kuczynskis, Fascism, Espionage and the Cold War, Abingdon: Routledge, 2017, ISBN 1138232319, 370pp. Reviewed by Catherine¬†Epstein.
  • Joanna Bullivant, Alan Bush, Modern Music, and the Cold War: the cultural left in Britain and the communist bloc, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017, ISBN 9781107033368, xvii + 270pp, ¬£75. Reviewed by Mike¬†Makin-Waite.
  • Gleb J. Albert, Das Charisma der Weltrevolution. Revolution√§rer Internationalismus in der fr√ºhen Sovietgesellschaft 1917-1927, Cologne, Weimar, Vienna: B√∂hlau Verlag, 2017, ISBN 978-3-412-50754-1, 631pp. Reviewed by Geoff¬†Eley.
  • Jane Lazarre, The Communist and the Communist‚Äôs Daughter ‚Äì A Memoir, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2017, ISBN 978022369370 hbk, 240pp, ¬£22.99. Reviewed by Elke¬†Weesjes.
  • Andre Liebich and Svetlana Yakhimovich (eds), From Communism to Anti-Communism: Photographs from the Boris Souvarine Collection at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, Geneva, The Graduate Institute, 2017, ISBN 9782940503971, 160 pp. Reviewed by Geoffrey¬†Swain.e
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Contrasting centenaries: how Russia, Ukraine and Belarus marked October (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

The ‘Great October Socialist Revolution’ of 1917 was the foundational event for the USSR, continually invoked by the CPSU to justify the Soviet state and its political and economic order. Its anniversary on 7 November was the major public holiday in the Soviet Union, and up to 1990 was celebrated across the Union in thousands of official marches, meetings and ceremonies large and small. After 1991, following the dissolution of both the Union and the party, the anniversary lost its raison d’être as a public holiday, not least because in several of the former Union republics, there had been no ‘October revolution’ – the Soviet system had been established by quite different means, at different times, often against serious local resistance. The fifteen successor states to the USSR needed to devise their own foundational stories, usually on the basis of national mythology. If ‘October’ played any kind of role in these stories, it was often a negative one.For the most part, celebration of the anniversary across the former Soviet Union after 1991 became the exclusive preserve of the local communist parties, where these were allowed to exist openly. Over the years the day ceased to be a public holiday, and the state authorities generally simply ignored it. The hundredth anniversary in 2017, however, could not be passed over in silence – it would have to be commemorated in some way.

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Against the current: non-governmental commemorations of the October Revolution in China (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

Guess who was honoured by the official internet media in China, a self-claimed socialist and Marxist country, on the day of the hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution? Lenin? Stalin? Marx? Mao? Revolutionary soldiers and workers who made that revolution? No, no, no, not any of them. On the day of the centenary of the October Revolution, in a number of major official weibos (microblogs) run by Chinese government, such as New China’s Viewpoints (xinhua shidian) and the wiebo of Guangming Daily, the person who was honoured was Li Hongzhang, who died on 7 November 1901, when he was serving in major positions in the Qing imperial court. During the Mao Zedong era, Li Hongzhang was seen as a cruel butcher because of his quelling of several major peasants’ rebellions, and as a national traitor because of his selling-off of Chinese interests in the era of unequal treaties with foreign powers. But in the official commemorative text of New China’s Viewpoints and the Guangming Daily, Li Hongzhang was described as a promoter of China’s industrial and military modernisation, and almost as a national hero. On 7 November 2017, there was almost nothing mentioned about the centenary of the October Revolution on the homepages of the Chinese governmental internet media: Qiushi Journal online, Xinhua Net, Sina Net, Huangqiu Net, Phoenix New Media, CCTV online, People’s Daily online, to name just a few. 

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October in Contraption-Land: politics and history in Portugal (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

One hundred years after the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace, in what was then Petrograd, the main concert venue in Lisbon city centre, Coliseu dos Recreios, was packed with people and awash with red flags to mark the centenary of the October 1917 Revolution. The night of 7 November 2017 was the high point of the sweeping commemorative programme that the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP; Partido Comunista Português) devoted to the centenary. On the night, Jerónimo de Sousa, the Party’s General Secretary, gave a lengthy speech on a stage decorated with red carnations, the flowers that gave their name to another revolution, that of 25 April 1974, in Portugal. In seeking to address the way in which the October centenary was marked in Portugal, the present text takes this apparently secondary ornamental detail as its starting point. I will argue, however, that this detail carries a meaning which conveys, at one and the same time, two rather distinct ways of understanding the relation between history and politics. The quotation, as we might call it, of 25 April’s carnations in the October centenary suggests, on the one hand, that the universal ideal of 1917 finds its materialisation in the context of a national trajectory – in the Portuguese case, in and through the event of 1974. On the other hand, the decorative gesture hints at an elective affinity between the two historical moments – as if history were made of revolutionary events, paying no heed to the dead time that exists prior to, or in between, them. Put another way: in the first reading, history is taken as the background that makes politics possible; in the second, as that which politics brings into being. 

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Finland 1917 – A centenary in the shadows of independence celebrations and civil war commemorations (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

In 2017 there was worldwide commentary on the centenary of the Russian October revolution, not least in the Finnish daily press. The centenary of 1917 was also celebrated in Finland as a commemoration of one hundred years of Finnish independence. As many press reports note, the Russian October revolution was perceived in Finland as a unique moment to push for this independence. At times, however, these celebrations have been disconnected from the Russian revolution, focusing instead on Finnish nationalist activism. The question of how the Russian revolution is related to commemorations of the independent nation remains ambiguous, and is largely left in the shadows of more forward-looking independence celebrations and the bitter remembrance of the subsequent civil war of 1918. In interpreting Finnish perceptions and commemorations of 1917, one should bear in mind that until December 1917, Finland was part of the Russian empire. As an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian empire, it had been the victim of harsh Russification and diminishing self-determination during the preceding decades. During the second half of the nineteenth century, both the labour movement and the Finnish independence movements developed as powerful elements of Finnish civil society. On the one hand, the labour movement strove for better working and living conditions for the growing Finnish working class. On the other there was a quest for self-determination from the Russian regime. The national question was also of importance for the labour movement. Among the major debates at the time was over the question of whether social revolution should come first – directed against the ruling classes of Finland – or whether the labour movement should postpone its socialist demands and first form a broad alliance with the upper classes to make a common bid for independence. As long as tsarist Russia stood intact, both hopes seemed no more than distant dreams.

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‘Red October’ in South Africa (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

Several parties in South Africa claim the Russian Revolution as their own, some as a landmark in their history, all as a pivotal point in the imaginary world which they strive to achieve. Of course, the South African Communist Party (SACP) is the most influential of them, though not in the sense of membership or number of parliamentary seats. COSATU, South Africa’s biggest trade union federation, also calls itself a Marxist-Leninist organisation, and ascribes to the SACP the role of ‘the vanguard of the South African working class’ in the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), which both organisations see as the ‘Road to Socialism’ in South Africa. The ideology of the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA), expelled from COSATU in 2014, is even more radically socialist than that of COSATU. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which split from the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, in 2013, positions itself as a Marxist-Leninist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist party, and demands the implementation of the second, more radical, stage of the NDR. The Black First Land First (BLF), a splinter from the EFF, lists Marxism-Leninism as one of its ideological guidelines, and ‘the October Russian Revolution’ as one of ‘the great socialist revolutions’. All these organisations had a reason to celebrate the centenary of the Russian Revolution in 2017 – and they did, although in very different ways. This article looks into the ways the revolution was commemorated, and into the reasons behind them. 

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France and the centenary of October (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

In 2017, French political discourse was permeated by the word ‘revolution’, while crowding out October. In the presidential elections, mainstream right-wing candidate François Fillon promised a ‘conservative revolution’, while, for the Front national, Marine Le Pen’s revolution made many think of Pétain’s Révolution Nationale. On the national-populist left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon stood for a ‘citizen’s revolution’ whose field of reference was explicitly the French Revolution. The successful candidate, Emmanuel Macron, promised a ‘progressive revolution’, drawing on both left and right. This universal use of the term ‘revolution’ could be interpreted as a doomed attempt by the political class to reconnect with and enthuse a cynical and weary electorate. October was paradoxically eclipsed by this revolutionary discourse. In the world of French publishing, the anniversary certainly did not dominate the mainstream, unlike the national then international phenomenon that had been Stéphane Courtois’s Black Book of Communism in 1997. Granted, popular historian and novelist Max Gallo chose October as the subject of what turned out to be his last work, but in 2017 October appeared mainly on and about the margins. Thus the year saw the French translation of Evgenia Yaroslavskaya-Markon’s Insurgent, the extraordinary account of a young revolutionary woman’s disillusionment with Bolshevik power and embrace of lumpenproletarian delinquency, all written with suicidally defiant candour in a special camp for political prisoners in the Arctic Circle, precipitating her execution in 1931. The right-wing catholic journalist Victor Loupan offered up a Secret History of the Russian Revolution, which gave a sensationalist, conspiratorial view of events, in which the ‘mystery’, the ‘hidden face’ of the ‘iceberg’ of 1917 was explained principally by the role of a handful of fanatical, often Jewish, individuals and the competing interests of American, British and German financiers and spies. More soberly, Nicolas Werth, who had contributed the Soviet chapter of Courtois’s Black Book, was given the prestigious job of writing for the Que sais-je? series a book that was devoted to what Werth chose to call ‘the Russian Revolutions’, thereby challenging a monolithic interpretation of 1917 as well as of the Bolsheviks themselves. On the other hand, Werth gave a neat, familiarly Gallocentric coda to his text: if, as Francois Furet had argued in The Past of an Illusion, the ‘charm of October’ lay in its revival of the ‘revolutionary idea’, the collapse of communism meant that ‘man’s eternal aspirations to more justice and freedom have rejoined the paths traced by the Enlightenment’.

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War and revolution: Romanian retrospectives on the centenary of Red October (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

In Romania, the theme of the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution has been limited, and of relatively low intensity, in comparison with the academic and media debates beginning in August 2016 that marked the hundred years since Romania’s participation in the First World War. A related theme, and one which has a much bigger relevance in terms of public impact, is that of the hundredth anniversary, on 1 December 2018, of the unification of all Romanian provinces within one kingdom (namely, in chronological order, Bessarabia, Bucovina, Transylvania, Banat, Crisana and Maramures). Beyond this wider frame of reference, in which the centenary of Red October seems to ‘get lost’, it should also be observed that the historical legacy of the annexation of Bessarabia by the Tsarist Empire in 1812, and its occupation by the Soviet Union following the Vienna Diktat of 1940, as well as the imposition of the communist regime after the Second World War, under the yoke of the same power, are such as to make approaches to the Bolshevik Revolution, in academic as well as public discourse, somewhat reserved if not downright negative. Moreoever, to these territorial sensitivities is added the problem of the treasure of the National Bank of Romania, deposited in Moscow in December 1916-February 1917 and July-August 1917, which, despite Lenin’s assurances that it would be returned at an opportune moment into ‘the hands of the Romanian people’, has to this very day not been given back. Thus, in Romanian academic and public space, we can speak of a genuine historical tradition of an ‘original evil’ embodied by the Bolshevik Revolution, perpetuated in the inter-war period, exacerbated during the Second World War, passed over in silence during the communist regime or covered by the mask of national-communism, and then reactivated after December 1989.

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Never forget? The Holocaust and British communist anti-fascism, 1945-1951 (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

Even during the Second World War, Britain witnessed a fascist revival. In 1944, the British League of Ex-Servicemen and Women held an openly fascist meeting in London’s Hyde Park. At the war’s end, it was possible to be confronted both with newspaper photographs of the liberated Nazi camps and fascist street speakers claiming that, ‘not enough Jews were burned at Belsen’. In 1948, Sir Oswald Mosley relaunched his political career after wartime internment, forming the Union Movement (UM). Writing about a UM march in Dalston, London that took place later that year, the historian David Renton commented: ‘Taking place just a few years after the Blitz and the Holocaust … it seemed inconceivable that there were still people who thought fascism was right. Yet this was the message of the march’. Renton echoes historians who have identified the Holocaust as central to a post-war British anti-fascist consensus, alongside the nation’s wartime record of fighting fascist powers. Richard Thurlow suggested that the ‘chief accusation’ against post-war British fascists was their alleged support for the extermination of European Jewry. It is surprising then that the histories of fascism, anti-fascism, the left and Holocaust remembrance in Britain do not intersect in a study of the genocide’s impact on the opposing forces. The absence of analysis of British communists’ approaches to the Holocaust is consistent with this general lack of historiographical attention. This study is concerned with the extent to which the Holocaust shaped the Communist Party of Great Britain’s (CPGB) post-war anti-fascism.

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The Stalin Question (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

When polling on the topic first began in 1989, Stalin was ranked bottom of the list of the most important Russians, scoring 12 per cent. The same survey, by the independent Levada Centre, placed him at the top in 2017, with an approval rating of 38 per cent.1 The intervening period has witnessed the publication of numerous studies of aspects of the Stalinist state and society, of Stalin’s colleagues, and of Stalin himself. Some of the biographies, aimed principally at Russians, are intent on depicting him as a hero. Ever since his death in March 1953 he has had his Russian champions, and not merely among those who deny the scale of the violence associated with his rule. Stalin’s role in the Great Patriotic War, his industrialisation of the Soviet Union, his guidance of the country to super-power status – even his treatment of nationalists, dissidents, rivals and criminals – continue to find apologists both erudite and crude. Pro-Stalin sentiment was already associated with the resurgence of Russian nationalism by the mid-1980s, as was contemporary discontent with the weaknesses of the state in the face of mounting social problems.2 But a growing list of scholarly studies have taken advantage of post-1991 access to the archives to examine the Soviet dictator objectively. 

