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Growth of the doctrine


The word begins in obscurity. Though various origins have been suggested, the first use in French has commonly been ascribed to the Globe ofFebruary 13, 1832, where the word socialistes was chosen to describe thefollowers of Saint-Simon. (However, a recondite reference to socialism ayear earlier, in the religious journal Le semeur, has been uncovered. )Englishmen have claimed the honor of its coinage, since the word “socialist” did appear in the London Cooperative Magazine in 1826, although it was not until several years later that followers of RobertOwen began describing themselves as socialists. Clearly, however, the termwas in the air, for it described a converging mood; and the first articleon “socialism” as an idea in opposition to “individualism” was written byPierre Leroux and appeared in 1835 in the Encyclopédic nouvelle, edited byLeroux and Reynaud. The word recurred thereafter in various writings byLeroux.

By 1840 the term “socialism” was commonly used throughout Europe toconnote the doctrine that the ownership and control of the means ofproduction–capital, land, or property–should be held by the community as awhole and administered in the interests of all. Within 120 years after theterm became known in Europe, the doctrine had spread so widely that onecould find regimes in Sweden, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, eastern Europe, Cuba, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Guinea, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Burma, and Ceylon calling themselves socialist, and thelabels Arab socialism, African socialism, and Asian socialism used to describe the grafting of indigenous traditions onto ideological doctrine. Rarely in the history of the world has an idea taken hold so deeply and dispersed so quickly. One would have to go back to the spread of Islam, in the century and a half following the death of Muhammad, to find a comparable phenomenon. And the analogy is not without relevance, for one finds in both instances the promise of a perfect community, the effort to create a solidarity larger than that of tribe or class, a reaction to the meaninglessness of existing religious beliefs, a militant proselytizing spirit, and leadership by new elites. In fact, the comparison with Islam is meant to suggest that the spread of socialism cannot be wholly accounted for in economic or class terms. The socialist movement has (or had) the character of a secular religion, and only from this view can one explain its development and internal vicissitudes.

This article will discuss the formulation of early socialist doctrine, the differentiation of the socialist movement and the spread of socialism, the role of socialist parties, and varieties of socialist belief since Marx. [Marxist views and positions are elaborated in Marxism and in the articles under Communism. ]

Growth of the doctrine


The meaning of socialism, both logically and sociologically, can only be understood as a contrast to individualism. The Enlightenment, English political economy, the French Revolution, and the nascent industrialism had all combined to produce what in 1826 a disciple of Saint-Simon called individualism. In this doctrine, society existed to serve the individual and the pursuit of his own satisfactions; natural rights inhered in each individual, and government was not to regulate the economic life of society. Even the French Revolution, with all its passion for virtue and its defense of popular sovereignty, fostered the idea of economic individualism.

The attack on individualism drew its strength from a Catholic and a socialist point of view. Bon aid and de Maistre, both theocrats, were militantly against “political Protestantism” and asserted that man exists only for society. Particularly after the revolution of 1830, many French writers of a conservative bent–Lamartine, Balzac, Sainte- Beuve, Lammenais, and Tocqueville–expressed their alarm about I’odieux individualisme and held it responsible for the disintegration that they felt was occurring in their society. While the conservatives attacked The politicalphilosophy which they linked to the French Revolution, the socialists were appalled by the economic doctrine of laissez-faire: this, Louis Blanc declared, was responsible for man’s ruthless exploitation of man in moder nindustry. Under industrialization, the socialists alleged, the individual had been torn from old moorings and had no anchorage. Friedrich Engels, writing about London in The Condition of the Working Class in England, described “the brutal indifference, the unfeeling isolation of each in his private interest,” which people experienced in the British capital, and stated that “the dissolution of mankind into monads of which each one has a separate principle, the world of atoms, is here carried out to its utmost extreme” ([1845] 1958, p. 24).

Against the atomization and “egoism” of society, as Saint-Simon called it, the social critics proposed a new order based on association, harmony, altruism, and, finally, the word that superseded all of these–socialism. The idea of socialism has a long history in the Utopian tradition; one can trace its roots back to the dream of returning to a golden age of social harmony or to the radical theological creed–expressed most vividly by the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century and the Levellers and Diggers of theseventeenth–of the equality of all men. But equality alone is not the essence of socialism. The heart of socialism is to be found in the idea of community and in the doctrine that men can realize their full potential and achieve human emancipation in community. By this touchstone, the seeds of modern socialism are to be found in Rousseau [see the biography ofRousseau].

The theme of community is also the central theme of Fourier, Owen, Saint-Simon, and Marx. The first three sought to achieve it through the a priori elaboration of the theoretical elements of community. Marx, on the other hand, sought to realize it through the sphere of philosophy and what he held to be its material embodiment, the proletariat. It is in the phrase “the realization of philosophy,” the end point of a process of history, and not in any alleged distinction between Utopian and scientific descriptions of socialism, that the difference between Marx and the others lies.

Both Owen and Fourier sketched socialist Utopias that were enormously attractive to individuals whose sensibility was repelled by the evils of industrialism. Each wanted to establish a small agrarian community that science could make practical–in effect, a withdrawal from society. Neither man had a sense of history or any realistic awareness of the politics of his time. [See the biographies ofFourier and Owen. ]

Saint-Simon ( “the last gentleman and the first socialist” of France) was a very different sort, and the customary inclusion of him with Fourier and Owen as a “Utopian” is actually a disservice to a formidable intellectual, a disservice initially performed by Marx, who, although he derived many ideas from Saint-Simon, failed to see the implications of much of the French writer’s thought. John Stuart Mill, however, clearly recognized Saint-Simon’s contribution, remarking, in Principles of Political Economy(1848), that in the few years of its public promulgation, Saint-Simon’s thought had sowed the seeds of nearly all the socialist tendencies. Durkheim considered Saint-Simon to be the father of socialism, as well as of positivism, and devoted a book to his theories. Although in the Communist Manifesto Marx cavalierly dismissed Saint-Simon as a Utopian, Engels in his later years remarked that Saint-Simon’s “breadth of view” and “genius” contained in embryo “all the ideas of later socialists which are not strictly economic.” For what Saint-Simon presented is what we know today as the theory of industrial society, and his discussion of the nature of solidarity outlines the theory of occupational community which Durkheim later elaborated. [See the biography ofSaint-Simon. ]

It is not too much to say, following Markham (1952), that the Saint-Simonians were the most important single force behind the greate conomic expansion of the Second Empire, particularly in the development of banks and railways. Enfantin, the most bizarre of the Saint-Simonians, formed the society for planning the Suez Canal. The brothers Emile and Isaac Pereire, who promoted the first French railway from Paris to Saint-Germain, also founded the Credit Mobilier, the first industrial investment bank in France, and the Compagnie Generate Transatlantique, whose first ships were named after Saint-Simon and his followers.

