European Socialists Respond to Fascism: Ideology, Activism, and Contingency in the 1930s

European Socialists Respond to Fascism: Ideology, Activism, and Contingency in the 1930s

European Socialists Respond to Fascism: Ideology, Activism, and Contingency in the 1930s

European Socialists Respond to Fascism: Ideology, Activism, and Contingency in the 1930s

Synopsis

Based on documents collected in six European countries, European Socialists Respond to Fascism: Ideology, Activism and Contingency in the 1930s is a transnational study of largely parallel developments in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and Spain in the years 1933-1936. Triggered into action by the shock effect of the Nazi rise to power in Germany, socialists throughout Western Europe entered an unusually active period of practical reorientation and debate over political strategy which helped determine the contours of European politics up to the outbreak of World War II and beyond. Stressing the transnational dimension of this process while simultaneously integrating local, regional, and national factors, this work finds that it was social democracy, rather than communism, that acted as the primary vehicle for radical change among European marxists during the 1930s. Following major figures within the European left and the significant events that made up the inter-war period, Gerd-Rainer Horn demonstrates the interconnectedness of Europe's interwar socialists. Finally, Horn manages to relate these findings to the ongoing interdisciplinary debate on structure, agency, and contingency in the historical process.

Excerpt

This study concerns a crucial transnational "moment of opportunity and crisis" in the 1930s. It presents an analysis and description of one of those rare incidents in modern European history when seemingly utopian visions suddenly appeared realizable. By sheer coincidence, the archival research for this study paralleled the life span of yet another transnational event in twentieth-century history. I landed in Diisseldorf roughly two weeks after the Hungarian government opened its Austrian border to would-be emigrants from Eastern Europe to the West. I left Amsterdam for my return trip to Detroit two weeks after the 3 October 1990 elections that sealed the unification of former East and West Germany.

In those turbulent thirteen months between September 1989 and October 1990 I visited nineteen archives in six countries (seven if one takes into account that in April 1990 the German Democratic Republic was nominally still an independent state). Rather than listing each archive separately, I would like to express my gratitude collectively for permission to examine their holdings. A significant proportion of my research year was indeed spent in these archives. My memories of 1989-90 will forever include the majestic view of Amsterdam's old harbor from the reading room of the IISG; the meandering walks through the old center of Salamanca while waiting for new dossiers to arrive in the AHNS; the wintry morning walks from the Leopoldstadt through the Kärntnerstrasse to the VGA in the old SPÖ party headquarters on the Rechte Wienzeile; and much else.

Archives merely furnish raw materials; it takes people to examine their holdings and extract meaning from them. Countless individuals have helped me make sense of this project; I can mention only some of them here. This work is based upon my dissertation (University of Michigan, 1992) and I want to thank the members of my dissertation committee--Kathleen Canning, Geoff Eley, Janet Hart, Ronald Suny-- for putting up with the demands of this transnational study and for their continuing encouragement and help. In addition, Denise De Weerdt, Andrew Durgan, Santos Juliá Diaz, Fritz Keller, A. H. van Peski, Michael Schneider, Adrian Shubert, Carl Strikwerda and Reiner Tosstorff have given me substantive feedback on one or several draft chapters or have aided me in other crucial ways. Two unorthodox Belgians--

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