Free Speech for Fascists and Communists? Entangled Perspectives on Social Democratic and Liberal Conceptions of Democratic Culture, 1920s–1930s

Activity: Talk or presentationConference presentation


To answer Tom Buchanan's call for a more nuanced scholarly analysis of democracy during the 1930s, this article will focus on how free speech was guarded and limited in efforts to defend democratic society, especially in relation to the activities of communists and fascists. How were the limits of free speech negotiated and how were social democratic and liberal democratic conceptions of free speech entangled during the 1920s and 1930s?

The aim of this paper is to identify and investigate how the question of free speech both united and divided social democrats and liberals. Both groups were anti-fascist and anti-communist to various degrees and levels, but how did the anti-communist safeguarding of democracy differ from the anti-fascist defense – and how did the prioritization of one goal over the other affect the final democratic consensus?
Period3 Sept 2022
Event titleHistorical Blendings: An Entangled History of Liberalism and Social Democracy
Event typeConference
LocationLeiden, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • liberalism
  • social democracy
  • entangled history
  • free speech
  • democracy
  • Great Britain
  • Germany
  • antifascism
  • anti-communsim