In the hands of some of his more zealous followers, Saint-Simon’sdoctrines were made to seem ludicrous. Yet his own insight was considerable, and it was the Saint-Simonians’ more diffuse (but no less intense) belief in Marxism which gave that doctrine its command over so large a part of the world.


The Communist Manifesto (Marx & Engels 1848) and the writing done in the thirty years following it make up the corpus of work that later socialists drew upon and associated with Marx [for a detailed discussion, see the biographies ofEngels and Marx]. Relying on The politicalactivities of Marx as well as on his judgments, the diverse socialist factions sought to justify their own policies. Thus Lenin and the Bolsheviks found in the address to the Communist League of March 1850, and in Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme (Marx Engels1875-1891), the justification of their revolutionary and insurrectionary tactics. From Marx’s activity in Cologne in the early part of 1849 and from his inaugural speech to the Grand Council of the International Workingmen’s Association (the First International), democratic socialists have argued that peaceful electoral change is possible in the achievement of socialism.

Marx envisaged a two-stage development in industrial countries that presaged the victory of socialism. The first was the democraticrevolution; the second, the social revolution. By the “democraticrevolution” Marx meant the victory of the middle classes over the remnantsof the aristocracy and the clearing away of feudal remains to achieve the successful development of capitalist production and of political rights for all in the society. By the “social revolution” Marx meant the economic victory of the proletariat, who will take over the ownership of the means of production. From this point of view, England was the most advanced country and, therefore, presumably the one most ripe for socialism. Measured on the same yardstick, Germany, while developing industrially, was still lagging behind because the middle classes had failed to completethe democratic revolution; Russia was the least advanced, since the middle classes had failed to act at all, whereas the German middle classes had at least done something in 1848. In the socialist perspective, therefore, Russia was the country where a revolution was most imminent, since it hadlagged so far behind and was only beginning to catch up economically. But before 1914 all orthodox Marxists expected this to be a bourgeois, rather than a socialist, revolution, since the working class in Russia was too small to sustain a socialist revolution and the economy was too “immature” for socialism. Against the populists and the anarchists in Russia whoargued that the country could skip a social stage and usher in a socialismbased in part on the old village miry, or communal holdings, the early Russian Marxists—Axelrod, Plekhanov, and Lenin—argued that socialism in Russia would have to await the development of capitalism and the creation of a sizable working class. Only at the beginning of the twentieth century did the thought occur to some Russian Marxists, notably “Parvus” and Trotsky—and later Lenin himself, when he was converted to the idea—that they could use the impending Russian revolution to wrest power from the bourgeoisie and thus spark revolution in the advanced industrial countries. Before 1917, no Marxists thought that socialism would be possible in preindustrial or underdeveloped countries. The West was expected to lead the way.

What kind of socialism was supposed to emerge? What would society be like the day after the revolution? And what were Marxists supposed to do while waiting for the revolution? No political party can exist without a program that holds out the promise of immediate benefits. But as Schumpeter has pointed out, anything positive done or to be done in the vitiated atmosphere of capitalism was ipso facto tainted. Marx and Engels discouraged programs that involved constructive policy within the capitalist order because they smacked of bourgeois radicalism. However, when they faced the problem in 1847, they resolutely cut the Gordian knot. As Schumpeter put it: “The Communist Manifesto quite illogically lists anumber of immediate objects of socialist policy, simply laying the socialist barge along side the liberal liner” (1942, p. 317 in the 1962 edition).

The problem was to recur constantly throughout The political history of most of the European socialist parties. Should one make immediate demands or not? This issue was fought out, for example, within the American Socialist party at the turn of the century; and it resulted in such factions as the Reformists, and the Impossibilists, who declared themselves against any such program on the ground that it would dilute the revolutionary ardor of the masses. More important, the problem of reforms, and of what kind of reforms, had to be confronted by the various socialist parties of Europe in the 1930s–such as the British Labour party, the German Social Democratic party, and the French Socialist party–when the yentered the government and even took over sole responsibility for running it in a capitalist society. As we shall see, many of these governments and countries foundered when the socialist governments discovered, for example, that they had no solution for the problem of unemployment undercapitalism. The slogan “Socialism or Capitalism” had left them unprepared for the exigencies of the intermediate period. This is always the dilemmaof social movements that live in a world but are not of it.

Gotha and Erfurt

Marx did, of course, distinguish between socialism and communism, in the sense that the first is a transitional period and the second the undefined realm of man’s freedom. For this aspect of the idea of socialism, two documents are crucial—the Gotha Programme (see Marx & Engels 1875-1891) and the Erfurt Program (see Kautsky 1892), two doctrinal statements of the German Social Democratic party.

In 1875, two German socialist parties, one dominated by followers of Ferdinand Lassalle, the other by Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel, nominal followers of Marx, met in Gotha to create a unified socialist party. The program they adopted there was in the main a product ofLassallean doctrine, and in a private communication Marx wrote a searing critique of it. In 1891, the German Social Democratic party adopted theso-called Erfurt Program (named for the city where the party congress was held), which was written principally by Karl Kautsky, under the directsupervision of Engels; Engels then published the Critique for its historicinterest, feeling that the Erfurt Program went beyond the criticism Marxhad made of the Gotha document. But the Critique, in its tone andimplications, was more revolutionary and radical than the Erfurt Program, and, predictably, the left-wingers in the socialist movement, beginning with Lenin, formulated their program from the Critique. It was in the Critique that Marx used the phrase “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat,” which after 1917 provoked far more recriminatory debates between communists and socialists than any other words he wrote. The communists took it as a justification of the suppression of all political parties other than the true proletarian party under Soviet rule. The socialists insisted that the phrase applied only to temporary and special situations until a truly democratic state could be organized, and wasnugatory in those situations where a peaceful transition to socialism, through the electoral process, was possible.

The inflammatory phrase does not appear in the Erfurt Program, nor doesany statement of immediate aims or political demands. The program was intended as a full-fledged analysis of the tendencies of capitalism, froma Marxian point of view, and as a general discussion of the “cooperative commonwealth” of the future. The program assumes the recurrent Marxist theme: “Few things are . . . more childish than to demand of the socialist that he draw a picture of the commonwealth which he strives for. . . . Never yet in the history of mankind has it happened that a revolutionary party was able to foresee, let alone determine, the forms of the newsocial order which it strove to usher in” (Kautsky [1892] 1910, pp. 122-123).

On the forms of organization, the managerial problems of a socialist regime—how orders are to be given, who will give them, which industriesare to be managed by workers directly, which by state enterprises; in short, the practical problems that the Soviet state faced after the communists had assumed power—the program is completely silent.