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Goodbye to all that: remembering 1917 in the UK (Twentieth Century Communism 14, Spring 2018)

April 1, 2018

The French Revolution left a permanent political, philosophical and cultural legacy on world history. It is already clear that this cannot be said of the Bolshevik revolution, or certainly not to the same extent. Within seventy-five years not only was the nation-state created by the revolution, the USSR, dead and buried, but the political and economic model of that state, and its satellites, was terminally discredited. The very concepts that gestated and animated the Soviet Union – the Vanguard Party, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the ‘People’s Democracies’ of ‘actually existing socialism’ – are historical pariahs, consigned to the rubbish heap of history. This does not mean that the October Revolution and the subsequent creation of the Soviet Union was not a momentous event. On the contrary, it was probably the most momentous event of the twentieth century. But, unlike the great French Revolution, which gave the world the concepts and vision of liberté, égalité, fraternité, and the universal Rights of Man – the foundation of progressive left thought ever since – the outcomes of the Russian Revolution (aside from some of its cultural effluvia such as agit-prop design and Constructivist art) were almost wholly negative. But a centenary is a centenary, and the Russian Revolution of 1917 certainly merited remembrance. It is the scope and nature of that remembrance that is of historical interest. Clearly this varied in different countries depending on historical and political context. Although the commemorations of 1917 (or lack of them) in contemporary Russia are arguably the most relevant and telling, in this short overview I examine how it was delivered and perceived in the UK, in particular on and by its radical left. 

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Disputed memory: the Munich Council Republic and the KPD’s politics of history (Twentieth Century Communism 5, Autumn 2013)

February 1, 2018

Arnd Bauerkamper and Francesco Di Palma (eds), Bruderparteien jenseits des Eisernen Vorhangs: Die Beziehungen der SED zu den kommunistischen Parteien West- und Sudeuropas (1968-1989)
Gareth Pritchard

Philip Bounds, British Communism and the Politics of Literature 1928-39 
David Margolies 

Pierre Brocheux, Ho Chi Minh: A Biography
Suchetana Chattopadhyay 

John Butler, The Red Dean of Canterbury: The Public and Private Faces of Hewlett Johnson
Dianne Kirby

Andy Croft (ed.), After the Party: Refl ections on life since the CPGB
Richard Cross

Ken Keable (ed.), London Recruits. The Secret War against Apartheid
Irina Filatova

Jose Gotovitch, Du communisme et des communistes en Belgique. Approches critiques
Aldo Agosti

Lucio Magri, The Tailor of Ulm: Communism in the Twentieth Century
Willie Thompson

Josie McLellan, Love in the Time of Communism: Intimacy and Sexuality in the GDR
Gareth Pritchard

Serge Wolikow, L’Internationale communiste (1919-1943). Le Komintern ou le reve dechu du parti mondial de la revolution
Kevin Morgan

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Introduction (Twentieth Century Communism 13, Autumn 2017)

October 1, 2017

Kevin Morgan introduces a special issue commemorative issue of Twentieth Century Communism.

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The international echoes of the commemorations of the October Revolution (1918-1990) (Twentieth Century Communism 13, Autumn 2017)

October 1, 2017

Commemorations express a political will to remember, a process that relies on establishing a mythologised historical referent. The Russian Communists were aware of the importance of this instrument forthe implantation of a regime whose legitimacy was contested both domestically and abroad, and proceeded therefore to construct a new collective memory through the reordering of time around the regime’s founding act: the great socialist revolution of October. From 1918 on, 7 November was a day of celebrations: speeches, military parades, orderly marches, inaugurations of public monuments and commemorative plaques, polit-ical carnivals, mass spectacles, and popular parties that united the peoples and territories of the Soviet Union in celebration of October.1 In addition to their domestic role in fostering unity, providing legitimacy, and facili-tating internal mobilisation, commemoration practices also supported the regime’s international eminence, especially when it presented itself as a model for world revolution.

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Reviews (Twentieth Century Communism 13, Autumn 2017)

October 1, 2017

Books reviewed:

  • Fedor Il‚Äôich Dan, translated and edited by Francis King, Two Years of Wandering: A Menshevik Leader in Lenin‚Äôs Russia, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2016, ISBN 9781910448724,¬†236pp
  • Phillip Deery, Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War, New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2014, ISBN 978-0-8232-5368-5, xi +¬†252pp
  • √Ösmund Egge and Svend Rybner (eds), Red Star in the North. Communism in the Nordic Countries, Stamsund: Orkana Akademisk, 2015, ISBN 8281042427,¬†355pp¬†
  • Tauno Saarela, Suomalainen kommunismi ja vallankumous 1923-1930, Helsinki: SKS, 2008, ISBN 9522220515,¬†840pp¬†
  • Tauno Saarela, Finnish Communism Visited, Finnish Society for Labour History, Papers on Labour History VII, 2015, ISBN 9789525976182,¬†233pp
  • Eric Aunoble, La R√©volution russe, une histoire fran√ßaise. Lectures et repr√©sentations depuis 1917, Paris: La Fabrique, 2016, ISBN 9782358720793, 255¬†pp
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Celebrating the October Revolution? A Socialist Dilemma: France, Italy, 1945-1956 (Twentieth Century Communism 13, Autumn 2017)

October 1, 2017

Tackling the issue of the October Revolution celebration through the angle of a dilemma conveys the idea that socialists necessarily have a special bond with the Russian revolution. The Partito Socialista Italiano (Italian Socialist Party or PSI) and the Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière (French Section of the Worker’s International or SFIO) were both refounded in the 1940s after a period of clandestine activity, and both insisted on their Marxist identity. Most of the time, they presented themselves as revolutionary parties, as representatives of the working class, and they called for a social transformation of society. After the political revolutions of the nineteenth century and the political equality that was achieved through them, the goal was to put the working classes in power through a social revolution that would establish equality in the economic sphere. At the time, for its partisans as much as for its opponents, the Russian revolution was the ultimate embodiment of a social revolution. The French might have tried to bring up the example of the Paris Commune, whose symbolic legacy they fought over with the communists by organising rival commemorations; but it clearly did not have the same symbolic power, especially after Stalingrad, nor the great prestige the Soviet Union then enjoyed.

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‘October’ as a marker of radicalisation: commemorations of the October Revolution in Denmark during the Cold War Period (Twentieth Century Communism 13, Autumn 2017)

October 1, 2017

On 9 November 1917 news of the new Russian revolution reached Denmark. On the front page of the daily Social-Demokraten (the Social Democrat) it announced, ‘The New State Upheaval in Russia’. At the very beginning the Danish Social Democratic Party supported the revolution and its leaders, but following the Bolsheviks’ dissolution of the constituent assembly in January 1918 this situation ended and the Danish labour movement split into a small revolutionary segment and a much bigger reformist one with different views on the questions of democracy and socialism.

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Venice 1977: (counter)celebrations of the October Revolution (Twentieth Century Communism 13, Autumn 2017)

October 1, 2017

!n Venice, the celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary of the October Revolution were anticipated almost a year earlier with the retrospec-tive exhibition Soviet Graphics from 1920 to Today, which opened in mid-December 1976 in the so-called Napoleonic Wing overlooking St Mark’s square. The exhibition was promoted from the Italian side by the municipality of Venice, the Union of Venetian Engravers and the local Italy-USSR Association, and from Soviet side by the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. Although the show was not planned as an official contribution to the anniversary celebrations, it presented a wide selection of works on revolutionary subjects. The director of the Pushkin Museum, the legendary Irina Antonova, celebrated the tribute to the Great October in Soviet graphic works as an art medium ‘able to get in direct contact with revolutionary mass movements, and to address an audience of millions’.

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Anniversaries of the October Revolution in the political-cultural magazine of the Italian Communist Party: Rinascita, 1957-1987 (Twentieth Century Communism 13, Autumn 2017)

October 1, 2017

To analyse the changes in the way the Italian Communist Party (PCI) was connected historically with the October Revolution and its legacy, it is useful to look at the pages of Rinascita, the political and cultural magazine of the party, on the occasion of four important anniversaries of the revolution of 1917. Behind these changes we can also read the evolution of the PCI’s relationship with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), with the Soviet Union as a state and with the experience that it represented for the international workers’ movement and for the workers’ movement in Italy.

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The journalist as a foreign expert: American television correspondents reporting on the November parades (1960s-1980s) (Twentieth Century Communism 13, Autumn 2017)

October 1, 2017

The spectacle of the October commemorations became a ‘global iconic event’ in the era of television. From the 1950s on, the new media not only amplified the symbolic dimension and the visual culture of Red October to a unified Soviet audience, but more importantly, participated in its re-mediation, re-appropriation and negotiation in other domestic spaces, such as capitalist Western democracies. Drawing on the audiovisual archives of the three main US national television broadcasters (ABC, NBC, CBS), this paper shows how the representations of the November parade on US television makes a paradigmatic case of the international echoes of this historical event. It considers both the political significance of Soviet commemoration events in the Cold War context and the role of propaganda for both the USSR and the USA, both nations trying to control their own image and the image of the other side for their public opinion. 

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Editorial: Communism’s print culture (Twentieth Century Communism 12, Spring 2017)

April 1, 2017

Less than a decade ago, the perception that ‘the party’ was an outmoded structure irrelevant to radical left politics was wide-spread. The striking – if inevitably uneven and contradictory – emergence and progress of actually existing leftist parties in the conjuncture shaped by the 2008 crash has transformed the terms of reference. Theoretical discussion has returned to questions about socialist strategy, and in particular the challenge of re-imagining and reinvigorating the Marxist party in new times.3 Historical analysis of the structures and experiences inherited from the past have a key role to play in this process. The national communist parties with which this journal is centrally concerned continue to haunt the contemporary radical political imagination. 

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British Communism, periodicals and comprehensive education, 1920-56 (Twentieth Century Communism 12, Spring 2017)

April 1, 2017

In his essays on the inner culture of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), the historian Raphael Samuel remarked that ‘educa-tion was a universal idiom’ in the party. Unsurprisingly, an organisation so concerned with learning attracted many schoolteachers and educationalists. A significant number were present at the CPGB’s foundation in 1920,2 and the party schoolteachers’ group numbered somewhere between one and three hundred for the next decade.3 Communists who were professionally engaged with the education of children were also relatively untouched by the schism between British communism and the labour movement’s institutions of adult education, which was the result of the Communist International (Comintern) in December 1922 specifying that the Plebs League and National Council of Labour Colleges should be brought under party control.4 And when the CPGB first made serious attempts to attract professional workers in the second half of the 1930s, the party’s official historian noted that schoolteachers were represented ‘above all’ among these recruits.5 They retained this presence into the post-war period. Between 1944 and the mid-1960s the around 2000 party schoolteachers were by far the largest ‘white collar’ profession represented at CPGB national congress; indeed they made up the third largest of all occupational groups inside the party.6 But it is not just the numerical force of British communists concerned with children’s education which makes them an interesting group to analyse. 

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‘The voice speaking, desired, awaited’: Jack Lindsay’s 1649, textual form and communist historiography (Twentieth Century Communism 12, Spring 2017)

April 1, 2017

The Popular Front period in Britain witnessed an unprecedented engagement between intellectuals and leftist politics. The address delivered by the Comintern’s general secretary Georgi Dimitrov at the Seventh Congress articulated the key elements of the new Popular Front line: an analysis of fascism as the strategy of a section of the bourgeoisie (leaving open the possibility of alliance with other bourgeois elements), a demand for unity, and the assertion of the importance of working, as Kevin Morgan puts it, ‘with the grain of mass culture’ in communists’ own countries.

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‘And the lives are many’: the print culture of Australian Communism (Twentieth Century Communism 12, Spring 2017)

April 1, 2017

The tradition of communist thought and practice in Australia is strong and fertile. So, too, the print culture associated with official Australian communism has a vibrant heritage and is populated by significant figures from the field of literature, history, politics, art, theatre and journalism. This article investigates that culture by focussing upon key characters, critical issues, and significant debates that propelled a movement whose influence and power in Australian life is too easily underestimated.

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Translation and ideology in post-war Italy: left-wing publishers and the Italian Communist Party (Twentieth Century Communism 12, Spring 2017)

April 1, 2017

In the transition towards democracy after the war, Italy moved towards an apparently more open dialogue with other European and non-European countries, which was reflected by a growing publishing interest in translations. This cultural exchange was not in any way neutral, but embedded in a specifically national political dimension as well as in the broader context of the Cold War. In the turmoil of post-war reconstruction, the influence of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) on intellectuals and cultural operators was particularly significant, although the party was never able to attain political power in the form of a government. The party also had to find its own identity both in relation to power dynamics on an international level, namely in terms of its proximity to the Soviet Union, and on a national level, with the need to develop a strong opposition to the Christian democrats in power and their allegiance with the United States. 

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Number crunching the engineers of human souls: Polish writers as a social group (Twentieth Century Communism 12, Spring 2017)

April 1, 2017

At a meeting with writers on 26 October 1932, in preparation for the first Congress of the Union of Soviet Writers, Stalin proposed a vodka toast: ‘I raise my glass to you, writers, the engineers of the human soul.’ He may have believed what he said, and as they raised their glasses the assembled writers may have been reassured by the state-ment, but within five years, on Stalin’s orders, most of those present were dead or imprisoned. Stalin did not trust writers. 

