Socialism on the Decline

EBENSTEIN, WILLIAM

Socialism on the Decline European Socialism. By Carl A. Landauer. California. 1,894 pp. $20.00. Reviewed by William Ebenstein Professor of Politics, Princeton University SOCIALISM IS IN serious...

...In the case of the Scandinavian countries, Landauer treats Denmark and Sweden briefly, but bypasses Norway entirely...
...A history of European socialism without Britain is, therefore, like a history of Fascism without Germany, or a history of capitalism without the United States...
...First, like most thoughtful socialists today, he concedes that the concept of nationalization (or "communal ownership") can no longer be the great driving force of socialism, the source of intensive emotional appeal...
...However, even the limitation of scope to Europe has its difficulties...
...In England and Germany, the decade of the '50s has been disastrous and humiliating for the Labor party and the Social Democrats...
...In one sense, this is true: Of all European socialist movements, the British labor movement has been most amply and most adequately analyzed...
...His criticism may be valid, yet Landauer apparently does not fully appreciate the fact that there were Matteottis in Italy who dared defy Mussolini at the risk of their lives...
...After a century of organization, propaganda and active political struggle, most Socialist parties are clearly on the decline...
...This is honorable testimony to the high standards of scholarship Landauer sets for himself, but the consequent loss of perspective is more serious...
...Where Lenin was generally still honest enough to distinguish between Bolshevik Communism and democratic socialism, Stalin and Khrushchev, who appropriated whole countries...
...What is questioned is merely the wisdom of including Soviet Communism in a history of European socialism...
...but the inclusion of Soviet Communism after the Civil War in a book on European socialism raises more than semantic objections...
...This again seems an error of judgment, since Norwegian socialism is the record of a success story full of lessons for the rest of Europe...
...Landauer's concentration on Europe suffers from the self-chosen limitation of a certain parochialism, but gains correspondingly in solidity of scholarship and depth of treatment...
...Yet, when it comes to the failure of German socialism in 1932, when Franz von Papen had Otto Braun and Karl Severing removed from the Prussian Government by two police officers, Landauer concludes that the argument for having done nothing to resist this fateful coup d'etat "seems irrefutable...
...Of all major European nations, Britain is the only one in which the Socialist movement has never suffered the catastrophies of the Socialist parties in France, Germany, Italy or Spain...
...The second is one policy makers in Washington ought to keep in mind: Of the dominant ideologies in Europe, socialism is the only one that can appeal to Continental European workers, who feel no great affinity or sympathy for either traditional liberalism (because it is too tainted by its bourgeois origins) or religious parties (because they are too influenced by organized churches and hierarchies...
...Is this the beginning of the end of socialism as a major political force, or is it merely a temporary decline to be followed by a new renaissance...
...Britain is possibly the only country in which some fresh thinking has been done (some of it published in THE NEW LEADER in the last two or three years), although the Labor party as a whole seems to be unable to make up its mind whether such new ideas are heresy to be condemned or the beginning of a new creed which the labor movement must adopt if it is to win office ever again...
...Of the four, Landauer feels most at home with German ideas and events, having participated in the activities of the German Social Democratic party until 1933, when he came to the United States...
...This is particularly true in the case of Hungary, whose Socialist movement, going back to the old days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is simply too important a part of European socialism to be entirely omitted...
...If Landauer excludes British socialism on the ground that there is plenty of material available to the American reader, the same argument can be made even more forcefully with regard to Soviet Communism...
...To compound his difficulties, Lan-dauer has chosen to include Russia, perfectly justifiable with respect to the earlier phase of Russian socialism, say until 1917 or perhaps 1921...
...But what is needed in the case of British socialism is more in the nature of perspective rather than straight historical writing...
...In discussing the origins of European socialismóone of the most interesting sections of the whole workóLandauer devotes relatively little space to French and English humanistic socialists as contrasted with the attention given to Marx and other German thinkers...
...In discussing the decline of European Socialist parties in the 1920s and 1930s, Landauer criticizes the Italian Socialists for not having acted against Mussolini's dictatorship after the assassination of Giacomo Mat-teotti in 1924...
...Since most authoritative writers on the subject (with the exception of Max Beer) have been British, it is only natural that they see the record of British socialism in the perspective of British politics rather than of European affairs...
...In looking toward the future, Landauer makes a few penetrating and wise points...
...It would probably be unfair to single out the Socialists among the whole German people: Just as the Germans as a nation resisted Fascism less than almost any other European people, German Socialists cannot point to a record of resistance, either before or after 1933, comparable to that of most other European socialist movements...
...Some portions of Cole's history, particularly those dealing with extra-European countries or small European nations, are a little thin and, at times, necessarily a bit superficial...
...It is astonishing that there has been relatively little critical self-examination and self-analysis within the Socialist parties themselves of what has gone wrong, why socialism has been on the decline, particularly after the defeat of Fascism and Nazism...
...From the viewpoint of American national interest, strong Socialist parties on the European Continent are therefore not half-way stations toward the Communist slave state, as reckless American politicians have occasionally suggested, but bulwarks of democratic defense against Soviet imperialism...
...This has advantages and disadvantages...
...Before he died in 1959, G.D.H...
...Whereas Cole encompassed the whole world in his work, Landauer sticks to Europe...
...Cole completed A History of Socialist Thought, a massive work in five volumes which will probably outlive his other (and numerous) writings...
...Even more questionable is Lan-dauer's decision to exclude Great Britain on the ground that there is plenty of satisfactory literature on British socialism easily available to the American reader, such as the works of the Webbs, Max Beer and Cole...
...Yet, to compensate for this deficiency, Cole manages to give a world-wide view of socialist thought and activity such as is not available from any other source...
...The present stagnation of world socialism is a good time to take stock of the history and evolution of socialist thought and politics...
...Only in a few isolated and (from a global viewpoint) minor areas, such as Scandinavia and Israel, does socialism continue as the principal political force in national politics...
...The focus of Landauer's history of European socialism is on the four major countries of the Continent: Germany, Russia, France and Italy...
...For linguistic reasons, the Balkan nations are entirely omitted...
...Yet, if European socialism west of Russia is to have any future at all, it will draw its spiritual nourishment from the early English and French humanistic socialistsóridiculed by Marx as "utopians"órather than from Marx and Lassalle, and much less from Lenin and his successors...
...In France and Italy, Communism rather than socialism is the dominant force in working-class politics, pointing to deeply rooted conditions of disease in both countries which no temporary palliatives or miraclesóbe they the work of God or (as in the case of France) a demi-godócan permanently cure...
...have probably not had their misappropriation of the term "socialism" for Soviet Communism weigh heavily on their consciences...
...Compared with the resistance to Fascism by Austrian Socialists in 1934 and by Spaniards in 1936, the record of German socialism does not look too appealing...
...Reviewed by William Ebenstein Professor of Politics, Princeton University SOCIALISM IS IN serious trouble today...
...Now, the student of socialism is presented with another major work, by Carl A. Landauer, which runs to nearly 1,900 pages, and is destined to remain an important source for any future study of socialism...
...It is not suggested, of course, that Landaueróa socialist of profound and intransigent democratic convictionsóhas any sympathy for totalitarian Soviet Communism...

Vol. 43 • September 1960 • No. 35


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.