By Emily Hoard
On Thursday, Oct. 9 in the packed Paulus Lecture Hall of Willamette’s Law School, Professor William Smaldone presented his inaugural lecture as the new E. Jerry Whipple Chair in History.
The lecture was called “To Change the World: Revisiting the Dilemma of Democratic Socialism.” It explored the social democratic governments of Austria and Germany during the interwar period through the lens of four historical figures: Rudolf Hilferding, Otto Bauer, Karl Renner and Max Adler.
Smaldone discussed how democratic socialism gained momentum particularly after World War I, but then faced difficulties during the Great Depression and the rise of fascism.
He questioned, “How could these enormously successful socialist parties led by talented people, how could these parties and the states they founded be so ignominiously crushed within the short space of three years?”
During the lecture, Smaldone said that historians have been arguing about these questions for over 80 years.
“What I would like to have us consider though, is the nature of the social democratic dilemma, and how the question remains relevant to the present,” Smaldone said.
Junior politics major Joseph Lindblom-Masuwale said that he found the lecture to be very informative.
“It helped bridge a lot of ideas from the Nazism class I took from Professor [Sammy] Basu last year,” Lindblom-Masuwale said. “We talked a lot about the rise of Nazism within a democratic state, and being able to understand it from the social democratic party’s perspective that Smaldone’s lecture was illustrating helped me consider things in another way.”
Lindblom-Masuwale is currently in Smaldone’s Twentieth-Century Europe class, and said that some of the ideas Smaldone highlighted during his lecture were points that he illustrated in class.
“I’ll be excited to see him as the Whipple Chair,” Lindblom-Masuwale said. “I hope he puts it to good use.”
Department Chair of History Cecily McCaffrey said that endowed chairs, like the Whipple Chair, enhance department programming for the professor and for the university.
“It helps a university because it helps support a faculty position,” McCaffrey said. “It also helps both a department and the person holding the chair, because it provides a little extra discretionary income that usually is used both to support the research agenda of the person holding the chair and also is used, for example, to bring speakers to campus.”
Professor William Duvall most recently held the Whipple Chair for 14 years.
McCaffrey explained that Smaldone was nominated by the history department faculty, and was approved by Dean Marlene Moore and the Whipple family. He was chosen because of his strong record of teaching, service and research at the University.
Smaldone has taught history at Willamette since 1991. His research focuses on 20th century German and European labor history. He has published several books, including “Rudolf Hilferding: The Tragedy of a German Social Democrat” in 1998 and in 2013, “European Socialism: A Concise History with Documents.”