Cold War, Crisis and Conflict: The History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1951-68

Cold War, Crisis and Conflict: The History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1951-68

Cold War, Crisis and Conflict: The History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1951-68

Cold War, Crisis and Conflict: The History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1951-68

Synopsis

This fifth volume of a comprehensive history of the British Communist Party in the 20th century covers the pivotal period between 1951 and 1968 that saw the dramatic impact of the French "Days of May" on the party. Drawing on archival evidence and interviews with former activists, this book discusses the party's involvement in anti-colonial struggles, its relationship with the Labor Party and trade unions, and the forces that changed the party during the 1960s. In addition, this work benefits from the demise of the Soviet Union and subsequent improved access to Soviet archives.

Excerpt

Collectivist principles were dominant in the 1950s in every department of national life, from the rising number of trade unionists to the steady growth of state expenditure on public housing, the national health service and the social services. Standardisation and uniformity characterised many of these provisions. the political parties talked of planning and managing the economy. It was an age of confidence in science and technology and material progress. Indeed people talked as if progress was measured by economic growth and technological advance. the Communist Party belonged to the ‘camp of socialism and peace’ but it was both in and of this larger world of the 1950s, while possessing a number of dominating characteristics which set it apart. the most important of these was its claim to be a Marxist-Leninist vanguard. the Party’s doctrine and ethos were the products of over twenty years of formal and willing subordination to the Soviet Union and the Communist International. When the Communist International was dissolved in 1943 the habits, attitudes and beliefs nurtured since 1920 survived intact. Chief among these was confidence in the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. the Party’s commitment to the doctrines of Marxism-Leninism, which were supposed to give it a special capacity for political leadership, had been developed under the tutelage of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. the Party’s self-image, derived from these doctrines and the official histories of Bolshevism, was that of a ‘fighting’ cadre organisation. Its leadership role derived from the science of Marxism-Leninism but only when doctrine was made efficient by the discipline and organisation of the membership, operating according to the principles of democratic centralism. Complete unity in action was required of every member once decisions had been made. Every unit of the organisation accordingly took its lead from those higher in the Party hierarchy and provided it to those lower down. This was inevitably an idealised version of how the Party actually operated, but the point of significance is how very close the reality conformed to the ideal.

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