By Dick Geary

This booklet explores the increase of labour politics in Europe prior to 1914, the hopes and aspirations of operating males within the innovative upheavals on the finish of worldwide struggle I and the tragedy of failure within the face of fascism.

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However, the overthrow of the ancien regime in many states at the end of the First World War, the collapse or at least temporary immobility of the forces of reaction and repression, and the massive disillusion with governments that had promised victory but brought only death, deprivation and defeat, now brought the question of 'reform or revolution' on to the immediate agenda. Previously submerged or only half-articulated differences between the political representatives of European labour now opened into unbridgeable chasms.

This is not to say that generational conflict within the European labour movement was not relevant to subsequent and radical developments on the political front; engineering workers were often associated with radical politics, as in the case of the Federation des Metaux in France and the German Metalworkers' Union (DMV) across the Rhine. None the less, the point remains that there was no automatic connection beween the rationalisation of industry and left-wing politics [7; 13; 24; 48; 77; 83; 92; 93].

The same applies even to the right wing of German social democracy, which had always intended to support the government's war effort but did so partly in the belief that the ruling elite would be obliged to offer constitutional change in return. So nationalism here was still linked to criticism of the prevailing political order. In fact the SPD's support for the war was explicitly conditional upon that war being defensive, the position adopted by most socialist parties. When it became clear that this was not the case opposition to the war grew apace and led in 1917 to the formation of a new party, the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD).

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