Kautsky, who inherited Engels’ mantle as the leading Marxist the oretician, was prompted only once to deal with the problem of the organization of production in a socialist society (but not with the structure of authority with in an enterprise). In some lectures delivered and published in 1902 as The Social Revolution, he declared simply that the organization of production would follow the scope of the market.

For example, gas lighting is clearly a municipal business. The development of electric lighting and the transformation of power in mountainous regions makes the nationalization of water power necessary. This operates also to transform illumination from a municipal to a national business. Again the business of the shoemaker was formerly confined to the local market. The shoe factory does not supply simply the community, but the whole nation, with its production, and is ripe not for communalization, but for nationalization. The same is true of sugar factories, breweries, etc. (1902, pp. 115–116)

In fact, when Kautsky had finished with his itemization (transportation, railroads, steamships, mines, forests, iron foundries, machinemanufactures), it was clear that almost all industries would benationalized in the “proletarian regime.” [See the biography ofKautsky. ]

If one goes beyond these pedestrian problems, however, it is interesting that the Erfurt Program ends, curiously enough, on a note reminiscent of the young Marx and of that strain in German romanticism which looked back to the glory of Greece.

The blessed harmonious culture, which appeared only once in the history ofmankind and was then the privilege of a small body of select aristocrats, will become the common property of all civilized nations. What slaves were to the ancient Athenians, machinery will be to modern man. Man will feelall the elevating influences that flow from freedom from productive toil, without being poisoned by the evil influences which, through chattel slavery, finally undermined the Athenian aristocracy. And as the modern means of science and art are vastly superior to those of two thousand years ago, and the civilization of today overshadows that of the litte land of Greece, so will the socialist commonwealth in moral greatness and material well-being the most glorious society that history has thus farknown. (Kautsky [1892] 1910, p. 158)

Differentiation of the movement

The period from 1870 onward in western Europe saw the swift growth ofindustrialization and urbanization, the two crucial elements of modern society. This expansion of industrial power and of economic growth andwealth, which was due largely to two technological innovations—theimprovement of steel metallurgy and the application of electrical energyto factory, city, and home– seemed to confirm a number of Marx’spredictions regarding the development of capitalism (see Marx 1867-1879, vol. 1, chapter 25, and vol. 3, chapter 23). Capitalism was undergoing remarkable changes. The expansion of the joint stock company (the prototype of the modern corporation) was forcing a separation of ownership and management, which in many areas resulted in the industrial manager’staking the place of the capitalist as the central person of theorganization, and the large-scale enterprise began employing hundreds and even thousands of workers under a single roof. More important, the “amalgamation” movements of the 1880s and 1890s—the rise of trusts, cartels, and monopolies—and the consequent elimination of hundreds of smaller businesses seemed to bear out Marx’s predictions about the centralization of capital and the socializing of the processes of production.

Volume 1 of Capital was published in 1867, and the subsequent expansion ofthe volume, along with its rapid translation into many languages, gave Marx, hither to a neglected and cantankerous emigre in London, an authorityin the international socialist movement, particularly in its German branch, which he had never had before. With the assiduous publication andspread of Marx’s works by the growing socialist movements, Marxism suddenly became a vogue as no other socialist doctrine had ever been; andwith the proliferation of followers and propagandists who in newspapers, pamphlets, and street meetings proselytized the simplified works of Marx, the doctrine itself assumed a canonical status that was unprecedented inthe history of secular writing.

The Second International

In 1889 almost four hundred delegates fromtwenty different countries (three-fourths of them from Germany and France)met in Paris to create a new International, the Second International of socialist parties. The so-called First International, the International Working-men’s Association, was a loose confederation of small politicaland trade union groups, rather than parties, that had been organized in 1864. Although Marx was not the initiator of the First International, hequickly became its dominant intellectual figure, supplanting Mazzini, who had been asked to write its first draft program. The International brokeup in 1872, when Marx and the anarchist leader Bakunin quarreled; though the anarchists were expelled, Marx had the International’s center moved to New York, preferring to bury it rather than allow some other group to capture it. The First International was formally dissolved in Philadelphia in 1876.

More than any other step, the founding of the Second International symbolized the swift rise of Marxist socialism in Europe. It was only 14 years earlier, in 1875, that the German Social Democratic party, the first socialist party in Europe, had been formed. In the next dozen years or so, socialist parties were organized in France, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden. In Russia in 1883, the year of Marx’s death, GeorgiiPlekhanov organized the first political group of Russian Marxists. Aboutthe same time, in England, M. H. Hyndman, the son of an aristocrat, organized the Social Democratic Federation, which, while calling itself Marxist, never acquired more than a small sectarian following; and aquixotic band of reformers organized the Fabian Society (the name alluded to the Roman general Fabius Cunctater–Fabius the Delayer–who was known forhis patient, waiting tactics against Hannibal). In 1889, the year the Second International was founded, the historic Fabian Essays in Socialism was issued, with chapters by George Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb, and Annie Besant. The book eventually sold two million copies, and laid theintellectual foundations of the British Labour party and of Labour governments for the next sixty years.

Socialist parties

By 1914, socialism had become the single most important political force on the Continent. In the 1912 Reichs tag elections, the German Social Democrats amassed 4. 5 million votes (over 30 per cent of the total) and 110 seats in the parliament, making it the largest single party in Germany. In France one of the socialist groups, the SFIO, garnered 1. 4 million votes and 103 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. In Italy the socialists held over seventy seats in the parliament, and efforts were made to invite the party, or at least its right wing, into the government.

But the rise of the socialist parties was not only a simple matter of winning large numbers of votes, primarily among the working class. With in a new and growing system of universal political suffrage, it transformed the nature of the party system and The political structure of each country.

The political party of the first half of the nineteenth century was usually a loose association of “notables,” in Max Weber’s terminology, invariably based on individual constituencies or districts, and often withlittle responsibility to an electorate. With the growing democratization of the franchise in England, associationswere formed in each district; and the caucus system, developed in 1868, enabled the Liberals to begin building local machines with full-time election workers. Yet mass membership was infrequent, and the parties of England, as well as the United States, depended for their finances on wealthy contributors. What the socialists did, particularly in Germany, was to introduce the disciplined and centralized mass party, with formal machinery for enrollment, regular payment of dues, a system of subscription to party newspapers and magazines, and, often, specified requirements of party activity. At its prewar peak, the German Social Democratic party had a million members and an annual budget of nearly two million marks.

