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Reactions to the Soviet interventions in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, amongst French and Italian Communist Party members in the shipbuilding towns of La Seyne and Monfalcone.

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

1956 was punctuated by a series of events that shook the world, and is seen as having been not only a watershed for the international communist movement but also a turning point in the Cold War. This thesis is an in-depth study of a specific and under-researched aspect of French and Italian communism i.e. the responses of ordinary Communist Party members of what were the two largest and most important non-ruling Communist Parties to these historic events. Its aim has been to recover thoughts, feelings and responses of those 'on the ground' to these events via a series of personal interviews supported by national, regional and local archive evidence in a multiple case study. The regional nature of the study reveals variations between responses at local and at national levels; and the cross-cultural, transnational perspective highlights the role of historical experience and other factors in explaining variations in the responses in the two locations. It looks at the way in which the Soviet interventions were handled by the Federations of Var and Gorizia e.g. by their
initiating, facilitating or closing debate in cells, sections and Federation Committees.It reveals extents to which local and regional factors, perspectives and contexts affected the responses to this crisis on the part of the rank and file, mid-level cadres and the regional Party leaderships. It looks at Party cultures and at levels of critical awareness within the regional Party membership bodies as indicated by their willingness to question Soviet actions and the official ‘Party line’. In so doing it identifies differences in understandings of ‘communist militancy’ per se at this conjuncture, despite the international communist movement’s being, in principle, a coherent ideological and political entity. This study reveals clear convergences in responses across the multiple case-study, but it also reveals distinct and indeed astonishing divergences, dispelling in the process any myth that post-war Western European communism was a ‘one size fits all’ phenomenon.
Original languageEnglish
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Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateSep 2011

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