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This is volume five of a comprehensive history of the British Communist Party in the 20th century, and covers the period from 1951 to 1968. The cold war was at its most intense during this period, and it was also the time of the dramas of 1956 - Khruschev's critique of Stalin, the Hungarian uprising and the Suez crisis. Then in the 1960s the opening up of new possibilities for radicalism began, leading up to the events of May 1968. The impact of these events on the Party is extensively analysed, drawing on evidence from detailed archival research and many interviews with former activists. Topics covered include: the nature of the Party and its Soviet "ecology"; its responses to the events of 1956; its involvement in anti-colonial struggles; its positions on international and economic issues and perspectives on class struggle; its relationship with the Labour Party and the trade unions; and the forces for change in the Party in the 1960s.
Times change, and John Callaghan's book differs from previous volumes in this series in a number of ways - most obviously, in that it was written after the demise of the Soviet Union and the Party, and thus with much better access to archives and the views of former party members. In addition, it is organised thematically rather than chronologically, and is written from a more critical position than previous titles in the series. It shares with its predecessors, however, the idea that a history of the CPGB has some importance, not least for the light it casts on some of the key issues of the 20th century.