Pelz, William A.
The European Left on the March
Year of Publication: 2007
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2007. XII, 159 pp.
ISBN 978-0-8204-6776-4 hardback (Hardcover)
Weight: 0.360 kg, 0.794 lbs
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Typically the gains in living standards and political rights of Europeans are presented as flowing from the good graces of industrial capitalism. In reality, as this book proves, it was the massive, militant struggle of millions of average persons who forced concessions such as the welfare state and free elections to Parliament. Without understanding the revolutionary vision and the pressure it placed on European rulers, it is difficult to understand contemporary society.
About the author(s)/editor(s)
The Author: Holding a Ph.D. in contemporary European history and an M.A. in politics, William A. Pelz is the author of The Spartkusbund and the German Working Class Movement (1988) and Wilhelm Liebknecht and German Social Democracy (1994) and editor of The Eugene V. Debs Reader: Socialism and Democracy (2000). His articles and book reviews have appeared in the American Historical Review, International Labor and Working Class History, German History, Sozialismus, JahrBuch für Forschungen zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung, and International Labor History Yearbook among others.
«The hardest trick for a historian to pull off, especially when engaged in a work aimed at a broad readership, is to tell an interesting story without sacrificing analysis and explanation. In his history of the rise of the European radical Left in the half-century following the foundation of the International Working Men’s Association in 1871, William A. Pelz has performed this feat admirably. Although this revolutionary Left failed in its goal of destroying capitalism as a basis of political power and instituting a classless society, it played a major and positive role in creating the world we know. Pelz explains this paradox, while maintaining a well-paced narrative of the individual men and women, sometimes heroic and sometimes less so, who built and staffed this movement.» (Steven McGiffen, Editor of Spectre Magazine (France); Visiting Professor of International Relations, American Graduate School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Paris)
«Criticisms of a world governed by the marketplace rather than by people have become all the more timely with the acknowledged global environmental crisis and the ever-tighter control of money over the political processes in capitalist societies. Students interested in a historical perspective on these questions will find William A. Pelz’s ‘Against Capitalism’ a coherent, concise, and accurate description of the emergence of the European Left and its enduring significance. This book is a real gem!» (Mark Lause, Professor of History, University of Cincinnati)
«This is a very useful introduction to the adolescent years of socialism in Europe. It clearly demonstrates how very differently socialists looked for answers to very diverse national problems and how difficult it was to find international unity. More important, the book shows the significance of these different socialist ideals and movements for the development and the emancipation of the individual. This is why, at the beginning of this new century, social ideals continue to attract great interest in Europe and elsewhere in the world.» (Ronald van Raak, Member of Dutch Parliament, Socialist Party of the Netherlands)
«‘Against Capitalism’ is a lucid narrative and a thoughtful interpretation of the European labor movement between 1871 and 1921. Full of factual details and many insightful observations, the book will profoundly enlighten anyone interested in the understanding of this crucial phase of modern European history.» (Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, Surendra Nath Banerjee Professor of Political Science, The University of Calcutta, India)
«This wonderful book is a great contribution to our understanding of modern European history. It tells us the true story of the European Left focusing on the most crucial period in its development. It starts with the rise and growth of socialism in Western Europe at the time of the 1871 Paris Commune and continues through the war and revolutions up to 1921 – the most radical span in history of the left-wing European movement. It was during this span that the Left promoted an alternative worldview to the nationalism surging throughout Europe. However, the view turned bankrupt, ending with the defeat of the most extreme communist revolts. Was this bankruptcy fatal? Was it inevitable? Was it caused by the balance of power? William A. Pelz answers these questions thoroughly and in a scholarly manner. His conclusions are both convincing and valuable. He adds many new and important details to a familiar story that acquires fresh flavor in his explanation. ‘Against Capitalism’ broadens our horizons, enriches our perceptions, and helps us better understand the history of world communism.» (Alexander V. Pantsov, Professor of History, Capital University)
«Willam A. Pelz’s accessible history of the European Left demystifies the main currents of the socialist era’s contending movements. It isnecessary reading for anyone concerned to learn the European tradition of leftist struggle.» (Harvey Partica, University of Illinois at Chicago)
«‘Against Capitalism’ is a very welcome new survey of the history of the European Left during the half century between the Paris Commune (1871) and the years following the close of World War I (1921). Compact, well-written, eminently readable and grounded in a broad range of pertinent scholarly literature, William A. Pelz’s synthesis of the formative experiences of the Left in Europe will serve as a refreshing antidote to the current amnesia about this critical period in the struggles of working people against the oppression visited upon them by the capitalist powers that dominated Europe.» (Patrick M. Quinn, Northwestern University)
Studies in Modern European History. Vol. 52
General Editor: Frank J. Coppa