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Reasons for socialism
Socialism emerges as a reaction to social and economic conditions created by 19 th Century industrial
Linked to the rise of a new class of industrial workers who experienced the poverty and degradation of
early industrialisation.
Socialism was a critique of liberal market society and capitalism.
Early socialism offered a radical alternative to capitalism and aimed at its removal. Early socialist parties
had a tendency therefore to advocate revolution.
As the late 19th century approached there were improvements in working class living conditions and the
advance of political democracy leading to the integration of the working class into society. In place of
revolution, socialist parties increasingly adopted legal means to achieve power.. Hence the split between
revolutionary and parliamentary socialists.
Reformist socialists seeking to work within the system came to accept capitalism as the best means of
generating wealth.
In the 20th century socialism spread to Latin America, Asia and Africa where there had been little
experience of industrialisation, there it became associated with anti and post colonial liberation movements.
At the end of the 20th Century, socialism was best by crises- the fall of communism 1989 was a severe blow
to the credibility of an ideology which placed emphasis on state planning. Sovcislist increasingly accepted
the inevitability of the globalised economy which rendered state intervention to achieve broad social and
economic goals reedundant.
Cooperation has greater practical and moral value than
individual self striving (collectivism).
Humans are bound together by common bonds of sympathy
and comradeship or fraternity.
Humans are moulded by the society to which they belong and
therefore owe obligations to it.
Wealth is collectively produced and therefore should be
Individual self striving undermines the community.
Collectivism- not exclusively socialist but based on belief that
collective action has greater practical and moral worth than
individual self striving.
Cooperation is natural as humans are social animals.
Competition encourages selfishness and encourages
them to deny their social nature.
Humans can be motivated by moral as well as
material incentives.
Moral desire to work for common good encourages
sympathy and empathy towards others thereby
strengthening the community whereas individual self
striving undermines this and produces conflict.
Commitment to equality is the defining aspect of socialism.
Inequality in society is a reflection of unequal structure of non
socialist societies.
Inequality arises out of unequal treatment. Justice demands
that people are treated equally.
Common ownership rather equality of opportunity as the latter
perpetuates social inequality.
Equality strengthens community and reduces/removes divisions
which undermine the community.
Needs satisfaction- everyone has the same basic needs such as
food and shelter and social justice is about satisfying the basic
needs of all in society.
Social Class
Society is divided into classes defined by socio economic circumstances. This is the
most important way in which humans identify themselves and nationalism is more
artificial because it denies the significance of social class.
Socialism is most identified with the working class and its struggle both political and
economic for liberation. The aim however is to establish an egalitarian society and
therefore divisions or classes will disappear.
Socialists are divided on nature an importance of class, Marx saw the proletariat
differences were irreconcilable. However reformist socialists aimed for amelioration
of the differences between classes via social reform and unlike Marx therefore saw
class and capitalism as a permanent feature of society.
Socialist identification with the working class has declined- the durability of
capitalism and the emergence of differences within the working class including the
development of an aristocracy of labour means the working class is not solid. Also
the shift from industrial to service sector economies has led to a sharp decline in the
size of the manual working class in the west. The embourgeosiement of the working
class with the adoption of middle class lifestyles based on car and home ownership.
Common Ownership
Competition and inequality the product of private ownership.
Private property is morally corrupting as it produces greed and negates communal obligations.
Private property leads to wealth inequality and class conflict.
Socialists seek common ownership of productive wealth or capital- banks, land, industry.
As wealth is collectively produced it is immoral that any one or group of individuals should be in exclusive
possession of it.
Private ownership means that productive wealth cannot be used for the benefit of the community and this
leads to poverty, as the owners of productive wealth seek to maximise their profits.
Marx wrote that the production of the means of subsistence ( that which is necessary too survive) was the
most important of human activities and that people were defined by and achieved a sense of their self
worth from their labour. However, private ownership means that workers were working not for themselves
and the community but for the interests of the owner, hence they were alienated from their labour.
Socialists disagree as to what common ownership means and the degree to which it should be implemented.
Marx understood it to mean the community of workers collectively owning the means of productive wealthcooperatives such as the Coop Movement started in Rochdale Lancs 1844. Socialist regimes such as Eastern
Europe before the fall of communism interpreted it as state ownership. In the west e.g. UK post 1945 the
commanding heights were taken under public ownership but the bulk of the economy remained in private
hands (Social democracy)
Why were early socialists attracted to
the idea of revolution?
Early industrialisation C19 led to especially harsh new work practices especially exploitation. The expanding urban
landscape created by industrialisation was especially bleak with massive social problems such as overcrowding in slums.