But the socialist movement did more than build the first mass political party. It tried, in most of the European countries and to a lesser extent in England, to build a complete working-class culture, a social world of its own, independent of the official culture of the society. The German socialist movement, the model for all other socialist parties, built large consumer cooperatives (with a large wholesale organization and its own processing plants) as well as housing developments. By the 1890s there were national organizations of workers’ athletic societies, workers’bicycling clubs, and workers’ hiking clubs. In time, the workers’recreational and cultural movement extended into all fields from chess to the theater, where a strong Volksbuhne (people’s stage) was created. A working-class child could begin life in a socialist creche, join a socialist youth movement, go to a socialist summer camp, hike with the socialist Wandervögel, sing in a workers’ chorus, and be buried by a socialist burial society in a socialist cemetery.

If the idea of proletarian mountain climbing or socialist chess playing invites ridicule, one must see, as Carl Landauer (1959) points out, that the workers had been “excluded” from almost all accepted society, and they responded by creating their own.

Revisionism and reformism

The socialist movements at the turn of the century may have felt sure about inheriting the future, but there was considerable uncertainty as to when and how that inheritance would be realized. Marx, in all his writings, had never been specific about the road to power. After 1850 he felt that the day of the barricades was finished, not only for military reasons but also because bourgeois society would stabilize itself for a long time to come. Against this view, apocalyptic hopes occasionally flared up, as during the Paris Commune. Yet Marx never took a dogmatic view as to any single course which the socialist movement would necessarily have to follow. In several instances, he felt that socialism might be achieved peacefully in the Western countries, where democratic institutions were being established. But he never ruled out the possibility of, and even the need for, violence, should the occasion demand it. Marx and Engels, throughout their lifetimes, insisted simply on the necessity of a revolution, by which they, as well as Kautsky, who became the leading spokesman for orthodox Marxism after the 1890s, meant a complete overturn of society once the socialists were in power—the abolition of private property, the end of social privilege, the breaking of The political and police power ofthe old ruling classes.

But the question whether this aim could be achieved by peaceful means was never settled. And this ambiguity was responsible for the major doctrinal conflicts that preoccupied the socialist movements from 1890 to 1914.

The major issues had to do with the themes of revisionism and reformism. Although their belief in socialism was never shaken, some individuals were skeptical that capitalist society was actually heading in the direction Marx had predicted. The standard of living was evidently rising rather than falling, and though some of the old middle class was disappearing, an emerging class of white-collar workers was taking its place. In many countries this new class did not wholly identify itself with the manual workers (with whom socialism was identified) or with the socialist parties. Most of all, the socialists’ increasing success in parliament posed practical problems, such as entering the cabinets in coalition with other parties (and trying to put through social legislation rather than just waiting for capitalism to fall) and making alliances with nonworking-class parties such as the Liberals in England, the Catholic Center in Germany, or the Radical party in France. As James Joll hasneatly put it: “By the end of the nineteenth century, no Socialist party could escape the difficulties presented by its own existence as a mass party, forced, for the moment at least, to function with in a political system which at the same time it was seeking to destroy” (1955, p. 77).

Germany. The problem was especially great in Germany, whose Social Democratic party was the most theoretically intransigent, and it was first posed by Eduard Bernstein, who was the editor of the party journal and was chosen by Engels to be one of his literary executors. In 1899, Bernstein wrote Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus unddie Aufgaben der Sozialdemokratie (The Presuppositions of Socialism and the Tasks of Social Democracy), which triggered the debate. He argued, in effect, that the party should recognize the new changes in industrial society and declare itself to be what it was actually becoming—a partyprincipally concerned with social reform. [See the biography ofBernstein. ]

Although Bernstein’s arguments had some immediate political implications, the debate was conducted largely on a theoretical level. There were important doctrinal and historical reasons for this. The German movement had always set great store in theory as the guide to the future; and the discussion of theory–especially in a party isolated from the academic world—was in Germany a matter of status and prestige. But the debate on theory had important psychological roots as well. Although Marx had alway stried to shape the course of the German socialist movement, his influence during most of his life was virtually nil. The first German Workers party was organized in 1863 by Lassalle, whose dandified manners andaristocratic pretensions infuriated Marx. The constitutional struggle between Bismarck and the liberal opposition dominated The political life of Prussia at the time; and to Marx and Engels, observing the situation from England, this struggle was an outward expression of the conflict between the historic forces of aristocratic feudalism and bourgeois capitalism. They therefore urged the new German Workers party “to drivethe ’revolutionary’ Liberals forward against the government, preparing at the same time to lead the proletariat in its turn against the victorious forces of the bourgeoisie once the feudal system had succumbed to theironslaught” (Morgan 1965, p. 8). But Lassalle and his followers wereconvinced that Prussian liberalism had no such revolutionary propensitiesand that the quickest way for the workers to increase their influence wasto join Bismarck’s campaign against his liberal opponents, hoping to win in return certain socialist demands–freedom of the press and associationand, above all, manhood suffrage, which Lassalle and his followers felt was necessary to any further advance. Lassalle, under the influence of Louis Blanc, also hoped that the state would finance cooperative factories so that the workers could become their own employees and overcome the"iron law of wages” which kept them impoverished under capitalism. Lassalle, a Hegelian, believed that the state should rule society; and socialism, with state ownership of factories, was the embodiment of the ideal of the state. Against Lassalle (and his successor J. B. Schweitzer), the socialists Liebknecht and Bebel organized a rival socialist party, known as theEisenachers. Nominally Marxist, the Eisenachers were primarily ananti-Prussian party, and though they adopted the program of the International Workingmen’s Association, they did so largely for tactical reasons against the Lassalleans. In practice they operated as a broad"people’s party.” The war of 1870 and the subsequent unification ofGermany dissolved most of the issues between the two factions.

The debate remained on a theoretical plane for good practical reasons. Reformism–which assumed that effective parliamentary power could beobtained–was impossible in Germany; for while imperial Germany had a parliamentary system, decisive power was actually in the hands of the emperor. Any chancellor needed the Reichstag’s approval for legislationand for the budget, but a chancellor could be replaced only if he lost the confidence of the emperor. The chancellor, in fact, was responsible not to the Reichstag but to the crown. The government, though constitutional in form, was in fact autocratic. And while social democracy was growing inparliamentary strength, there was no corresponding growth in the powers of parliament.

Thus The political system barred the Social Democrats from any legitimatehopes of winning power through parliamentary means and reinforced the rhetoric of revolutionary intransigence. The “fatal mistake,” as Schumpeter called it, was Bismarck’s. In a Machiavellian stratagem, he introduced universal suffrage in the federal empire after 1871, in thehope of winning the peasant votes, and to some extent those of the workers, against the urban middle classes. When the socialist vote began to increase, Bismarck introduced restrictive legislation against the socialists as a party, while introducing a comprehensive set of social welfare measures in order to win the loyalty of the workers. The maneuverfailed. When the antisocialist laws lapsed in 1890, the socialists emerged stronger than ever, and their experiences reinforced their antagonistic temper and revolutionary rhetoric.

