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Call for Papers as part of the Tenth Annual Historical Materialism Conference (London, 7-10 November)

Racism, Antisemitism and Socialist Strategy, 1880 – 1917

Brendan McGeever (University of Glasgow) and Satnam Virdee (University of Glasgow)

Amidst the Long Depression and sustained rising class conflict, there emerges for the first time in history, socialist, labour and anarcho-syndicalist parties with mass working class support throughout the western world and beyond, many of whom come to be organised within the Second International – an umbrella organisation formed in 1889 to further the cause of working class emancipation. Accompanying this fin-de-siècle wave of class struggle however, is the emergence of ascendant forms of racism and antisemitism, both of which come to have a significant and structuring impact on working class consciousness and political action.

The complex and contingent ways in which the aforementioned political formations responded to the growing penetration of racist and antisemitic ideologies within the working class, but also the socialist left itself, have been largely peripheral to the concerns of historians and social scientists working on this period. That is to say, although we know much about the general capitulation to nationalism within the Second International, we know little about the specific ways in which socialist formations across Europe, and the West more broadly, theorised and practically responded to the emergent forms of racism and antisemitism that accompanied the revolutionary wave of 1880-1917.

In addressing this overlooked area, we aim more specifically to:

i. examine the nature of socialist approaches to racism and antisemitism within the working class and other oppressed classes.

ii. explore the nature and extent to which those socialist formations themselves accepted and reproduced racism and antisemitism both at the level of theory and practice.

iii. investigate the nature of socialist attempts to combat racism and antisemitism, in particular the ideas that underpinned such practice, and the currents which produced it.

iv. relate, where relevant, socialist approaches to racism and antisemitism to wider debates on the national question, imperialism and colonialism.

v. consider what such accounts reveal about Marxist theory and socialist politics, especially Marxism’s ability to grasp adequately the relationship between exploitation and oppression.

We invite paper proposals of between 300 and 400 words. Deadline: 21 May. Applicants should include the following information: name, institutional affiliation (if any) and a brief publications list.

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