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Western Europe Faces the Future

ISSUE:  Autumn 1980
Eurocommunism and Eurosocialism: The Left Confronts Modernity. Edited by Bernard E. Brown. The Cycro Press Series on World and National Issues. $18.95 hardback, $9.95 paper. Germany in World Politics. Edited by Viola Herms Drath and George Schwab. The Cycro Press Series on World and National Issues. $15.95 hardback, $9.95 paper.

The best of Eurocommunism and Eurosocialism represents an unusually successful collective scholarly effort. The nemesis of digression and duplication has not been entirely banished from its pages, but resulting blemishes are negligible in number and size. The editor, Bernard E. Brown, has assembled a brilliant group of political scientists and historians, several of whom have obviously enjoyed sound training in economics. Their contributions are in most instances distinguished by mastery of subject, clarity of expression, and conceptual rigor. The editor has improved their labors with an exemplary introduction, “Definitions and Boundaries,” and an equally well-organized if somewhat less balanced conclusion.

Eurocommunism and Eurosocialism first reviews countries with divided left-wing movements (France, Italy, and Portugal), and then polities whose left wing is almost completely Laborite or Social Democratic (Great Britain, West Germany, and Sweden). The authors intended to limit themselves to major West European countries. However, Sweden’s “labor socialism” and Portugal’s recent emergence from dictatorship created settings sufficiently unusual and interesting to prompt their inclusion in this survey.

Only two essays offer less than the title page promises by virtually excluding the sub-title (The Left Confronts Modernity) from their subject matter. Giacomo Santi’s “Amici-Nemici: Parenti-Serpenti: Communists and Socialists in Italy” (pp. 105—143) confines itself to an analysis of Socialist and Communist Party strategies. How will the Socialists face a grand coalition of Communists and Christian Democrats? What will happen if certain traditional roles are reversed and the Communists become a government party while the Socialists spearhead the left opposition? Thomas C. Bruneau’s “The Left and the Emergence of Portuguese Liberal Democracy” (pp. 144-178) also sticks rather closely to rivalries and maneuvers on the divided left, this time in the context of a national adjustment to the transition from dictatorship to selfgovernment.

The remaining chapters address themselves to the entire subject. The inclusion of two papers each on France, Britain, and West Germany leads to some duplications in the last two cases, but since these essays are of such superior quality, it would be ungrateful to consider this a defect. In the British case, Lewis Minkin’s “Left-Wing Trade Unionism and the Tensions of British Labour Politics” (pp. 210—45) reviews in the narrower sphere of union politics the problems presented on a broader canvas in Robert J. Lieber’s “Labour in Power: Problems of Political Economy” (pp. 181—209). Both authors succeed equally in recording the agonies of a Socialist Party and union leadership destined to lead a great nation in decline.

The two papers on the West German left likewise represent such high levels of interest and competence that it would be churlish to dwell on the repetitions they contain. John H. Herz’s “Social Democracy versus Democratic Socialism” (pp. 246—83) almost loses its footing amidst the scholastic controversies of various young Socialist factions but pulls out of this morass in time to plead, with unusual eloquence, for constructive uses of the democratic ascendance which characterizes German socialism today:

Whatever mankind can marshal by way of applied science must be put into the service of enabling it to survive the danger of overpopulation, destruction of the biosphere, and resources depletion. And if it has historically been the function of the left to attack emerging problems posed by novel developments, while conservatives have traditionally fought to preserve existing structures, it is the left that here confronts one of its primary challenges, (p. 271. Italics are the reviewer’s.)

Ossip K. Flechtheim’s “The German Left and the World Crisis” (pp. 284—314) seconds the motion and reviews, in a somewhat different way, the dichotomy between social democratic challenge and performance. His analysis of German Socialist values and aspirations rests on a more extensive historical foundation from which Democratic Socialism emerges not as an alternative to the choices made in GDR, but as a “third way” “beyond capitalism and communism.” Flechtheim also provides a more detailed description of the chronological process by which SPD programs have evolved since 1945, a service for which nonspecialist readers should be particularly grateful. But he, no less than Herz, sees much of this story as a chronicle of procrastination and a succession of exercises in short-term, and shortsighted, policy. Flechtheim believes that Social Democrats must choose a path which leads to the decentralization of the bureaucratic state and the confrontation of ecological problems if they want a leading role in the future history of the Federal Republic.

The two chapters on France’s fragmented left-wing politics divide their territory with little overlap. “The Common Program in France” (pp. 14—66) by the editor, Bernard E. Brown, deals with the 1962 revival of the Popular Front of inglorious memory. His presentation culminates in a number of astute distinctions between Socialist and Communist attitudes toward growth. Brown finds that both support it, but while Socialists would have it managed by parliament and bureaucracy, Communists favor a “forced march toward modernity under the aegis of those who have a correct ‘scientific’ view of the. . . laws of historical development” (p. 36). The Communist view prohibits dissent, while the Socialists have debated the question and produced a number of interesting minority reports strongly tinged by the movement’s distinctively libertarian antecedents. This aspect of the modernization debate on the left is treated in Jean-Pierre Cot’s brilliant “Autogestion and Modernity in France” (pp. 67—103), the work of a professor who is also a deputy and a member of the Socialist Party’s steering committee. This lively, elegant account details a variety of approaches by different authors and groups whose ensemble demonstrates to what extent the views of right-wing libertarian, socialist, and anarchist groups may eventually converge to save mankind from itself.

