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Kevin Morgan introduces a special issue commemorative issue of Twentieth Century Communism.
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.
Gavin Bowd, Dianne Kirby, David Kirby, Michael Waller, André Liebich
Books reviewed: Fedor Il’ich Dan, translated and edited by Francis King, Two Years of Wandering: A Menshevik Leader in Lenin’s 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; Åsmund 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 Révolution russe, une histoire française. Lectures et représentations depuis 1917, Paris: La Fabrique, 2016, ISBN 9782358720793, 255 pp.
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.
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.
This paper explores various instances of Ceauşescu’s memorialization as reflected in contemporary art and living memorials inked on the skin (nostalgia tattoos).
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.
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.
Philip Cooke, Gianluca Fantoni
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).
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.
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.
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.
Timothy Scott Brown
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.
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 and discusses the underlining tensions between older and younger generations of the Communist Party.
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.
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.
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.