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‘Polemics pertinent at the time of publication’: Georg Lukács, International Literature, and the Popular Front (Twentieth Century Communism 12, Spring 2017)

April 1, 2017

It is a hitherto unexamined axiom of literary, cultural, and intellectual history that Georg Lukács had no interwar reception in Britain. Largely derived from Perry Anderson’s attacks on British parochialism of the 1960s and 1970s, the persistence of this presupposition can be observed in the search for autochthonous figures who might provide a proxy for Lukács in the 1930s, Christopher Caudwell being the most prominent example. And yet, there was an ‘English Lukács’: one ‘George Lukacs’ whose essays appeared in translation in the English edition of the Soviet multi-lingual journal International Literature from 1935-39. The translations included two important articles later trans-lated by Arthur Kahn, ‘Narration vs. Description’ (1937), and ‘The Intellectual Physiognomy of Literary Characters’ (1936), as the earlier translations rendered the titles; the first two chapters of The Historical Novel (1938); three lesser-known essays not re-translated, ‘Essay on the Novel’ (1936), ‘Nietzsche: Forerunner of Fascist Aesthetics’ (1935), and ‘On Socialist Realism’ (1939); and a funeral address Lukács gave for Maxim Gorky, ‘Gorky: Great Proletarian Humanist’ (1937).

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Swedish communism in print, 1917–45 (Twentieth Century Communism 12, Spring 2017)

April 1, 2017

The deadliest terrorist attack in recent Swedish history took place in the printing room of the communist daily Norrskensflamman during the night of 2 March 1940. Five second lieutenants let themselves in with a key that had been confiscated during a police raid and planted explosives in the press. The blast burnt the building to the ground, killing the paper’s finance officer, his wife and daughter, and the wife and son of another employee, all residing in flats above. But even while rocked by the immediate aftershock, the editors refused to be beaten. They published a stencilled issue the next morning in the print works of a local socialist paper: a one-page statement that denounced the attack as a ‘political atrocity’ and proclaimed the paper’s determination ‘not to be silenced’.

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‘The vicious circle’: communist cartooning, internationalism & print culture, 1917-25 (Twentieth Century Communism 12, Spring 2017)

April 1, 2017

In September 1921, the President of the Communist International, Grigorii Zinoviev, wrote to its national sections on ‘The Character of our Newspapers’. The circular was a supplement to the ‘Theses on Organisation’ revised and adopted at the third world congress that July. They provided Moscow’s first practical guidance for a ‘new type of communist organ’ based on the Bolshevik daily, Pravda. ‘Newspapers play a great part in our agitation’, Zinoviev stated, but ‘up till now have been very unsatisfactory.’ ‘Our papers are too dry, too abstract’, he continued, containing ‘very little’ of interest to working men and women.

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Review (Twentieth Century Communism 12, Spring 2017)

April 1, 2017

Ben Harker reviews Geoff Andrews, The Shadow Man: At the Heart of the Cambridge Spy Circle

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Nicolae Ceausescu: between vernacular memory and nostalgia (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

The hierarchical ranking of history, memory and nostalgia classifies the ubiquitous enactments of Nicolae Ceauşescu from the vernacular memory of post-communist Romania as “unhealthy nostalgia” for the communist past. This paper explores various instances of Ceauşescu’s memorialization as reflected in contemporary art and living memorials inked on the skin (nostalgia tattoos).  These vernacular memorials and commemorations of the former communist leader occasion a peculiar culture of remembrance where “nostalgia” for Ceauşescu exceeds its boundaries of meaning and becomes a term which can be mobilized against present wrongdoings and capitalist injustices. From an epistemological narrative standpoint, this paper attempts to argue that to construct a harmonious but counterfeit picture of the past (in which Nicolae Ceauşescu and his era are exclusively demonized) is not desirable or acceptable because the individuals (and the communities) who remember that past are not homogeneous and their memories and longings for the past are not similar. Thus, nostalgia ought not to be understood exclusively as an abnormal (unauthentic, unhealthy) memory of the past but rather as a peculiar form of memory illuminating a healthy critique of the present in the light of the past.

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From Yugoslavia to Yugonostalgia: political elements in narratives about life in the former SFRY (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

The paper examines the phenomenon of yugonostalgia in Serbia. Nostalgia for life in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia throughout the ex-Yugoslav region has been acknowledged by scholars, but not thoroughly investigated, with most of the research focusing on publicly displayed narratives, such as those in film, books and other media. Additionally, most of these narratives are almost exclusively devoid of political elements, a strange fact given how they refer to life in a significantly different ideological context. Acknowledging this surge of yugonostalgic narratives, present since the early 2000s, and building upon the existing body of analytical work, the author attempts to investigate deeper into the phenomenon. The article will firstly single out notable examples of public yugonostalgia, in an attempt to illustrate the various ways in which this sentiment is represented. Afterwards, main arguments of yugonostalgia scholars, including the Slovenian culturologist Mitja Velikonja and anthropologist Tanja Petrović, will be outlined. The crux of the paper, however, will be the interviews with inhabitants of Belgrade who had the experience of living in the SFRY. Their memories and sentiments regarding everyday life, but especially the regime and the political system, will be analysed and the conclusions compared with the ones previously made by other scholars. 

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PCF and Front de Gauche: exploiting a communist nostalgia in France? (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

One could argue that nostalgia was stamped into the identity of the post-war Parti Communiste Français (PCF) from the moment the provisional government-in-waiting stepped into the political vacuum after the collapse of the Vichy government in the summer of 1944. It was a period of instant nostalgia as, across the political spectrum, there was an endeavour to resurrect and reconfigure the past in a way that could offer a unifying sense of identity to a nation whose sense of self and purpose had endured the trauma of defeat and occupation.

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‘We all miss you’: Enrico Berlinguer in post-Berlin Wall Italy (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

Enrico Berlinguer, the former leader of the PCI (Partito comunista italiano - Italian Communist Party), who died in 1984, became the object of popular nostalgia in post-Berlin wall Italy. The paper accounts for the political, historiographical, and even psychological factors behind this nostalgia. The article also highlights how journalists and politicians, both right and left, have used (and abused) Berlinguer’s thought and ideas, making him either a symbol of the morality that is today lacking in Italian politics (the right-wing perspective), or a prophet of the struggle against a broken financial system (the left-wing perspective). Finally, the paper analyses the rise of a spontaneous cult of Berlinguer at grassroots level over the last thirty years. The kaleidoscopic variety of interpretations regarding Berlinguer’s political legacy is ultimately due to the inability of the Italian post-communist leaders to reconcile themselves with their political past, leading to a splintered and conflictual identity among the Italian post-communist Left in general.

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Introduction (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

Nostalgia was never meant to be associated with communism. This utopian project, where the principle of hope was buttressed by the scientific certainties of dialectical materialism, declared itself future-oriented and unsentimental about a world where all that was solid melted into air. And yet, with the shattering of ‘really existing socialism’ and of the world movement which, despite much soul-searching and secession, still had at least one foot in the ‘real’ ruins, post-communist nostalgia has emerged as a socio-cultural phenomenon as well as an object of study.

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Re-Assessing post-communist nostalgia in Romania: chronological framework and opinion polls (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

The paper analyzes the evolution of communist nostalgia in Romania based on the results of the opinion polls published from the end of the 1990s until today. Thus, I structure my analysis in two main parts. The first one provides a chronological overview of the emergence of communist nostalgia in Romania showing how the anti-communism of the 1990s was replaced by shared nostalgic feelings about life before the regime change in December 1989. In this context, I show in what way the anti-communism manifested itself within Romania and to what extent the world economic crisis, the waning relevance of anti-communism and its related negative themes and especially the Romanian society’s coming to terms with the recent past at the end of 2000s favoured an nostalgic approach towards the communist period. In the second part, I examine the results of opinion polls to highlight the twin focus of communist nostalgia (Nicolae Ceauşescu’s political activity and the regime’s economic and social performance) and that it has social and economical grounds rather than a political significance. Moreover, I underline that Romanians’ nostalgic affinities gain different meanings depending on age factor. 

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Nationality-driven Soviet nostalgia: determinants of retrospective regime evaluation in the Baltic States (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

Drawing on a unique and recent cross-national public opinion survey, the article examines the determinants of regime support and retrospective evaluation of the Soviet era in the Baltic states. The analytical framework encompasses three dimensions: political–ideological nostalgia, performance-driven nostalgia and nationality-driven nostalgia. The analysis demonstrates that nationality is the strongest single predictor for communist rating, but that also support for democratic principles has a clear impact on attitudes towards the Soviet past. Estonia and Latvia are marked by strong ethno-political divisions and the overall trends suggest that these divisions have become more entrenched over the last couple of decades. Meanwhile, the Soviet legacy has become a prominent instrument to restore a sense of community across generations of Russians and a more ideological and political Soviet nostalgia may have taken roots. This is a question of collective identity: to mark distance to the majority population and to justify the presence in the region The findings add to our understanding of political culture and system support in the contemporary Baltic states, as well to our knowledge of the salience of identity and memory in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe.  

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Nostalgia for the PRL in contemporary Poland (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

The article describes three ways in which the idea of PRL nostalgia is being present in social practices of contemporary Poland. In the general opinion, the times of communism are considered as dark pages of Polish history.  The year 1989, which brought transition to democracy, started also the process of social polarization. In order to overcome this situation most of state cultural institution organise varied educational programs.  The main purpose of those programs is to involve local communities in cultural life and to change the general opinion about cultural events as accessible only for elitist groups. This belief may be considered as emerging from communist nostalgia- similar ideas were formulated by The Polish People’s Republic authorities. Also, there are other forms of “coming back” to historical times. Instead of unpopular meetings honouring socialists’ authorities, there are new kinds of practices that shape culture and historical politics.  Festivities or historical re-enactments do not differ much from the previous models of cultural participation. Warsaw Museum of Polish People’s Republic’s popularity is increasing and socialist vintage becomes an element of contemporary pub’s design. 

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Long live the Kommunalka! The tension between postmodern poetics and post-soviet nostalgia in the work of Andrei Makine (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

The article explores the nostalgia–imbued representations of the communal apartment (kommunalka) and its extension, the communal courtyard, found in Andreï Makine’s novels. Conceived by Lenin who in 1917 decreed the expropriation and partition of individual dwellings, instead of a ‘socialist idyll’ the kommunalka became ‘a socialist farce’, ‘an institution of social control’ and ‘the breeding ground of police informants’. Yet, in Makine’s prose this emblematic figure of fragmentation becomes one of wholeness, and thus a means of offsetting the sense of loss thematised by the Franco–Russian author’s writing and reflected in the narrative structure of his novels. Given the postmodern aura of Makine’s work, in the present article I frame this apparent paradox with the polemics concerning postmodernism’s attitude towards the past; whereas some (Eagleton, Jameson) associate the cultural movement with nostalgia, others (Hutcheon) consider it as being far from glorifying the past or recovering that past as edenic. Consequently, while supporting the position of postmodernism’s detractors, Makine’s idealised figurations of communal living spaces betray the writer’s longing for his homeland’s communist past and, correlatedly, for the sense of empowerment and plenitude that he evidently derived from Soviet Russia’s superpower status. 

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Missing communism in 1985 and 2015 Greece: nostalgia in Rinio Dragasaki’s short film Dad, Lenin and Freddy (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

January 2015 records the pinnacle of left presence in Greece, as the country elects a leftist government for the first time in parliamentary history. The ‘Greek Depression’ (Kaiser 2011) slowly but surely revitalized a communist ethos for many Greek citizens, similar to what Paul Betts describes as ‘surprising passion and even longing’ (2014). This communist nostalgia is illustrated in Renio Dragasaki’s 2012 short film entitled Dad, Lenin and Freddy. Dragasaki’s story spans the years between 1980 and 1990, depicting the lifestyle of a family immersed in communist ideas and framed by communist ‘retro’ aesthetics up to the demise of the left altogether (Calotychos 2013). Daddy, Lenin and Freddy is seen here as a par excellence example of communist nostalgia, narrating landmark events of Greek politics of the time from the perspective of a 6 year old girl. In short, this article is looking at the legacy of communist nostalgia in post-dictatorship Greece, a nostalgia that, for middle and upper classes, has been predominantly mediated through a cultural-materialist progress and a celebration of commodities. Following Raymond Williams (2005), communist nostalgia in 2015 Greece is a cultural practice whose residue has been a reverberation of the communist experience of other Eastern European countries in the first instance. Simultaneously, this nostalgia’s presence forms the country’s current cultural identity.  

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The blurred object of communist nostalgia: Radio Free Europe (Twentieth Century Communism 11, Autumn 2016)

October 1, 2016

Existing research on nostalgia, including communist nostalgia, devotes numerous pages to typologizing longing and the approaches to it. But little has been done to trace or classify nostalgia’s actual objects. And yet these, goes the argument of this essay, are neither transparent nor clear-cut. To illustrate how the persistent lack of clarity about them hampers the understanding of nostalgia as a historical phenomenon, I turn to the post-1989 memory of Radio Free Europe (RFE)—a key Cold War broadcaster into the Eastern Bloc. My analysis of the only three RFE-related artifacts that have so far enjoyed reception in East and West raises the question of whether and how an anti-Communist token, which RFE appears to have been, can become a linchpin of Communist nostalgia. This process hinges, I observe, on two operations. The first interprets Communism as a medial, rather than political, situation. The second re-signifies RFE as an ahistorical cypher for extraterritorial, uncensored, and multilingual resistance par excellence. The resulting yearnings thus point not to Communism’s accomplishments or shortfalls but rather to its side effects. Only by identifying these trajectories of nostalgia and defining their “medial” and “intermediary” pivots can we understand what exactly is being missed.