The book concludes with a solid chapter on “Sweden’s Emerging Labor Socialism” by M. Donald Hancock (pp. 316—37) and Val R. Lorwin’s “Trade Unions and Women” (pp. 339—70). Hancock describes the plight of a party which includes not only 98. 9 per cent of labor but which has led governments since the 1930’s and which has become sensitized to the new issues not so much by the desire to gain power as by the wish to retain it. Swedish socialism, therefore, seeks to increase its appeal to the voter by stressing the improvement of the quality of factory work, the strengthening of democratic controls over the economy, and by pioneering new means of collective capital formation which will liberalize society without restoring the power of banks and corporations.

Sparkling and witty though it is, Val Lorwin’s essay hardly fits in. Its catalog of injustices inflicted by both capital and labor tells the reader nothing he does not already know. The extensive concluding section on women’s progress in Sweden purports to explain, but does not rise above description.

Bernard Brown’s epilogue concludes that Socialists grapple with modernization dilemmas, while Communists continue to see the world in terms of Karl Marx’s 19th century. Communism’s inflexible commitment to an orthodoxy of the past also persuades Brown to reject it as a trustworthy partner in democratic coalition politics. Despite these interesting and relevant insights, the conclusion suffers from the author’s tendency to mistake occasionally his own views for those of the author’s whose work he is summarizing (e. g. Herz and Flechtheim, see p. 390), and from his omission of any references to Socialist divisions on ecological and energy issues.

None of these imperfections detract seriously from a volume which constitutes a treasure of information and hardheaded analysis. It is an invaluable guide to contemporary politics in Western Europe, to whose richness no review can do complete justice.

The content of Germany in World Politics turns out to be less arresting. This volume is the work of a larger and more disparate group of authors, most of whose contributions read as if they had been prepared for a lay audience. They are elementary and introductory in character and include a considerable admixture of official pronouncements which makes occasionally pleasant and sometimes soporific reading. Hardly any of the chapters even touch the international questions whose treatment the title promises. Of the three parts which divide the volume—the political and economic dimension, the social dimension, and the literary dimension—the latter two treat only the German scene. Among apparent exceptions, Werner Steltzer’s “International Aspects of the German Resistance against Hitler” (pp. 129—51) is no more than a plea (still needed?) to recognize that there were Germans wh6 risked their lives defying Nazism. “The Marshall Plan Remembered” (pp. 192—98) by Robert G. Livingston, president of the German Marshall Fund in the United States, extols his organization’s role in keeping the spirit of the Marshall Plan alive. The chapters on literature are too brief to rise above name- and title-dropping.

It therefore remains to determine whether the papers on political and economic questions come closer to meeting the expectations aroused by the title. In Niels Hansen’s “U. S. German Relations within the American-European Partnership” (pp. 21—36), a minister of the Federal Republic’s embassy in Washington presents a well-wrought official statement. The same may be said about “Political Power and Political Responsibility” by Staatsekretär Peter Hermes, who heads the division of foreign trade in the Foreign Office in Bonn. Ralf Dahrendorf’s remarks on “Europe and America” were originally delivered as a commencement address, and are therefore bound to conclude that “the relationship between Europe and America takes a lot of understanding and mutual tolerance as well as respect.” That is the stuff commencement addresses are made of, but does it warrant publication?

Only two contributors seem to have come to the podium with a serious purpose and with a manuscript of sufficient substance to warrant careful reading and reflection. John Starrels’ “The GDR’s Relations with the Advanced Industrial Systems of the West” (pp. 78—96) offers a solid, well-documented introduction to a subject which certainly bears watching. Peter C. Ludz’s masterly “Foreign Policy in Germany: Ideological and Political Aspects of Intra-German Relations” (pp. 54—77) may raise the question why this issue did not figure on the agenda covered by Herz and Flechtheim in Eurocommunism and Eurosocialism. Ludz’s description of a rivalry momentarily dormant explains why. Both detente (?) and economic weakness have lowered the ideological aggressiveness of Germany’s republic of workers and peasants, while the FRG’s willingness to contribute to the solution of larger international problems has reduced the need to score in the sector of inter-German relations.

Had the Ludz article been the measure of Germany in World Politics it could have been a worthy companion to Eurocommunism and Eurosocialism. Failing that, one must regretfully conclude that Herz and Flechtheim tell us more about contemporary Germany than all the authors in Germany in World Politics, with the exception of Ludz and Starrels.


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