Call for Papers – The Peripheries of the European Revolutionary Process(es), 1917-23

Conference Date: October 5-7, 2017

Location: European University Institute in Florence (Italy)

Deadline Paper Proposals: ***March 31, 2017***

The fall of the Russian Tsar and the rise to power of the Bolsheviks sent shock waves across Europe and beyond, initiating a period of momentous revolutionary transformations. Indeed, the protagonists of 1917 did not envisage their endeavour as an exclusively Russian phenomenon, but as the first act of the world revolution. As Lenin reflected in 1921, ‘we have made the start. When, at what date and time, and the proletarians of which nation will complete this process is not important. The important thing is that the ice has been broken’.

The revolution emboldened the war-weary propertyless classes and terrified the rich and powerful, sharpening social conflict and accelerating the downfall of age-old empires. In the years 1917-19 it generated levels of continental revolutionary effervescence not seen since 1848. It also led to momentous shifts and realignments in the international labour movement. Not only did the Russian Revolution help wreck the Hohenzollern and the Habsburg dynasties, it also threw down the gauntlet to the dynasties of the Kautskys and the Bauers. The Communist International, founded in Moscow in 1919, presented itself as the new party of world revolution, aiming to supplant the old and discredited Social Democratic International. The international labour movement was shaken by intense polemics, and, in the heat of the events in Russia, underwent debilitating splits from which the new communist organisations emerged.

However, the years 1917 to 1923 were not merely a phase of socialist-proletarian activism, and the power of the Bolshevik spell went beyond revolutionary Marxists, captivating a very mixed bag subversives, radicals, and iconoclasts. The turbulences unleashed by the October Revolution created spaces for numerous political and social movements which at times aligned themselves with the Russian Revolution, at times vehemently opposed it: anarchists, radical bourgeois intellectuals, nationalists, often became temporary fellow travellers for the Bolsheviks. The Russian Revolution became a beacon flare for revolutionaries and radicals of very different persuasions, challenging traditional political-ideological affiliations, strategies, and identities. The first congresses of the Third International were, as English syndicalist John Murphy put it, a cacophony ‘socialists, anarchists, syndicalists, trade unionists, revolutionary nationalists of almost every race and clime’. The tremors of October went well beyond the borders of the former Russian empire, into Central and Eastern Europe and beyond, and were felt in the remote anarchist villages of Andalusia, the Greek armies fighting in Anatolia, the Jewish districts of Warsaw, the ateliers of Dadaist painters in Berlin, among striking women workers in Paris, and in the street battles of Dublin.

The confirmed keynote speakers are Stephen Smith from Oxford University, a world-renowned scholar of the Russian Revolution and its international impact, author of several books on the Russian and Chinese revolutions, including an upcoming monograph written for Oxford University Press on the occasion of the centenary of 1917; and Robert Gerwarth, from University College Dublin, director at the Centre for War Studies, and author and editor of numerous widely acclaimed books on the post-war crisis in Central and Eastern Europe.

The conference will take place at the European University Institute in Florence (Italy), on October 5-7. Participants with no institutional support can apply for funding of their travel and accommodation expenses. Please send an abstract (circa 300 words) with a short biographical note to the organisers by March 31, 2017 to: Participants should receive confirmation of acceptance no later than May 1, 2017. Written papers (of circa 8,000 words) should be submitted by September 1, 2017, so they can be circulated to the participants in time. There will be an opportunity to publish some of the papers in an edited volume or special issue.

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