By the turn of the century, and the reafter, the party controlled largemunicipal administrations, was supported by a powerful trade union movement, and had a vast bureaucracy of its own. The party’s ideology nolonger corresponded to its sociological reality (Michels 1911), but, because The political system did not allow the party to discard it srevolutionary rhetoric, the ideology remained intact.

Thus, when Kautsky came to answer Bernstein, he couched his polemic in the language of Marxist scholasticism. In practical fact, the situation confronting the Social Democratic party of Germany —as well as the socialist parties of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and czarist Russia—was the failure of the bourgeoisie, as far back as 1848, to complete their middleclass political revolution and eliminate the structures of monarchy and aristocratic rule. But Kaut sky offered no program to deal with this problem other than the rhetorical formula of revolution and the relentless march of history which would sharpen the crises of capitalism.

When in 1918 all three empires—Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia—collapsed, the socialist parties in these and other countries alladopted widely varying courses. Although capitalism by the turn of the century had become the predominant economic form of Western society, political structures and cultural traditions varied widely from one country to another. Paradoxical as it seems in Marxist terms, the culturalelements, more than the economic conditions in each country, account forthe varying forms the socialist movement took. As Schumpeter remarked, every country had its own socialism.

England. In Germany a rigid class structure, reinforced by a militaristiccode of honor, excluded the workers from society and led to a counterstiffness of doctrinal Marxist orthodoxy. In Great Britain, by contrast, the intelligence of an old gentry class, a deep tradition of liberty andof political rights, the lack of a militaristic tradition and even of a standing army, the long-established supremacy of Parliament over the monarchy, and the deep-rooted empirical conception of politics, which rendered ideological “all-or-none” terms distasteful—all made for a civil polity, one that accepted the existence of the socialist movement as a legitimate part of British society.

The British Labour party came in to being in order to realize the rights of the working class in the society. The exemplar of peaceful–and piecemeal—social change, it was never Marxist, though it was based on strong class feeling and class loyalty. The sources of this position are three fold: There was, first, the deep and persistent strain of nonconformist Christian evangelism, which saw equality as a moralim perative. (The writings of R. H. Tawney, principally his books Equality [1931] and The Acquisitive Society [1920], which helped to shape the English socialist outlook, reflect this evangelism. ) There was, second, the influence of the Fabians, principally Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who, representing one aspect of the Benthamite tradition, were social engineers for whom socialism was a tidy answer to the waste and disorder of the capitalist world. And third, there was the large trade union movement, which saw in the Labour party a means of influencing the course of favorable legislation.

Where as the Continental socialist parties participated actively in the affairs of the Second International, the British Labour party, before World War i, remained insular and rarely tried to impose its influence, asthe Germans did, on other socialist parties. Much of this was due to the general isolation of the British from Continental social thought (on erarely encounters a discussion of “the state” in English political theory), which in turn has to do with the British temperament. As G. D. H. Cole, who knew Webb well, wrote:

Sidney Webb’s first thought in dealing with any question he took up was to find an administratively workable solution; and apart from a very fewessentially simple ideas–he did not trouble himself much about underlying philosophy. He was fully convinced that the trend of events in the modern world was towards Socialism, and that this trend would continue: so tha the saw no need to put himself into revolutionary opposition to the main course of development. . . . He had what is some times called a “civilservice” mind–that is, a habit of translating every idea into terms of them achinery needed to give it effect. . . . He was, however, impatient of dreamers, and uninterested in theories which he could not turn into practical schemes. (Cole 1953-1960, vol. 3, part 1, p. 210)

H. G. Wells summed up still another side of British socialism when he left the Fabian Society after a personal falling-out with Shaw and the Webbs. He caricatured all of them savagely in his novel The New Machiavelli. “Hersoul was bony,” he wrote of the character named Altiora Bailey (Beatrice Webb). “If they [Altiora and her husband] had the universe in hand I know they would take down all the trees and put up stamped tin green shades and sunlight accumulators. Altiora thought trees hopelessly irregular and seacliffs a great mistake.” The root image of their world, Wells wrote, was"an organized state as confident and powerful as modern science. . . . Individualism meant muddle, meant a crowd of separate undisciplined little people all obstinately doing things jarringly each one in his own way. . . . The organized state would end muddle forever” (Wells [1910] 1927, p. 193).

The Webbs spent most of their lives making detailed empirical inquiriesinto problems of social welfare and administration. While Marxism isusually associated with the idea of planning, Marx, as we have seen, never drew any specific blue print of a planned society. Nor did the German Social Democrats, despite their large parliamentary represervation, even study industrial organization and indicate what theymight do if they came into power. The Webbs and the Fabians, however, issued several hundred tracts providing detailed expositions of Labour thinking on both the local and the national levels. One can appreciate the thorough going detail of Fabian research from a series of studies(conducted between 1898 and 1901) about the municipalization of different services—alcohol traffic, milk supply, pawnshops, slaughter houses, bakeries, hospitals, and fire insurance (see Cole 1953-1960, vol. 3, part1, pp. 215-216). In 1909, the Webbs’s minority report on the operation ofthe poor laws set out in comprehensive detail the conception and policy ofthe welfare state (Great Britain . . . 1909). Later studies dealt with the general problems of the organization and control of industry. [See thebiography ofWebb, Sidney and Beatrice. ]

The Fabians operated primarily as an elite group and never sought a large membership. Their influence was felt through their published ideas, their research, and their propaganda. Before World War i, the Fabians were aconstituent group in the Labour party; but in keeping with their avowed tactic of permeating all institutions of society that had the power toinfluence policy the civil service, the professions, business groups, and local government–they drew upon all groups, non socialist as well associalist, for help. After 1918, when the British Labour party adopted a new constitution and accepted as its basic program a Fabian policy statement drafted by Sidney Webb, relations between the Fabian Society and the Labour party became closer.

The Labour party has been unique among socialist parties, not only because of its open emphas is on “gradualism” but also because of its structure. Unlike the Continental socialist parties, based on individual membership, the British Labour party originated as a federation of unions and constituent socialist societies, and its funds were raised principally through levies on the union members. Until 1918 individuals could notbecome members directly. They became affiliated with the Labour part yeither through membership in the Independent Labour party, the Fabian Society, or the trade unions, and policy was worked out in negotiations between these organizations. Candidates were nominated by agreement between the unions and affiliates, on a roughly proportional basis. Theindividuals elected to Parliament then formed the parliamentary Labour party.

