Cracking the Stalinist crust - the impact of 1956 on the Communist Party of Australia

Calkin, Rachael (2006) Cracking the Stalinist crust - the impact of 1956 on the Communist Party of Australia. Research Master thesis, Victoria University.


The contention of this thesis is that previous accounts of 1956 and its impact on the Communist Party of Australia, have afforded insufficient attention to the complexities of this period in the Party’s history. The common perception has been that the Party leadership clamped down on attempts by members to generate debate and discussion about the content of Khrushchev’s ‘secret speech’ and the uprising in Hungary. The result of this was that members either concurred with the Party’s stance and stayed within its ranks, or they disagreed and resigned or were expelled. This perception is too simplistic and fails to acknowledge the manifold difficulties and uncertainties faced by both the membership and the leadership during this period. In an attempt to illuminate this chapter in the Party’s history, this thesis will argue that 1956 traced a complex path of denial, surprise, limited acceptance and intolerance on the part of the leadership; and shock, disbelief, dismay and, in some instances, indifference on the part of the membership. Chapter 1 introduces the background leading up to 1956 both internationally and domestically. It also surveys the literature that has focused, either wholly or in part, on this period. Chapter 2 details Khrushchev’s ‘secret speech’ and the events in Hungary and assesses the international reaction to these events. Chapters 3 and 4 focus on the CPA and its leadership. Chapter 3 explores its reaction and approach to dealing with the ‘fallout’ from the speech in the first half of 1956, prior to the Soviet Union releasing its official statement about the speech. Chapter 4 traces the increasing hard line approach subsequently taken by the CPA leadership and its handling of the internal protests about the Soviet action in Hungary. Chapters 5 and 6 focus on the diversity of reactions displayed by members. These ranged from those who were troubled by what they learnt of Stalin’s actions but resolved, for a wide variety of reasons, to stay within the Party, to those for whom the revelations proved too divergent from their ideal of communism and either left or were removed from the party.

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 220000 Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts-General
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Keywords Communist Party of Australia, Khrushchev’s 'secret speech', 1956 uprising in Hungary, communist movement
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