CfP: Transnational Leftism. The Comintern and the National, Colonial and Racial Questions Workshop

Call for papers, deadline 31 March 2017

A Workshop in Transnational Leftism
The L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History, McMaster University
21-22 September 2017

Deadline for Proposals: 31 March 2017

Transnational Leftism: The Comintern and the National, Colonial and Racial Questions Workshop

There are three prevailing wisdoms about Communists and the Comintern and the National and Racial Questions. The first is that the Comintern was a monolithic organization, in which members were loyal to Moscow first and had no time for legitimate nationalist or anti-racist rhetoric outside of that dictated from on high. The second is that if national self-determination or racial equality was taken seriously, the Comintern or certain Communists exploited these positions opportunistically, seeking to aid Soviet foreign policy. The third is that anti-imperialism and racial equality, legitimate or not, were limited in their effectiveness as a result of the Comintern’s general focus towards Europe and European issues. But as transnational studies of the Comintern, racial equality and the national question have started to show, these prevailing views are not as convincing as they once were. Communist Parties, while certainly answering to Moscow, were able to develop their own positions and engage with ideas of nationalism, anti-imperialism and racial equality on their own terms, to varying degrees, and often interacted with other parties, movements and ideas when doing so.

Organized by Oleksa Drachewych, Ian McKay and Maxime Dagenais, Transnational Leftism: The Comintern and the National, Colonial and Racial Questions seeks to draw together scholars from Canada and around the world to reflect upon the potential of the transnational turn for re-imagining the history of Communists, the Comintern and questions of race, nation and imperialism. It will also seek to unite the often disconnected histories of individual Communist Parties throughout the world with those of Canada. We invite papers on all aspects of the Comintern on issues of race and nationhood. How coherent, consistent, comprehensible and plainly communicated was the ‘Comintern Line’ on these questions? Were race and nation, within the Communist movement and beyond it, conceptualized as being the same or distinct questions? Once in place, could the line with respect to them be modified, either explicitly or implicitly, by activists? Could the Comintern position be subjected to local amendment – and even wholesale revision? Furthermore, we encourage papers that speak on the legacies and ideology of the Comintern and its significance in shaping the anti-colonial and post-colonialist movements of resistance. Exploring the transnational entanglements of World Communism, nationalism and anti-racism, in the years in which the Comintern rose and fell as an influential global actor, this workshop ultimately aims to ask new questions and incite fresh debates about the contested legacy of the Comintern in the twentieth century.

This workshop will be held September 21-22, 2017 at the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The Wilson Institute will provide assistance towards lodging and travel re-imbursement for accepted speakers. Proposals should include a brief one-page C.V. and a 250-word abstract of the proposed paper, and are due by 31 March 2017. A select number of papers will also be chosen for publication in an edited collection to be part of the Canada in the World Series with McGill-Queen’s University Press. Submissions and all inquiries should be directed to