For a full decade now—for a span of years that is gradually coming into focus as a historical epoch in its own right—the major countries of Western Europe have been living under conservative rule. This situation has created new and unanticipated problems in the functioning of democratic institutions. More particularly, it has raised an agonizing dilemma for the chief forces of loyal, constitutional opposition —the Social Democratic and Labor parties.
The turn toward conservatism came first in Italy. By his crushing electoral victory over the Communist-Socialist bloc in April 1948, Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi inaugurated a period of Christian Democratic rule that has persisted ever since. A year and a half later, the new state of Western Germany was launched under similar auspices; here also government by Christian Democrats has proved unshakable. In June 1951, the French electorate for the first time since the war sent a conservative majority to the National Assembly. The following autumn, the British did the same thing. In the British case the reversal proved decisive: the narrow Conservative majority of 1951 was steadily enlarged in succeeding elections. In France the trend to the right appeared to be tempo...
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