Peace Movement and Marxism? West Germany and Great Britain: A Journey through the Cold War

This doctoral project draws attention to the impact of Marxist ideas in West European peace movements during the Cold War. While East European societies had to cope with socialist governments, West European countries were confronted with a specific public code of anti-communism. However several forms of Marxism achieved broad impact in Western Europe as well. Such influences were not only due to the impact of more or less successful orthodox western Marxist mass parties and unions, but due to the rise of the so-called new social movements in the 1970s/80s. Influenced by the earlier labour movements' orthodox Marxism as well as by the unorthodox student movements’ and New Lefts’ neo-Marxism, one could find several Marxist 'historical cultures' within these movements. The term 'historical culture' comprises the practical articulation of historical consciousness (Jörn Rüsen), which should thus refer to any Marxist mindsets. Exploring such Marxist mindsets and mindscapes as well as its modes of action with reference to the formation, transformation, and process of the great western new social movements during the Cold War (e.g. the peace movement, feminist movement, or third-world movement etc.) would make an important contribution to the cultural history of the Cold War in general. Besides it might soften the dichotomic perception of two diametrically opposed ideological blocs.
Such opposed perspectives can be found often within peace movement studies. In the course of exploring the 1980s' peace movement, two enemy camps evolved within historical scholarship: While some authors focus on several Muscovite attempts to influence and infiltrate the peace movement, others constantly insist on the peace movements' strict neutrality. Though these fields of research lay the focus on the way the West European peace movements dealt with various kinds of Soviet Marxism, one could not gain insight into the actual sphere of influence of Marxist mindscapes in western peace movements. And this is where the project comes in – it is meant as a third way to go between these different two implied fields of peace movement research. Designed as a comparative analysis of the British and West German peace movements, it will explore the actual Marxist mindscapes within the movements, its modes of action and interaction, as well as the way it influenced the movements’ action, decision making and further development.
In order to emphasize Marxist ideas, including possible variances and processes of change, it takes into account every relevant period of both peace movements, such as the period from the 1950s up to the 1960s, as well as the period from the late 1970s up to the 1980s. Thus, this doctoral project should be able to expound the full range of Marxist mindsets within these West European peace movements during the Cold War. In this sense the project should be understood not only as an extension of peace movement studies, but also as an important contribution to the impact history of Marxism and its widespread variations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in general.

For further information please contact:
Alrun Berger