Workers & Protest: The European Labor Movement, the Working Classes and the Origins of Social Democracy, 1890-1914

Workers & Protest: The European Labor Movement, the Working Classes and the Origins of Social Democracy, 1890-1914

Workers & Protest: The European Labor Movement, the Working Classes and the Origins of Social Democracy, 1890-1914

Workers & Protest: The European Labor Movement, the Working Classes and the Origins of Social Democracy, 1890-1914

Excerpt

Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Stearns have written an unusual book. I applaud their method, even if I do not share all their conclusions. By laying their essays side by side they have let the cat out of the bag and revealed how differently the history of the labor movement between 1890 and 1914 may be written. And they have had the courage to make these differences explicit in the comments with which they have closed the book. These comments might have been mere polite exchanges of compliments, the salutes of scholars from afar as their ships momentarily crossed courses. Instead, they force the authors out of their chosen positions and make them face the opponent's fire. The reader stands by and learns from the resulting confrontation.

II

Mr. Mitchell's essay brings out the striking differences in the development of the working-class movement in three European countries: England, France, and Germany. Merely to list a few of these differences is to explain why generalizations about European labor history in this period (and any other) must be made with extreme caution. In Germany Marxism was taken seriously and Marx was actually read; in France and England Marxism was never able to supplant indigenous ideological traditions. In England the trade-union movement preceded the Labour party; in Germany the Social Democratic party created the union movement; in France the most important trade-union organization— . . .

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