Labour History Review

Histories of the British Communist Party: A User's Guide

Labour History Review (2003), 68, (1), 33–59.

Abstract

The British Communist Party continues to attract the attention of historians who have produced divergent assessments of its politics, organization, personnel and activities. This article critically reviews the literature: the concentration is on detailed studies which have appeared since the 1980s. It scrutinizes the apologetic literature produced by party historians prior to, and in response to, the critical studies which appeared from the late 1950s. It explores this pioneering academic work, now too frequently discounted, before addressing recent research often informed by reaction against it. The paper concludes that this revisionist approach tends to diminish the crucial Russian dimension to Communist politics and neglects the decisive, primary, strategic control Moscow exercised and the distinctiveness of the party in British politics.

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McIlroy, John

Campbell, Alan