miércoles, 8 de abril de 2015

New light on the profound relations among revolution, dictatorship, and family.

Family politics: 
domestic life under 20th century dictators

by Francis Phillips

National portraits of domestic life, devastation and survival 1900 - 1950.

The author, Professor of Contemporary European History at the University of Florence, has produced a reflective and wide-ranging study of an area often neglected by historians. Ginsborg has chosen for his analysis the history of family policies and family politics in five nation states during a period of huge upheaval and change: Russia, moving from her imperial past to the Soviet Union; Turkey, from the demise of the Ottoman Empire to a modern republic; Italy, from a fragile Liberalism to Fascism; Spain, before, during and after the Civil War; and Germany, from the failure of the Weimar Republic to National Socialism.

It is a large canvas, as the author admits; necessarily selective of material available, he is also candid as to where his prejudices and his heart lie: with all those ordinary families, clinging tenaciously to normality under abnormal circumstances forced on them by the whim of those in power.

“All these regimes attempted to mould and manipulate family life” he points out, charting the suffering endured by millions of families during the time-span discussed; but also suggesting in his conclusion that the family unit is too ancient, strong and flexible to be destroyed, even though, as under Stalinism, the attacks on it were formidable, sustained and widespread. The dictatorships of Stalin, Ataturk, Mussolini, General Franco and Hitler all recognised, in different ways, the importance for society of obedient and traditional families.

Heartbreaking problems arose for those groups of people and communities who, through no fault of their own, found themselves on the “wrong side” of government ideology: republican families in Spain after Franco’s victory; “bourgeois” families in Soviet Russia; Jewish and gypsy families in Nazi Germany; Armenians in Turkey and so on.

Ginsborg explains why the devastation of families was far greater in Russia than in the other regimes. Many factors contributed to this, such as the terrible conditions endured by the Russian peasantry during and after the Russian Revolution and as a consequence of the First World War; and the disease, famine and slaughter that followed the Civil War, in which violence and terror caused a total death toll of perhaps eight million. Before this, in pre-revolutionary Russia, the future “proletariat” was enduring life in “the hovels of St Petersburg [where] men and women were divided by grinding poverty, by impossible hours of work and by constant exhaustion and ill-health.”

The tragedy that unfolded in Russia continued under Stalin.


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