[Bibliographie] Jakub S. Beneš Workers and Nationalism Czech and German Social Democracy in Habsburg Austria, 1890-1918

Jakub S. Beneš, Workers and Nationalism, Czech and German Social Democracy in Habsburg Austria, 1890-1918, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016


Internationalist socialism and ethnic nationalism are usually thought of as polar opposites. But for the millions of men and women who made Social Democracy into twentieth-century Europe’s most potent political force, they were often mutually reinforcing. Workers and Nationalism explains this apparent paradox by looking at the history of the Social Democratic workers’ movement in Habsburg Austria, which was built on the mobilization of German and Czech workers in the Empire’s rapidly industrializing regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and Lower Austria. Jakub Beneš takes the history of socialism out of the realm of theoretical and parliamentary debates and into the streets, city squares, pubs, and clubs of a vibrant but precarious multi-ethnic society. He reveals how ordinary workers became increasingly nationalist as they came to believe that they were the genuine representatives of their ethnic national communities. Their successful campaign to democratize parliamentary elections in 1905-1907 accelerated such thinking rapidly. It also split Social Democracy apart by 1911. Then, during the First World War, many Czech and German workers embraced revolutionary radicalism, alienating them from the regime-friendly socialist leadership. Beneš’s study is the first to show the profound connection between major political events and the rich culture of the Austrian workers’ movement, revealing this culture’s utopian and quasi-religious tendencies as well as its left populist nationalism. Based on research in eight archives and numerous libraries in Prague, Vienna, and Brno, Workers and Nationalism fundamentally rethinks the relationship between socialism, nationalism, and democracy in modern Europe.

Key points
  • Tells the story of how nationalism spread among industrial workers in central Europe in the twentieth century
  • Explores a dynamic popular movement from a grassroots perspective and through its colourful culture
  • Exposes dramatic life stories, including scenes from socialist street demonstrations and examples of agitation materials created by ordinary workers and by the movement intelligentsia
  • Uses untapped sources in German and Czech from a dozen archives and libraries to reconstruct a culture that was locally rooted but connected across multiple regions and cities
  • Avoids a normative view of socialist politics, providing a fresh and balanced view of this phenomenon
  • Places the history of Austrian Social Democracy in comparative European and transnational context
Table of Contents

Introduction: Socialism, Nationalism, and Democracy
1: Narrating Socialism in Habsburg Austria
2: Exclusion from the Nation
3: Storms of November
4: Socialist Hussites, Marxist Wagnerians
5: The Logics of Separatism
6: War and Revolution
Conclusion: Ideology and Utopia


About the author

Jakub S. Beneš, Departmental Lecturer in Modern History, University College, Oxford

Jakub Beneš was born in Berkeley, California to Czech and Slovak parents, one of whom was raised in America. He took his bachelor’s degree at Middlebury College, Vermont before returning to California and completing his doctorate under the supervision of Professor William Hagen at UC Davis. Since 2012 he has lived and worked in the UK, first as postdoctoral fellow at the University of Birmingham, and most recently at Oxford. Beneš’s scholarly interests are focused on modern central and eastern Europe, particularly on the history of nationalism, social movements, and popular culture. His next project looks at rural unrest during the collapse of Austria-Hungary.


More informations on the publishers website

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