Logo des 49. Historikertags 2012 Ressourcen und Konflikte

49. Deutscher Historikertag 2012: Ressourcen - Konflikte

Socialism and Internationalism

Referent/in: Talbot Imlay

Whether viewed as an ideology, a popular movement, a political party or a form of government, socialism occupies a prominent place in modern European history.  Its impact has been both deep and enduring.  This paper explores a major yet neglected dimension of 20th century socialism: the international and transnational activities of socialists.  For extended periods during the last century Europe’s socialist (or social-democratic) parties formed a transnational community bound together by a thick web of formal and informal ties that transcended party and national affiliations.  Far from being marginal, membership in this community was at times central to the identity and behaviour of socialist parties.  Accordingly, the paper investigates ‘the practice of socialist internationalism’ (Imlay): the sustained efforts of socialist parties to work out common “socialist” positions on prominent issues of international politics.  The focus is on the British, French and German parties – the parties that dominated international socialism.  The period covered stretches from the end of the First World War to circa 1960, paying particular interest to the two post-war periods when socialist internationalism was strongest.

The paper has three tasks,  The first is to convey some idea of the vibrancy of socialist internationalism after each world war.  What is striking from this perspective is the importance that socialists attached to reconstructing an international socialist community torn apart by war.  The second task is explain why socialist internationalism subsequently waned during the 1930s and again during the 1960s.  Why were socialist parties unable to sustain their collective commitment to one another?  Part of the answer, the paper argues lies in the practice of inter-party consultation, which arguably encouraged a re-nationalization of socialist internationalism in which each party was tempted to define its international policies on its own rather than with its sister parties.  The final task is to explore what the history of socialist internationalism can tell us about the phenomenon of internationalism more generally.  The argument here is that socialist internationalism represented the most promising example of a particular type of late 19th – early 20th century internationalism – one centred on nationally based political parties.


Kategorie: Neuere/Neueste Geschichte