One of the recurring themes of this blog has been my attempt to illuminate the history of particular expressions of left-wing Christian politics. My focus has largely been on the post-war Continental European Catholic Left, particularly left-wing Christian Democracy in Italy and Germany. Interestingly, the Italians and Germans were both heavily influenced by the British Labour Party of Clement Attlee. Left-wing Christians in Italy and West Germany tried mightily to create native Italian and West German Labour Parties at both the national and regional levels.
Just to give one example of how influential British Labourism was, starting in the autumn of 1947 the Italian economist Federico Caffè reported directly from Great Britain on the economic policies of the Labour Party government in the Cronache Sociali, the official periodical of Giuseppe Dossetti and his group of left-wing Christian Democrats. Caffè's reports would have a major impact on the left-wing of Italian Christian Democracy, influencing figures such as Amintore Fanfani, Giorgio La Pira, Giuseppe Lazzati, and Aldo Moro, as well as Dossetti himself.
France also had its own movement inspired by Old Labour. Called "French travaillisme" it was a political movement among French Christian Democrats during the years of the Occupation. The movement began with the Rue de Lille Group, a resistance organization comprised of French Catholics and socialists. Between 1943 and 1944, the Rue de Lille Group published the Cahiers du travaillisme français, a publication calling for an alliance between Catholics and socialists. The British Labour Party was the primary inspiration of the Rue de Lille Group because it was seen as an example of a left-wing party that was committed to reform while not having the baggage of anti-clericalism associated with the Marxist parties of the Left. Travaillisme was a program that both socialists and Catholics could support. Support for the travailliste concept also came from the Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens (CFTC).
Unfortunately, the travailliste movement collapsed when attempts to forge an alliance between the Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière (SFIO), the Mouvement Républicain Populaire (MRP), and the Union démocratique et socialiste de la Résistance (UDSR) failed to produce a French version of the British Labour Party. While French travaillisme as an organized movement did not survive long after the end of World War II, as a victim of the difficult institutional landscape of post-war French politics, it is not the case that the movement died from intellectual bankruptcy. The end of the Cold War and the current crisis of neoliberal capitalism will hopefully revive the old travailliste dream.
Delbreil, Jean-Claude. "The French Catholic Left and the Political Parties," in Left Catholicism, 1943-1955, ed. Emmanuel Gerard and Gerd-Rainer Horn (Leuven: Leuven Univeristy Press, 2001), 45-63.
Vinen, Richard. Bourgeois Politics in France, 1945-1951. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).