Going beyond the notion of Communist parties governing East Central Europe after World War 2 as, first, uniform political bodies strictly following the Soviet role-model, and, second, internally monolithic entities engaged in one-directional communication with the societies by means of ideological and political control, the workshop aims to examine the similar-yet-different Communist parties in East Central Europe from an epistemological point of view, focusing on their role in a complex process of learning and teaching about social as well as natural world.
The question “how does the party know what it knows” is by no means applicable to Communist parties alone, but it seems especially pertinent in their case, given how closely connected political and epistemological issues were, especially in the Marxist-Leninist tradition. Stalinist Agitprops were well-known guardians of ideological purity and conveyors or “correct positions” of a variety of issues pertaining to both nature and society, but as in the post-Stalinist period the fundamental characteristics of the “authoritative discourse” began to change, the question arose how did the party members (and non-members alike) in this period know what the “correct positions” were, and how were they “trained” politically and ideologically. This was especially important in cases and periods when the party members, and occasionally non-members, too, were supposed to pronounce themselves on a whole array of ideological issues, while at other times only political loyalty in sense of not challenging the system was expected from them. The growing nationalization of the Communist parties shifted the focus towards the more specific local issues, which were nevertheless still observed in a largely shared ideological, political, economic, and social framework.
What did the professionalization of the Communist parties mean for the initial tension between the Party and the intellectuals, so prominently manifested in the Soviet Union during the 1920s; how was the education of cadres achieved, and how did it differ from the education of the socialist societies at large? While newspapers aimed at conveying the party line, how was the party opinion on a number of issues formed, especially having in mind the complex interaction of competing agents and structures within the parties themselves? If the political usefulness of humanities and social sciences, manifested in various party-aligned institutes, seemed obvious – which could sometimes obscure their relative autonomy – what was the role of less explicitly political experts in this process of learning and educating? (The overwhelming prevalence of the technical intelligentsia among the Soviet Politburo members by the 1980s challenges the separation of supposedly inherently political and apolitical disciplines and professions.)
Potential topics may include, but are not limited to:
1. Center-periphery relations: transfers and translations of the Soviet model (and vice versa)
2. The role of experts and ideologues and their impact on policy-making
3. Collecting, processing, and using specialist knowledge
4. Educating society through schools and media
5. Educating the party members through schools and media
We invite abstracts of 300 words by January 20, 2019. Please include a short bio as well and send it to the following addresses: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected participants will be notified in late January 2019 and will be asked to submit a 4000 words long paper by April 7, 2019. The organizers will be able to cover accommodation expenses and contribute to travel expenses.
Central European University, Budapest