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The Best of all Possible Worlds?: The Ideology and Practice of British Communism in the Cold War, 1953-1961

Powell, Glyn; (2001) The Best of all Possible Worlds?: The Ideology and Practice of British Communism in the Cold War, 1953-1961. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the ideology and practice of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in the 1950s. Ever since its formation, the CPGB had adhered to, and modelled itself upon, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Party transformed from its revolutionary ideology and practice towards representing state dictatorship under Stalin. This transformation from Bolshevism to Stalinism had profound implications for the British Party. Following Stalin's death in 1953, British Communism embarked upon a process of de-Stalinisation; a process accelerated by the speech of First Secretary Khruschev to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Party in February 1956. This period coincided with a general decline in British Party membership and with an increased emphasis on electoral practice. Two contradictions emerged as the CPGB attempted to reconcile the socialist and revolutionary aspirations of its membership with the practices of Stalinism and this concentration on elections. These socialist aspirations were undermined by Khruschev's revelations about Stalin's 'crimes' and his own regime's intervention in Hungary at the end of 1956. Members' response to 1956 threatened to damage the Party beyond repair. A disparate opposition emerged in 1956, but never coordinated into a coherent challenge to the leadership. The continuing loyalty of the majority of members, combined with an increase in industrial unrest during this period, to reverse the sudden decline in membership precipitated by 1956. In 1957, the Party rescued itself, partly through intervention within the trade union rank and file. In parallel with this rank and file level activity, the Party had, since its formation, operated a strategy which sought to place members into the leadership of the trade unions. The thesis demonstrates the limitations and the damaging implications of this leadership strategy as it examines Communist intervention into the Electrical Trades Union.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Best of all Possible Worlds?: The Ideology and Practice of British Communism in the Cold War, 1953-1961
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10101059
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