University of Sussex
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Children of the Red Flag: growing up in a communist family during the Cold War: a comparative analysis of the British and Dutch communist movement

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posted on 2023-06-07, 16:19 authored by Elke Marloes Weesjes
This thesis assesses the extent of social isolation experienced by Dutch and British ‘children of the red flag’, i.e. people who grew up in communist families during the Cold War. This study is a comparative research and focuses on the political and non-political aspects of the communist movement. By collating the existing body of biographical research and prosopographical literature with oral testimonies this thesis sets out to build a balanced picture of the British and Dutch communist movement. The study is divided into two parts. Part I discusses the political life of communists within the wider context of the history of British and Dutch communist organizations (i.e. both communist parties and their youth organizations) from 1901-1970. Part II discusses the private and public life of British and Dutch communists in the period 1940-1970. The latter draws upon oral testimonies and questions if non-political aspects of communist life were based on a Soviet model. The experiences of communist children are explored into detail within the context of the following topics; political and cultural upbringing, prescription and aspirations, neighbourhood, school & education, work & employment, money & poverty and friendships & relationships. The interviews are being used as a means of testing the accuracy of two authors in particular; Jolande Withuis and Raphael Samuel, who both published pioneering works on communist mentality. The originality of this project rests in its approach; it is a comparative research inspired by both oral history and memory studies. Instead of emphasizing the idea of a unified and centralized (international) communist movement, this thesis argues that cultural, social and political differences between Britain and the Netherlands fundamentally influenced the nature and form of their respective communist movement and explain the discrepancy between the Dutch and British respondents’ experiences. Applying the comparative approach this study challenges the existing definitions of communist identity and as such it contributes to recent comparative studies of the communist movement as well as studies of communist mentality.


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