CfP: The Global 1956

Call for papers, deadline 15 December 2023

C: Call for papers for Twentieth Century Communism special issue and workshop 23 April 2024   


School of Politics and International Relations, QMUL, and Twentieth Century Communism


Eric Hobsbawm described 1956 as communism’s second ten days that shook the world. Encompassing the Khrushchev secret speech and Soviet repression in Hungary, as well as the Suez crisis, this was stalinism’s crisis year and one with which only 1917 as the year of revolution can be compared. Hobsbawm referred to the irrevocable sense of before and after, of a world communist movement now in tatters. This is one of the hinges on which the history of twentieth-century communism turned.


There is however a paradox that this workshop and subsequent special issue will seek to address: first, that 1956 sits uneasily in the new global histories of communism; and second, that this global reach is largely absent from the huge literature that the events of 1956 have generated. This is encapsulated by the Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism, which features 1956 among its five ‘global moments’, but in a treatment that is conspicuously less global than all the others. Scholarship on 1956 is still today predominantly focused on the USSR, on the ruling and non-ruling communist parties of Europe and North America and on the relationships between them. If there was a global 1956, its history is still to be written.


What new questions and connections might such a project open up? There are many useful pointers in debates around the ‘global sixties’ and latterly a global 1848. Was 1956 such a crisis year for every communist party or is that itself a partly Eurocentric assumption? Does the prevalent ten-days-that-shook approach need balancing with a more expansive time-frame analogous to the ‘long 1968’? How did the crisis of stalinism interact with that of the old colonial empires in undermining eurocentric conceptions of political leadership that had survived within the communist movement? As the grip of both marxism-leninism and socialist realism were loosened, what were the cultural and ideological reactions against stalinism that could differ so markedly from country to country?


We invite paper proposals for a one-day workshop to be held at Queen Mary University of London on Tuesday 23 April 2024. This will be a hybrid event allowing for papers to be delivered remotely by those for whom travel to London is not feasible.


We welcome both papers of a comparative or conceptual nature and research-based case studies that will themselves contribute to the broader comparative scope of the planned special issue. Indicative themes might include but are not restricted to the following:


  • the “long ‘56”: forewarnings and after-effects of stalinism's year of crisis.
  • the impact of 1956 in any part of the communist movement but particularly those that have featured less in the literature.
  • the impact of the ‘twin crisis’ of Suez and Soviet intervention in Hungary on the emergence/development of non-aligned and new left activist networks, especially those so far less studied
  • changing relations between different sections of the world communist movement, including relations with the CPSU and ruling communist parties but also relations between the parties and movements of the old colonial powers and the colonies, dependencies and newly independent nations.
  • the role played by the Suez crisis in shifting attention towards anti-imperialist aims and encouraging left-wing support for (not necessarily communist) nation-building projects in the global south.
  • the impact of destalinisation in ideology and culture.
  • the ideological and factional forms through which the reaction against stalinism can be traced both within and beyond the communist movement e.g. maoism, trotskyism, tiers-mondisme and new lefts.
  • Studies of key individuals who broke with stalinism/communism in this period but rarely feature in broader discussions of the impact of 1956 (for example Aimé Césaire, Sékou Touré or Georges Haupt).


Abstracts of up to 300 words are invited for contributions of 5-6,000 words which will be published in a themed issue of Twentieth Century Communism subject to the journal’s normal refereeing processes. The schedule for the workshop and themed issue is:


15 Dec 2023                submission of abstracts

18 March 2024           submission of draft papers

23 April 2024             workshop at QMUL, London

14 June 2024              submission of revised papers

Nov 2024                    publication of themed issue of Twentieth Century Communism



Organising committee:

Madeleine Davis

Kevin Morgan

George Odysseos

Evan Smith


Abstracts and correspondence should be addressed in the first instance to