Call for papers: One-day seminar/workshop on “Reform communism” since 1945 in comparative historical perspective. Saturday 22 October 2011.
Organised by UEA School of History in conjunction with the journal Socialist History.
Venue: School of History, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ.
The collapse of the USSR and the Eastern bloc in the wake of Gorbachev’s perestroika seemed to show that communism was essentially unreformable. It could be preserved, dismantled, or overthrown, but it could not be reconstructed as a viable alternative to capitalism, free from the defects of its Leninist-Stalinist prototype.
Prior to 1989-91, however, reform communism was a live political issue in many countries. At different times in countries as diverse as Yugoslavia, the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Western Europe, Japan, and China, the leaderships of communist parties themselves sought to change direction, re-evaluate their own past, correct mistakes and so on with the aim of cleansing, strengthening and improving communism, rather than undermining or dismantling it. In countries ruled by communist parties this process usually involved political relaxation and an easing of repression, and was often accompanied by an upsurge of intellectual and cultural ferment.
The aim of this seminar is to consider reform communism as a distinct phenomenon, which can usefully be distinguished from, on the one hand, mere changes of line or leader without any engagement with a party’s own past and the assumptions which underpinned it, and on the other, dissenting and oppositional activity within and outside parties which failed to change the party’s direction.
This seminar will explore different experiences of reform communism around the world after 1945 in a comparative context. Examples might include:
• Tito and Titoism
• Khrushchev and “de-Stalinisation”
• Kadarism and the “Hungarian model”
• Eurocommunism and ideas of socialist democracy
• the Prague Spring
• the Deng Xiaoping reforms in China
• Gorbachev’s perestroika
We are seeking papers of 5000 to 10000 words on various experiences or aspects of reform communism in history, to be presented at the seminar. Selected papers will be published in 2012 in a special issue of Socialist History (http://www.socialist-history-journal.org.uk) devoted to the subject.
Proposals for papers should be submitted by 1 July 2011 to Francis King (francis(at)socialisthistorysociety.co.uk) and Matthias Neumann (m.neumann(at)uea.ac.uk) at School of History, UEA, Norwich NR4 7TJ. Attendance at the seminar is free of charge, but space is limited. Please e-mail us if you are interested in attending.
As the event shapes up, we shall post updates.