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GRIP ANNUAL LECTURE 2023. 200 Years of Socialism: Revisiting the Old Dilemmas

31 May 2023 @ 14:00 - 16:00 CEST

Workers in Arms from the Coit Tower Murals.
Workers in Arms from the Coit Tower Murals. Photo by Thomas Hawk, Flickr


31 May 2023
14:00 - 16:00 CEST


The Global Research Programme on Inequality
View Organiser Website


Ulrikes aula and Zoom
Professor Keysers gate 1
Bergen, Vestland
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200 Years of Socialism:
Revisiting the Old Dilemmas


The first Annual GRIP Lecture (and following workshop) will be given on May 31 by the leading global labor historian, Marcel van der Linden.

Marcel van der Linden has for many years been the research director of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, where he currently serves as Senior Researcher. He is also professor of Social Movement History at the University of Amsterdam (emeritus) and the currently acting President of the International Social History Association. His many articles and books have been published in eighteen languages. Recently: The Cambridge History of Socialism (Editor; two volumes, Cambridge 2023) and The World Wide Web of Work. A History in the Making (London 2023).

Marcel van der Linden’s lecture will be commented upon by Göran Therborn (University of Cambridge), Svati Shah (University of Massachusetts Amherst), and Ernesto Semán (University of Bergen).

Socialism, Labour and Inequality

Traditional labour and socialist movements are in trouble almost everywhere. The power of trade unions is declining; anarchist and revolutionary-syndicalist movements are a spent force; social democratic and communist parties are mostly not doing well; attempts to build “real socialism” in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Cuba, Africa, China, and Southeast Asia descended into repression or succumbed to capitalism, or both.

This crisis marks the end of a long cycle, which roughly includes the period from the 1820s-40s to the present. Building on a long egalitarian tradition, it began with ‘utopian’ experiments. Responding to  the rapid development of capitalism and the changing nature of states, the movement bifurcated after the revolutions of 1848, with one wing striving to build an alternative society without states in the here and now (anarchism/syndicalism), the other struggling to gradually transform the state in order to progressively build such an alternative egalitarian society (social democracy; communist movements; Arab socialism; African socialism; Indian socialism, etc.). Neither succeeded.

Critical analysis of this great cycle – specifically in combination with the continuously growing global working class – is a challenge of enormous scholarly and political interest. In many countries the decline coincides with a revival of the radical Right, which presents itself as an alternative to the traditional workers’ organizations. The long cycle needs therefore to be scrutinized in depth.

Which results were actually achieved, and why? What were the major defeats? This is far from an antiquarian exercise. A second “great cycle” is by no means inconceivable and is in fact already announcing itself. Class conflicts will not diminish as we move forward into a very insecure 21st century. Workers and citizens all over the world will continue to feel the ever-present need for effective organizations and forms of struggle. If a second great cycle emerges, what can we learn from the former one?

The lecture (and following workshop) is an attempt to reimagine the strategic dilemma’s and choices of socialist and labour movements in the period from the 1820s to the 2020s. Which “bifurcation points” have been of major political and theoretical importance? Can we judge in retrospect whether decisions actually taken were inevitable? Or were there other and potentially more promising options not taken? It is urgent to learn from this exercise.

GRIP Annual Lecture Event

Join us for GRIP’s Annual Lecture held by Marcel van der Linden and the following discussions on Wednesday 31st of May 14:00 -16:00 CEST at Ulrike’s Aula, the University of Bergen.  The event is for free and without a registration. The lecture will also be streamed online (link will be posted in due time).

To engage in wider  academic discussions on the lecture related topics, a group of prominent labour and socialism scholars will join in a two-day workshop on 1-2 June taking place at the University of Bergen. For more information on the workshop programme, please look here.

This event is of enormous scholarly and political interest, as by re-imagining the past and learning from the successes and failures of the socialist and labour movements, we can better understand the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with one of the leading scholars in the field and to participate in a timely and urgent discussion!

GRIP Secretariat | Faculty of Social Sciences | University of Bergen | PO Box 7802 | 5020 Bergen, Norway
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