Conference – life and times of Bert Ramelson

March 18, 2012

The Working Class Organised – Conference/Rally on the life and times of Bert Ramelson (former national and industrial organiser for the Communist Party of Great Britain) and the lessons to be learned for today’s struggle

The Bishopsgate Institute
Main Hall, 230 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4QH
(nearest tube Liverpool St.)

Saturday 5th May 2012 from 10am till 5pm

Admission Free

Chair: Rodney Bickerstaffe

Contributors: Tom Sibley, Roger Seifert, Louise Raw, Richard Baxell

Speakers: Max Levitas, Deanna Lubelski, Kevin Halpin, Mick Costello, Keith Ewing, Mary Davis, Graham Stevenson, John Foster, Ann Field, John Haylett, Bill Greenshields, Graham Stevenson, Tony Burke

If you would like to attend, have questions or would like to help, please contact Terry McCarthy at


Comintern and the Destiny of Communism in India: 1919-1943

March 4, 2012

Sobhanlal Datta Gupta. 2011. Comintern and the Destiny of Communism in India: 1919-1943 – Dialectics of Real and a Possible History (Kolkata: Seribaan, Rs. 895.00)

After the opening of Moscow’s Comintern archives and the archives of the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1990s, this is the first full-length study of the impact of the Communist International (Comintern) on the shaping of Indian communism. Based on materials collected from these once forbidden archives, the book also takes into consideration the private papers of Horst Krueger in Berlin, a whole range of inner-party documents and the new Comintern historiography (primarily Russian and German, apart from English) that has developed over the years. The book is the culmination of the author’s research for more than a decade on the shaping of communism in India in the Comintern period. The revised and enlarged edition of the book incorporates many new materials which have come to the surface since the publication of the first edition in 2006 and also introduces a comparative perspective, highlighting how communism developed in the countries of the East, and examines how the path chosen by the Indian communists was so different from that of the Communist Parties in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Korea, for example.

A Malayalam version of the first edition of the book, under the title Cominternum Indian Communist Partiyum (Thiruvananthapuram : Prabhatham Printing & Publishing Ltd), was published in 2010. A German version of the present revised and enlarged edition bearing the title Komintern und Kommunismus in Indien: 1919-1943 (Berlin : Karl Dietz Verlag) is forthcoming in 2012.

Sobhanlal Datta Gupta (b. 1948), former Surendra Nath Banerjee Professor of Political Science at the University of Calcutta, has an abiding interest in the intellectual history of Marxism and Marxist theory. His recent works include The Ryutin Platform (Stalin and the Crisis of Proletarian Dictatorship) (ed.) (Kolkata: Seribaan, 2010) and Marxism in Dark Times : Select Essays for the New Century ( Delhi, London, New York: Anthem Press, 2012). Currently he is working on a three volume work on The Socialist Vision and the Silenced Voices of Democracy: New Perspectives on Rosa Luxemburg, Georg Lukács and Nikolai Bukharin. He can be contacted at or

For overseas orders and all commercial information about the book, please contact: Sreejoni, the book’s exclusive overseas distributor, by visiting For Indian orders please contact us at:

Constructing the ‘Soviet’? conference – call for papers

February 27, 2012

Call for Papers – Constructing the “Soviet”? Political Consciousness, Everyday Practices, New Identities

The European University at St Petersburg, Russian Federation, 20-21 April 2012:

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union a generation of historians has grown up for whom the USSR is not so much personal memory but rather an object of study. Our annual conference provides an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to present their research on various aspects concerning the phenomenon of the “Soviet” alongside with comments by well-known academics: anthropologists, historians and sociologists. Previous conferences were supported by the French-Russian Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences and by the German Historical Institute in Moscow (DHI). Ten best papers of 2011 were published by DHI as a book.

