Cults of Circumstance
Chapter 5 is divided into three sections. The first considers the figure of the martyr-victim-hero through the contrasting cases of the Bulgarian Georgi Dimitrov and the German Ernst Thälmann. Both were the focus of major international campaigns in the 1930s, but it was Dimitrov’s conduct at the Reichstag fire trial of 1933 that generated support and interest beyond the usual communist circles and provided a source of personal political capital which Dimitrov for a time deployed at the head of the Communist International. The second section considers the cult of the writer. This was a long-established feature of radical movements and in a communist context it may be traced from Marx. The discussion here also focuses on the cults of writers like the Russian Maxim Gorky and the French Henri Barbusse, and describes how these were progressively subordinated to the primary cult of the party leaders whose writings came to be venerated in the form of their collected works. The third section examines the legitimation or foundation cults of an international cast of figures including Clara Zetkin in Germany, Marcel Cachin in France, Tom Mann in Britain, and W.Z. Foster in the USA. It concludes with a discussion of the posthumous foundation cult of the Italian Antonio Gramsci.