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The struggle against Trotskyism in Norway, 1935-1937. A meeting of Soviet and local political culture. (Twentieth Century Communism 10, Spring 2016)

April 1, 2016

This article sheds light on interaction between the Moscow ‘centre’ and the Norwegian ‘periphery’ within the international communist movement in the 1930s. In June 1935 Leon Trotsky was granted asylum in Norway. After the first Moscow Trial in August 1936, the Norwegian Labour government decided to place Trotsky in police custody, before deporting him to Mexico in December 1936. Trotsky’s appearance in Norway impacted on Norwegian politics. As a case study, this article is used to show how elements of Soviet political culture were mediated to and expressed in Norwegian politics in 1935-37; not only within the limited circle of the communist party but also it wider influence on the Norwegian labour movement as a whole. The article also explores the role of Moscow-trained cadres as mediators of Soviet political culture.

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‘A Man of the World’. Encounters and articulations of anti-imperialism as cosmopolitanism (Twentieth Century Communism 10, Spring 2016)

April 1, 2016

The interwar years witnessed the mobilization of anti-imperialist activists as critical and radical petitioners against the oppression of ‘others’. This text focuses on the beliefs and practices of anti-imperialists and their global travel between the two world wars. By emphasising the importance of understanding these anti-imperialist encounters, we can witness the cross-cultural exchanges between peoples and ideas, which were made possible through travel between and across continents. What scope did these journeys have and what did they attain for those involved? The global travel of anti-imperialists shows their struggle as caught between national and international frameworks, and how relationships of anti-imperialism and cosmopolitanism had a radical impact on their lives. Primarily based on accounts in the personal files of the Communist International in Moscow, this article sheds light on how these journeys and meetings between anti-imperialists from Japan, India, Great Britain, South Africa and the USA, shaped their understanding of the world, and informed a counter-narrative that merged anti-imperialism with cosmopolitanism as a political practice in the interwar years.

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Review article – Solidarity: a new concept for transnational labour history? (Twentieth Century Communism 10, Spring 2016)

April 1, 2016

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Reviews (Twentieth Century Communism 10, Spring 2016)

April 1, 2016

Reviews by: Ben Fowkes, Christian Høgsbjerg, Francis King, M.J. Heale, Rolf Hoffragge, Mark McNally, Kasper Brasken

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A transnational friendship in the Age of Extremes: Leon Trotsky and the Pfemferts (Twentieth Century Communism 10, Spring 2016)

April 1, 2016

Although they had never met personally, the Pfemferts were friends with Leon Trotsky from the late 1920s.  The two men were united by the fact that they had both been pushed to the margins of the communist movement. Trotsky, a leading figure in the October Revolution and the young Soviet Republic had been on the losing side of the internecine struggle against Stalin within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and was now living in exile. Pfemfert had once been an important member of the German communist left. His once influential magazine Die Aktion was only published intermittently. Apart from their acute anti-Stalinism, however, they were rather far apart in political terms. The Pfemferts tended toward council communist and syndicalist positions while Trotsky remained oriented toward party communism. They nonetheless became confidants. The Pfemferts looked after Trotsky’s personal affairs in Germany and Alexandra translated the Russian dissident’s works into German.

This article explores the relationship between Trotsky and the Pfemferts. It is the story of an uncommon, not entirely apolitical relationship. It exemplifies friendships within the communist movement that grew across national borders during the period between the world wars. The Russian revolutionary and the German-Russian intellectual couple were not only part of a transnational network of left-wing opposition communists. In a sense they were one of its nodes: Trotsky, the polyglot dissident, cultivated extensive written correspondence with various actors within international communism. Opposition members from every country came and went from his house on the Turkish island of Büyükada (Prinkipo). The Pfemferts’ Berlin apartment, on the other hand, had been a gathering spot for expressionist artists for a long time - until it later became the connecting point between their Russian friend and the opposition in the Soviet Union.

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Editorial (Twentieth Century Communism 10, Spring 2016)

April 1, 2016

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Trotsky’s English Friends: Leon Trotsky‚Äôs asylum application and the British Left in the early 1930s (Twentieth Century Communism 10, Spring 2016)

April 1, 2016

This paper uses of Leon Trotsky’s declassified British Home Office file to construct a detailed case-study of Trotsky’s attempts to mobilise support for his asylum application to the UK. After Trotsky’s initial application to the Labour Home Secretary, J.R. Clynes, was rejected in 1929, it examines how Trotsky and his British supporters attempted to build a wide coalition of political and literary figures to apply public pressure on successive governments. From the perspective of this micro-study, interesting dividing lines on the British left are revealed, which highlight the continuing grip of radical liberal attitudes within the milieu around the Independent Labour Party (ILP), which made non-Stalinist leftists in the early 1930s simultaneously sympathetic to Trotsky’s case and unsympathetic to his politics. On the other hand, by tracing the Trotsky asylum case from before until after the onset of the Great Depression, we discover a growing technocratic fascination with the Soviet Union and economic planning in Fabian circles, which mitigated against support for Trotsky. Finally, through personal correspondence the article traces the network of Trotsky’s unlikely British supporters, and his struggles against this unpromising political backdrop to build a British section of the Fourth International.

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Obituary: Professor Hermann Weber (1928-2014) (Twentieth Century Communism 10, Spring 2016)

April 1, 2016

Hermann Weber, the Mannheim University-based doyen of communist studies, died on 29 December 2014; he was 86 year of age. Weber’s impact on the study of communism was given a special significance by the country’s cold-war division on Europe’s front line between East and West; and his work had the insights of a former communist ‘insider’ who had broken with a system he soon recognised to be a dictatorship over the party and society. He was also one of the few academics whose work covered the entire ‘short’ twentieth century, which began with the cataclysm of the First World War and the Russian Revolution and ended with the collapse of the East bloc and the Soviet Union in 1989/91.

Ulrich Mählert (Berlin) and Norry LaPorte (South Wales),
September 2015

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Editorial: Cultural Turn (Twentieth Century Communism 9, Autumn 2015)

August 1, 2015

The term ‘cultural turn’ is generally associated with a shift in leftist, socialist and communist politics after 1956. The upheavals of that year – primarily Soviet intervention in Hungary and Nikita Khrushchev’s revelation of the atrocities committed by Stalin – triggered realignments on the left, both within and without of the communist movement. At the very least, the Soviet Union’s claim to a scientifically rigorous interpretation of marxism was damaged. More accurately, the Soviets’ position as a revolutionary exemplar – a workers’ state building towards a progressive, democratic socialism on the foundations of marxist theory – was effectively undermined. As is well-known, there followed a period of rancour and division across the communist movement. Splits and soul-searching competed with blinkered intransi- gence and engrained loyalties too deep-rooted to expunge. New guides and approaches were sought: marxist thinkers from the past were dusted off and re-assessed; new theories were forged that ostensibly grew from Marx but often strayed so far as to break away into -isms of varying hue and relevance. The ‘new’ became ‘post’ as certainties dissolved into a vista of subjectivities.

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Gorizian heretics of 1956: Eurocommunism starts here? (Twentieth Century Communism 9, Autumn 2015)

August 1, 2015

1956 proved to be not only a landmark for the international communist movement but a turning point in the Cold War. By the autumn of that year, the bi-polar world order that had been steadily forming since the second world war, had consolidated into diametrically opposed camps whose conflicting interests would dictate the course of history for the next three decades. Stalin’s death three years earlier had unleashed a desire for change across Eastern Europe. However, it was the ‘revolutionary’ content of the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in February that triggered the unforeseen train of events that culminated in the Hungarian Revolution in October and November, coinciding dramatically with the Suez Crisis. And it was this last episode that was to mark a decisive shift in the balance of powers from Europe to the superpowers. 

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The People and the Workers: Communist Cultural Politics during the Popular Front in France (Twentieth Century Communism 9, Autumn 2015)

August 1, 2015

Recognising the threat posed by fascism in the 1930s, the Parti Communiste Français (French Communist Party, PCF) curbed its sectarianism to adopt a more inclusive stance towards all antifascists and launched a powerful cultural movement. This had important implications for the working-class identity of the Communist Party and for working-class cultural life, as communists merged proletarian cultural traditions with French national heritage.

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Culture, Class, and Communism: The Politics of Rock in the West German 1968 (Twentieth Century Communism 9, Autumn 2015)

August 1, 2015

Rock and communism were uneasy bedfellows in 1968. This was true in every country in which they came into contact, but nowhere more so than in West Germany, where the student movement and counterculture had a particularly strong Marxist flavour, and where the proximity of the Cold War frontier forced young nonconformists to grapple more forcefully, than was typically the case elsewhere, with competing conceptions of the nature and proper goals of revolutionary struggle.

As a still-fresh cultural innovation widely imbued with subversive, utopian potential, rock music was a key site of the political in 1968. Not only did it become the centrepiece of a longstanding debate about the relationship of art and politics – a debate stretching back to the Weimar Republic in Germany and earlier – but it occupied a conspicuous position in contests around issues of subcultural authenticity, the dangers of capitalist recuperation, and the validity of, respectively, communist and anarchist approaches to the revolution. Through these various debates, rock music in the West German 1968 became intimately connected with the fundamental questions of the revolution: what revolution, for and by whom, and how?

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Revolutionary music, or music for revolution? Thirteen paragraphs on Cornelius Cardew: the composer, his communism, some context (Twentieth Century Communism 9, Autumn 2015)

August 1, 2015

Paragraph one: beginnings and ends. Cornelius Cardew, born in 1936, spent his childhood in an ‘atmosphere of libertarian bohemianism’. His father was a modernist potter and an unconventional Colonial Service officer, helping train ceramists in West Africa during one phase of a varied and celebrated career. The family home at Wenford Bridge, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, comprised an old inn and barns without electricity or running water. During the war, the young Cornelius became a chorister with the evacuated Canterbury Cathedral Choir School, excelling in cello and piano lessons. At the Royal Academy of Music (1953-57) he turned, rebelliously, to European serialism. Next, a scholarship to Darmstadt, and a couple of years working in Cologne: assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen. From the early 1960s, Cardew worked mainly in London – teaching music, doing graphic design, writing, performing in other composer’s ensembles, composing for tele- vision and film and securing commissions for his own music. Relationships, marriages, family and children were fundamentally important elements of life, if not always settled and stable.

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Calling Planet Marx: Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Cultural Revolution (Twentieth Century Communism 9, Autumn 2015)

August 1, 2015

In Andrei Ujica’s remarkable documentary, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu (2010), there is footage of the Romanian ‘red bour- geoisie’ getting down to the Bobby Fuller Four’s ‘I Fought the Law’. The montage cuts to choreographed hysteria in China and North Korea, where adoring crowds of factory and shipyard workers greet Ceaușescu. This brings home the shock felt by many Romanians, espe- cially intellectuals, after the ‘July Theses’ of 1971 announced by the leader on his return from the Far East. If, in the capitalist west, the ‘cultural turn’ in marxism meant both a search for new forms of resistance and a ‘retreat from class’ into postmodernist pessimism, in Romania it meant a re-assertion of the iron law of one-party rule, propelling Romanian communism further along a trajectory which cut it off increasingly from the outside world and from marxism itself. At first, Ceausescu’s Cultural Revolution was paradoxically compatible with openness to foreign capital and created an internal coalition in favour of an increasingly ‘dynastic’ communism, but its overarching concern with autarky fatally weakened the regime, preparing the way for the implosion of December, 1989. 

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British Marxist Historians and Socialist Strategy: Within, Beyond and After the Communist Party (Twentieth Century Communism 9, Autumn 2015)

August 1, 2015

Gregory Elliott, Hobsbawm. History and Politics, London: Pluto Press, 2010

Scott Hamilton, The Crisis of Theory. EP Thompson, the New Left and postwar British politics, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011

David Howell, Dianne Kirby and Kevin Morgan (eds.), John Saville. Commitment and History. Themes from the life and work of a socialist historian, London: Lawrence & Wishart and Socialist History Society, 2011

The names of Eric Hobsbawm, E.P.Thompson and John Saville do not require much introduction as their outstanding historical production speaks for itself, and they are widely known inside and outside the academic field of history. Even from the Spanish perspective, as far as this author is concerned, much of ‘the making’ of the social history in Spain has had a clear Thompsonian affiliation, while Hobsbawm’s interpreta- tion of contemporary history in his famous tetraology is commonly referred to and widely circulated.2 Their works, which are so central to the historiography of the twentieth century (and also of the twenty first) are not only important in themselves, but are even more illuminating if they are placed in the historical and intellectual context in which they were produced. Recently, their contribution to the understanding of the ‘long’ contemporary era has inspired several new studies which have scrutinised the biographical, intellectual and historiographical context in which their work was created. This essay considers three key recent books which all shed light on the importance of the intellectual and political formation of each of these historians on several levels: as individuals; in terms of their engagement in the creation of an indigenous marxist inter- pretation of history through the institutionalised form of the Historians’ Group of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB); in the context of the historiographical and political contributions they made after distancing themselves or breaking with the party during the crisis of 1956; and finally, the different political interventions they tried to articulate on the British Left during the several decades following 1956, which grew in parallel with their expansive historical writings. 

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Reviews (Twentieth Century Communism 9, Autumn 2015)

August 1, 2015

J. Arch Getty, Practicing Stalinism. Bolsheviks, Boyars and the Persistence of Tradition
Francis King

For over three decades. Arch Getty has been one of the foremost researchers on the mass repressions of the 1930s in the USSR. He has consistently questioned the traditional ‘totalitarian’ model of the terror, which sees the whole process as consciously directed and controlled from the top, by Stalin and his immediate entourage. Over the years, certain themes have emerged in Getty’s account of the repression. These include the importance of power struggles between central and local leaders, the persistence of clan and clientist relationships within the Communist Party and state apparatus, and the potential risks to the positions of central and local leaders posed by the reform of the Soviet electoral system after 1936. 

