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Durham University

School of Government & International Affairs

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Gidon Cohen

Cohen, Gidon & Morgan, Kevin (2002). 'Stalin's Sausage Machine: British Students at the International Lenin School 1926-37'. Twentieth Century British History 13(4): 327-355.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Between 1926 and 1937 at least 160 British communists attended the Communist International's International Lenin School (ILS) in Moscow. The aims of the school were to produce a new stratum of leading communist party cadres, young, proletarian, disciplined, and free of the taint of reformism. Using materials from the Comintem archives in Moscow, this article assesses the degree to which the school was successful in meeting these objectives. It shows that among the difficulties it encountered were the reluctance of the British Communist Party (CPGB) to lose the services of large numbers of its best activists and the uncertain application of the lessons inculcated by the school when students returned to Britain. In the short term, ILS alumni played a crucial role in the leadership of the CPGB at both national and district levels, and some were also drawn into work for the Comintern or Soviet state organs. However, by the late 1930s attendance at the school played a reduced role in appointments to key party positions, and as early as 1943 there was only one former student on the CPGB's executive committee. Set in a comparative context, it is argued that the school's significance in Britain was largely confined to the ‘long’ Third Period of 1927–35 and rapidly diminished thereafter.