How influential was communism during the interwar period outside the USSR?

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  • How influential was communism during the interwar period outside the USSR?
    • Stalin's influence and interests
      • According to Thompson
        • Stalin could not control Communists outside of USSR, his power was limited strictly to inside Soviet Union
      • According to Thompson
        • Communist Parties outside of USSR subscribed to Stalin's views
          • Revolution in Russia, weakest link in imperialist chain, was merely overture to rapid worldwide revolution
          • Were convinced that socialism in former Russian Empire was impossible without similar revolution in advanced countries
      • According to Richards
        • Stalin was disinterested in Communism outside Russia
          • Stalin was indifferent to internalist ideals of Comintern
            • Hardly ever attended meetings personally, sent representatives
        • Clear even in 1920s, from his declaration in 1924, in favour of "Socialism in One Country"
          • World revolution would take backseat
          • Stalin more interested in Soviet Security
    • Popular Front (France and Spain) - according to Richards
      • Supports notion communism was influential
        • Closest political left in Europe came to effective strategy of unified anti-fascist action
        • Consisted of alliances of political parties including Marxists, socialists, liberals, moderates and even conservatives
          • But were Communists poweful?
          • Marxists contributed to efforts
        • Rejected fascism
        • Electoral victories of French and Spanish coalitions of 1936 were greatest achievements
          • But were these achievements of other parties?
      • Doesn't support idea communism was influential
        • Political Pact
          • Defend French and Spanish Republics
          • Bring about social and cultural change
          • Preserve international peace
          • Attack causes and symptoms of economic crisis
        • Negation of fascism (even though contained in promotion of peace, democracy and end of hunger) ultimately proved weak basis for unity
        • Effects of far-reaching social legislation enacted by Popular Front governments in France and Spain were severely constrained by:
          • advance of fascist threat
          • economic circumstances
          • Internal differences within Front itself
        • Popular Frontism unable to develop active and effective alternative to policy of appeasement of Nazism pursued by major democracies
        • Also impeded because unable to become political focus of collective security largely because such a strategy was associated by democracies with interests of Communist Russia
    • Comintern according to Richards
      • Organisational weaknesses, doctrinal disputes and rivalries, and effects of internal terror within Stalinist system also limited effectiveness
      • International's initial president, Zinoviev, executed in August 1936, after first of fake show trials (start of Stalin's Terror)
      • Under such pressures, considerable tension existed between Comintern orthodoxy, expressed in publicly declared strategic "theses", national Party leaderships, and activist rank and file
      • Attempts made to impose broad strategic measures from outside regardless of specific national factors
      • In process, division of European labour movement, begun by secession of revolutionaries from social democratic parties following 1917 Russian Revolution and immediate aftermath of war in 1918, became irreconcilable
      • Fatal divide opened up in spite of sporadic attempts by rank-and-file activists to achieve pragmatic unity of action
    • Splits in Italy (according to  Richards)
      • 1919-1921
        • witnessed irreparable split in ranks of Socialist Party (PSI), resulting in secession of a "Bolshevik" wing and founding of Italian Communist Party (PCI) in January 1921
      • By 1926, PCI's leaders would be arrested, imprisoned, or forced into exile and party's Congress that year would be held in Lyons
      • Right to strike formally abolished as prelude to establishing dictatorial state structure
        • Included 'fascistised' judicial system complete with special courts for political crimes
      • Antonio Gramsci, founding leader of PCI and its best-known and most insightful thinker
        • In 1928, sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment
    • Germany (according to Richards)
      • In 1917, Socialist SPD split in two
        • The communist KPD was a breakaway movement
      • German Communist Party (KPD) and Socialist Party (SPD) hurled insults and sabotaged each other's initiatives during Weimar years, while Nazi support burgeoned
      • Free trade unions abolished by Nazi regime and SPD outlawed by 1933
      • Reichstag Fire in Feb 1933 allowed Hitler to outlaw Communists and institutionalise authoritarian measures
      • Richards states:
        • Historians speculated that if the left in Germany had not been so divided, Hitler may have been prevented from coming to power in 1933 thereby avoiding war in 1939
          • Richards argues ultimately it could not have been prevented due to divisions in German society exacerbated by unemployment because of the Wall Street Crash

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