Emmanuel Bellanger & real; Julian Mischi (eds), Les territoires du communisme: Élus locaux, politiques publiques et sociabilités militantes and Jean Vigreux, La faucille après le manteau: Le Communisme aux champs dans l’entre-deux-guerres
John Bulaitis

These studies explore two components of French communism’s success in rooting itself within society and politics: ‘municipal communism’ – the PCF’s powerbase on local authorities – and ‘rural communism’, its important points of support in the countryside. 

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For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction: Two responses on the British left to the rise of identity politics – the cases of Class War and Red Action (Twentieth Century Communism 9, Autumn 2015)

August 1, 2015

During the 1980s a profound shift occurred within the British left. The anti-racist and multicultural approach of Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council (GLC), and that of a series of local authorities, was accompanied by an emerging women’s movement and the positioning of questions of gender, race and sexuality at the centre of left wing politics.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This article contends that some very specific responses occurred to these changes, and focuses on two revolutionary organisations which emerged – Class War from the anarchist tradition and Red Action in the marxist tradition. Both rejected any diminishing of the centrality of class – and these groups identity frequently pivoted on this rejection, even though within Class War in particular there was at times contestation concerning the perceived diminishing of broader areas of repression.

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Editorial: General issue (Twentieth Century Communism 8, Spring 2015)

February 1, 2015

This issue of Twentieth Century Communism marks a change from earlier ones: it is the first not to be based around specific themes. Instead, the journal’s pages were opened to a diversity of topics and approaches to the history of communism throughout the ‘short’ twentieth century – or ‘Age of Catastrophe’ as Eric Hobsbawn called it.1 This format will continue in every other issue of the journal as it continues as a biannual publication.

What the contributions published in this issue demonstrate, is just how global the field of communist studies has become, as is reflected in the journal’s subtitle – a journal of international history. Although communist studies has never attracted researchers’ interest on the scale of, for example, fascism, we now have a burgeoning historiography and ever diversifying approaches to the subject. The challenge is the truly world scale of the field, not least because of the diversity of languages needed to read the relevant materials. One way of surmounting these obstacles is a collective undertaking informed by common themes. 

  1. Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914- 1991, London: Michael Joseph, 1994. 

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A Small Revolution: Family, Sex and the Communist Youth of Chile during the Allende Years (1970-1973) (Twentieth Century Communism 8, Spring 2015)

February 1, 2015

This article discusses the way in which Chilean communists addressed sexuality and family life during the Popular Unity Government (1970-1973). Focusing on communist youth, the article provides a close reading of the youth-oriented magazine Ramona analysing the discussions about contentious issues - premarital sex, birth control, family arrangements, marital breakups, abortion and homosexuality - and discusses the underlining tensions between older and younger generations of the Communist Party. Although young communists upheld some of the conservative beliefs of the traditional communist subculture, they approached the changing patterns in sex and family in a much more flexible way and ultimately challenged the mores (and therefore indirectly, the authority) of the old guard. The young communists who published Ramona advised their readers to engage in sexual relationships even if they were not conducive to marriage, recommended different birth control mechanisms to practice safe sex, and did not hold back from suggesting divorce to those whose marriages had failed. In the broader scholarly discussion, this generational emphasis casts new light on the relationship between the sexual and political revolutions in Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s, stressing the shared cultural sensibilities of young left-wingers as a whole.

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‘Esteemed Comintern!’: The Communist International and World-Revolutionary Charisma in Early Soviet Society (Twentieth Century Communism 8, Spring 2015)

February 1, 2015

The Communist International (Comintern) has been a prominent topic of research in the wake of the ‘archival revolution’. This article considers the importance of internationalism in early Soviet Russia and shows how constant reference to its centrality at the beginning of the communist project was used against the rise of Stalinism - the orientation away from spreading revolution abroad to building ‘socialism in one country’ - not only by the Left Opposition, but crucially by the wider sections of Soviet society. The article re-conceptualises analyses of early Soviet internationalism and the Comintern by developing Max Weber’s concept of ‘institutional charisma’ in an innovative and convincing contribution above and beyond the current revival of interest in ‘political religion’ as a conceptual framework to explaining political belief and active engagement.  Drawing on Weber, it assesses the Comintern not just as an organisation, but as a political symbol and an embodiment of world-revolutionary charisma in early Soviet society.  By taking into account a broad variety of sources, the article considers the images of the Comintern that were created by the Party and how these shaped the imagination of the rank and file as well as reaching beyond the party membership.  It explores how the ‘international’ as a potent symbol was being assessed even before the Comintern’s official formation in 1919, and its transformations are followed through into the onset of Stalinism

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Socialist and communist networks and representatives in Brittany: comparisons and reflections (1920-1989) (Twentieth Century Communism 8, Spring 2015)

February 1, 2015

During the twentieth century, the region of Brittany has been characterised by the emergence and consolidation of red subcultures and counter-societies, led both by socialists and communists.  Though Brittany may appear peripheral in relation to the centre of the parties which emerged from the workers’ movement, in fact the presence of socialists and communists in this region extended well beyond party boundaries the article explores the way they were active across various social, trade union and local political networks. The article offers a comparison between the forms of implantation of the French section of the Workers’ International (SFIO) and French Communist Party (PCF) and the cycles in which they took place, taking into account the manner in which these militant identities confronted each other. The paper considers the networks of socialist and communist representatives so as to bring out the plurality of identities present in red Brittany.

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Communism in Scandinavia (Twentieth Century Communism 8, Spring 2015)

February 1, 2015

This article studies the historiography of Scandinavian communist movements which lived in the shadow of large social-democratic parties and worked, without the exception of war years, rather freely. We see how the studies concerning the history of Scandinavian communist movements have been interested in the formation of the communist parties out of the oppositions of the social-democratic parties, their relation to the Communist International and their activities during the war. The biographies of important leaders have also contributed significantly to the knowledge of the Scandinavian communists. In Sweden the scholars have been interested in the ideological development of the communist party, while in Denmark communist culture has been an important topic.

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Historiography of the Russian Provisional Government 1917 in the USSR (Twentieth Century Communism 8, Spring 2015)

February 1, 2015

The term ‘soviet historians’ is often used as a blanket term to describe an ideologically constrained profession struggling in an environment inhospitable to serious scholarship. This article focuses upon ground-breaking monograph studies of the Russian Provisional Government, produced by historians working in the USSR from the 1920s to the 1980s. It aims to publicise key publications on the history of the Russian Provisional Government.  These texts are little known. Indeed they suggest that one cannot write off these historians as somehow merely ideological. They display a high level of scholarship and scholarly standards, disagreeing amongst themselves over interpretations and often employing methods outside of marxism.

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The International Union of Seamen and Harbour Workers (ISH) 1930-1937: interclubs and transnational aspects (Twentieth Century Communism 8, Spring 2015)

February 1, 2015

This paper explores the history of the International Union of Seamen and Harbour Workers (ISH), which was a spin-off of the Moscow-based Red International of Labour Unions’ (RILU or, more commonly, the Profintern).  It was set up as part of the new ‘trade union’ strategy adopted by the USSR in 1928.  The Profintern’s main goal at this time was to mobilise opposition to the threat of an ‘imperialist’ war, so it assigned the ISH the task of rallying seamen to this cause.  One of the ways that the ISH garnered seamen’s support was through the lodging houses provided for communist seamen called ‘interclubs’, which were scattered all over the world.  Interclubs were not only places to stay, but also offered opportunity for recreation, education and social activities, and thus played a key role in disseminating propaganda as well as acting as a conduit for espionage activities. Drawing upon a transnational and prosopographical approach, this paper demonstrates how the ISH operated in a ‘multi scale’ bundle: at the local level, the interclubs were dependant on union policy, at the national level they were connected to national trade union sections or communist parties (such as the KPD or the PCF), while at the international level, they were linked to the Profintern and Comintern in Moscow. It explores how this transnational dimension acted as a kind of guiding principle between the different levels, which were all interwoven and interacted with each other.

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Editorial: Exiles and diasporas (Twentieth Century Communism 7, Autumn 2014)

September 1, 2014

One might suppose that historians of communism have less to learn than most from the current vogue for transnational history. Whatever criticisms might be made of the great traditional landmarks of communist historiography, restriction of the subject to an exclusively national terrain is not one of them. On the contrary, the main objection to these party-focused histories was that national contexts and determinants were so often relegated to a purely secondary level, and it was precisely this preoccupation with external agencies and motive forces that a later generation of historians sought to bring into question. In the resulting ‘centre-periphery’ debate, the transnational dimension of communist history was, for the most part, argued out as if more or less confined to the relationship between Moscow and otherwise self-sufficient communist parties.

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Black internationalism, international communism and anti-fascist political trajectories: African American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War (Twentieth Century Communism 7, Autumn 2014)

September 1, 2014

This paper considers some of the political trajectories of the ninety or so African Americans who fought in the Spanish Civil War as part of the Fifteenth International Brigade. It locates these trajectories as part of broader interventions made by black internationalist intellectuals and activists in shaping the terms of anti-fascist solidarities. Through doing so it draws out the implications of recent scholarship on black internationalism for theorising the intersections of Communist Internationalism and black left(s). The paper considers how the relations between the CPUSA and African Americans both shaped the context through which black volunteers joined the Fifteenth International Brigade and the experiences shaped through combat in Spain. The final section probes some of the limits to black internationalism through discussing how the colonial relations between Spain and Morocco exerted pressure on the formation of anti-imperial solidarities.

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The foreign road to the homeland: Paris and the national turn of a Portuguese Communist (Twentieth Century Communism 7, Autumn 2014)

September 1, 2014

This article begins with a consideration of the challenges faced by those seeking to understand the mapping of relationships within the communist movement, before focusing on a specific historical issue within this field: the national turn of communism that took place during the Popular Front period. It draws our attention to the international nature of this process, and takes as an example of this international aspect the case of Fernando Lopes-Graça, a well known Portuguese communist composer. Graça’s turn to the national can only be fully understood in the context of the time he spent in Paris in the late 1930s, and the wider impact of French communism on Portuguese communists. Examining this case helps to draw attention to the kinds of communist connections that are usually overlooked on the grounds that
 they are neither the effect of a single national dynamic nor the direct result of a Soviet connection.

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German Communists in the Second World War: actors and networks in the struggle against Nazism (Twentieth Century Communism 7, Autumn 2014)

September 1, 2014

During the Second World War, German communists exiled in Belgium, France and Switzerland kept being active on behalf of their party. They collaborated with their comrades in their exile places and fought against the Nazi regime. This article examines the practices of these actors to see if transnational abilities acquired in communists political schools and within the party allowed the German communists to collaborate with their comrades of other nationalities. The article also examines the place of internationalism in their political commitment and the way their discourse changed during the war from an internationalist aim to defeat Nazism to a national perspective at the end of the war when they promoted the reconstruction of Germany. The discussion focuses on both discourses and practices and their possible transnational or international dimensions.

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American Finnish emigration to Soviet Karelia: bread, work and broken dreams (Twentieth Century Communism 7, Autumn 2014)

September 1, 2014

In 1931-1934 some 6-7,000 Finns from the North America migrated to Soviet Karelia. Usually the reason of this Karelian Fever has interpreted as a result of the communist propaganda. Radical-left Finnish workers were misled by the promises of workers’ paradise. The perception is partly grounded but politically biased, mainly a result of the cold war narrations. The explanation underestimates the importance of socio-economic reasons. The attracting factor was not so much the Soviet Union as an ideological alternative to capitalism but the vision that it offers work and along it better living standard for migrants. Soviet-Karelia was chosen as a end point of migration for same reasons why Finns had moved to the North America. There lived big Finnish communities which made possible to manage life in Finnish language, move was easy and there was a demand for migrants skills and workforce. Less important were pushing factors in the North America. World depression, exceptional high unemployment rate among Finns and outlawing Communist organisations made the life of radical Finns difficult.

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Spanish communism in exile: the unexpected resolution of the Communist International (Twentieth Century Communism 7, Autumn 2014)

September 1, 2014

The Spanish communist exile generated an unprecedented action in the international communist movement. The Communist International, in contravention of its own statutes, recognised two sections within the same state: Spanish section and Catalan section. Therefore, the national question in the Spanish communist movement, which was a latent problem of the Spanish communist movement before the exile, exploded definitively during the years of the exile and it generated hard crashes between the Spanish section and Catalan section.  

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Christian anti-communism (Twentieth Century Communism 7, Autumn 2014)

September 1, 2014

Christian anti-communism emerged in part as a counter to the problematic of secularisation and the challenge of modernisation fostered by the Enlightenment. By the middle of the 20th century it had become a key component of the West’s Cold War containment strategy. This article examines its various stages of evolution to the present day, including its role in the rise to political prominence of the Christian Right.

