Socialist and communist networks and representatives in Brittany: comparisons and reflections (1920-1989)

Le numéro 8 de la revue britannique, Twentieth Century Communism, a journal of international history, vient de paraître. Avec un article consacré à la Bretagne.




‘Esteemed Comintern!’: The Communist International and World-Revolutionary Charisma in Early Soviet Society
Gleb J. Albert

Socialist and communist networks and representatives in Brittany: comparisons and reflections (1920-1989)
Francois Prigent

‘A Small Revolution’: Family, Sex, and the Communist Youth of Chile during the Allende Years (1970-1973)
Alfonso Salgado

Communism in Scandinavia
Tauno Saarela

Historiography of the Russian Provisional Government 1917 in the USSR
Ian Thatcher

The International Union of Seamen and Harbour Workers (ISH) 1930-1937: interclubs and transnational aspects
Constance Margain

The contributions published in this issue reflect just how global the field of communist studies has become. Although communist studies have never attracted researchers’ interest on the scale of, for example, fascism, we now have a burgeoning historiography and ever diversifying approaches to the subject. The challenge is the truly world scale of the field, not least because of the diversity of languages needed to read the relevant materials.

Gleb J. Albert’s work demonstrates the importance of internationalism in early Soviet Russia and shows how constant reference to its centrality at the beginning of the communist project was use against the rise of Stalinism – the reorientation away from spreading revolution abroad to building ‘socialism in one country’ – not only by the Left Opposition, but crucially by the wider sections of Soviet society.

The contributions from Francois Prigent and Alfonso Salgado focus on the ‘peripheries’ of local communisms, with case studies of communist networks in rural France and then an exploration of changing attitudes to sexual and family norms in the Allende generation of communist youth in Chile. Prigent’s contribution examines rural Brittany which was a conservative stronghold until the early 1970s. Prigent sheds light on the plurality of identities in ‘red Brittany’ across its urban, maritime and rural communities while Alfonso Salgado examines the long-held view that the communist left upheld ‘traditional’ ideas of the family and sexual mores. By analysing Ramona – a youth-orientated magazine controlled by the Communist Youth of Chile – he explores how its writers and readers engaged with particularly contentious issues, such as premarital sex, contraception, family arrangements, marital breakups, abortion and homosexuality. Salgado provides a nuanced account of how the ‘younger’ generations may have retained some of the conservative elements of the ‘old’ generation’s thinking, whilst striving to re-define core ideas about the family and sexual norms to fit with their own expectations and to push the boundaries of what was deemed ‘acceptable’.

The articles by Tauno Saarelo and Ian Thatcher engage with the writing of communist history and Soviet historiography. Saarela’s review of literature on Scandinavian communism not only helps us break through the language barrier, but also shows how a relatively under-researched region – usually associated with social democracy – fits into the wider historiography. Ian Thatcher then makes an interesting case about the historiography of the Russian ‘Provisional Government’, which took power in February 1917, challenging western scholars who have dismissed all Soviet historians’ accounts of the history of the Provisional Government as unreliable and ideologically skewed. In the final article, Constance Margain takes us back to the historical world of Valtin’s ‘International Union of Seamen and Harbour Workers’, showing its importance to Soviet policy internationally as well as the role of the union’s interclubs in disseminating propaganda as well as acting as a conduit for espionage.



François Prigent

Agrégé et docteur en histoire contemporaine. Chargé de cours Université Rennes 2, IEP de Rennes, ENSCR. Team Chatô. Secrétaire de l'AMB. "Les réseaux socialistes en Bretagne des années 1930 aux années 1980", thèse, Université Rennes 2, 2011.

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