Growing up communist: theory vs. practice

Twentieth Century Communism - ISSN 1758-6437
Volume 2012 Number 4

Growing up communist: theory vs. practice
ELKE WEESJES pages 102-132


Raphael Samuel and Jolande Withuis each published pioneering works on communist mentality, in the Netherlands and Britain. Their body of work still belongs to the standard literature when studying non-political aspects of the British or the Dutch communist movement. Samuel describes the communist community as a little world within a bigger world. Withuis goes a step further and calls the communist community an island, isolated and removed from the rest of society and responsible for its own vilification. Samuel and Withuis argue that communist family life was completely dominated by politics and that members of the communist community were expected to sacrifice a great deal in order to belong to the ‘communist family’. Describing a communist childhood, both authors base their analysis primarily on the theory of a communist upbringing propagated by the party. In an attempt to build up a more nuanced picture of communist life, this article focuses on the contrast between this theory and the actual practice within the communist homes. Based on oral testimonies it shows that communists and their families often tried to break through social isolation and wanted their children to fit in and have a ‘normal’ childhood. In doing so they mixed Soviet ideology with western values and culture.

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To cite this article
ELKE WEESJES (2012) Growing up communist: theory vs. practice, Twentieth Century Communism, 2012(4), 102-132

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