There were limited alternatives for the working class as for much of the 19th century they were excluded from voting.
Socialists viewed the state as oppressive designed to protect and promote the interests of the property owning class and to
keep the masses down. Therefore many socialists peaceful methods as these would not remove the exploitative state.
Revolution or armed struggle was also a convenient way in the Third World to mobilise populations against colonial rule by
western powers. Franz Fanon in Wretched of the Earth argued that colonial rule had bred a sense of inferiority among
Africans and that this could only be purged by the experience of armed struggle.
Only through revolution and the overthrow of the state could society begin afresh and create a new socialist utopia.
Marx believed that since each social class was governed by its own interests, the only way to establish socialism was to
overthrow the capitalist state as the bourgeoisie capitalist class in whose interests it operated would never willingly or
peacefully surrender power.
To elaborate on Marx- classes were antagonistic- under capitalism, the mode of production was designed to produce
goods/services for profit which were either transformed into further investment or used as income all for the benefit of the
capitalist class. This was antagonistic because the workers served only the interests of the capitalist class whose interest was to
keep wages as low as possible to maximise profit. Because classes were thus antagonistic, the only way for change was
through revolution.
Against those social democrats who argued for the peaceful parliamentary road towards socialism, Lenin wrote in State and
Revolution 1917… to decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people
through parliament- this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarianism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional
monarchies but also in the most democratic republics.
Agrarian (revolutionary) socialism
Socialism developed not only as a critique of capitalism but also of urban
industrial society. The socialist ideal was born in European countries in
transition from traditional societies to modern ones. In this sense, socialism
were focused backwards on what was thought to have been a communal
cooperative fraternal way of life which had to be recreated. Populist
(Narodnik- Narod is the Russian word for people) socialism which emerged
in late C19 Russia essentially opposed to industrialisation, urbanisation and
individualism (seen as western imports) and sought to re-establish roots in a
traditional agrarian collectivist society. Unlike Marxism and Leninism which
are focused on teleological goals ( in some state of perfection in the future)
it was reactionary often espousing a supposed ideal state in which the
peasant had an exemplary relationship with nature.
Why has revolutionary socialism
tended towards dictatorship?
Marx believed that repression was a feature of the state whose sole purpose was
to uphold the interests of the ruling elite. Although he argued that the need for a
repressive state would disappear once class differences were removed,
nevertheless he argued that once capitalism was overthrown it was necessary for the
new proletarian order to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat in order to
prevent counter revolution and to create the egalitarian society based on common
Use of force to achieve power encouraged the new rulers to apply it as a method
of rule- power grows out of the barrel of a gun Mao Zedong
Revolutionary parties had necessarily adopted militaristic and hierarchical structures
in order to plan revolution and continued to apply this to forging the new state.
David Lane- The Rise and Fall of State Socialism on Stalinism it became a
developmental ideology. Society was mobilised by the communist party and the
advance to a communist mode of production was to be achieved through state
ownership, control and coercion. This was a reflection of the failure of the world
revolution envisaged by Lenin 1917 to materialise and the fact that Russia was in
Marxist interpretation both socially and economically underdeveloped.
What are the key features of Marx’s
theory of History?
The emphasis on materialism- the production of the means of subsistence is the most important
of all human activity and therefore underpins the structure of society.. All other aspectspolitical, legal, cultural and religious are explained by reference to economic factors.
Historical change was driven by dialectical materialism (phrase first used post Marx by
Plekhanov)- basically inequality of access to resources creates conflict and leads to change.
Capitalism depends on the existence of an exploited labouring class- proletariat which
produces the wealth for the owners of the means of productive wealth. Capitalism therefore
sowed the seeds of its own destruction as the proletarian class would eventually rise up and
establish an egalitarian society based on common ownership.
Marx’s theory was teleological- it invested History with a purpose and that the triumph of
socialism was inevitable. In this sense by producing a formula for history, he turned it into a
science. This would only happen once society had evolved via a series of epochs- primitive
communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism… In each case inequality of access a to the means
of productive wealth led to conflict- dialectical materialism which led to a higher stage of
social development. Marx therefore envisaged an end to history as with socialism there
would be no competing classes or social groups.
Why did Marx believe that capitalism
was doomed?
Humans are alienated. They are forced to work not for what they need but for the profit of
the owner/manager. They are alienated from their work because they are forced to work
under supervision and alienated from their fellow worker because they are encouraged to be
self interested.
Society would become progressively dominated by two competing classes- the bourgeoisie
which owned and controlled the means of productive wealth and the proletariat. The
relationship between classes must be antagonistic- the capitalist can only make a profit by
paying the worker less than the value of their work (surplus value). The above means that
economic exploitation is central to the effective working of the capitalist system.