At the conference in April 2012 we would like to discuss the following topics:

  • The development of the Soviet science and technology. Academic science: control and freedom of thought. Cult of invention and innovation. Scientific and technological cooperation and competition with foreign countries: joint projects, exchange of experts.
  • Conquest of space and time. The appropriation of space as a political project: great construction projects, cultivation of virgin land, conquest of the outer space. Mapping the “Soviet”: real and imaginary boundaries, resources and communication. Reorganization of the calendar: Soviet holidays and festivities.
  • Soviet material values. Asceticism and luxury, egalitarianism and elitism: struggle of opposites or peaceful coexistence? Standards of “good life” and their evolution.
  • Educating the “new man”: education, everyday life, leisure.
  • Lifeworld of the Soviet activist and exemplary citizen.
  • Pre-revolutionary practices in the Soviet life.
  • Mechanisms of administration. Vertical and horizontal communication of power, personnel and nomenclature policies, career ladder.
  • “Soviet-style” decision making.
  • Glasnost? and silence in the USSR. The boundaries of free speech: censorship, ?spetskhran?, samizdat. The culture of “Soviet” reading and writing.

We invite undergraduate and PhD students specializing in the humanities and social sciences to send us their short papers to participate in the conference. No remote participation is possible. The conference language is Russian.

A collected volume containing the papers will be published by the beginning of the conference. The electronic version of last year’s collection is available at

Requirements for the papers: no more than 15,000 characters (including spaces, footnotes and bibliography); MS Word (versions 1997 to 2003), automatic footnotes. Please also include your contact information, university, department and year of education.

Deadline for submission of abstracts: March 1, 2012 at:

The European University at St.Petersburg can pay for transportation within Russia (railway tickets) and accommodation only for a part of the conference participants.

The CfP in Russian can be read at

Conference: ‘Reform Communism since 1945’

September 11, 2011

‘Reform Communism’ since 1945 in Comparative Historical Perspective

Location: Room 3.26, Arts 2, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ

Date: 22 Oct 2011 – 23 Oct 2011
Organiser: Dr Matthias Neumann
Institution: University of East Anglia
Ticket Price: Free, but with limited spaces

Conference hosted by UEA School of History in conjunction with the journal Socialist History: ‘Reform Communism’ Since 1945 in Comparative Historical Perspective’.

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 conference 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.

Selected papers will be published in 2012 in a special issue of Socialist History ( devoted to the subject.

Attendance of the conference will be free of charge, but we ask that anyone wishing to attend registers in advance by emailing Francis King on and/or Matthias Neumann on at School of History, UEA, Norwich NR4 7TJ. Any enquiries should be addressed to us.

Download an information poster

Download a copy of the programme

Supported by the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies

An Early Communist: Muzaffar Ahmad in Calcutta 1913–1929

July 4, 2011

Suchetana Chattopadhyay. 2011. An Early Communist: Muzaffar Ahmad in Calcutta 1913–1929.
9.5 x 6.25 inches; xiv + 306 pages; Hardback; ISBN: 978-81-89487-77-5; Rs 600

The book

From an occasionally employed, lower middle-class Bengali Muslim intellectual on the borderline of starvation in the city, he was to become ‘the chief accused’ at the Meerut communist trials started by the colonial government in 1929. What was the road travelled before challenging imperialism ‘from the dock’? In 1913 Muzaffar Ahmad (1889–1973) was just one more individual adrift in the sea of migrants arriving from rural Bengal to Calcutta. His ambition was to be a writer. Yet in the vortex of metropolitan upheavals, his life would take a completely different turn. Taking Muzaffar Ahmad’s early career (1913–29) as its chronological frame, this book examines the dialectical interplay between social being and a wider social consciousness in late colonial Bengal which drew a section of Muslim intellectuals to communism.

Muzaffar’s life converged with a significant phase in the social and political history of India and the world: 1913 marked the eve of the First World War, while the Wall Street stockmarket crash set off the Great Depression in 1929. During this period, especially after the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, socialist ideas and communist activism became politically familiar in different parts of the globe. In the post-First World War climate, many alienated urban intellectuals – from Cairo to Shanghai – stood at the crossroads of established identities and radical currents. Informed by working class protests from below and a leftward turn in the literary/cultural fields, many in India were also moving away from the political routes open to those from their social background to combat colonialism and identifying with alternative visions of decolonization.