After 1918 the membership system was changed in order to organize local Labour parties directly in each constituency, but the federated structure remained. The formulation of policy has the refore been a complicated affair. Since the trade unions have traditionally constituted the largest group in the party and vote en bloc in the Labour party conventions, the annual Trades Union Congress is an important arena for adopting resolutions. The annual Labourparty conference of unions, affiliates (such as the consumer-cooperative movement), and local constituency parties sets policy. But this policy is only morally binding on the parliamentary Labour party. In office, the Labour party is responsible only to the parliamentary party, not to the Labour party as a whole. In this crucial respect, once again, the BritishLabour party is shaped by the structure of British politics and not by theconventional theories of socialist organization.

France. In England, the transition to a modern industrial society wasaccomplished peacefully by the economic, and to some extent social, blending of the rising plutocratic groups with the gentry, while a set ofpolitical compromises brought all sections of the country, including theworking class, into the society. In Germany, the older feudal elements, using the state, had created powerful industries and maintained apolitical hegemony over the subordinated middle class. The working class, excluded socially, had built its own institutions, but paradoxically thesevery institutions had facilitated the integration of the workers into the society.

France lacked any such unifying features. Economically, it was atwo-sector society with a large peasant and artisan class alongside amodern industrial economy. Politically the feudal structure had beenbroken, but the bourgeois parties were never able to establish theirunambiguous control; the unstable balance of forces periodically openedthe way to an adventurer attempting to seize power. The working classitself was split.

In Germany and England, the trade unions were part of the organized socialist movement because they hoped to achieve most of their a imsthrough political concessions by the government rather than through direct economic bargaining. But in France, the trade unions were completely independent of the socialist parties. One wing, the syndicalists, basedtheir gospel on Proudhon’s anti-authoritarian and antipolitical ideas, and their anti-parliamentary bias on the betrayals of the 1848 revolution and the Commune. The French form of union organization, the Bourses deTravail, which stressed the local community of all trades rather than the nation wide organization of one industry or craft, expressed the tendency to create a new society of labor rather than to concentrate on wages and working conditions. The other wing was that of “politicalsocialism,” but here, too, many of the temperamental weaknesses of Frenchpolitics–its tendentiousness, its hyperbolic rhetoric, and itsinstability–were apparent in the French socialist movement.

In 1896, there were no fewer than six national socialist parties inFrance, each usually more interested in fighting the others than infighting the opposition. By 1905, the six had been reduced to two nationalparties, one led by Jules Guesde, who was the spokesman for orthodox Marxism and whose following was chiefly in the industrial north, and the other by Jean Jaures, a former professor of philosophy and a renownedorator–a humanist repelled by the aridities of Marxist dogma–whosefollowing was among teachers, skilled workers, and intellectuals attractedto the idea of ethical socialism.

Under the pressure of the Socialist International, the two parties made anuneasy union, but the factions were still unable to agree on whether toenter coalition governments headed by bourgeois parties. The Frenchparliamentary system, with its emphasis on multiparties, made it difficult for any single party to assume power. The art of government was the art ofcoalition. As socialist parliamentary strength rapidly increased, the socialists faced the problem of silently abstaining, thereby allowing rightist cabinets to govern, or entering center-left coalitions. Those whoopposed coalitions argued that the assumption of governmental responsibility would weaken the militancy of the workers and would forcethe party to agree to non-socialist programs. Those who favored coalition, originally named the Possibilists, argued that in government, socialistscould more easily defend the republic against reactionary forces–and atthe same time help pave the way to socialism.

Syndicalism. If the British Labour party and Fabian gradualism to gether represent one end of the socialist continuum, revolutionary syndicalism, with its faith in direct action and the general strike, represents the other. The word “syndicalism” simply meant “unionism,” but in the period preceding World War i it connoted an antiparliamen-tary, antire formist tendency deeply rooted in the Proudhon a narchist, antipolitical, antiauthoritarian tradition.

Revolutionary syndicalism was primarily a pheno men on of the Latin countries–France, Italy, and Spain–though syndicalist elements made astrong showing in the British labor movement among the seamen and the transport workers, and in the United States among the western miners and loggers of the Industrial Workers of the World ( “Wobblies” ). Syndicalism never took hold in central Europe, the heartland of orthodox Marxism.

Marx and Engels had taught their followers to regard syndicalist tendencies as an expression of backwardness and immaturity, as a passing phase in the development of industrialism which would disappear after the emergence of the largescale factory system and a modern industrial proletariat. What ever the validity of that appraisal, syndicalism as itemerged in France was not only a despairing rebellion against industrial capitalism but, in its vision of the future, a protest against the destruction of free trade unionism under an authoritarian state socialism.

This aspect of syndicalism was formulated by Fernand Pelloutier, a journalist who had been active in the various Marxist movements in France. Disillusioned with The political parties, which were preoccupied withobtaining office and power, Pelloutier felt that the only protection workers could have against arbitrary managerial power–either innationalized industries or in capitalist enterprises—would be workers’control of industry.

Syndicalism was important less as a doctrine for reorganizing society than as an attitude. It was hostile to parliamentary methods—and in 1905 the French trade union movement, in the famous Charter of Amiens, laid down the principle of strict independence from all political party involvement. Its in junction has been so strong that, unlike every other European trade union official, no French union secretary was allowed to take a parliamentary seat. The charter proclaimed the general strike as the instrument of revolution, a single collective action where by the entire working class, by laying down its tools, could halt the operations of industry and in that “transforming moment” take power. Further, the charter glorified spontaneity rather than organization; and it emphasized the role of a conscious minority, an elite of revolutionary proletarians whose task it would be to lead an aroused working class into revolution aryaction. [SeeSyndicalismand the biography ofSorel. ]

Guild socialism

The syndicalist emphasis on workers’ control has hadre current appeal in workingclass and radical movements. In Great Britain, where the “medievalist socialism” of William Morris and John Ruskin, firmly against industrialism and statism, caught on for a time, syndicalist ideas had a strange efflorescence before World War i in the"guild socialism” of A. R. Orage and G. D. H. Cole. [See the biography ofCole, G. D. H. ]

The guild socialists, reacting against the administrative socialism of theFabians, blueprinted a decentralized socialist society in greater detail than any other socialist movement had. Politically, the guild state was to be a bicameral body–the one a geographical parliament based on local constituencies, the other a “functional” body made up of representatives of each trade or industry. The consumer, through Parliament, was to set the goals of production(e. g. , the division between consumption and investment, the priorities of development); the Council of Guild Representatives, the producers, was to be responsible for the efficient management of industry. Each guild was tobe a self-governing body, based on local councils, and was to set its ownconditions of work. Each guild would receive money in proportion to its membership, but would pay wages in accordance with its own rules–either inequal shares or in differentials according to skill. Thus a national political and economic planning system was combined with the idea of cooperative workshops.

