Endgames and New Times: The Final Years of British Communism, 1964-1991

Endgames and New Times: The Final Years of British Communism, 1964-1991

Endgames and New Times: The Final Years of British Communism, 1964-1991

Endgames and New Times: The Final Years of British Communism, 1964-1991

Synopsis

Lawrence and Wishart's comprehensive history of the British Communist Party concludes in this sixth and final volume. Beginning with the 1960s and the influence of social movements such as feminism and student collectives, this history moves through the changing landscape of the British Labour Party, Eurocommunism, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Commentary on the current state of Communism notes that the new generation, more likely influenced by Lennon than Lenin, has formed too wide a constituency to forge sustainable alliances.

Excerpt

Since the defeat of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989 there has been renewed interest in the history of communism. the scope of this research has been broad and includes overviews of communism in the 'short twentieth century', insight into the failures of communist ideology and comparative studies on the fortunes of former communist parties after 1989. Much of the research has considered the role of the Soviet Union, helped to a substantial degree by the opening of the Moscow archives. As far as the British Communist Party is concerned, most of the research has focused on its earliest years, with the later period receiving less attention, or featuring mainly as a minor part of more general accounts of its history. This has meant that the hopes, aspirations and illusions of the most recent generation of communists have either been obscured, or have been the subject or anecdotal references in the wider history of the New Left.

One much discussed example of the latter was Martin Amis's Koba The Dread. the difference between Amis's account and the line of argument that has been growing since 1989 that has reduced the communist experience to that of the Soviet Union and Stalin's legacy is that his target is his own generation. He focuses on the '60s' cohort of 'New Left' activists, those who came to socialism with fewer illusions about the Soviet Union than earlier generations and had been inspired by the events of 1968. His most obvious oversight in what is largely an intemperate attack is the failure to acknowledge that the New Left was born from anti-Stalinism. the dissident intellectuals who resigned or were expelled from Communist Parties in the wake of Khrushchev's revelations about Stalin in 1956, and in protest at the Soviet invasion of Hungary in the same year, made important contributions to the various movements and ideas of the subsequent decade. in Britain, where the cpgb lost a quarter of its membership in the aftermath, notable intellectuals such as Edward Thompson, John Saville and Raphael Samuel responded by establishing an extremely imaginative, original, intellectually rigorous and indigenous dissident Marxist tradition – the 'first New Left' as it has been described – with pioneering work in areas of culture and social history.

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