Eurasian Geography and Economics, 2021, ahead-of-print, 1-3
This is a valuable, informative, and timely book. The historical period it considers, 1956–1991, was one in which the communist parties of Central and Eastern Europe ruled, apparently as passive satellite instruments of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Communist International (Comintern) was dissolved by Stalin in 1943 but, with the Cold War, there were other Soviet-sponsored initiatives. The Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), 1947–1956, aimed at ideological conformity in response to the Truman Doctrine (1947) but did not survive the Soviet–Tito split. Again, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) was established in 1949 to dintegrate the economies that were in the Soviet political orbit in response to the Marshall Plan in Western Europe. Finally, the Warsaw Pact (1955) was, in turn, a delayed response to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) set up in 1949. It was the readiness of the Soviet Union to keep national communist parties in power through military intervention, notably in Hungary in 1956, that gave them their security and authority over political, social, and economic life. Consequently, they have been seen as authoritarian, faceless, and bureaucratic, comprised of organizational functionaries manipulated by the Soviet Communist Party. This book takes a fresh perspective, that of Alltagsgesichte or everyday history, a form of microhistory that goes beyond Strukturgeschichte or formal institutional or organizational history. It reveals the human realities of party rituals, the formal and informal purpose of meetings, the daily practices of functionaries, internal power struggles, and the effect on the social production of ideology, on state socialist policy making, and on their attempted implementation. This was during the stalemate of the Cold War and with the de-Stalinization of the Soviet model.