Capitalism was notoriously inefficient means of running the economy. There would be recurring
bouts of overproduction and recession which worsened each time as rate of profit would fall.
This would contribute to the immiseration of the proletariat and the concentration of ownership
and therefore the expansion of the proletariat.
The proletariat through its immiseration would develop class consciousness and realise the key
to its liberation lay in the overthrow of the capitalist order. This could only be achieved by the
realisation that the interest of the members of the proletariat lay in cooperation with each
other. Eventually, a classless society based on common ownership would be established. There
would be no exploitation and class antagonism and classes would disappear and the state
would wither away.
Capitalism- sowed the seeds of its own
Marx believed that capitalism created the proletariat- its
antagonist and revolutionary successor- it would develop in
size and strength and organisation and consciousness as
capitalism itself developed. It would develop from a class in
itself to a class for itself. A progressive simplification of class
forces was underway as intermediate petty-bourgeois
elements were swallowed up by the class polarization into the
two great hostile camps of bourgeoisie and proletariat .
The hostility would reach its decisive hour in conditions of
capitalist crisis and proletarian pauperisation when the
proletariat would emancipate itself through a revolution of the
immense majority from the final form of class oppression and
Why did Marx believe that the dictatorship of
the proletariat was necessary?
The proletarian revolution had not immediately led to the end of class
antagonisms, there was the threat of bourgeois counter revolution and
hence the need for a state.
The need for the restructuring of society along egalitarian lines.
Not all repressed groups achieved class consciousness simultaneously- Marx
saw the industrial proletariat as gaining this first but what about the
peasantry. Trotsky wrote that the liberation of the peasantry had to await
the proletarian revolution.
The dictatorship of the proletariat was a temporary state as once an
egalitarian society was established repression which Marx saw as the
purpose of any state would become unnecessary as there would no longer
be competing classes.
What are the criticisms of Marx?
The belief that history was teleological left little scope for free will.
Marx contradicted himself- On the one hand wrote about violent revolution as the model of social change… Force is the
midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one (Das Kapital). However, at other times, he advocated a peaceful
transition- 1872 Amsterdam Speech he allowed the possibility of peaceful constitutionalism. This was also followed up by
Engels who in 1895 wrote the mode of struggle of 1848 is today obsolete. Here he was reflecting on the electoral
successes of the SPD in Germany. Harington (1928-1989) in Socialism Past and Future- In those societies where
democratic rights were repressed he {Marx] and Engels insisted that the violent option had to be kept open. But in those
countries like France, Britain and the United States Engels wrote in 1891 there was a real possibility of a peaceful and
democratic transition to the new society
Marx’s predictions imbued in 20th century Marxist leaders an absolute certainty in their conviction in their views and
inclined them towards dictatorship and the implementation of policies with scant regard for human consequences.
Orthodox communism revised the ideas of Marx in significantly important ways. In What is to be done (1902) Lenin
argued that left the proletariat were incapable of independently developing class consciousness. It required the
formation of a vanguard revolutionary party to educate the workers that the key to their salvation lay not in pressure for
better wages and conditions (trades unionism) but the overthrow of the capitalist state. Lenin wrote modern socialist
consciousness can arise only on the base of profound scientific knowledge…The vehicle of science is not the
proletariat but the bourgeois intelligentsia: it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern
socialism originated and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians Latterly,
communist parties when they achieved power were preoccupied with addressing issues of social and economic
The state far from withering away becomes the engine for social and economic change. A clear example of this was
Stalin's Russia 1928-1953 whereby the economy was transformed via a series of industrial five year plans. The state
rather than the people themselves owned and controlled the means of productive wealth.
Capitalism far from being on the verge of collapse, proved durable. Those states where Marx predicted revolution failed
to succumb. In a more developed economy, capitalism diversified and the working class became more integrated. Into the
rest of society.
Modern Marxists have even questioned the emphasis on class struggle. Arguing for a need to address an increasingly
pluralistic and individualistic society they have shifted focus onto a wider range of struggles in the new social movements
such as the women’s movement, ecological movement, gay and lesbian movement etc…
More on Lenin and the need for a
revolutionary vanguard party.
What is to be Done (1902) The history of all countries shows the working
class exclusively by their own efforts are able to develop only trades
union consciousness…trades unionism means the ideological
enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Our task, the task of
social democracy is to divert the working class movement from the
spontaneous trade unionist striving and to bring it under the wing of
revolutionary social democracy…
Writing in 1920, Lenin wrote the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be
exercised through the whole of that class because in all capitalist countries the
proletariat is still so divided, so degraded and so corrupt in parts that an
organisation taking on the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise
proletariat dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard…
More on Lenin…
Lenin argued that imperialism had made capitalism global (Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism).
This meant that backward countries were subject to capital penetration by the more advanced. Lenin
therefore argued that the first strike against capitalism would happen in its weakest link of the capitalist
chain. As early as 1882, in their preface to the Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and
Engels noted that revolution in Russia could be the spark for revolution in the West. Lenin now argued that
since world capitalism was no longer able to contain itself (exported abroad) its survival depended on
extract surplus from the periphery and when exploitation of that ended (revolution) the contradictions
inherent in capitalism would inevitably lead to its collapse elsewhere.
In the April Theses 1917 he wrote Any day may come the crash of European Imperialism. The Russian
Revolution which you have carried out has laid the foundations for it and opened a new epoch. Long live the
world wide socialist revolution.
Letters on Tactics (1917) The bourgeois revolution (February 1917) is completed. April Theses- Russia is
passing from the first stage of the revolution which owing to the insufficient class consciousness and organisation
of the proletariat placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie to the second stage which must place power in
the hands of the proletariat and the poorest peasants
In the summer of 1917 he wrote We stand on the threshold of a world wide proletarian revolution. If we
come out now we shall have on our side all proletarian Europe…
Criticisms of Marx (contd)
Nowhere in classical Marxism is there a developed account of socialist political systems. He leaves
unanswered basic questions of the nature of representation, accountability, organisation of political
compromise and opposition…
The reason for the above vacuum is Marxist belief that a distinct political machinery is only required in a
divided society of classes. In State and Revolution (1917) written on eve of Bolshevik revolution, Lenin wrote
that a Marxist revolution would destroy the state and then be followed by a system of popular self
government on the commune model which would be a decentralised and participatory democracy all will
govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing… However in practice Leninism
reflected a tradition (Marxist) which offered democracy without division since class divisions disappear…
What exactly did Marx mean when he wrote of the dictatorship of the proletariat? The actual
characteristics of the revolutionary exercise of power by the proletariat as envisaged by Marx remained a
source for dispute. Even Marx appears to have contradicted himself, in the March Address (1850) he wrote
the task of the revolutionary party is to carry through the strictest centralisation. However later in 1871
in The Civil War In France he eulogised the decentralised democracy of the Paris Commune. Therefore, in
Lenin’s Russia, behind the account of a self managing society there lurks the state power of the armed
worker, authoritarianism, democratic centralism of rule by a single party and a repressive state
bureaucracy. Where socialist revolutions have been successful a one party state has invariably emerged.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Marxism could present itself in terms of universal humanism at the end
of century every Marxist state was a dictatorship.
The dilemma for socialists concerns attempts to retain the working class as the key actor and the failure of
the latter to act in a way expected of it. Feminism is the ideology which has identified the limited
stereotype of socialism’s traditional actor as male, manual and muscular.
How socialists came to deviate over
ways and means
Pre 1914 English socialism which rejected Marx’s analysis was an exception to the European socialist
Pre 1917 in Europe there was an ‘open orthodoxy’ socialists could support parliamentary or revolutionary
means but could still be united under support for Marxist beliefs. European socialists could all call
themselves social democrats. The 2nd International agreement that the socialist parties would oppose a
European war however almost without exception they supported their governments 1914.
The Bolsheviks in Russia did not and with the seizure of power 1917 Marxism became Marxist Leninism a
closed orthodoxy with an official interpretation and backed by the apparatus of a totalitarian state..
Social Democracy became distinct from revolutionary socialism- indeed in 1918, to signify his break from
the former, Lenin renamed his party –Communist. For Lenin, the term social democracy became a
disparaged term an effective accommodation with capitalism.
Indeed, 1914 and 1917 represented a schism, post war the left became divided into a reformist right
(socialist) and revolutionary left (communist) At the 3rd International 1919, attending parties were required
to adopt the label communist as opposed to social democrat and to declare war against the entire
bourgeois world and its social democrat allies. Social Democracy became distinct from communism because
it was committed to reformism in place of revolution
After 1945, social democrat parties moved further towards reformism and a permanent accommodation
with liberal capitalism ( Bad Godesberg programme of the West German SPD 1959). Post 1945,
European social democratic parties out rightly abandoned the use of violence as a means to power,
socialism was defended as a social ideal, inseparable from parliamentary democracy, abandonment of
state property in the means of production in favour of a mixed economy and finally a total opposition to
Over what do socialists disagree?
The importance and extent of public ownership
Socialism is about equality but of what kind and how much?
Industrialisation- Fourier favoured a return to a more organic community, the
populist/social revolutionary tradition in C19 and late Tsarist Russia saw the
peasant commune as the basis of socialism and rejected Max analysis of the need
for industrialisation as the necessary foundations of socialism as necessitating the
immiseration of the people and therefore immoral. However, Saint Simon was
excited by the potential of industrialisation once released from its individualistic
Is socialism about libertarian and self managing communities or the replacement of
chaos and waste of unregulated capitalism with socialist planning. This tends to be
statist and centralist. Socialist planning can be seen as part of the Enlightenment
tradition with the triumph of reason over chaos. This very much encapsulates the
Fabian view of elite management elite of unassuming experts (Beatrice Webb)
Is socialism scientific ( a comprehensive and self contained method of social analysis
yielding a body of truths) or is it utopian (ethical)
Scientific versus Ethical socialism
Socialism is immanent
Socialism builds down from the
state- state socialism
Organisational socialism of
order, planning and bureaucracy
Revolutionary rupture
Marxism was a repudiation of
socialism as a moral doctrine- it
was a rigid doctrine of economic
laws and historical determinism
Socialism attached to human
energy and will
Socialism builds up from the
Libertarian and direct
Self management
Reformist tradition of
improvement and persuasion
Why did ideas of evolutionary
socialism develop?
Rise in wages and living standards from late C19 helped to deradicalise many of the working class.
Integration of the working class into mainstream society via development trades unions etc which can
campaign for better wages and conditions.
Extension of the franchise.
Revolutionary socialism therefore remains in politically and economically backward areas.
Optimism that socialism was inevitable via the ballot box as working class became an ever larger % of
electorate.. This was based on the presumption that socialist parties were the natural home of the working
class who in turn represented the largest group in the population. Once in power, socialist parties would be
able to transform society alongside socialist lines.
Ideas of evolutionary socialism were known as gradualism. This ballot box socialism found expression in the
tactics of Eduard Bernstein in Evolutionary socialism (1898) who believed that the German socialist partySPD would be able to move away from revolutionary tactics.
Another form of gradualism was the Fabian Society founded in UK in 1884. It was elitist being based on
middle class membership. It believed that the way to introduce socialism was by converting elite groups as
socialism which emphasised planning was more rational than capitalism. Fabians rejected Marx’s strategy
of class revolution as wholly inappropriate to English conditions.
Fabians offered a strategy of resolute constitutionalism (Shaw) based on an alternative historical analysis to
that of Marx in that the state was being captured both locally and centrally for collectivist purposes.
Sidney Webb in Fabian Essays No philosopher now looks for anything but the gradual evolution of the new
order from the old, without break of continuity or abrupt change of the entire social tissue at any point during
the process…
Why did gradualism fail?
To win elections in order to implement a socialist programme, democratic
socialist parties had to broaden their appeal and therefore water down
socialist policies.
Working class has declined in developed post industrial societies. The
working class is not monolithic. J.K. Galbraith in The Culture of Contentment
argued that material affluence and economic security had inclined large
sections of the electorate to be politically conservative.
Realisation that capitalism is durable and the best means of producing
wealth has led to socialist parties to advocating policies to make the market
work more efficiently rather than to abolish it.
Even in power, socialist parties confronted with entrenched vested interests
which limit their power to implement change. Miliband referred to the state
system meaning those in state institutions and from the same backgrounds as
business people capable of blocking radical socialist parties.
What are the main features of social
Social democracy endorses liberal democratic principles believing in change via constitutional means. Social Democracy embraces liberal democratic
values. In the majority of cases, communist regimes came to power not through popular risings- even then nor parliamentary and dictatorship
folowed.but through establishment via outside force or in case of Cuba and Zimbabwe a populist leader announces Marxist/Leninist principles after
assume power.
Capitalism is accepted as the only viable means of producing wealth.
Capitalism is morally defective as it is associated with inequality and poverty.
Defects of capitalism can be rectified by the state through economic and social engineering.
1960-73 esp, the social democratic consensus centred on welfare state, advanced social policy, full employment. I.e. increase the real income of wage
earners and a developed social security system.
Keynesian ideas seemed to offer the rational economic foundations- it seemed to allow the state to simultaneously generate economic growth and to
satisfy the aspirations for social justice. Indeed, Keynesianism the flagship of social democratic parties made possible the marrying/satisfying three
contradictory interests ( sectional interests of the working class, interests of capital, interests of the ‘national community’ in the general well being.
A key feature of social democracy is equal participation of all members of society in the benefits of education and health (universalism). Principle
behind the NHS free at the point of need.
Improvement in the public infrastructure.
Nation state is a meaningful unit of rule in that it has the capacity to regulate economic and social life within its borders.
Why was the post war period (1945+) favourable for the social democratic consensus?
a. Laissez-faire capitalism had become discredited by the inter war Great
b. There had been acclimatisation to the idea of an active and interventionist state in
war time- note in GB sectors such as mining and transport were nationalised for
the duration.
c. The immense task of post war reconstruction favoured state investment.
Main features of Social Democracy
Post 1945, social democrats one after the other
progressively and definitively abandoned their anti
capitalist credo. The state was regarded less and
less as an instrument of a transition to socialism and
increasingly as an instrument for the regulation of
capitalism and social protectionism. Common
throughout the transformations of social democracy,
throughout its History a common theme- the state and
the promotion of the interests of disadvantaged
Why did social democracy deviate
from fundamental socialism
In place of Marxists who offered scientific and theoretical critique of capitalism, social democracy is influenced more by ethics.
Humans are bound together by ties of empathy, compassion etc…whereas Marxists argued that behaviour determined by
economic circumstances.
Ethical socialism often influenced by religious teachings. The latter found a particular resonance in the development of British
socialism in late C19 and C20. This is a significant deviation from Marxist and soviet style state communism which is secular
based seeing religion as a tool by the ruling class to subjugate the proletariat.
There is far less theoretical cohesion in revisionist socialism. Social democracy can mean extending equality and public
ownership or it can mean accepting need for market efficiency and individual self reliance.
Fundamental socialism believes that capitalism is irredeemable whereas revisionist socialism accepted that capitalism was the
best means of generating wealth. Only a selected part of the economy was taken under state ownership, the focus was on
Keynesian style regulation of largely capitalist economies in order to maintain growth and high employment. The focus was on
welfarism as a means of reforming and humanising capitalism.
Fundamental socialists see exploitation as central to capitalism whereas Crosland in The Future of Socialism (1956) argued that
under modern capitalism the old style exploitative relationship owner/manager versus worker had been replaced by the
development of the practice of scientific management- ownership was divorced from control and professional managers were
more interested in efficient running of businesses than in exploitation.
Social democracy or revisionist socialism by embracing liberal democracy is a reaction against the repressive statist regimes
established in Eastern Europe where fundamentalist goals are implemented regardless of consequences for human rights.
Crosland- The Future of Socialism- we stand in Britain on the threshold of mass abundance…if our present rate of
economic growth continues, material want and poverty and deprivation of essential goods will gradually cease to be a
Crosland attacked the very notion that the form of ownership was the decisive determinant of the workers alienated position in
society. The argument was directed against those in the Labour Party who dogmatically asserted the inherent virtues of public
as opposed to private ownership- by the mid fifties socialists certainly understood that a completely nationalised economy in
the USSR did not give working people control over the means of production. Crosland accepted that recognised that someone
other than the workers must ultimately make the production decisions.
What was the crisis of Social
Social Democracy depended on the ability of capitalism to generate continuous economic
growth and therefore the resources to pay for welfare policies. With the onset of global
recession 1970s onwards, western governments were left with choices between policies which
generated growth e.g. tax cuts or those which focused on meeting the needs of an expanded
welfare budget generated by rising unemployment. Indeed where western governments met
the crisis by traditional Keynesian policies to stimulate demand- reflationary policies to create
more investment and jobs the effect was capital flight and inflation. Indeed, the failure of
reflationary policies in various western states meant G. Moschonas In the Wake of Social
Democracy the parties of reform previously hegemonic found themselves without
guidebook or compass
Social Democracy was also affected by the declining electoral viability of socialism with the
shrinkage of the traditional working class throughout 1980s ad 90s. Post 1945 the tide of
democracy flowed with progressive politics but since 1980s with what JK Galbraith referred
to as the contented majority.
The rise of globalisation and the integration of world economy meant that the ability of the
state to manage the economy was reduced. Capital was fluid and excessive state controls
could see it flowing to more congenial environments.
The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and market reforms in the remaining socialist
states meant that there was no alternative to capitalism. This led to the decline in confidence
in the cybernetic model of the state.
Reasons for collapse of state socialism
in Eastern Europe…
Economic decline- esp from 1975 falling rates of growth compared with the west, leads to
public dissatisfaction with standard of living a major impetus for reform.
Decline in regime loyalty- By 1960 Russia mainly urban and a rising professional middle class
dependent on rising levels of educational attainment since 1959 leads to a larger proportion
of the population more receptive to the move to a market economy.
Decline in regime support- the professional classes increasingly disenchanted with their lowly
status in a regime which triumphed the workers. Stalin’s regime peasant based, Khrushchev
the unskilled workers.
Failure of economic resource management and weakening of political support led to public
dissatisfaction and a serious undermining of the ideological justification for the regime.
A crisis of legitimacy- under Gorbachev economic reforms entailing the growth of markets
undermined the leading role of the party and the system of command planning. According to
David Lane The Rise and Fall of State Socialism- Marxist-Leninist ideology was broken by the
political leadership under Gorbachev.
External- Communist state falling behind the west- cultural contamination from the west TV,
car, rock music sex….
What are the key elements of the Third
Top down state intervention of the old socialist models is no longer viable. The acceptance of
the market over the state and a realisation of the implications of globalisation.
There is an acceptance that capitalism has mutated into an ‘information society’ or ‘knowledge
economy’ which places a premium on IT, individual skills, labour and market flexibility. It aims
to build on rather than reverse the neo liberal revolution 1980s/90s away from Keynesian
demand management.
Emphasis on community and moral responsibility. Here it rejects absolute individualism but is
closer to communitarian liberalism of the New Liberalism of the later C19. Cornerstone belief
of which is that rights and responsibilities are inextricably linked.
Third Way has a consensus view of society over class differences that bind members of
Emphasis is on social inclusion over commitment to equality. There is far greater stress
therefore on equality of access over egalitarianism. Welfare should be targeted to socially
excluded and should follow the modern liberal approach of ‘ helping people to help
themselves’ or ‘a hand up not a hand out’ (Bill Clinton).
An enabling state- one which concentrates on investing in infrastructure of the economy and
strengthening skills and knowledge of the workforce. The government seeks to shape peoples
attitudes, values and skills rather than carry out a programme of social engineering.
G Moschonas on New Labour
Consistency with left wing social
Measures of social democratic inspiration
to reduce feelings of insecurity, renew
contact party and the electorate
Minimum Wage
One off tax windfall profits privatised
utilities to finance unemployment
programmes including welfare to work
Several New deals e.g. counter youth
unemployment and to counter social
Increase spending on health and
Family tax credit
Legalisation of recognisation of the right
to unionise
Consistency with neo liberal macro
economic policy
Priority given to fight against inflation
Independence given to the Bank of
England e.g. to set interest rates
Accept previous Conservative government
budget controls
Selective withdrawal of the state from
economic and social affairs
Complete absence of an industrial policy
Deregulation and labour market
Is socialism dead?
Marx predicted the fall of capitalism however, the state ruled by a socialist partyChina underpins the west by providing consumer goods cheaply for western
markets and bankrolls US debt. The domination of capitalism globally depends on
the existence of a ruling Chinese communist party that gives de-localised capitalist
enterprises cheap labour lower prices and deprives workers of the right to unionise.
Moschonas In the Wake of Social Democracy the pursuit of the policies of
deregulation and competitive rigour by social democracy has for the first time in its
history directly challenged what was most clear, hallowed and enduring in all its
ideological and political traditions, the socially and economically active role of the
state and the interests of the most disadvantaged groups in the population.
In its conscious and explicit adhesion to a moderately but clearly neo liberal
mode of regulation, social democracy has made the decisive ideological leap:
for the first time so openly and systematically it has elevated the market and
devalued the utility of the economically active state
Is Socialism Dead? Contd
In the race for competitive disinflation and reform, the governmental left has
departed in practice from defence of the interests of wage earners and
particularly the poorest of the poor. Social Democracy has thus been transformed
from a political force for the moderate promotion of equality within a socio
economic system that is by definition inegalitarian into a force for the moderate
promotion of inequality. In other words, it has been transformed from a force that
has long since renounced its anti-capitalist vocation into a force that today is even
abandoning its moderately anti-plutocratic vocation.
Today more than ever social democracy depends on the quality of its political
appeal, leadership candidates, tactical compromises, programme and record in
It is an electorally unstable force and capable of flexible strategic responses.
Contemporary Social Democracy is slight therefore it lacks the ambition, the vision
and the solid bases (support electoral) to seriously challenge the established
structures of power and influence both national and international.
Is socialism dead?
However, what about the capitalist crisis with the credit crunch and global recession? Sales of Das Kapital
and the Communist Manifesto have soared since 2008. In 2008 a Reuters report showed that 52% of East
Germans believed the free market was unsuitable and 43% wanted socialism back.
The Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm has written that the destabilising effects of capitalism would, at some
point, lead to a development which can no longer be described as capitalism, but very different from the
traditional models of socialism of the soviet era, instead involving a shift from private appropriation to
social management on a global scale. Note rise of new employment practices such as zero hours contracts
where people have jobs but wait to be called in by employers.
Moschonas- modern social democracy a widely neo liberalised social democracy seeks modestly to mitigate
the most extreme effects of neo liberalism… the social counterpart to liberal macro economic policies would
be less easy to conceive and apply without social democracy’s popular and reformist tradition and without
its rootedness in popular classes and the trades’ unions. Various aspects of contemporary social democracy
are more than a mere left wing tint. Social measures, a more consultative approach to economic policy,
some consideration of trades’ union interests, a more environmentally friendly policy, a greater
openness to cultural liberalism
Moschonas I therefore find it difficult to accept as has been said of New Labour that the new social
democracy has no substance and represents nothing but submission to the right…
Marcuse/Harrington and the New Left?
Reflecting on post WW” Marcuse wrote…
We are struggling against a society that has succeeded in eliminating poverty and suffering to a
degree that the previous stages of capitalism never attained…
Harrington Socialism Past and Future The people are held enthralled by golden chains, by the
satisfaction of false, manufactured needs; they are victimised by a technology that manipulates
them every moment of the night and day; they have become visionless, conformist, pragmatic. At
the same time, there are the less subtle more old-fashioned forms of repression turned against the
external politics in the third world and the internal lumpen proletariat of minorities in the
Harrington- Since society has become controlled and one dimensional, how would the liberation
come about? Who would accomplish it? Marcuse – peoples from the opposite ends of the social
spectrum, the privileges- the students, the middle class hippies, the revolutionary and highly
educated working class of technicians- would rebel against a domination that suppressed their
interests and the outcasts, the lumpen would join in the attacks against simpler and more brutal
forms of exploitation. The Third World was where the new proletariat which would finally
accomplish the Marxist purpose was being born
Chronological Overview
Early socialism (utopian socialism)
Revolutionary socialism (communism)
Evolutionary socialism (revisionism)
I. Early socialism (utopian socialism)
 1815
 Saint-Simon, Fourier, Blanc, Proudhon
II. Revolutionary socialism (communism)
Mid-19th c.
 Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848)
 First Int’l (1864) & Second Int’l (1889)
III. Evolutionary socialism (revisionism)
Late 19th c.
Edward Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism (1899)
Social reforms sought through democratic means (suffrage)
Ex: Social Democrats in Germany (SPD)
III. Evolutionary socialism (revisionism)
Why did socialism become less radical?
Expansion of suffrage
 Patriotic edu. increased nationalism
 Workers not unified
 Workers’ standard of living improved after 1850
 Growth of labor unions
Edward Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism (1899)
Against revolutionary (Marxian) socialism:
“I set myself against the notion that we have to expect
shortly a collapse of the bourgeois economy, and that
social democracy should be induced by the prospect
of such an imminent, great, social catastrophe to
adapt its tactics to that assumption. That I maintain
most emphatically.”
Edward Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism (1899)
Revolutionary socialist theory has flaws:
“The theory which the Communist Manifesto sets forth of
the evolution of modern society was correct as far as it
characterised the general tendencies of that evolution. But
it was mistaken in several special deductions, above all in
the estimate of the time the evolution would take. … if
social evolution takes a much greater period of time than
was assumed, it must also take upon itself forms and lead
to forms that were not foreseen and could not be foreseen
Edward Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism (1899)
The bourgeoisie has not disappeared:
“Social conditions have not developed to such an
acute opposition of things and classes as is depicted
in the Manifesto. … The number of members of the
possessing classes is today not smaller but larger. …
The middle classes change their character but they do
not disappear from the social scale.”
Edward Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism (1899)
Evolutionary socialism is already working:
“In all advanced countries we see the privileges of the
capitalist bourgeoisie yielding step by step to democratic
organisations. Under the influence of this, and driven by
the movement of the working classes which is daily
becoming stronger, a social reaction has set in against the
exploiting tendencies of capital … Factory legislation, the
democratising of local government, and the extension of
its area of work, the freeing of trade unions and systems
of cooperative trading from legal restrictions, the
consideration of standard conditions of labour in the work
undertaken by public authorities-all these characterise this
phase of the evolution.
Edward Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism (1899)
The employment of democratic institutions will bring
change for the proletariat:
“… the more the political organisations of modern
nations are democratised the more the needs and
opportunities of great political catastrophes are
Edward Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism (1899)
Use legal means to expand political and economic
rights to empower the working classes:
“But the conquest of political power necessitates the
possession of political rights; and the most important
problem of tactics which German social democracy
has at the present time to solve appears to me to be
to devise the best ways for the extension of the
political and economic rights of the German working
How can we connect the evolution of
socialism to the theme of nationalism?
Nationalism got in the way of the success of
international, revolutionary socialism:
 People pledged allegiance to nation over class
 Socialist parties developed unique national