Russian populism

The course of world politics since 1917 has been dominated by the long shadow and the doctrinal pronouncements of VladimirIl’ich Ul’ianov. Before 1914, however, Lenin played only a small role in the affairs of international socialism. He was a member, after 1905, of the bureau (executive committee) of the Second International, one of 69 persons representing 23 member countries. He was known personally to the leading figures of the socialist movement, but his works, not yettranslated, were little known; and as an exile representing one of several fiercely quarrelsome sects, he carried little weight in the International.

Moreover, none of the prominent the oreticians of Marxism expected a socialist revolution in Russia: there was only a small industrial proletariat, and the country was still backward and feudal. In accordance with the theory of “necessary” stages of social development which Georgii Plekhanov (1883) had posited in founding the Marxist movement in Russia, this vast country still had to pass through the stage of capitalism, and the bourgeois middleclass democratic revolution was still to come. Once Russia could be led along the lines of Western social development, then political freedom, trade union freedom, and legal socialist activity wouldbe achieved; after the democratic revolution, which was the role of the middle classes, would come the social revolution, in the more distantfuture. In effect, Russia was still “before 1848.”

Yet the revolution did occur and was shaped by certain peculiar features of Russian social history. Before socialism, the dominant radical tradition in Russia had been populism, a doctrine associated in large measure withthat remarkable exile Alexander Herzen. Herzen saw in the peasant communes the seeds of a future cooperative society that could by pass the harsh and disruptive effects of capitalism. From London, Herzen kept alive the liberal spirit of the Russian in telligentsia through his magazine Kolokol (The Bell), and in his home were to be found the major exiles from Russia.

The populism preached by Herzen idealized the peasantry and asserted, in almost mystic fashion, that the peasant was the source of wisdom and virtue. In the summer of 1873, roused by the appeal of Mikhail Bakunin, hundreds of students went to the countryside to “go to the people” androuse them to action. Students disguised as workmen wandered the country side, preaching revolution, but the peasantry, suspicious of their would—be saviors, simply turned them over to the police.

The episode was important in the history of populism, and its lesson was drawn most starkly by Peter Tkachev, one of the theorists of Russian populism. Insisting that the peasants as a mass the people—were incapable of revolutionary creativeness and that only a “conscious minority” the intelligentsia—could make the revolution, Tkachev sketched the kind of organization that would be necessary. It would have to be, he argued, aconspiratorial one, based on the principles of centralization of power and decentralization of functions. And it would have to be led by the intelligent sia. These two the mesthe need for compact organization and the role of a revolutionary elite—were to bear fruit some twenty years later in the thinking of Lenin [see the biography ofLenin].

Socialism between the world wars

The war that had begun in the summer of 1914 not only brought revolution to Russia; it signaled the collapse of international socialism. For several years the heat and lightning of war had flashed in Europe, and each time the international socialist movement had proclaimed itsreadiness to strike in order to prevent international conflagration. It sgrowing power seemed to assure a new foundation for the maintenance of peace. Yet in 1914, with very little dissent, the socialist parties of Germany, Austria, and France all voted to support their governments in the war. The German Social Democrats, the most powerful socialist party in the world, had in the past publicly dissociated them selves from the German state. And the Kaiser, in turn, had once called them “fellows without acountry.” Now, with only one dissenting vote, the parliamentary party gave full support to the budgetary war credits the government requested. There were tiresome quotations from Marx in supportof the action: Marx had supported the principle of nationality; Marx hadonce proposed support of Germany in a war against Russia; and in 1891 Engels had said that in such a war Germany would be fighting for itsnational existence. Once scripture was being cited, the French party hadits own rationalizations, heavily laden with quotations from Marx. So did the Austrians. The fact remained that when the crisis finally came, nationalism as an emotional idea proved to be stronger than class, and international solidarity proved to be a myth. The International was at anend.

Polarization of belief

The period between the two world wars saw Europetorn apart by the conflicting ideologies of communism and fascism. In theprocess, democracy and the socialist movement were the losers. Italy, Germany, Austria, and Spain came under fascist or authoritarianleadership. Even earlier, right-wing dictatorships took over Portugal, Hungary, and Rumania. Belgium and France were threatened by strong fascistmovements. Only Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries wererelatively free of these storms, though a small fascist group arose inEngland. The sociological reasons for these variations in fortune will bediscussed in this section.

The October Revolution in Russia had brought before the European socialistmovement the insurrectionary idea of the seizure of power. For more thanforty years the idea had been an abstraction to the socialist movement. Lulled by the “inevit-ablism” preached by Engels and by the steady growthof electoral success, the socialist movements had assumed that at somedistant time it might yet be necessary to seize, or at least to maintain, power that had been established legally; but no one took the ideaseriously. Even inside Russia the idea, while fiercely debated, had an airof mimetic combat. Plekhanov had argued that men could act only insofar associal conditions allowed them to do so, i. e. , only within the limits ofthe “laws” of history. But Lenin had apparently demonstrated the primacyof “will,” at least within disorganized situations wherein a small groupof determined men, acting skillfully and in disciplined fashion, could seize power.

Within Marxian theory there were actually three successive versions of thetheory of taking power. The first, later presented in Lenin’s “What Is toBe Done?” (1902), conceived of the proletariat as directed by a smallgroup of professional revolutionaries drawn from the middle-classintelligent- sia; the working class would support the middle-class revolution in thefaith that there would be a second round wherein the proletariat–supportedin Germany by a peasant revolt–could take over. But this conception passedwith the end of the revolutionary wave of 1848-1850; and asindustrialization and a new appraisal of the nature of factory life and the role of the proletariat emerged, a second version appeared. Now theemphasis was placed on the building of mass political parties led byworkers who had achieved theoretical competence–typified in Germany byBebel, who had been a carpenter, and in England by Keir Hardie, who was aminer. It was now felt that socialism need not come throughinsurrectionary tactics or coups led by small bands of professionalrevolutionaries, but peacefully, through parliamentary means or evensimply in a show of strength.

After 1905 a few socialist theorists had argued that a new stage wasemerging. These included Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish-Jewish intellectual withdoctorates in philosophy and jurisprudence; Herman Gorter; AntonPannekoek, a Dutch astronomer; and A. L. Helfand, a Russian-born economistwho wrote under the name Parvus. Each of these socialists was influencedby developments in the Western labor movements rather than by events inRussia. In her book The Accumulation of Capital (1913), Luxemburg tried toextend Marx’s economic doctrines by arguing that after a phase ofimperialism, in which capitalists would seek to export capital surpluses, the capitalist system must inevitably break down and create a crisis. [See the biography ofLuxemburg. ] Gorter and Pannekoek had been close toanarcho-syndicalism, and Rosa Luxemburg and Parvus (in his early years)had been active in the left wing of the German social democratic movement. In one way or another, they all insisted that with the growing educationof the working class, there would develop, during a crisis, arevolutionary spontaneity in the masses, and that to insist on partyhierarchy and professional leadership would only lead to a dictatorship bythe leaders.

