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Romancing the Revolution

Athabasca University Press


Over two decades have passed since the collapse of the USSR, yet the words "Soviet Union" still carry significant weight in the collective memory of millions. But how often do we consider the true meaning of the term "Soviet"? Drawing extensively on left-wing press archives, Romancing the Revolution traces the reactions of the British Left to the idealized concept of Soviet democracy. Focusing on the turbulent period after the 1917 Russian Revolution, author Ian Bullock examines the impact of the myth of Soviet democracy: the belief that Russia was embarking on a brave experiment in a form of popular government more genuine and advanced than even the best forms of parliamentarism.

Romancing the Revolution uncovers the imprint of this myth on left-wing organizations and their publications, ranging from those that presented themselves as "British Bolsheviks"—the British Socialist party and The Call, the Socialist Labour party's The Socialist, Sylvia Pankhurst's Workers' Dreadnought—to the much more equivocal Labour Leader and The New Statesmen.

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“Bullock’s source material is largely drawn from British socialist publications, and the gradual change from forgivable naivete to unforgivable apologetics for the dictatorial role of a Communist Party ruled by a ‘revolutionary’ clique is, to say the least, disheartening. Few on the hard left had the courage to condemn a successful revolution – the worship of sheer physical success in Bullock’s evidence is a valuable reminder that materialism as a doctrine has no place for any of the values we think of as humane.”

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Ian Bullock's interests have long centred on the often ambivalent relationship between socialism and democracy. Currently a visiting research fellow in the history department at the University of Sussex, he is the co-editor, with Richard Pankhurst, of Sylvia Pankhurst: From Artist to Anti-Fascist and the co-author, with Logie Barrow, of Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement, 1880-1914. In addition, Bullock worked for many years in British education, playing a leading role in creating and then managing one of the largest courses for preparing mature students for university study in the UK.

 
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Cover zur kostenlosen eBook-Leseprobe von »Under Siege«

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Under Siege

Athabasca University Press


During the period between the two world wars, the Independent Labour Party (ILP) was the main voice of radical democratic socialism in Great Britain. Founded in 1893, the ILP had, since 1906, operated under the aegis of the Labour Party. As that party edged nearer to power following World War I, forming minority governments in 1924 and again in 1929, the ILP found its own identity under siege. On one side stood those who wanted the ILP to subordinate itself to an increasingly cautious and conventional Labour leadership; on the other stood those who felt that the ILP should throw its lot in with the Communist Party of Great Britain. After the ILP disaffiliated from Labour in 1932 in order to pursue a new, “revolutionary” policy, it was again torn, this time between those who wanted to merge with the Communists and those who saw the ILP as their more genuinely revolutionary and democratic rival. At the opening of the 1930s, the ILP boasted five times the membership of the Communist Party, as well as a sizeable contingent of MPs. By the end of the decade, having tested the possibility of creating a revolutionary party in Britain almost to the point of its own destruction, the ILP was much diminished—although, unlike the Communists, it still retained a foothold in Parliament.

Despite this reversal of fortunes, during the 1930s—years that witnessed the ascendancy of both Stalin and Hitler—the ILP demonstrated an unswerving commitment to democratic socialist thinking. Drawing extensively on the ILP’s Labour Leader and other contemporary left-wing newspapers, as well as on ILP publications and internal party documents, Bullock examines the debates and ideological battles of the ILP during the tumultuous interwar period. He argues that the ILP made a lasting contribution to British politics in general, and to the modern Labour Party in particular, by preserving the values of democratic socialism during the interwar period.

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"Bullock's book focuses as much on the development of the ILP's policy as on the factional disputes, and the coverage of the ILP's political advocacy in the 1920s, including its living wage campaign, is excellent, bringing to the fore some of the ILP's leading thinkers such as Fred Jowett, Fred Henderson, Frank Wise, John Middleton Murry, Arthur Creech Jones, Charles Trevelyan, and Noel Brailsford, socialist theorists and activists from whom we can learn much."

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Ian Bullock spent most of his career in higher education as a manager and instructor of an Access to Higher Education course with many discipline-related pathways that aimed at preparing mature students without formal qualifications for university study. His previous publications include the Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement, 1880-1914 (co-authored by Logie Barrow) and Romancing the Revolution: The Myth of Soviet Democracy and the British Left.

 
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