By tracing this process in the context of Calcutta through Muzaffar Ahmad’s transitions, the little investigated history of the left in Bengal prior to Meerut is unravelled, and is related to the convergences between individual radicalization and the emergence of a new political space in a colonial city. The connected histories of communism, port-cities, Bengal Muslims, workers, intellectuals, youth, migration, colonial intelligence, early left organization, radical prose, local/ regional activism and internationalist currents are also probed in this context.

The author

Suchetana Chattopadhyay teaches history at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. She studied at Jadavpur University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and has published articles in South Asia Research and History Workshop Journal.

To order copies of the book, please contact:

Tulika Books, 35 A/1 Shahpur Jat, New Delhi 110 049. email:,

IPDA, 35 A/1 Shahpur Jat, New Delhi 110 049. email:

To buy copies of the book online, please visit:, or Scholars Without Borders.

Conference: ‘Local Communisms’, 1917-89

May 30, 2011

Programme and Fees: ‘Local Communisms’, 1917-89
First Annual Conference of the Journal Twentieth Century Communism

Venue: University of Glamorgan (South Wales, UK)
Date: Thursday 30th June and Friday 1st July 2011

The study of communist parties globally has, perhaps inevitably, always involved finding a balance between overarching relationships with Moscow and the specific influences of a diversity of local environments in which the individual parties functioned. While recognising the importance of the former, this conference aims to address the extent to which national and sub-nation political, social and cultural traditions and developments, crises and continuities shaped the character of ‘world communism’.

The conference programme can now be downloaded here. (Updated May 27th.)

Please register to attend the conference at our online form.

The conference fee, payable by all speakers and attendees, will be as follows:

For academic and others in employment, the fee is £20.00 for one day and £35.00 for both. The registration fee covers afternoon coffees/tea and biscuits. Lunch is charged separately at £9.50 a head.

For postgraduates, the fee is £10.00 for one day or £20.00 for both. Lunch is charged separately at £9.50 a head.

See map for the route from Cardiff Queen Street Railway Station to the Atrium.

Download further details of travel and accommodation here.

View Conference Home Page.

Contact: Lois Thomas (Conference Co-ordinator) ( / Dr Norry LaPorte (

Conference: Communism and Youth in the twentieth century

January 30, 2011

One-day conference – 5 April 2011
Old Whiteknights House, Seminar Room
Graduate School in Arts and Humanities
University of Reading


9:30-10:00 – Registration

10:00-11:00 – Opening address: Kevin Morgan (University of Manchester): From Infantile Disorders to the Fathers of the People: Youth and Generation in the Study of International Communism

11:00-11.15 – Coffee

11:15-13:15 – Morning Session: Communist education (Chair: Matthew Worley, University of Reading) Guillaume Quashie-Vauclin (Université Paris-1 Panthéon-Sorbonne): Between Dance and Demonstration: the Union of the Republican Youth of France. 1945-1956; Elke Weesjes (University of Sussex – United Academics): Communist Identity: the Public vs. the Private Sphere; Leo Goretti (University of Reading): Irma Bandiera and Maria Goretti: Gender Role Models for Communist Girls in the Early Cold War Years (1945-1956)

13:15-14:00 – Lunch

14:00-14.30 – Screening : trailer of the movie The Train to Moscow (Kiné-Vez Film)

14:30-17:00 – Afternoon Session: Communism, Consumerism and Mass Culture (Chair: tba) Pia Koivunen (University of Tampere): A Dream Come True: Experiencing Socialism at the World Youth Festivals in the 1940s-1950s; Mark Fenemore (Manchester Metropolitan University): Glossy Socialism: the Youth Magazine Neues Leben, 1954-1969; Matthew Worley (University of Reading): Shot By Both Sides: Punk, Politics and the End of Consensus in Britain.

This event is funded by the Royal Historical Society and the Economic History Society. Attendance is free but registration is required. For any additional information please contact the organisers: Matthew Worley (; Leo Goretti ( More information on the Facebook event page

Eric Hobsbawm on How to Change the World

January 5, 2011

Professor Eric Hobsbawm in discussion on his latest book, How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism.