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A martyr factory? Roman Catholic crusade, Protestant missions and anti-communist propaganda against Soviet anti-religious policies, 1929-37 (Twentieth Century Communism 7, Autumn 2014)

September 1, 2014

The renewed outbreak of anti-religious measures in the USSR in 1929 aroused reactions of protest in Europe in which it was the Catholic Church who set the tone. In a comparative perspective (addressing the Catholic and Protestant churches in Europe), the article presents the main protest initiatives that were in play leading up to the publication of the Encyclical Letter Divini Redemptoris (1937), which condemned communism as ‘intrinsically wrong’. The initiatives were driven by a variety of ethical, pastoral, political, and diplomatic motivations, which wavered between pure propaganda protest actions with (poorly) hidden political agendas, and humanitarian relief actions, with or without pastoral motivations. In its conclusion, the article questions what remains, in more recent times, of this martyr factory (in 2007, for example, with the controversial beatification of Spanish priests slaughtered during the Spanish Civil war), and how – especially since 9/11 – the issue of other martyrs can be instrumentalised, or may threaten to give rise to a new kind of Kulturkampf. The research is based on the archives of the Vatican and those of the Entente Internationale Anticommuniste (EIA, Genève 1924-1950) that are held by the Library of Geneva.

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Anti-communism in twentieth century Ireland (Twentieth Century Communism 6, Autumn 2014)

September 1, 2014

In popular perception, anti-communism in Ireland was uniquely relentless and all-pervasive before the liberalisation of social values in the 1960s. In fact the Irish Catholic Church said very little on communism before 1930, but then waged a campaign which made communism a political taboo for the next thirty years. This article asks why the Irish Catholic hierarchy decided to make war on what was a small movement, how it prosecuted the struggle, and what the consequences were for communists when they decided to go underground and accept ‘spirit of illegality’ in the 1940s and 1950s. While Ireland was exceptional in the extreme weakness of its communism, in the overwhelmingly religious basis of its anti-communism, and in the near-totalitarian social power of the Catholic clergy between the 1930s and 1960s, the policy of the Irish hierarchy, and in many respects the communist response, was reflective of international trends. 

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Editorial: A century of Anti-Communism (Twentieth Century Communism 6, Spring 2014)

March 1, 2014

If communism, as our opening editorial had it, was one of the defining political movements of the twentieth century, it was not just that communism itself helped define Hobsbawm’s ‘age of extremes’. Nor was it merely that communism’s positive influence, for good or ill, can be traced through a host of wider agencies. Communism also matters because so much else in twentieth-century politics was in some sense defined in relation to it, whether in rivalry, competition or open hostility. In addressing this theme of ‘A century of anti-communisms’, the present issue of Twentieth Century Communism, overspilling into the next, joins a rapidly increasing body of literature on the subject. Not only are these anti-communisms rightly seen as crucial to our understanding of the century that is now behind us. In the projection and anathematisation of new ‘extremes’, notably, of course, that of militant Islam, they also offer insight into the political uses of threat in our own times.

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Reflections on writing the history of anti-communism (Twentieth Century Communism 6, Spring 2014)

March 1, 2014

The article offers an overview of anti-communisms – ranging across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and across Eurasia and the US. It points to the ambiguity and diversity of the phenomenon, and the wide-ranging definitions of anti-communism, which occur partly because the term is so ideologically charged. It also discusses how anti-communism changed from a characterisation used by communists themselves to one that is used by historians in general.

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A century of anti-communisms: a roundtable discussion (Twentieth Century Communism 6, Spring 2014)

March 1, 2014

Six contributors reflect on the character and significance of anti-communism as a concept on the basis of their own particular research interests. In embracing diverse left and right varieties of anti-communism, there is no attempt to collapse these into one another. Carl Levy discusses anarchist anti-communism; Paulo Drinot discusses populist anti-communism; Matthew Worley discusses fascist anti-communism; Dianne Kirby discuses Christian anti-communism; Madeleine Davis discusses new left anti-communism; and Gavin Bowd discusses Left Bank anti-communism in Paris.

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Théodore Aubert and the Entente internationale anticommuniste: an unofficial anti-marxist international (Twentieth Century Communism 6, Spring 2014)

March 1, 2014

The Entente internationale anticommuniste (EIA) is an organisation founded on a private basis in June 1924 by Théodore Aubert, a lawyer belonging to the protestant bourgeoisie of Geneva, with the help of former Russian military surgeon Georges Lodygensky. According to Aubert it was ‘the first attempt to defend the free world against communism, at an international and ideological level’. Little by little, the oprganisation’s permanent bureau, set up in Geneva, managed to build an impressive international net, considering its relatively limited means, and it had national sections in most European countries, taking as its model the Third International. Guided by a strong conservative and anti-socialist ideology, the leaders of the EIA co-operated during the 1930s with semi-official agencies of imperial Japan as well as of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany – which contributed to the swift decline of the enterprise at the end of World War II. Their work is nevertheless exceptional for its longevity – more than twenty-five years – and its scale. It illustrates capacity of the right to create transnational bodies that sought to preserve social order, property, family and homeland under cover of the struggle against communism, in a period some time before the Cold War began.

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The myth of the outsider: from Whitehall to Elysium Row, 1917-21 (Twentieth Century Communism 6, Spring 2014)

March 1, 2014

Throughout the years of the first world war and during its immediate aftermath, racial stereotyping of visitors – many of whom were categorised as members of lesser races with minds infected by and carrying ‘evil’ ideologies – was an essential ingredient of political surveillance in colonial India. Local people suspected of empathy towards anti-state ideologies were seen as having fallen victim to dangerous ‘outside’ influences harmful to the imperial body politic. The colonial state was desperate to ward off, contain and suppress the spread of Bolshevik and Pan-Islamist ideas and movements, which were gaining popular support and drawing sympathetic interest in the contemporary colonial world. This article examines the official representations of the ‘Bolshevik Menace’, ‘Jewish Bolshevik agents’ and ‘Moslem-Bolshevik Agitators’ in the Indian context, through a study of post-war Calcutta, and thereby seeks to grasp the particular racial stereotypes that shaped colonial political surveillance on early communism in India, which was being promoted and conceived during an extraordinary crisis of Empire.

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The traditions of African-American anti-communism (Twentieth Century Communism 6, Spring 2014)

March 1, 2014

A common argument in the scholarly literature on civil rights posits that African-American activists who embraced anticommunism in the late 1940s and 1950s did so out of opportunism, fear, or cowardice, as the domestic Red Scare intensified repression across the United States. In signing onto the anticommunist crusade, many argue, these activists rejected alliances with the left and muted their criticism of domestic and foreign policy, resulting in a weaker civil rights movement with a narrow agenda. This article challenges that interpretation, arguing that hostility to political and economic radicalism in general and anticommunism in particular had a longer history in the black community that predated the onset of the Cold War by several decades. In placing post-war black anticommunism in a broader chronological context, the article emphasizes the continuities in black political thought and identifies what was new in the post-war years. It concludes that post-war black anticommunism was less opportunistic and more consistent and principled than many historians have suggested; on many levels it was informed by a genuine rejection of the Communist Party’s values and ideology, organizational style, allegiance to the Soviet Union, and renewed post-war sectarianism. In embracing an anticommunist stance, these black activists did not join the camp populated by more conservative and reactionary white anticommunists, for whom civil liberties were unimportant and civil rights undesirable. Rather, they maintained an approach to the Communist left that revealed anticommunism to be a multifaceted and complex phenomenon that cannot be reduced to crude McCarthyism.

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Anti-communism in the USA and American foreign policy in the late 1940s (Twentieth Century Communism 6, Spring 2014)

March 1, 2014

As the post-war configuration of power became clearer in 1946 – involving an uncooperative Soviet Union in Europe and stronger Communist parties in Europe and Asia – American foreign policy drew upon and greatly reinforced domestic anti-Communism in explaining and justifying the nation’s changing overseas priorities. In doing so theories were fashioned that dramatised and simplified the world scene, proving potent in mobilising public opinion for the Cold War. Anti-communist ideology became a highly successful rationale for numerous decisions by the US government over very a long period of time because it commanded the convictions of enough people to have material effects. American capitalism itself had never been more popular than it was in the late 1940s, and its leaders had never been so powerful in world politics.

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Introduction: Local communisms within a global movement (Twentieth Century Communism 5, 2013)

May 1, 2013

Reviewing the impact of the then recently available archival sources on research into the German Communist Party (KPD), Sigrid Koch-Baumgarten observed that the quintessential question for researchers – the balance between exogenous and endog- enous factors in shaping communism – was here to stay.1 This is a question which has been framed in a number of ways, but in one form or another it is embedded across the varying national historiographies of a transnational movement.2 The contributions to this issue of Twentieth Century Communism – which draws on a selection of papers presented to a conference at the University of Glamorgan (2011) – explore the relationship between the universalising intentions of Bolshevism and the prism of local conditions, which fragmented the light from the East to produce a spectrum of communisms.3 Each author places the balance – as Koch-Baumgarten termed it – at a different point on the scales in weighing up these exogenous and endogenous influences; but they all, to one extent or another, point towards many shades of ‘red’, as a diversity of specific ‘local’ factors reacted with the Soviet-issue pigment.

  1. Sigrid Koch-Baumgarten, ‘Eine Wende in der Geschichtsschreibung der KPD?’, in International wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung, 46, 1, 1998, pp82-89.

  2. For the British example, see John Callaghan, ‘Review Article: National and International Dimension of British Communist History’, in Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 24, 3, 2008, pp456-72. 

  3. Thanks are due here the Fiona Reid and Lois Thomas for their role in co-organising the conference. 

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Comparing local communisms (Twentieth Century Communism 5, 2013)

May 1, 2013

This article addresses how the universalism of the Bolsheviks’ ideology induced a range of tensions in the face of specific local conditions, from clashes within the multiethnic Soviet state to an inability to sanction ‘freedom of criticism’ within a global movement. This is also presented as at the root of mistaken perceptions of developments outside of Soviet Russia, for example Lenin’s belief that Munich in 1919 was a rerun of Petrograd in 1917. A number of specific local examples are then explored which, for example, detail how Moscow clashed with the continued influence of French syndicalism on the PCF; how the First World War followed by localised civil war in Germany disposed significant sections of the movement to political violence; and how British communism remained subsumed by the dominance of the ‘reformist’ wing of the labour movement. 

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Bastions, black spots and other variations: in and beyond the specificities of the Little Moscow (Twentieth Century Communism 5, 2013)

May 1, 2013

Drawing on the British and other European literature, this paper considers how the phenomenon of local communisms may most usefully be conceptualised by the comparative historian. Interpreting the notion ‘little Moscow’ as connoting both scale and exceptionality, it argues that the combination of social typicality and political atypicality poses specific methodological challenges which require the careful specification of those feature of these societies which were also atypical. As well as variations by place it suggests that strongly marked variations over time are crucial to the understanding of the political dimension of the little Moscow. Local communisms matter both as a recognition of the importance of place in the making of social and political movements and as a register of those differences of scale and level of activity which in an older communist historiography were largely disregarded. Nevertheless, a comparative perspective on local communisms must also recognise that these were only one expression of the highly differentiated patterns of communist implantation, and that depending time on time and place they were not necessarily the most important one.

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Little Moscows revisited. What we can learn from French and German cases (Twentieth Century Communism 5, 2013)

May 1, 2013

In his Little Moscows: Communism and Working-class Militancy in Inter-war Britain (1980) Stuart Macintyre showed that in the interwar years, in some small places in Britain, communists were able to attract a substantial following at a local level. To explain this phenomenon, Macintyre referred to the isolation of these communities, to their strong occupational identity, and to the extraordinary abilities of local communist leaders. Comparisons with examples in Germany and France show that this can be only part of the explanation, however. This kind of local communism arose in small industrial communities, that had recently emerged from agrarian villages, or were constructed as completely new settlements. They had been populated by a wave of migrants, who had formed mono-occupational, pioneer societies. Second generation migrants turned to communism to build occupational communities around the party.

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Introduction: Communist youth, communist generations: a reappraisal (Twentieth Century Communism 4, 2012)

May 1, 2012

Organisations of youth […] which openly declare that they are still learning, that their main task is to train party workers for the socialist parties […] must be given every assistance. We must be patient with their faults and strive to correct them gradually, mainly by persuasion, and not by fighting them. The middle-aged and the aged often do not know how to approach the youth, for the youth must of necessity advance to socialism in a different way, by other paths, in other forms, in other circumstances than their fathers.1 

The above quote comes from Lenin, speaking in 1916 on the role that the International League of Socialist Youth Organisations might play in the struggle ‘for revolutionary internationalism, for true socialism and against the prevailing opportunism’.2 Originally founded in 1907 in Stuttgart, and then abruptly collapsed following the outbreak of the First World War, the Socialist Youth International was re- established as a pacifist, radical network by Willi Muenzenberg in 1915. Two years later, after the October Revolution, the revamped Youth International sided with the Bolsheviks. On 20 November 1919, its alle- giance to the Third International was then sealed by its transformation into the Communist Youth International (KIM), which remained active alongside the Comintern until 1943.3 In the post-war period, a somewhat looser coordination between communist-led youth organisa- tions (including student networks and antifascist fronts) was guaranteed by the pro-soviet World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), created in November 1945 in London and still active today. The main efforts of the WFDY were directed toward the organisation of the World Youth Festivals, a soviet-sponsored, pro-communist gathering that took place every two to three years, generally in an Eastern European capital, with the participation of some dozens of thousands of left-wing youths from all over the world.4 

  1. V. I. Lenin, ‘The Youth International: a review’, originally published in Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, 2, December 1916, now republished in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 23, August 1916-March 1917, ed. by M.S. Lewin, London-Moscow: Lawrence & Wishart-Progress Publishers, 1964, p164.

  2. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 23, p163.

  3. On the KIM, see R. Cornell, Revolutionary Vanguard: The Early Years of the Communist Youth International (1914-1924), Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982.

  4. On the WFDY, see J. Kotek, Students and the Cold War, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996, pp76-81, and the website of the organisation http://www.wfdy.org (last time accessed: 14 July 2011). 

