David Klemperer (QMUL) - 2019-20 Students

The Ideological Crisis of French Socialism, 1930 – 1950

The mid-twentieth century was a critical period in the history of French socialism. France’s socialist party, the SFIO, was confronted by economic crisis, the rise of fascism and communism, the difficulties of holding government power, and a Nazi occupation. Not only did these upheavals present serious political challenges to the socialist movement, but they also forced French socialist thinkers to reconsider their understanding of the world, and of their own project. My research uses contextualist intellectual history to reconstruct the vibrant intellectual life of French socialism during this period, and to explore the key ideological debates occurring within it. In particular, I highlight the role played by innovative revisionist currents, such as ‘neo-socialism’ and ‘planisme’, in shaping debate within the SFIO up to and throughout the Popular Front period. I will be further examining how these debates were transformed after 1940 by socialists’ various experiences of defeat, occupation, resistance, collaboration, exile, and the liberation, and how revisionism ultimately came to be definitively rejected by the party in the early post-war years.

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