The communist collections of the IISH were not very elaborate for quite a while. This was not due to lack of interest but was because the communist world movement had founded a social history institute of its own shortly after the Russian Revolution in ‘its’ capital Moscow, later known as the Institute for Marxism-Leninism. For a long time, the different national communist parties were basically obliged to store their archives in Moscow.

While after the Russian Revolution the term ‘communism’ was used primarily for the views of centrally run Leninist parties, it originally denoted much older ideas about the desirability of public property, which became famous thanks to Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto from 1848 (49). In the seventeenth century these ideas had already surfaced in the English Revolution (50), and they resurfaced over a century later in the French one (51). Since then, they became part of a tradition embraced in socialism and anarchism alike throughout the nineteenth century. The ‘council communists’ criticizing the Moscow-oriented party communism (52) invoked it just as much as those sympathizing with Lev Trotsky in what was known as the Fourth International (54). All these movements are represented in the collections at the IISH.

In recent years the Institute has acquired major archival collections from communist parties as well. In addition to those of the Dutch CPN, these include organizations from Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and Sudan, which deposited their records in Amsterdam following the disappearance of the Soviet Union. Of course printed works, newspapers, and magazines were already being collected in communist states – as was a wealth of visual material, to which they consistently devoted special attention. In addition to the Soviet Union, Cuba (55), and the People’s Republic of China (56-57) provided the IISH with major visual collections.