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Communism in Europe

Splits In The European Social Democratic Movement

World War I and its aftermath shattered the delicate unity of the International. With the outbreak of war the overwhelming majority of socialists abandoned their pacifist and antinationalist stance. With the exception of the Serbian and both Russian movements, all the parties pledged themselves to their respective war efforts and in many cases joined governments of national unity. They gained respectability, a new status, and shared responsibility for government actions. But as the war progressed and antiwar sentiment grew, they also faced growing dissent from within their own ranks. War deprivation, inflation, labor disputes, and growing social and political unrest in many European states divided socialists. In Germany an antiwar group broke away from the SPD to form the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD, 1916). As the war dragged on to its close in late 1918, uncoordinated social and political unrest broke out in much of Europe, starting in Russia in February 1917 when the tsar abdicated and was replaced by a weak liberal government supported by the Mensheviks. Governments also collapsed in much of central and eastern Europe and were weakened elsewhere, including in states such as Spain that had been neutral in the war, creating power vacuums that were often filled by a plethora of ad hoc committees. Many of those involved in this so-called council communism in countries such as Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Italy were dissident socialists, but militants from other political movements, radicalized soldiers, and the previously uncommitted also participated. Women were also prominent in many of the activities of these committees, which challenged state authority and became a chief feature of the revolutionary unrest that gripped parts of Europe until 1921. They were heterogeneous in both their participants and in their political outlook, taking different forms in different places and at different times. In Austria, Germany, and Hungary during 1919 to 1921 workers and soldiers' councils became the basis for revolutionary insurrections that were suppressed by counter-revolutionary force. Elsewhere protest was essentially syndicalist in nature, with workplace committees formed as part of economic activities. These were significant in Britain, France, and Belgium and most widespread in northern Italy, where a wave of factory occupations spread across northern cities in late 1920. Revolutionary activists were galvanized by these events, even where they fell far short of an outright seizure of power. Once again the long-awaited crisis of capitalism seemed at hand. It was out of this chaotic situation that self-proclaimed communist movements and ideas appeared once more.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cluster compound to ConcupiscenceCommunism in Europe - Karl Marx And The Origins Of Modern Communism, Non-marxist Communism, Marxism And European Socialism