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Boel, Bent:

The Socialist international and Dissidence in Eastern Europe during the Cold War

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, relations with the regimes in Eastern Europe and with the dissidents in these countries became an important issue for many Western European socialists. They became bones of contention both within and between Socialist and Social Democratic parties in Western Europe, most clearly between the French Socialist Party and the German SPD. The difference was sometimes presented as an opposition between those who primarily believed in a detente from above and those who favored contacts with dissidents and other social forces in Eastern Europe (i.e., a detente from below). At several occasions these differences came to the fore within the Socialist International, most publicly during the Polish crisis. While the literature rather focuses on the role played by Western European Socialists’ contacts with the regimes in the East (those established with the Soviet Union in particular), this paper will investigate the other side of the coin, i.e., contacts with Eastern European dissidents. The paper will aim at answering the following questions: which contacts existed between Western European (in particular: Austrian, British, Danish, French German, Italian and Swedish) socialists and dissidents in Eastern Europe, what was the nature of these links, and to what degree do these relations help us understand Western European Socialists’ overall stance towards the communist regimes?

Thursday 29 Oct 16.15-18.15 SESSION 3
Panel: Solidarnosc and the West