The enemy of my enemy is my friend? Comparing Soviet and Anglo-American discourse on human rights and dissidents 1964-1991

Brown, James Petrie (2023) The enemy of my enemy is my friend? Comparing Soviet and Anglo-American discourse on human rights and dissidents 1964-1991. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
brown.james_phd (15001323).pdf - Submitted Version

Download (1MB) | Preview


Western discourse on Soviet dissidents like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Western politicians and journalists’ citation of them as evidence of liberal individualism’s inevitable triumph against communist totalitarianism, is interpreted by historians as having been integral to the Cold War’s ideological conflict. However, this thesis demonstrates that the USSR was equally interested in depicting left-wing political figures in the West as dissidents who were evidence of capitalism’s unpopularity and socialism’s inevitable universal rise. This Soviet propaganda narrative primarily focused on figures from the Western New Left and trade unions. To counter the criticism Moscow received from the 1960s onwards for its abuse of Soviet dissidents’ human rights, Soviet media utilised an interpretation of human rights that emphasised the centrality of labour rights. Soviet discourse depicted protesting New Leftists and striking trade unionists as dissidents who were the victims of Western anti-socialist state repression. Historians have only recently begun to study this aspect of Cold War history, and this thesis provides a new comprehensive study that reveals how the Soviet state invested significant media and diplomatic resources in building a narrative that depicted the West as the Cold War’s worse abuser of human rights. By comparatively analysing Western and Soviet political discourse during 1964-91, making particular use of EastView’s archives of Soviet newspapers and journals alongside other contemporary sources, this thesis presents findings that have important implications to historians’ understandings of the Cold War. Particularly, they support the case increasingly made by scholars that Cold War history should be read forwards, rather than backwards from the vantage points of 1989 or 1991, to fully appreciate the complex development of the conflict by highlighting how human rights were a contested concept despite the eventual dominance of the Western interpretation post-1991 while also highlighting overlooked debate among Soviet elites and oppositionists over Western dissent.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cold War, communism, dissent, international politics, transnational history
Subjects: L200 Politics
L300 Sociology
P900 Others in Mass Communications and Documentation
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2023 14:18
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2023 09:45

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics