Across the iron curtain
: European socialism between World War and Cold War, 1943-1948

  • Jan-Arend de Graaf

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis is a comparative history of the post-war European socialist parties, 1943-1948 – with a focus on the Czechoslovakian Social Democratic Party and the Polish Socialist Party in Eastern Europe as well as the French Socialist Party and the Italian Socialist Party in Western Europe. Its foremost aim is to demonstrate that the countries of East and West, far from already being divided by an Iron Curtain, faced much the same challenges during these first post-war years. Contrary to the conventional historiographical picture of an international socialist movement split along Cold War lines, therefore, it draws attention to the divergences within and parallels across the two putative ‘blocs’.

    To do so, the thesis moves the spotlight away from geo-politics and focuses upon that set of problems that really dominated the agendas of the post-war European socialist parties – the problems of post-war reconstruction. The thesis addresses socialist attitudes towards two of the key dimensions of post-war reconstruction.

    Its first part deals with socio-economic reconstruction. This part demonstrates that there was often a profound disconnect between socialist leaders in national government and the workers at their grassroots. Whereas rank-and-file (socialist) workers berated their leaders for their failure to improve the material situation, for their inability to clamp down upon the black market, and for the remaining inequalities of post-war life, national party leaders scolded workers for their unruliness and for their unwillingness to make sacrifices towards the greater political good.

    Its second part deals with political reconstruction – more specifically with the question of rebuilding democracy. This part demonstrates that, contrary to what many historians of post-war (Western) European socialism claim, there was no across-the-board socialist conversion to a parliamentary road to socialism. Yet, the fault lines between those parties insisting on a strict adherence to the rulebook of political democracy and those advocating a radical departure from representative democracy did not divide neatly between East and West.
    Date of AwardApr 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Portsmouth
    SupervisorWolfram Kaiser (Supervisor), Emmanuel Godin (Supervisor) & Jodi Burkett (Supervisor)

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