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Communist Parties Revisited

Communist Parties Revisited

Rüdiger Bergien | Jens Gieseke


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The ruling communist parties of the postwar Soviet Bloc possessed nearly unprecedented power to shape every level of society; perhaps in part because of this, they have been routinely depicted as monolithic, austere, and even opaque institutions. Communist Parties Revisited takes a markedly different approach, investigating everyday life within basic organizations to illuminate the inner workings of Eastern Bloc parties. Ranging across national and transnational contexts, the contributions assembled here reconstruct the rituals of party meetings, functionaries’ informal practices, intra-party power struggles, and the social production of ideology to give a detailed account of state socialist policymaking on a micro-historical scale.

“This collection will be a valuable resource for scholars interested in the inner workings and sociocultural dimensions of the communist parties of the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia in the post-Stalinist decades… By demonstrating how the ruling communist parties operated as active, multifunctional organizations, this volume advances understanding of the history of East European communism and, more broadly, the history of Europe during the Cold War.” • Choice

“…timely, detailed and authoritative…an impressive, thought-provoking and innovative anthology that should become compulsory reading  for specialists and higher-level students  alike.” • European History Quarterly

Communist Parties Revisited is an outstanding volume that brings together path-breaking research in an important field. Its analysis of shifting social structures, discursive change, and internal dissent within Eastern Bloc communist parties is fascinating and genuinely novel.” • Dolores Augustine, St. John’s University

“These essays are well-written, accessible, and grounded in careful scholarship. They offer a new and important comparative perspective on communist rule after Stalin.” • Lisa Kirschenbaum, West Chester University

Rüdiger Bergien is Privatdozent at the Humboldt University Berlin and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam. His many publications include, most recently, Im Generalstab der Partei: Organisationskultur und Herrschaftspraxis in der SED-Zentrale (1946-1989) (2017).

Jens Gieseke is head of the research department “Communism and Society” at the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam, Germany. His most recent publications include The History of the Stasi: East Germany’s Secret Police, 1945–1990 (2014) and as co-editor, The Silent Majority in Communist and Post-Communist States: Opinion Polling in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe (2016).

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Contents v
Illustrations vii
Acknowledgments ix
Abbreviations x
Introduction — Communist Parties Revisited: Sociocultural Approaches to Party Rule in the Soviet Bloc, 1956–1991 1
Chapter 1 — The Paradox of Party Discipline in the Khrushchev-Era Communist Party 23
Chapter 2 — \"It Is Not Possible to Allow Past Mistakes to Come Again\": Recruitment Policy in the CPCS in the 1970s and 1980s 46
Chapter 3 — Behind Closed Doors: The Erosion of SED Party Life in the 1980s 72
Chapter 4 — The Successive Dissolution of the \"Uncivil Society\": Tracking SED Members in Opinion Polls and Secret Police Reports, 1969–1989 95
Chapter 5 — On the Way to Party Pluralism?: The PZPR and the Reform of the Socialist Party System in 1988–1989 123
Chapter 6 — Communist Party Apparatuses as Steering Organizations: Paths of Development in East Central Europe 143
Chapter 7 — The Central Committee Department of Party Organs under Krushchev 168
Chapter 8 — True Believers Becoming Funded Experts? Personnel Profile and Political Power in the SEC Central Commitee's Sectoral Apparatus, 1946–89 190
Chapter 9 — Paternalism in Local Practice: The Logic of Repression, Ideological Hegemony, and the Everyday Management of Society in an SED Local Secretariat 212
Chapter 10 — The SED Bezirk Secretaries as Brokers of Territorial Interests in the GDR 237
Chapter 11 — The Idea of Social Unity and Its Influence on the Mechanisms of a Totalitarian Regime in the Years 1956–1980 259
Chapter 12 — Foreign Policymaking and Party-State Relations in the Soviet Union during the Brezhnev Era 281
Chapter 13 — Erich Honecker—The \"Leading Representative\": A Generational Perspective 313
Chapter 14 — Inside the System: The CPSU Central Committee, Mikhail Gorbachev's Komanda, and the End of Communist Rule in Russia 326
Chapter 15 — The Ironies of Membership: The Ruling Communist Party in Comparative Perspective 352
Index 364