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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: March 2008

10 - The Second International: socialism and social democracy

from Part II - Varieties of Marxism



In 1889 the Second International Working Men’s Association was formed at a congress in Paris of trade unionists and socialists from several countries. In the following decades this organisation became the forum of major debates between different kinds of socialists. The Second International was not simply a talking shop for intellectuals, however; its membership embraced mass organisations, such as the Austrian, German and Russian Social Democratic parties, the Belgian Labour Party, the French socialists, who united in 1905 to form the Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvriére (SFIO), and the Italian Socialist Party (PSI). Between 1889 and 1914 Marxist intellectuals were not detached from practical party politics: socialist theory flourished hand in hand with the growth of the labour movement. Eighteen eightynine, for example, was a year of massive strikes, including the great London dock strike and industrial action on the part of thousands of miners in the Ruhr. In the next fifteen years millions of workers joined unions; a third general strike led to the introduction of universal male suffrage in Belgium; in the wake of the Dreyfus affair a socialist (Millerand) actually entered the French government; Russia experienced revolution in 1905; and the PSI gained control of local government in several cities in northern Italy shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. War. In 1910 the British Labour Party secured forty-two parliamentary seats; and just two years later the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) mobilised four million voters and over one million individual members.