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One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West…

One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth… (edition 1998)

by Donald Sassoon (Author)

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Title:One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century
Authors:Donald Sassoon (Author)
Info:New Press (1998), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:European history, European politics, Socialism, new, read

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One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century by Donald Sassoon



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Donald Sassoon has truly created a major work of research with the book "One Hundred Years of Socialism". Despite the general title, in reality the book deals in-depth (and then I mean REALLY in-depth) with the socialist political parties of all sorts in Western Europe throughout the last century, their various interpretations of socialism, and their electoral successes and losses. Sassoon clearly emphasizes the UK and Italy, but pays attention to all major nations of Western Europe and quite some smaller ones too, like the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, etc. Not only this, but he also gives full attention to the social-democrats as well as the communists, various independent socialists, and their internal as well as external conflict.

The book is very well supported by copious amounts of statistics, tables, overviews etc. containing anything from election results to relative productivity increases. Each party's attitudes towards domestic issues, foreign policy, economic policy, as well as to the Wars and the Cold War is meticulously registered, and every change of leadership or strategy explained in-depth. A complaint could be that, despite promises of the entire 20th century, by far the greater part of the book is about post-war Europe (in fact only the first four chapters address the period 1900-1945). But when Sassoon engages something, he does it above all thoroughly, and so there is nothing anyone could possibly want to know about postwar socialism that is not in this book.

The writing is very dry and factual, at times encyclopedic in style. Sassoon himself takes care not to take sides in any internal disputes between various socialist views (communist vs reformist etc.), but clearly does have a general sympathy for socialism. When he assesses policy, he generally does so in a balanced and judicious manner. At most one could argue that he is probably a bit too critical of the SFIO as well as the 'unreformed' communists, who are never portrayed in a positive light, but that is a minor issue. Finally, the epilogue is a competent if somewhat vague assessment of the results of socialists in the 20th century, and a critical view towards the future.

A good indication of the encyclopedic and thorough nature of the work is that the notes, bibliography and index together already form 187 pages: truly a mastodontic work of history. If Sassoon can spend the time to make another such work about, say, socialism outside Europe, or socialism in Eastern Europe, he could be the greatest 'outsider' chronicler of socialist strategy since H.P.G. Quack. ( )
1 vote McCaine | Feb 2, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0006863760, Paperback)

The 100-year-period from 1880 to 1980 has seen the inception, unification, division and ultimate destruction of all of Western Europe's Socialist and Progressive parties. Whether in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, the Iberian peninsula, Greece or the Low Countries, the end of the 20th century sees the Western European Left in comprehensive retreat from its long-term ambitions to overthrow - or at least reform - the capitalist system. Sassoon's main thesis is that far from overthrowing capitalism, socialism has, in the late 19th and 20th century, enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with it. Each has systematically given substantial ground to the other.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:15 -0400)

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