This accessible text offers a concise but comprehensive introduction to European socialism, which arose in the maelstrom of the industrial and democratic revolutions launched in the eighteenth century. Striving for sweeping social, economic, cultural, and political change, socialists were a diverse lot. However, they were united by principles asserting the social and political equality of all people, ideas that won the adherence of millions and struck fear in the hearts of their numerous opponents. William Smaldone shows how, over the course of 200 years, socialists successfully promoted the democratization of European society and a more equitable division of wealth. At the same time, he illustrates how conflicts over the means of achieving their aims divided them into rival “socialist” and “communist” currents, a rift that undercut the struggle against fascism and helped lay the groundwork for Europe’s division during the Cold War.
Although many predicted the demise of socialism as a potent force after the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s dissolution, and the rise of neo-liberal ideology, recent developments show that such a judgment was premature. The author argues that the growth of new socialist parties across Europe indicates that socialist ideas remain vibrant in the face of capitalism’s failure to solve chronic social and economic problems, especially following the deep global crisis that began in 2008. Combining an analytical narrative with a selection of primary texts and visual images, this book provides undergraduate students with a brief, readable history, including an overview of how socialist political movements have evolved over time and stressing the rich diversity that has characterized socialism’s foundations from its beginning.