‘Reform Communism’ since 1945 in comparative historical perspective

‘Reform Communism’ since 1945 in Comparative Historical Perspective

22-23 october 2011



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.

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 francis@socialisthistorysociety.co.uk and/or Matthias Neumann on m.neumann@uea.ac.uk at School of History, UEA, Norwich NR4 7TJ. Any enquiries should be addressed to us.

Saturday 22 October


10.30 – registration, coffee

11.00-12.45 – Session 1

  • Francis King, UEA, Socialist History Society: Welcome and introduction, and survey: “Defining ‘Reform Communism'”
  • Marina V. Khmelnitskaya, Oxford: “Housing policy in the late Soviet period: ideational transformation, the policy process and the struggle for power”
  • Graham Taylor, London: “Reform communism compared with 17th century movements”

12.45-1.45 – lunch

1.45-3.30 – Session 2

  • Marko Fucek, Zagreb: “Tito’s Youth: Titoism and its Application through People’s Youth Organization, 1948-1952”
  • Jana George, Jena: “Socially critical films in the 1960s/70s in Yugoslavia from a historical perspective”
  • Katalin Miklossy, Helsinki: “Interactive Socialism: Institutional reformism in the Eastern Bloc”

3.30-4.00 – coffee

4.00-5.45 – Session 3

  • Hans Asenbaum, Vienna: “Reform Communism from below-Alternative Democratic Ideas of the Russian Informal Movement during the Perestroika Period”
  • Vasil Paraskevov, Shumen: “The Decline of Socialism in Bulgaria: Mikhail Gorbachev, Todor Zhivkov and the Soviet Perestroika, 1985-1989”
  • Nevena Stoyanova Vlaykova, Oxford: “The Prague Spring and the season that never came-Bulgaria’s reflection of the invasion in Czechoslovakia in 1968”
  • Dieter Segert, Vienna: “Communist reformers as a major driving force of changes in late East Central European Socialism-a comparison”


Sunday 23 October

9.00 –  coffee

9.30-11.15 – Session 4

  • Bálint Mezei, Budapest: “The ideological birth of Eurocommunism-the Prague spring in Czechoslovakia and the new economic mechanism in Hungary”
  • György Péteri, Trondheim: “‘Acquisitive Society’ and State Socialism.  Lifestyle Issues and Consumerism in the Policies and Discursive Practices of Kádárist Hungary”
  • András Pintér, Budapest: “How theory and practice interact in socialism”
  • Nigel Swain, Liverpool: “Research Institutes in Late Kádár-Era Hungary”

11.15-11.30 – coffee

11.30-1.15 – Session 5

  • Daniel Gordon, Edge Hill: “The French Communist Party and Immigration, 1961-1981: Failure or Success?”
  • Sebastian Seng, Mainz: “The Relations between the East German (SED) and Spanish Communist Parties (PCE) from 1971 to 1978”
  • Hugo Radice, Leeds: “Marxist dissidents in Eastern Europe and their critical analyses of ‘actually existing socialism’ in the 1960s and 1970s”

1.15-2.15 – lunch

2.15-4.00 – Session 6

  • Pat Devine, Manchester: “Reform Communism: A Personal Memoir from within the CPGB”
  • Andrew Pearmain, Norwich: “The uses and abuses of Gramsci”
  • David Purdy, “Transforming and Transcending Capitalism: Reflections on the Eurocommunist Experience”
  • Mike Waite, Rossendale, SHS: “Was reform communism possible?”

4.00-4.30 – Summary and conclusion
Organizers: School of History, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR47TJ, United Kingdom

Venue: Norwich, Room 3.26, Arts Building II, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR47TJ

Contact: Matthias Neumann (m.neumann@uea.ac.uk)

Homepage: http://www.uea.ac.uk/his/eventsnews/events/reform_communism

Emilia Robin

Chercheuse associée à l'UMR SIRICE. Violons d'Ingres : guerre froide, médiation scientifique, logiciels libres

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