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Irma Bandiera, Maria Goretti: Gender role models for communist girls in Italy (1945-1956) (Twentieth Century Communism 4, 2012)

May 1, 2012

In 1947, the leader of the Italian communist youth Enrico Berlinguer gave a speech in Rome, where he pointed at two different figures as role models for Communist girls: Irma Bandiera and Maria Goretti. The former was a female partisan who had been tortured and killed by fascists during the war. Maria Goretti, on the other hand, was a 12-year-old peasant girl who had been murdered in 1902 because she had resisted an attempted rape. Before dying, Maria, a girl of deep Catholic belief, had forgiven her killer. In the following decades, the fascist regime and the Catholic Church fostered the popular cult of Maria as an embodiment of female ‘virtues’ such as purity and submissiveness, and of the value of chastity. Taking the cue from this episode, this article analyses the educational policies for girls carried out within the Italian young communist league in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Particular attention is paid to the influence of Catholicism over communist policies, to the main activities promoted for young female militants, and to the way in which moral and sexual issues were addressed within the Italian young communist league.

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When the Party Comes Down: The CPGB and Youth Culture, 1976-199 (Twentieth Century Communism 4, 2012)

May 1, 2012

Examines how the Communist Party of Great Britain interacted with popular youth culture in the Party’s final years. The arrival of punk in the late 1970s coincided with the rise of a more culturally aware group within the CPGB, inspired by Gramsci and the work of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, who saw youth culture as a reflection of young people’s experience of ‘oppression’ and a potential vehicle for creating a political awareness amongst British youth. This enthusiasm for youth culture coincided with a wider push in the Party for a more pluralistic approach to politics, enshrined around the concept of the ‘broad democratic alliance’ in the 1977 version of The British Road to Socialism. The success of Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League was held up by the reformers in the Party as proof that popular youth culture had political potential, but at the same time, the examples of RAR/ANL (as well as the wider subculture of punk) characterised how the CPGB viewed subsequent subcultures and wider popular culture in the 1980s. While the reformers within the Party, centred around the journal Marxism Today, were receptive of newer subcultures, like post-punk, hip hop/rap, acid house/rave, they were often contrasted against the history of previous subcultures, such as punk and its relationship to RAR. In the end, it seemed that despite the journal’s discussion of popular culture as an avenue for political engagement, those at Marxism Today found that youth culture could not provide a ‘lifeline’ for the ailing Communist Party.

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Introduction: 1968 and after – between crisis and opportunity (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

Richard Cross introduces issue 3 of Twentieth Century Communism.

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The rise and decline of communism in South Asia: a review essay (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

This review provides a wide-ranging survey of the post-war history of communism and communist parties in South Asia with particular attention to developments in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. It focuses on the parties and organisations of the communist left; the key elements of their political programmes and practices; and their relationship with other forces on the left. It assesses the dynamic between communist and nationalist politics and between clandestine revolutionary and peaceful parliamentary roads to political advance in the South Asian context.

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Book reviews (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

Nina Fishman, Arthur Horner: A Political Biography
Reviewed by John Callaghan

Bernhard H Bayerlein, ‘Der Verräter, Stalin, bist Du!’ Vom Ende der linken Solidarität. Komintern und kommunistische Parteien im Zweiten Weltkrieg 
Reviewed by Peter Brandt

Daryl Glaser and David M. Walker (eds.), Twentieth-Century Marxism: A Global Introduction; Silvo Pons and Robert Service (eds.), A Dictionary of 20th Century Communism 
Reviewed by William A. Pelz

Guillaume Quashie-Vauclin, L’Union de la Jeunesse Républicaine de France 1945-1956. Entre organisation de masse de jeunesse et movement d’avant-garde communiste 
Reviewed by Leo Goretti

Norman LaPorte, Kevin Morgan and Matthew Worley (eds.), Bolshevism, Stalinism and the Comintern: Perspectives on Stalinization, 1917-53 
Reviewed by Kevin McDermott

Marc Junge, Die Gesellschaft ehemaliger politischer Zwangsarbeiter und Verbannter in der Sowjetunion. Gründung, Entwicklung und Liquidierung (1921-1935) 
Reviewed by Francis King

Gina Herrmann, Written in Red: The Communist Memoir in Spain
Reviewed by Sharif Gemie

Daniel Rosenberg, Underground Communists in the McCarthy Period: A Family Memoir 
Reviewed by Eric A. Schuster

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‘Rejecting all adventurism’: The Italian Communist Party and the movements of 1972-9 (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

The history of the Italian Communist Party in the 1960s and 1970s was marked by the party’s engagement with a succession of radical competitors. The party benefited from its engagement with the ‘cycle of contention’ (a term taken from Sidney Tarrow) that centred on the Hot Autumn of 1969. However, a second cycle can also be identified, running from 1972 to 1979 and fuelled by ‘autonomist’ readings of Marxism. The party’s hostile engagement with this second group of movements was a major contributory factor to the subsequent decline of the party, as well as the suppression of the movements.

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‘1968’ and the formation of the feminist subject (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

The political upheavals of 1968 exposed the ambivalence of both the traditional and the new left towards the question of women’s liberation. To make use of the new spaces opened up by this new era of left activism, women activists needed to create a new notion of a self-conscious ‘feminist subject’.  Through the agency of the newly energised women’s movement, women on the left sought to develop and generalise a newly autonomous feminist consciousness, which could reinvent the notion of what constituted the political sphere and help to redefine the idea of a modern movement for liberation. This article explores the contested process through which the new feminist subject was formed and assesses the impact that a new gender-based critique of power relations had of the practices and assumptions of the left.

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Still a ‘Spanish Red’? The communist past and national identity in the writing of Jorge Semprún (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

This article examines the political relationship between communism and national identity in the writing of Semprún, and through this seeks to understand further his complex position with regard to the communist past. As a Spanish Red, but one exiled in France from the age of 15, for whom patriotism and nationalistic fervour were both ideologically and practically suspect, Semprún is especially interested in the cultural and social diversity on display within the ostensibly internationalist communist movement. The article draws on his experiences in Buchenwald and reflects on the question of Semprún’s wider relationship to his exile in France. It focuses in particular on What A Beautiful Sunday!; Literature or Life; Autobiographie de Federico Sanchez, Federico Sanchez vous salue bien, La Deuxième Mort de Ramon Mercader and the more recent Le Mort qu’il faut.

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The Portuguese Communist Party and the labour movement in the beginning of the Carnation Revolution (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

On 25 April 1974 a coup d’état carried out by the Armed Forces brought down Salazar’s dictatorship, a coup that quickly turned into a social revolution. The most organized party at the time was the Portuguese Communist Party, faithful to the Soviet Union. This is one of the rare occasions in which one can study the behaviour of a Stalinist Communist party in the midst of a revolutionary process in post-war Western Europe. The goal of this research – based on a wide variety of sources, from official notices of the party itself, to congress documents, pamphlets and periodicals, among others – is to analyse what political strategies PCP fought for and what tactics it adopted to achieve its end results in the period between 25 April 1974 and the second Provisional Government.

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The Socialist Unity Party of Germany’s bizarre relationship with the Greek Communist Party in the period 1968-1989 (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

This analysis of the relationship between the communist party of Greece (KKE) and the communist party of the German Democratic Republic (SED) demonstrates the complex political, diplomatic, financial and cultural dynamic which could exist between communist parties on different sides of the Berlin Wall between the crises of 1968 and the endgame of 1989. This article explores how the changing objectives of the leaderships of both parties (and the international orientation of the GDR) before, during and after the fall of the Greek military junta in 1974 (and the split in the ranks of the Greek communists which preceded it) shaped inter-party relations. It documents the impact that the SED’s overtures to the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) had on the relationship between these international ‘comrades’. 

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De Gaulle, Ceausescu and May 1968 (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

Commemorations of May ’68 and meditations on ‘the spirit of 68’ always overlook General de Gaulle’s visit to Romania on the 14-18 May. Eclipsed by les événements, this other event nevertheless offers insights into the evolution of Communist Romania, Gaullist policy towards the East, the growing tensions between French and Romanian Communists, and, more broadly, the nature and limits of the ‘Franco-Romanian friendship’.

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Moscow-Havana-Prague: recollections of a communist foreign correspondent (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

Based on a number of interviews with lifelong British communist activist and journalist Sam Russell (1915-2010), this article provides a participant and witness account of the CPGB’s reaction to the revelations of 1956 and Stalin’s ‘secret speech’ and to the Prague Spring of 1968. It also offers Russell’s assessment as a reporter for the Daily Worker and Morning Star of the emergence of the new diversity within international communism in the 1960s and of the significance of the revolutionary politics of Che Guevara, which he attempted to articulate for a British left readership

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Recent historiography of the People’s Republic of China, 1949-46 (Twentieth Century Communism 3, 2011)

May 1, 2011

The way that historians – increasingly in the PRC, as well as in the West, Japan and Taiwan – write the master narrative of political and social developments in Mao’s China has changed significantly over the past twenty years. Little is now left of the old narrative punctuated by the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution; instead the new capstone is the famine that was engendered by the Great Leap Forward, now seen as the critical moment when millions lost faith in the CCP. The article discusses the recent historiography of the 1950s, still seen as a decade in which Mao and the CCP garnered considerable popular support, but no longer as a ‘golden age’. Recent historiography also tends to put greater emphasis on the political changes of the early 1960s, seen as a necessary response to the devastation of the famine. Overall, the new narrative is far bleaker than the old, far more critical of the violence, corruption and arbitrariness of the regime and far more emphatic about the vast human costs of the Maoist experiments. Particular attention is paid to the very recent revitalization of history writing in the PRC, not least as a result of intellectual exchange with Chinese historians in the USA, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Most of the shift in perspective comes about as a result of increased knowledge of the period, but it can also be seen as part of a shift away from sympathy for revolutions in general within the academy.

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Introduction: communism and political violence (Twentieth Century Communism 2, Spring / Summer 2010)

May 1, 2010

Matthew Worley introduces Issue 2 of Twentieth Century Communism.

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Violence as discourse? For a ‘linguistic turn’ in communist history (Twentieth Century Communism 2, Spring / Summer 2010)

May 1, 2010

This article argues that any attempt to understand communist policy and practice must engage with the language of marxism-leninism. To this end, it applies the ‘linguistic turn’ to the history of the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (German Communist Party; KPD) in the Weimar period, examining the ways in which communists understood the world around them and detailing the scope (and limits) of a communist discourse shaped and refracted through the experience of the Bolshevik Revolution. The article suggests that the politics of communism are only comprehensible within the context of an already established and linguistically constructed reality. Communists had to learn to ‘speak Bolshevik’ and thereby interpret events within a Bolshevik lexicon contained within a discursive ‘archive’ forged from the works Marx, Engels and Lenin.

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The communist movement and violence in France: from the First World War to the Cold War (Twentieth Century Communism 2, Spring / Summer 2010)

May 1, 2010

The article analyses the uses of violence that were adopted by communist militants in France, according to their cultural and political referents. It looks at the meaning and usefulness of deployments of force that were made by the French Communist Party (PCF), analysing them in relation to the external requirements of the party’s connections with other political formations, and to the internal requirements of the militants’ link with the party, and the party’s link with the militants.

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Revolutionary groups after 1968: Some lessons drawn from a comparative analysis (Twentieth Century Communism 2, Spring / Summer 2010)

May 1, 2010

Comparing the most important ‘fighting organizations’ of the ‘1968 years’ (Action Directe in France, the Red Brigades in Italy, the Red Army Fraction in Germany, the Japanese Red Army and the Weather Underground Organization in the United States), this article examines their common origins in the upheavals of 1968 (educated protest, international solidarity, crisis of the traditional left) and their identical processes of radicalisation (factionalism and repression). Then, it seeks to understand their contrasting destinies in reference to their relations with the working class and the framing of the concept of ‘new fascism’.

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Italian communism and violence, 1921-48 (Twentieth Century Communism 2, Spring / Summer 2010)

May 1, 2010

This article deals with the relationship between communism and violence in Italy in the years 1921-1948. The author describes the different phases during which the Italian labour movement resorted to violent methods of struggle (both as defence and as an instrument of aggression), focusing in particular on the origins of this phenomenon, and the idea of violence as reflected in the writings of Gramsci, Bordiga, Togliatti and other communist leaders; the struggle against fascism; the Resistance; and finally the outburst of violence following the attempt on Palmiro Togliatti’s life in 1948. The article proposes to analyse the violence employed and theorised by the Italian communists as having the ‘lawmaking character’ mentioned by Benjamin.

 

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Left-wing armed struggle and political violence in 1970s Italy (Twentieth Century Communism 2, Spring / Summer 2010)

May 1, 2010

The nature of the ‘armed struggle’ waged by leftist groups in Italy against the Italian state in the 1970s was of a scale and severity not seen anywhere else in contemporary Europe. But efforts to understand the evolution of the extra-parliamentary left have been obscured by attempts to isolate the ‘armed campaign’ from the wider radicalism of the ‘long 68’; and to equate the violence of the left directly with that of the fascist and neo-fascist right in ways which have obscure its distinctive and particular nature. This study of Marxist and left-wing revolutionary groups active in 1970s Italy resituates their ideologies and actions within the wider continuum of the left, documents the alliances and splits which accompanied their development, and analyses the symbolism and status of prisoners within the movement’s cadre. Reflecting on the subsequent decline of the ‘armed struggle’, this study concludes with an assessment of how the illegal and violent actions of Italy’s armed militants are perceived and interpreted in retrospect.

