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'If I Ever Have to Go to Prison, I Hope it's a Russian Prison': British labour, social democracy and Soviet communism, 1919-25

Hodgson, M. (2017) 'If I Ever Have to Go to Prison, I Hope it's a Russian Prison': British labour, social democracy and Soviet communism, 1919-25. Twentieth Century British History, 28 (3). pp. 344-366. ISSN 1477-4674

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1093/tcbh/hwx022

Abstract/Summary

Through the inter-war period, the USSR became an example of 'socialism in action' that the British labour movement could both look towards and define itself against. British visitors both criticized and acclaimed aspects of the new Soviet state between 1919 and 1925, but a consistently exceptional finding was the Soviet prison. Analysing the visits and reports of British guests to Soviet prisons, the aims of this article are threefold. Using new material from the Russian archives, it demonstrates the development of an intense admiration for, and often a desire to replicate, the Soviet penal system on the part of Labour members, future Communists, and even Liberals who visited Soviet Russia. It also critically examines why, despite such admiration, the effect of Soviet penal ideas failed to significantly influence Labour Party policy in this area. Finally, placing these views within a broader framework of the British labour movement's internal tussles over the competing notions of social democracy and communism, it is argued that a failure to affect policy should not proscribe reappraisals of these notions or the Soviet-Labour Party relationship, both of which were more complex than is currently permitted in the established historiography.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:72853
Publisher:Oxford University Press

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