Date and time: 7pm, Friday 25th February 2011.
Venue: Bishopsgate Institute, Liverpool Street.

In his major new work, Eric Hobsbawm addresses the history of Marxism in the 162 years since the publication of Marx’s Capital and assesses its continuing relevance as a challenge to capitalism.
This event is free but places are strictly limited. As we anticipate high demand we ask that you send your details to Stefan Dickers to confirm your place.

La sociobiographie des militants: autour des chantiers du Maitron

November 23, 2010

A conference on the sociobiography of militant activists at the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris 7-8 Dec, to commemorate the fiftieth volume of the Maitron biographical dictionary of the French labour movement and the centenary of its founder Jean Maitron (1910-1987).

La sociobiographie des militants: autour des chantiers du Maitron

Au moment du colloque paraît, sous forme de cédérom, une nouvelle version du Dictionnaire biographique des kominterniens.

Le cédérom présente près de 800 biographies de kominterniens belges, français, luxembourgeois, suisses et de cadres de l’appareil central du Komintern. Ce dictionnaire a été réalisé sous la direction de José Gotovitch (ULB Bruxelles) et Claude Pennetier (CNRS/Paris I, CHS), avec Sylvain Boulouque (France), Michel Dreyfus (France), Peter Huber (Suisse), Brigitte Studer (Suisse), Mikhaïl Narinski (Russie), Mikhaïl Pantéleiev (Russie), Henri Wehenkel (Luxembourg), Serge Wolikow (France).

Cette édition du Dictionnaire biographique des militants du Komintern pour la Belgique, la France, le Luxembourg et la Suisse (2001) reprend et amplifie le champ saisi par la première version tout en apportant des modifications significatives à de nombreuses notices parues précédemment.

Depuis 2001, les recherches se sont poursuivies, à la fois dans les archives du RGASPI à Moscou ainsi que dans les différents pays concernés. De nouveaux travaux universitaires ont approfondi la connaissance des mondes communistes ainsi que l’histoire de l’Internationale, comme l’indique Serge Wolikow dans le balayage historiographique publié dans l’ouvrage attenant (L’internationale communiste 1919-1943. Le Komintern ou le rêve déchu du parti mondial de la Révolution, Éditions de l’Atelier).

À la faveur de ces travaux, des militants ont été révélés, ou mieux éclairés, ce qui a permis de tracer des biographies plus nourries. Et surtout, le choix du CD a permis l’extension à la fois du champ d’exploration et aussi l’allongement des notices.

José Gotovitch

Colloque organisé par le Centre d’histoire sociale du XXe siècle, Cultures et sociétés urbaines et le soutien de l’Association des Amis du Maitron et des Éditions de l’Atelier.

Paris (BNF et Centre Malher). mardi 7 décembre et mercredi 8 décembre 2010

7 décembre : Bibliothèque nationale de France, site François Mitterrand, petit amphithéâtre (accès Hall Est)
quai François-Mauriac 75013
métro RER Bibliothèque François Mitterrand (ligne 14; ligne C)

8 décembre : Centre Malher, amphithéâtre, 9 rue Malher 75004
Métro Saint-Paul, ou Bastille, ou Pont-Marie

Tito: A Biography – Geoffrey Swain

November 23, 2010

Geoffrey Swain. 2010. Tito: A Biography (London: I.B.Tauris). ISBN: 9781845117276. 232 pages. £56.50.

Josip Broz Tito was a remarkable figure in the history of Communism, the Second World War, the Balkans and post-war Eastern Europe. He was the only European besides Lenin to lead a successful Communist revolution and became one of the most renowned Communist leaders of all time. For a certain generation, he was remembered as someone who stood up to both Hitler and Stalin – and won. Tito was above all else a communist, and was devoted to the communist cause until the day he died. What made him different from other communist leaders was that his early experience of Soviet Russia had given him sufficient knowledge of the Soviet experiment to be wary of its spell. In this, the first post-communist biography of Tito, the acclaimed historian Geoffrey Swain paints a new picture of this famous figure, focusing primarily on his Communist years. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in Communist and Eastern European history.