Twentieth Century Communism
ISSN : 1758-6437
Published by: Lawrence and Wishart (10.3898)
Total articles ≅ 128
Latest articles in this journal
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 146-160; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926337
On 30 December 2020, amid the turmoil caused by the COVID pandemic, Argentina approved the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy Law, which legalises abortion until the fourteenth week of pregnancy. In public hospitals, the procedure is now free of charge. Prior to this milestone, which was enacted on 14 January 2021, abortion was only permitted in cases of rape or when a pregnant woman's health was at risk. The law is the result of years of activism and protests against prevailing conservatism in a country heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, led by a grassroots women's movement, known as the 'green wave', which unites many different organisations that have been working towards the same goals.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 79-108; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926328
Since modern radicalism emerged in the wake of the French revolution, radicals and revolutionaries have held divergent perspectives regarding the relationship between personal and social transformation. On the one hand, radicals recognised that the institutions of bourgeois democracy would never allow the working class to achieve the moral, economic and social standards of respectable life, due to poverty, lack of democratic rights, racism and exploitation. For these revolutionaries, the organisation of the working class would allow working-class families to achieve respectable families and community life. On the other, becoming a social revolutionary involved a transformation of personal life as well as social ideology. This was expressed in a critique of conventional sexuality and family life, and experimentation with nonrespectable practices in their daily lives. This article explores the ways that this conflict played out over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It assesses the notion of 'respectability' – especially its 'democratisation' – among communists in the United States, and engages with questions of how respectability was to be achieved for the working class, where the notion of respectability came from, how it applied to sexuality, and whether it was challenged by a desire for personal liberation amongst those committed to the revolutionary project.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 45-78; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926355
Dutch communists were remarkably progressive in their views on (heterosexual) sex, sex education, contraception and family planning. Many were active members of the Nederlandse Vereniging van Sexuele Hervorming ('Dutch League for Sexual Reform' or NVSH), and were passionate advocates of sexual health, and promoted the use of contraceptives and the legalisation of abortion. This progressive stance on sexuality and contraception was not led by the Dutch Communist Party (CPN). In fact, from the 1940s until the late 1960s, topics related to birth control, sex education and family planning had been given a wide berth in the CPN and its organisations. The CPN seemingly followed the example set by the Soviet Union, where, after a very brief moment of sexual liberation in the early post-revolution years, conservative views about sexuality, the family and household organisation had prevailed. Considering the Dutch party's refusal to address sex education and family planning, it is quite remarkable that so many of its members were such passionate advocates of sexual health. Based on a series of interviews with twenty-five cradle communists, communist archives, and a wide range of other sources, this article explores communists' stance on sexual health, and discusses their roles in the NVSH and the abortion rights movement during the Cold War. It argues that in regard to sexuality and sex education, the ideas of Dutch communists were much more in line with utopian socialist traditions that predated the Russian revolution as well as anarchist traditions carried through to communists, than with the Soviet ideology.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 13-44; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926373
Historians have pointed to overseas colonialism and 'race science' as influential in the construction of European sexual science. Soviet sexology arose on a 'semi-periphery' between Europe and colonised societies. The 'Others' against whom Russian sexual ideals were forged would be 'internally colonised' peasants and non-Russian ethnicities of the Soviet Union's internal orient. Pre-Stalinist sexology blended the 'sexual revolution' with European sexual science focused on workers in the Slavic urban industrial heartland; nationalities beyond this perceived heartland lagged behind and their sex lives required modernisation. Stalin virtually curtailed sexological research. After 1945 the party revived it to spur fertility, especially in Slavic urban centres where births had dropped below replacement rate. Ideological control constrained sexologists, confining them to silos, limiting internationalisation and cramping research. But new, heteronormative therapeutic measures, some from Western science, and others devised at home, were developed. Less vocal than Western or Eastern Bloc sexology, Soviet sex research continued to display anxiety about internal national and ethnic Others into the 1980s and beyond.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 4-12; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926364
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 161-173; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926346
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 136-145; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926382
The 1970s and 1980s are often characterised as sober and gloomy, a prolonged anti-climax to the swinging 1960s. The oil crisis of 1973 led to widespread unemployment in most industrialised countries, which was only exacerbated in the early 1980s by a worldwide economic crisis. In the Netherlands, people – especially youth – struggled to find employment, and class antagonisms, which had been largely absent in the 1960s, resurfaced. Despite these growing social tensions, the Dutch communist movement began to embrace single issues that were not necessarily rooted in class struggle. This new course, while condemned by some hardliners, opened up space for closer links between the Communistische Partij van Nederland ('Communist Party of the Netherlands'; CPN) and anti-racist, feminist and gay politics. In a parallel development, membership demographics changed significantly. Among new CPN members in the early 1970s there were just as many workers as there were artists, students and unemployed. In this interview, Eshuis looks back on her life and, in particular, her experiences in the CPN in the 1970s and 1980s.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 20, pp 109-135; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864321832926391
For personal or political reasons undocumented and controversial to this day, Greenwich Village lesbian photographer Angela Calomiris joined forces with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during the Second World War to infiltrate the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). As Calomiris rose through CPUSA ranks in New York City, espionage efforts resulted in the Attorney General's office declaring the avant-garde Film and Photo League to be a subversive communist organisation in 1947, and the conviction of communist leaders during the Smith Act trial two years later. Interestingly, despite J. Edgar Hoover's indeterminate sexuality and well-documented harassment of gays and lesbians in public life, what mattered to him was not whether Calomiris adhered to heteronormativity, but that her ultimate sense of duty lay with the US government. This article demonstrates how this distinction helped Calomiris find personal satisfaction in defiance of patriarchal conservative expectations and heteronormative cold war gender roles. This article, which utilises FBI files, press coverage, some of Calomiris's papers and her memoir, concludes with a brief discussion of Calomiris's later life in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she continued to craft her identity as a left-liberal feminist, with no mention of the service to the FBI or her role in fomenting the second Red Scare.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 19, pp 61-87; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864320830900572
This article aims to demonstrate that Eric Hobsbawm was a dialectical materialist. It considers what dialectical materialism meant for him by analysing four prominent characteristics of Hobsbawm's Marxist study of history found in his writings between 1946 and 1956. That class-struggle analysis was the primary analytical lens for Hobsbawm is the major claim that this work challenges. Hobsbawm's thinking was guided by dialectical materialism, which was a scientific outlook based on analysis. It always accounted for unpredictable human agency and, though economic factors played the principal role in the development of history, this study rejects the claim that Hobsbawm was a mechanical determinist. Further, dialectical materialism aimed at fostering the socialist revolution, with its ultimate goal being to overcome struggle and reach unity.
Twentieth Century Communism, Volume 19, pp 88-116; https://doi.org/10.3898/175864320830900527
This article considers the historical, political, and cultural contexts of both Russian Soviet and Russian émigré poetry about the second world war. It outlines the reasons for and the foundations of the extraordinarily abundant outpouring of Russian Soviet poems during the war (unmatched by any other country taking part in the war), including the platforms created by the state to receive and broadcast poetry, the importance of war correspondents, and the role of propaganda. It delineates the way poets were viewed as important allies and moral compasses during the war (their poems were considered weapons), and shows how and why this was all changed after the war. It also considers the situation in the main émigré literary centres when the war broke out, and the difference in attitudes toward the Soviet Union.