Travellers of the World Revolution

Travellers of the World Revolution:A Global History of the Communist International

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Hope, Struggle and Defeat: The Communist International and the Global Fight for Freedom

The Communist International was the first organised attempt to bring about worldwide revolution and left a lasting mark on 20th-century history. The book offers a new and fascinating account of this transnational organisation founded in 1919 by Lenin and Trotsky and dissolved by Stalin in 1943, telling the story through the eyes of the activists who became its "professional revolutionaries".

Studer follows such figures as Willi Münzenberg, Mikhail Borodin, M.N. Roy and Evelyn Trent, Tina Modotti, Agnes Smedley and many others less well-known as they are despatched to the successive political hotspots of the 1920s and '30s, from revolutionary Berlin to Baku, from Shanghai to Spain, from Nazi Germany to Stalin's Moscow. It traces their journeys from revolutionary hope to accommodation, defeat or death, looking at questions of motivation and commitment, agency and negotiation, of life and love, conflict and frustration. In doing so, it reveals a forgotten Comintern, the expression of a multi-dimensional revolutionary moment, which attracted not only working-class but feminist, anti-racist, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist activists, highlighting the role of women in the Comintern and the centrality of anti-colonialism to the Communist project. The book concludes with a reflection on the ultimate demise of a historically unique undertaking.


  • Over the past quarter of a century, Brigitte Studer has established herself as the world's most original and creative historian of the Comintern. She has pioneered a style of history that transcends the Cold War story of leaders, institutions, ideological clashes, and organizational acronyms in order to explore the lives of those individuals who dedicated themselves to making communist revolution. In Travellers of the World Revolution she explores with verve and insight the lives of two dozen Comintern activists, men and women who were sent by Moscow across the world to set up communist parties, found newspapers, organize and finance political uprisings and military action, or engage in espionage on behalf of the Soviet motherland. Living out of suitcases, they were at constant risk of arrest, interrogation, torture, and even death; yet Studer also shows that much of their lives comprised a dull routine of keeping Moscow informed of what they were doing. As a study of revolutionary commitment it is a first-class piece of work.

    Steve A. Smith, All Souls College, Oxford
  • Travellers of the World Revolution is a fascinating history of the Comintern from the perspective of the women and men who in the 1920s and 1930s staffed its offices from Moscow to Berlin, Shanghai, and Madrid. Tracking these polyglot border crossers, who worked as translators, bookkeepers, propagandists, instructors, couriers, and sometimes spies, Brigitte Studer uncovers their efforts to revolutionize the world and themselves. Her account of the everyday lives of the Comintern's daring world travellers reveals the appeal -- and the limits -- of dreams of economic, racial, and gender equality.

    Lisa A. Kirschenbaum, West Chester University
  • Usually, historians of the Communist International have focused on parties, congresses, and strategies. Brigitte Studer changes the perspective: she reconstitutes the epic, exciting, and tragic itinerary of a few generations of human beings who made revolution a form of life. She merges the carefulness of historical scholarship with the sensitivity of feminism and a postcolonial gaze, thus offering a completely new portrait of the Communist International. Her magisterial work is irreplaceable both for our historical knowledge and for the memory of the left in the twenty-first century.

    Enzo Traverso