Bolshevism, stalinism and the comintern: a historical controversy revisited

McIlroy, John and Campbell, Alan (2019) Bolshevism, stalinism and the comintern: a historical controversy revisited. Labor History . ISSN 0023-656X (Published online first)

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‘Bolshevization’ and ‘Stalinization’ have been used variously by historians of American and British Communism to designate and date the processes by which the Comintern and national parties were subordinated to Soviet policy. Despite their pervasive influence on the American and British left, this literature reveals little curiosity or consensus about the politics of Bolshevism and Stalinism, their history and relationship, indeed, these labels have sometimes been employed inexactly and interchangeably. In some narratives, Bolshevization dates from 1924 and was completed from 1929. In others, the Comintern and its affiliates were Stalinized from 1924, in still others, from 1929. The historiography of the Soviet Union, in contrast, includes forensic interrogation of Bolshevism and Stalinism, their meaning, periodization and consequences as well as the continuities and disjunctures between them. This work has been overlooked by historians of the American Workers’ Party and the British Communist Party. The present article assesses both literatures. It utilizes insights from Sovietologists to argue that Stalinism constituted a politics and practice connected with but distinct from Bolshevism. Reviewing Comintern and party history, it proposes a specific periodization. State Bolshevism, 1919–1923, saw subjugation of the American and British parties to Russian imperatives. Incipient Stalinism, 1924-1928, witnessed restructuring of the politics of subordination. From 1929, Stalinization accomplished a distinctive subordination. It enthroned a politics and practice foreign to that of Lenin and the Bolsheviks which endured, through different phases, until the 1950s.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > Business School > Accounting and Finance
Item ID: 26199
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Labor History on 18/02/2019, available online:
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Depositing User: John Mcilroy
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2019 15:23
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2019 02:59

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