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Revisionism

From Academic Kids

Revisionism is a word which has several meanings.

  • Among historians, revisionism has traditionally been used in a completely neutral sense to describe the work or ideas of a historian who has revised a previously accepted view of a particular topic. As historical research techniques change many fields of research go through periods of controversy as younger historians seek to revise established knowledges. See historical revisionism.
    • This usage has declined amongst some historians because within the field of Holocaust studies revisionism has come to specifically designate historical work which aims to deny the extent of the Jewish Holocaust.
    • More generally, revisionism is used by non-historians as a pejorative term for biased historical work which denies that some past events took place. See historical revisionism (political).

Revisionism in Socialism

Revisionism has often been used as a term of abuse within socialism. It has, however, been used in different ways at different times about different socialist trends.

  • In late 19th century revisionism was used to describe writers such as Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky who sought to revise the teachings of Karl Marx by claiming that a violent revolution was not necessary to achieve socialism. In all further uses of this term, there was an initial intent to create "guilt by association" between the abused socialist, and the actions of Bernstein and Kautsky in opposing violent revolution. See reformism.
  • In the 1940s and 1950s within the international Communist movement, revisionism was used to describe Communists who focused on consumer goods production instead of heavy industry, accepted national differences and encouraged democratic reforms. Revisionism was one of the charges leveled at national communists or Titoists in a series of purges beginning in 1949 in Eastern Europe. After Stalin's death revisionism became briefly acceptable in Hungary during Imre Nagy's government (1953-1955) and in Poland during Wladyslaw Gomulka's government, although neither Nagy nor Gomulka described themselves as revisionists.
  • Following the Soviet repression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, many people, particularly intellectuals, resigned from western Communist parties in protest. They were sometimes accused of revisionism by "loyalist" Communists. E. P. Thompson's New Reasoner was an example of this revisionism. This movement eventually became known as the New Left.

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