Violence as discourse? For a ‘linguistic turn’ in communist history

Spring / Summer 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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TCC2 Communism and political violence