Was 'actually existing socialism' reformable at all? Were there missed opportunities for reform? When and how did it all go wrong? These were some of the big questions addressed at the Socialist History conference on 'Reform Communism since 1945 in comparative historical context' in October 2011, which brought together historians and political scientists, Marxists and non-Marxists, former communist activists, and outspoken critics of the communist project from across Europe. Nineteen presentations over the two days of the conference discussed the experience of reform as well as reforming currents and pressures within the post-war communist movement. Four of the papers are published here. Hans Asenbaum examines the ideas prevalent amongst activists during perestroikia in the USSR, using his own interviews conducted in Moscow, Vasil Paraskevov looks at what perestroikia meant for the rule of one of Eastern Europe's greatest survivors, Bulgaria's Todor Zhivkov. The failure of both reform communists and Marxist dissidents to articulate a coherent alternative to capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe is considered by Hugo Radice, while Mike Waite discusses how far communism can be reformed before it ceases to be recognisable as communism.