Call for Papers: Silence and Voices of Dissent

Internationale Konferenz

Silence and Voices of Dissent. Communist Intellectuals in Societies of the Soviet Type

Veranstaltungsort: Berlin, Centre Marc Bloch 

Termin: 14-15 June 2013

Organisatoren: Die Konferenz wird organisiert vom Centre Marc Bloch (Berlin), dem CERCEC (EHESS, Paris), dem ISP-CNRS (Université de Paris-Ouest) und dem Ludwig Boltzmann-Institut für Europäische Geschichte und Öffentlichkeit (Wien), unter Teilnahme des CIERA (Frankreich).

When and under what conditions do members of civil society voice their views? The philosopher Michel de Certeau raised this question after the events of May 1968 in France, comparing the students' expressions of protest with the taking of the Bastille. We would like to enlarge this train of thought to the behavior of communist intellectuals in the soviet type of dictatorship. Intellectuals are understood here as social agents whose task is precisely the expression of their views.

All in all, the majority of intellectual elites who did not emigrate to the West admitted to being in favor of the project of a socialist society – without necessarily agreeing with all details of its realization. Even if we exclude from consideration all who remained communists after their experience in a gulag or prison, the attitude of the majority of intellectual elites (it depends of course of the country we are speaking about and of the period- before or after 1956 and 1968) is hard to interpret for scholars who wish to avoid an irrelevant unhelpful dichotomy. Here it must be admitted that the revisions, the reshaping of memory, and the viewpoint changes after the Fall of the Wall is often a screen that hides an undeniable reality – not to forget the bruiting about the “end of history” (Fukuyama).

Few among the intellectuals who remained communists spoke up, even after the repression became milder and was replaced by surveillance, as this was the case in most of these countries. Nevertheless, we may ask: to what extent can the specific national contexts and their different constraints explain the distinguishing attitudes of the intellectuals in Poland or Hungary on one end of the spectrum - and East Germany or Bulgaria on the other, not to mention Romania and Albania which could be considered apart? Would it be possible to establish a typology of communist intellectuals from open dissent (around Solidarnost or Charter 77) to "internal emigration" with the common practice of circles/half-secret communities. Different degrees of loyalty to the system must be distinguished in this case: conformism, freely consented submission, accommodation, acquiescence, blindness, sincerity.

The opening of the Archives and especially of the communist party Archives, even if unequal in different countries, the preparation of important autobiographical writings since the end of the Soviet World, the publication of previously censored manuscripts, the availability of correspondences, the collection of eyewitness accounts, permit and facilitate the study of a whole range of behavior of the last generation of East European communists.

This research is located in the historical period of the "Short Twentieth Century" (Hobsbawm), and at the intersection of several disciplines (history, sociology, political science, psychology). It is interdisciplinary, and it is concerned with all societies of the Soviet World.

To give examples, György Lukacs in Hungary, Adam Schaff in Polen or Jürgen Kuczynski in GDR are representative of such a category. Papers that would offer to portrait similar figures would be appreciated. Among the directions of research highlighted by the conference, note the approach concerning the militants’ habitus in communist countries (voices of dissent inside the party, or strategies to avoid conflict as reflected in the party Archives).

Ph.D’s and post-graduate scholars are welcome.
Application starts on 15 November 2012 and ends on 28 February 28, 2013.

A CV and a brief presentation of about 15-20 lines are requested. Languages: French/German/English.

Kontakt: Lucie Kuhls, Projetkoordinatorin, Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin,