Socialism

 Socialism

Socialism, economic and social doctrine, political movement inspired by this doctrine, and system or order established when this doctrine is organized in a society. The socialist doctrine demands state ownership and control of the fundamental means of production and distribution of wealth, to be achieved by reconstruction of the existing capitalist or other political system of a country through peaceful, democratic, and parliamentary means. The doctrine specifically advocates nationalization of natural resources, basic industries, banking and credit facilities, and public utilities. It places special emphasis on the nationalization of monopolized branches of industry and trade, viewing monopolies as inimical to the public welfare. It also a dvocates state ownership of corporations in which the ownership function has passed from stockholders to managerial personnel. Smaller and less vital enterprises would be left under private ownership, and privately held cooperatives would be encouraged.

These are the tenets of the Socialist party of the U.S., the Labour party of Great Britain, and labor or social democratic parties of various other countries. Therefore they constitute the centrist position held by most socialists. Some political movements calling themselves socialist, however, insist on the complete abolition of the capitalist system and of private profit, and at the other extreme are socialist programs having objectives entailing even fewer changes in the social order than tho se outlined above. The ultimate goal of all socialists, however, is a classless cooperative commonwealth in every nation of the world.

Comparison with Communism

The terms socialism and communism were once used interchangeably. Today, however, communism designates those theories and movements that, in accordance with one view of the teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, advocate the abolition of capita lism and all private profit, by means of violent revolution if necessary. Marx organized the International Workingmen’s Association, or First International; when this congress met at Geneva in 1866, it was the first international forum for the promulgation of Communist doctrine. This doctrine was later explained by Lenin, who defined a socialist society as one in which the workers, free from capitalist exploitation, receive the full product of their labor. Most socialists deny the claim of Commu nists to have achieved socialism in the USSR, which they regarded as an authoritarian tyranny. But after World War II, many Communist-led political parties in the Soviet sphere of influence still used the designation socialist in their names. In East Germany (now part of the united Federal Republic of Germany), for example, the name adopted by the merged Communist and Social Democratic parties was the Socialist Unity party.

The modern socialist movement, as distinguished from communism, had its origin largely in the revisionist movement of the late 19th century. The worsening condition of the proletariat, or workers, and the class war predicted by Marx for Western Europ e had not come about. Many socialist thinkers began to doubt the indispensability of revolution and to revise other basic tenets of Marxism. Led by the German writer Eduard Bernstein, they declared that socialism could best be attained by reformist, parliamentary, and evolutionary methods, including the support of the bourgeoisie.

Moderate Socialism

Such a view was held by the founders of the Fabian Society, organized in 1884 by British social reformers Sidney and Beatrice Webb and their associates. The Fabians in turn helped to form the British Independent Labour party in 1893; it became affiliated with the newly organized Labour party in 1906. In the US a Socialist Labor party was founded in 1877. This party, small as it was, became fragmented in the 1890s. In 1901 a moderate faction of the party under Morris Hillquit (1869-1933) joined with the Social Democratic party of Eugene V. Debs and the Christian Socialists of George D. Herron (1862-1925) to form the Socialist party.

The moderate, or revisionist, type of socialism found its clearest expression in the organization in Paris in 1889 of the Second International. This body differed from the First International in that it was merely a coordinator of the activities of i ts affiliated political parties and trade unions. The Second International also diverged in ideology; a majority of its members, led by Eduard Bernstein, were revisionists. The left-wing minority was led by Lenin and the German revolutionist Rosa Lux emburg; a third element, Marxist but opposed to Lenin, was led by the German theorist Karl Kautsky. The Second International declared its opposition to the preparations for war being made by most European governments.

Rise of the Left Wing

When World War I began in 1914, modern European socialist leaders supported their respective governments. Leaders of the Socialist party in the U.S. and of the Labour party of Great Britain did not. Spokespersons for the left wing, led by Lenin, labe led the war an imperialist struggle and urged the workers of the world to convert the war into a proletarian revolution or to turn the imperialist war into a class war. This ideological conflict resulted in the collapse of the Second International. R evived after World War I, it was never again important.

Despite the decline of the Second International, socialist parties made substantial gains during the years following World War I and during World War II. In Great Britain, the Labour party under Ramsay Macdonald was in power for ten months in 1924 and again from 1929 to 1931, but it lacked parliamentary majorities and accomplished little. In Australia the Labor party held office from 1929 to 1932, from 1941 to 1949, and from 1972 to 1975. The Labour government of New Zealand, elected in 1935, re mained in power until 1949. In Scandinavia, candidates of the Social Democratic parties of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were elected to high positions early in the 1920s; these parties subsequently became dominant in Scandinavia.

Socialism Versus Fascism

During the 1920s and ’30s socialist and Communist parties were in continuous conflict. One point of contention was the question of support for the USSR. Socialists castigated Communists as agents of the Soviet Union and traitors to their own countries. Also during the ’20s and ’30s, Fascist regimes in Germany and Italy caused both socialists and Communists to develop new tactics. Attempts were made in several countries to form a united front of all working-class organizations opposed to fascism, but the movement had limited success, even in France and Spain, where it did well in the 1936 elections. Failure of the Communists and socialists of Germany to unite is regarded as one cause of the success of the National Socialists. The fragile all iance that was achieved between socialists and Communists in some countries during this “Popular Front” period was destroyed in 1939 by the conclusion of a nonaggression pact between Germany and the USSR. Socialists condemned this act as a demonstrat ion of the community of interest between two totalitarian governments. In August 1939, Germany invaded Poland, precipitating World War II, and socialists in the Allied countries immediately expressed full support for their governments.

After World War II

An upsurge occurred in support of socialist parties after the war, chiefly in Western Europe. The greatest advance was scored in Great Britain in 1945; the victorious Labour party had in its campaign advocated the socialization of the British economy . In ensuing years individual socialists won victories and in some instances formed governments in France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and numerous other European countries. The Socialist International, similar to the Second Inte rnational, was organized in 1951 in Frankfurt, West Germany (now part of the united Federal Republic of Germany). In Asia, socialism made progress in India, Burma, and Japan; the Asian Socialist Conference was formed as the Eastern equivalent of the Socialist International. The Soviet satellites, the “People’s Democracies” of Eastern Europe, including Poland, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, came under the control of Communist-Socialist parties, but these were dominated in all cases by Communists. China established a Communist government, as did Albania and, later, Cuba. Emerging nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America frequently adopted social systems that were largely socialist in or ientation. In many instances, these nations took over properties held by foreign owners. The influence of the Socialist party of the U.S., led from 1924 to 1968 by Norman Thomas, gradually declined, although much of its economic program became law un der the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The period following World War II was also marked by intensification of the conflict between socialists and Communists. Socialists approved such measures, initiated in the U.S. and supported by the governments of Western Europe, as the European Recovery Program and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, declaring that the former would stem the tide of totalitarian communism by raising living standards and that the latter would achieve the same end by strengthening Western Europe militarily. Communists denounced these measures as imperialist preparations for war against the USSR.

Socialist political parties have suffered occasional setbacks in elections in those countries in which they form half of the two-party system, as in New Zealand in 1975 (they had been in power from 1957 to 1960 and from 1972 to 1975) and in Great Britain in 1979 (after five years in power). Nonetheless, extensive and fundamental parts of the socialist program are permanent features of contemporary economic and social life.

Three Faces of Socialism

Socialism took many forms in its early years. Karl Kautsky (left), Rosa Luxemburg (middle), and Eduard Bernstein (right) all represented diverse ideas regarding the implementation of socialism. Following the death of Marx, many socialists diverged in their thoughts on how Marx’s communist utopia could be attained. Bernstein believed communism would evolve naturally without need of revolution, unlike Rosa Luxemburg who traveled to Warsaw to participate in the 1905 Russian Revolution. Kautsky, though originally in favor of revolutionary methods, adopted more liberal views in his attempts to maintain the purity of Marxism.