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2 - The Long Depression, the Great Crash and socialism in Western Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2013

Donald Sassoon
Affiliation:
University of London
Michael Keating
Affiliation:
University of Aberdeen and University of Edinburgh
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Summary

Introduction

The Left that is the left today is what was called the social democratic left. In its contemporary guise it is no longer in the kind of anti-capitalist mode which still existed thirty odd years ago when Mitterrand's Parti Socialiste faced the 1981 elections promising to begin the long haul out of capitalism, or when the British Labour Party's 1983 manifesto still mentioned socialism as a realistic perspective. This is all the more remarkable since capitalism itself is not doing well. But then the alarm bells as to the future of capitalism have been ringing for a long time. ‘Europe today is in the biggest recession since the 1930s, with unemployment over 10 percent.’ This is the view of Richard Layard, a distinguished economist, founder of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and a member of the House of Lords. Had the statement been made recently, it would cause no surprise, but it was made in 1989 – and it caused no surprise then (1989: ix). J. Van Duijn (1983: 203) asked whether the ‘depression we are suffering’ is ‘as severe as that which struck the industrial world in the 1930s’ and concludes that it is not, but the implication is that it is the worst since then. He was writing in 1983. Finally, Andrew Tylecote (1991) offers as a sub-title to his interesting The Long Wave in the World Economy, ‘The current crisis in historical perspective’ (my emphasis). The book was published in 1991.

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Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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