Common Destiny: A Comparative History of the Dutch, French, and German Social Democratic Parties, 1945-1969

By Dietrich Orlow | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven
THE END OF THE LONG DECADE

Crisis and Response, 1955-1961

T here were clear signs toward the end of the 1950s that the postwar era was coming to an end. The West European countries were undergoing rapid qualitative and quantitative changes, becoming tertiary industrial, bourgeoisified societies. Critics disdainfully called the new phenomenon a "consumerist society," but they could not prevent the Socialists' core constituency, the industrial workers, from enthusiastically embracing their increasingly bourgeoisified status. 1 At the same time the Social Democratic parties seemed ill-prepared to deal with the new challenges. The Club Jean Moulin, one of a number of new left-wing political groups that emerged in France at the end of the decade (a development that was itself evidence of changing political patterns), commented derisively that both the Communists and the non-Communist French Left had lost touch with reality, and become irrelevant for the groups that really mattered in the new society. 2

While this conclusion might be dismissed as a polemical assessment, it is true that the three parties were facing serious organizationa, ideological and political problems at the end of the decade. Everywhere members took little interest in party activities, leading to calls for overhauls of the parties' organizational structures to make them more open and pluralistic. In Germany and France the Social Democrats had to find ways of coping with the rise (or continued success) of bourgeois catch-all parties — the Christian Democrats in Germany and the Gaullists in France. (In Holland the establishment of a single Christian Democratic party was still some years away.) At the same time the Social Democrats had to

-183-

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Common Destiny: A Comparative History of the Dutch, French, and German Social Democratic Parties, 1945-1969
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Abberviations viii
  • Introduction 1
  • Parallel Pasts - Founding to 1945 9
  • The Making of a Tertiary Industrial Society, 1945-1969 29
  • Euphoria, Disillusionment, and Adaptation, 1945-1949 44
  • Parties in Flux, 1946-1957 65
  • Domestic Affairs, 1945-1955 102
  • Foreign Relations, 1945-1955 139
  • The End of the Long Decade - Crisis and Response, 1955-1961 183
  • The Troubled 1960s 224
  • Conclusion 272
  • Notes 281
  • Bibliography 327
  • Index 360
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