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The People’s Militia: Communist and Kashmiri nationalism in the 1940s (Twentieth Century Communism 2, Spring / Summer 2010)

May 1, 2010

In autumn 1947 communists in the Indian princely state of Kashmir took the lead in organising a people’s militia, part of a mass mobilization which confirmed the end of princely rule and the advent to power of a radical Kashmiri nationalist movement. The embracing of popular armed force – to an extent revolutionary in purpose, but supporting rather than challenging the Indian state – was a novel departure for the Indian communist movement. Using oral history and contemporary news reports as well as secondary sources, this article addresses the role of communists in the militia and more widely in the National Conference, the Kashmiri nationalist party. It also explores other key aspects of communist influence the National Conference, including the drafting of its ‘New Kashmir’ manifesto of 1944; its ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign of 1946; and its radical policies, notably on land ownership.

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Reviews (Twentieth Century Communism 2, Spring / Summer 2010)

May 1, 2010

Books reviewed:

Daniel F Calhoun, The TUC and the Russians 1923-1928
Darren G Lilleker

Roger Griffin, Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler
Fiona Reid

Brian Pollitt (ed), The Development of Socialist Economic Thought: Selected Essays by Maurice Dobb
Pat Devine

Ben Harker, Class Act: The Cultural and Political Life of Ewan MacColl
Walt Howard

Serge Wolikow (ed), Pierre Semard
Gavin Bowd

John Bulaitis, Communism in Rural France: French Agricultural Workers and the Popular Front
Stephen Hopkins

Maurice Carrez, La fabrique d’un revolutionnaire, Otto Wilhelm Kuusinen (1881-1918)
Antti Kujala

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Introduction: stalinism and the barber’s chair (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

The cult of the leader was one of the distinguishing features of the Stalinised communist movement. By the time of High Stalinism in the late 1940s, strikingly similar cultic forms and practices can be traced in many different communist parties; and it has sometimes been assumed that these derive from centralised directives dating from the establishment of Stalin’s authority in the 1930s. This introductory survey shows that this was not the case. The Stalin cult developed more unevenly even in Russia than is sometimes recognised; internationally, disparate leadership resources and difficulties of co-ordination meant at first that there could be no easy transfer of such practices. There was also the issue of the ‘barber’s chair’: that the successful establishment of lesser leader cults might be seen as a challenge to the pre-eminence of Stalin himself. It was therefore only in the period of the Cold War, when Stalin’s authority seemed unassailable, that a clear, manifest and immutable hierarchy of communist leader cults was seemingly established.

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Stalinism: workers’ cult and cult of leaders (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

The heroic constructions of the ‘worker’ and of the ‘communist worker’ were at the heart of the communist celebration of the leader. This article draws on both Soviet and French examples to show how edifying life histories, autobiographies and fictional narratives were used to populate the proletarian myth. These in turn were the subject of different readings or appropriations that can sometimes be traced through personal diaries. Maurice Thorez’ Fils du peuple (1937) is considered as an archetypal leader’s biographical narrative from which emerges an ‘impersonal’ or ‘bureaucratic’ personality, charged with the incarnation of the partisan organisation. As such, these narratives tended to sink themselves in the cult of the party, which thus emerged as the sole veritable hero of such histories. 

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Dead martyrs and living leaders: the cult of the individual within Finnish communism (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

The efforts of the Finnish communist movement to select political leaders for veneration changed significantly over time. This article explores the process through which leading cadre were identified and promoted as ‘model’ communists between the 1920s and 1960s. It examines the grounds on which individuals from within the movement were selected; the attributes that the individuals were heralded as exemplifying; and the extent to which the specific (and often atypical) national conditions of Finland shaped the processes of selection and promotion. Early attempts strove to create communist exemplars from amongst the movement’s dead cadre (often stressing the state’s apparent complicity in their death). Later efforts sough to eulogise living communist leaders, notably Otto Ville Kuusinen, with the clear aim of encouraging the respect and obedience of party members towards the SKP leadership. As conditions demanded, Kuusinen’s status within the international communist movement or his national standing within Finland was promoted. In the 1950s and 1960s, pressure to move away from the ‘cult of the individual’ communist led to a downgrading of such endeavours. 

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National traditions and the leader cult in communist Hungary in the early cold war years (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

Despite the seemingly contradictory nature of nationalism and communism, the communist parties of the (would-be) Soviet bloc made a strong appeal to national traditions from 1945 on, and invested extraordinary efforts into the reconciliation of communist ideology with national identity and national symbolism even after the take-overs had been completed in 1948-1950. The process of the re-invention of traditions followed a well-established Soviet practice, and also manifested in the construction of communist leader cults in national contexts. The article demonstrates how the cult of the Hungarian party leader Mátyás Rákosi recycled the major tropes of Hungarian cultic traditions. Unlike the cult of Stalin that drew parallels between great state builders of Russian history and the secretary of the CPSU, the Rákosi-myth exploited Hungarian ‘rebellious’, or freedom fighter traditions. Communist propaganda attempted to insert the figure of the Hungarian party secretary into a historical continuum of freedom fighters and compared Rákosi to the most important revolutionaries of the past, most importantly, to Lajos Kossuth, leader of the 1848-49 “War of Independence”. Such representations portrayed Rákosi as the “ultimate freedom fighter”, who successfully completed what his predecessors could not, and was thus capable of leading the nation towards socialism. Despite the strong appeal to national sentiments, however, the Rákosi-cult remained essentially the product of Soviet cultural transfer. The iconographic representations of Rákosi showed Byzantine features; the metaphors describing him were strikingly similar to the essential attributes of Stalin; and the cult’s major rituals were also copied from the Soviet Union.

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Ho Chi Minh: creator or victim of Vietnamese communism? (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

In much of the literature on Vietnamese communism, the party is presented as a monolithic force with Ho Chi Minh as its standard-bearer. Focusing on the latter, this article draws on new biographical evidence to demonstrate deep fissures within the VCP, in which Ho Chi Minh himself was neither ‘the decider’ nor an autocrat sitting atop a well-oiled party machine. The article is structured around three turning points: 1) from the Sixth Comintern Congress (1928) to the mass arrests of 1930-1; 2) the Land Reform campaigns, 1952-6; and 3) the struggle over Soviet ‘revisionism’, 1963-8. The first is examined in particular detail, and continuities then demonstrated between the early divisions described and the two later episodes. While Ho Chi Minh is not to be presented as a blameless martyr, the article stresses the importance of understanding the limitations of his role in shaping the VCP’s policies.

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‘Our only ornament’: Tom Mann and British communist ‘hagiography’ (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

Tom Mann was a heroic activist of the British labour movement and seemingly an ideal figure for the Communist International to use as the focus of an international cult of personality. This article describes the determined efforts made to exploit Mann’s reputation as part of a wider reclamation of a radical narrative of British history that was to feed into the work of the British marxist historians. A key figure in this development was the historian Dona Torr, and the article describes how for some two decades Torr persisted with the attempt to produce a hagiographical life of Mann. In the end, however, she fails; perhaps inevitably, the article suggests, given the political constraints under which it had to be written, and the heterodox nature of Mann’s own political past. Mann was meant to be packaged as living proof that British communism grew from British conditions and was not a Bolshevik export. But such an enterprise was persistently and unavoidably fraught with contradictions.

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Re-imagining the cavalier of hope: The Brazilian communist party and the images of Luiz Carlos Prestes (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

Luiz Carlos Prestes was the most prominent leader of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB). His military background and role in the famous Prestes Column meant that his image was one that could be effectively exploited by the party. However, his uncertain political antecedents also meant that he came under suspicion within the party, especially in the early years of his allegiance in the early 1930s. This article analyses the ways in which the image of its general secretary Luiz Carlos Prestes was built up and/or consolidated by the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), focusing on the period from the 1920s to 1960. In tracing the construction of this ‘Brazilian hero’ over time, it draws on a wide range of sources: from poetry and popular literature, such as Jose Amado’s novel Cavalier of Hope; to official party documentation, daily periodicals and oral testimony.  It concludes that by forging this monumental image the PCB could claim a ‘commanding hero’ to be admired and followed, but found this creation difficult to control within the Bolshevik party model. Prestes, conversely, used the party’s representation of his leadership to support his political authority while losing control of the ways in which his image was exploited.

 

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Construction and deconstruction of a cult: Edgar Lalmand and the Communist Party of Belgium (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

The general secretaries of the Belgian communist party (PCB) between the wars were selected primarily as a function of the conformity of their political profile with the successive phases of Comintern policy, even if it meant being removed and then restored to one’ s position in accordance with these developments. The hazards of repression under the occupation saw the installation of a completely new leadership which after the war maintained a mode of functioning deriving from the military discipline required in conditions of clandestinity. However, it was only very slowly that these rites of sacralisation were established, more in imitation of the Soviet and in particular of the French communist parties than in step with Belgian traditions.  A particular feature of the Belgian case is that in 1954 a deeply rooted movement at the party’s grassroots rejected both the policies and the leadership which had led to successive setbacks since the liberation. Despite the attempts of parties under its tutelage, like those in France and Italy, Moscow was beset by the issue of Stalin’s succession and was unable to resist this development. At the same time, certain gestures of autonomy on the part of the deposed general secretary, who had had no experience of the schools or congresses of the Comintern, may also explain Moscow’s passivity.

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Writing the history of twentieth century communism (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

In a series of reflective pieces, three historians explore issues and challenges raised by writing the history of twentieth century communism from the post-Soviet perspective of the present day.  In ‘Hopes, Horrors and Utopias’, Peter Beilharz discusses whether the twentieth century ought to be characterised as the ‘totalitarian century’, and considers the continuing power of the idea of utopia. In ‘Historical balance and the human condition’, Kevin McDermott, reasserts the value and importance of the historiography of twentieth century communism and the need to rescue from neglect the ‘positive’ aspects of the communist experiment. In ‘Collision of cultures and nationalism as patterns of the “Soviet Century”’, Bernhard H Bayerlein identifies the central role played by two ideas which shaped the pattern of twentieth century communism: the clash of national and Soviet cultures and the interplay between nationalism and bolshevism in the ideologies of the USSR.

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A man between two worlds? Palmiro Togliatti and the Italian communist party (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

A roundtable discussion with Aldo Agosti, Tobias Abse, Geoff Andrews, Maud Bracke and Carl Levy; chaired by Linda Risso

Aldo Agosti’s biography of the Italian communist leader Palmiro Togliatti was first published in Italy in 1996 and first appeared in an English translation in 2008. In introducing the biography in this roundtable discussion, the author returns to his characterisation of Togliatti as a ‘man of the frontier’ or ‘man between two worlds’. His respondents, all of them British-based authorities on the Italian left, raise issues such as Togliatti’s role in Spain, in 1956 and in the svolta di Salerno (1944) among a wide range of other questions. In replying to discussion, Agosti concludes that Togliatti should be seen as having established the important and contradictory phenomenon of a party which was both fully inserted into the Italian system and yet seen as being impossible to share power with.

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‘Life according to the principles of the left’: an interview with Hermann Weber (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

Since the 1950s, Hermann Weber has been a leading researcher in the study of the German Communist Party during the Weimar Republic and the former German Democratic Republic. His seminal work – Wandlung des deutschen Kommunismus (The Transformation of Germany Communism) – first published at the end of the 1960s, has long since been a standard text in Germany. Yet, until recently, there was no English translation of his ‘Stalinisation thesis’ explaining how the mass communist movement in Germany by the late 1920s became totally dominated by the new Stalin leadership in Soviet Russia. In this interview, the author speaks about the seminal influences in his own life, his flirtation with communism and, then, his career as an academic at the forefront of communist studies.  

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‘Should we all be on Marx’s side?’ Contributions of post-marxist discourse theory to the historiography of communism (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

Drawing on post-marxist discourse theory inspired by the writings of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, this article puts the case for a literature on communism situated at the crossroads of critical theory, cultural studies and historiography. Specific illustration is provided by the author’s own research on British communism and the Spanish Civil War. However, the scope of the article is much broader and it is intended as a contribution to the theoretical discussion of future possibilities for communist history-writing. The article concludes that discourse should be regarded neither as a flat surface of tightly knit signifiers nor as an impenetrable monolith of meaning systems. Rather, it should be seen as an inherently dynamic phenomenon, with its own condensations and dispersions along the historical continuum. In this lies its significance for historians of communism.

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Reviews (Twentieth Century Communism 1, Summer 2009)

July 1, 2009

Le Parti communiste francais et l’annee 1956
Aldo Agosti

Tareq Y. Ismael, The Rise and Fall of the Communist Party of Iraq
Ben Fowkes

Agnes Khoo, Life as the River Flows: Women in the Malayan Anti-Colonial Struggle
Linda Etchart

Gavin Bowd, Le Dernier communard: Adrien Lejeune
Stephen Hopkins

Xavier Vigna, Jean Vigreux and Serge Wolikow, eds, Le Pain, La Paix, La Liberte: Experiences et Territoires du Front Populaire  Gilles Morin and Gilles Richard, eds, Les Deux France du Front Populaire: Choc et Contre-Chocs
John Bulaitis

William Kenefick, Red Scotland! The Rise and Fall of the Radical Left, c. 1872 to 1932
Willie Thompson

Kevin Morgan, Gidon Cohen and Andrew Flinn, Communists and British Society: 1920-1991
Edward Johanningsmeier

Ralph Darlington, Syndicalism and the Transition to Communism: An International Comparative Analysis
Thomas Mackaman

James McNeish, The Sixth Man: The Extraordinary Life of Paddy Costello
Richard Thurlow

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