The Third International

It was only after the Bolshevik victory in 1917, and the creation of the Third (Communist) International, that Lenin’searlier text was canonized in order to claim for the Bolsheviks a uniquerevolutionary knowledge and thus to enforce the hegemony of the Russianparty over all other Communist parties.

Lenin summoned the revolutionary working-class groups to a conference, which met in Moscow on March 2, 1919, for the purpose of organizing thenew International. Its main objectives were the immediate seizure of power by working-class parties in Europe, the abandonment of false bourgeois democracy, and the establishment of adictatorship of the working class for the systematic suppression andexpropriation of the exploiting classes.

There was an apocalyptic fervor in the air. World revolution seemedpalpably near. Shortly after the first congress of the CommunistInternational, a Soviet republic was proclaimed by B61a Kun in Hungary, and another in Bavaria by left-wing socialists. It seemed as if the onlything needed to carry out a successful revolution was steely revolutionarywill. A second world congress of the Comintern (the shorthand name for Communist International) was convoked in Moscow in July 1920. It was nolonger a small gathering; delegations came from parties in a dozen countries.

The chief feature of the meeting, which gave organizational shape to theinternational communist movement, was the drafting of 21 points asconditions for membership in the Comintern. The purpose of these pointswas to create in each country a disciplined, conspiratorial party whosechief purpose would be to combat the old socialist leaderships and toassert the binding, from-the-top-down, authority of the Comintern overeach national party. Throughout Europe and in the United States, suchsocialist leaders as Ramsay Mac-Donald in England, Kautsky and RudolfHilferding in Germany, Morris Hillquit in the United States, and JeanLonguet in France had opposed participation in the war and had taken a “middle” position against the reformists. But in the opinion of the newComintern, these leaders had to be rejected and exposed as much as thoseof the right wing, and had to be fought just as bitterly. The 21 pointscommanded communists to split every socialist party and trade union in the world, to organize an underground machine in addition to the publicactivities of the party, to disorganize as much as possible the army ofeach country, and to reject any cooperation with “social patriots andmiddle-group people.”

By 1923 the revolutionary tide had receded all over Europe. The communistshad completely misread both the character of the labor movements ofwestern Europe and the social structure of those societies. For a shortperiod the communists engaged in adventurism and even in putschism: theRed Army marched into Poland to advance the revolution, only to bedefeated by Pilsudski, once a nationalistic socialist, who a few yearslater set up an authoritarian regime; insurrections were planned, in 1923, in Saxony and Thuringia; and an abortive uprising inHamburg failed. But after 1923 it was clear that, for the time being atleast, Europe had achieved some measure of political and economicstabilization. The Soviet Union itself turned, under Lenin, to the problemof what to do with power in a single country. The large Norwegian Laborparty, as well as such syndicalist leaders as Jack Tanner in England andAlfred Ros-mer and Pierre Monatte in France, withdrew from the Cominternbecause of the centralization of party structure. What was left in Europewas the wreckage of the socialist movement in half a dozen countries and the fear of revolution that drove the middle classes to support right-winggroups. Within the Comintern, the hegemony of the Russian party wascomplete, and within a short time the International itself becameprincipally an arm of Soviet foreign policy, rather than an independentinstrument of revolution. [SeeCommunism, article onthe international movement. ]

The sharp turn to the left in the Soviet Union in 1929, and Stalin’seffort to consolidate his rule by turning on his erstwhile right-wingpolitical allies, coincided with a world-wide economic depression and therise of fascism in Germany and other countries. For the communists theseevents heralded the final crisis of capitalism, and they awaited a freshwave of revolutionary activity. After an analysis of fascism in Italy, communist theorists argued that fascism was the last stage of monopolycapitalism; and since it could not solve the inherent contradictions ofthe capitalist crisis, inevitably the revolution was again at hand. Fromthis analysis the communists concluded that the chief obstacle to theirvictory was not the capitalists but the socialists, who still “misled” themajority of the working class. In several instances, the communists evenworked with the Nazis in order to diminish socialist influence. They votedwith the Nazis in the Prussian Landtag to bring down the Social Democraticgovernment. They cooperated with the Nazis in the Berlin street-car strikein 1932 in order to increase disorder in Germany.

Socialists in government and opposition

The communists thus became theimplacable enemies of the democratic regimes in central and westernEurope; and the middle classes in many countries, principally Italy andGermany, out of fear of the left and because of economic crises, oftenvoted for the extreme right. However, an important element contributing tothe weakness of the democratic regimes was the inability of the socialists, owing to the contradictory attitude toward capitalism and democracy inspired in them by Marxian dogmatics, to provide anyeffective leadership or support for democratic societies.

In 1931 the reconstructed Socialist International consisted of partieswith more than six million dues-paying members. The total parliamentary vote for socialist candidates was almost 26 million. More than 1, 300 socialist deputies sat in the parliaments of their countries. Some 360daily newspapers spoke for the labor movement. Yet, remarkably, this largeforce was almost completely paralyzed when the crises occurred.

The root problem was an old one. The socialist movement, true to itsMarxist heritage, did not believe that capitalist society could bereformed. When the socialists, particularly of the right wing, were thrustinto office because of the failure or the unwillingness of any other partyto rule, they followed the most orthodox of economic policies, because"the crisis has to run its course.” Believing, from a Marxist point ofview, that the reason for the depression was a disproportion in growthbetween the producer goods sector and consumer goods sector, they tried touse up the resultant “overproduction” so that a better proportion betweenproducers’ and consumers’ purchasing power would emerge, leading to an upswing.

As Adolf Sturmthal has pointed out in The Tragedy of European Labor(1943), the socialist movement, with all its strength, was basically apressure group seeking social concessions from the state for the immediatebenefit of the working class. But it had neither an economic program norany clear idea of planning. State intervention arose out of unorthodoxeconomic theories, such as John May-nard Keynes’s in England and GunnarMyrdal’s in Sweden, or the unorthodox financial policies of HjalmarSchacht, who had been made president of the Reichsbank by the Germansocialists when Hitler began the rearmament that revived the Germaneconomy. Nowhere except in Sweden, and later in the planning ideas ofHendrik de Man, did the socialists have any idea of what to do about thedepression [see the biography ofMan].

Italy. The socialists, in a different way from the communists, alsomisread the nature of fascism. For example, fascism was barely mentionedin the major report of the 1928 International Socialist Congress on thepolitical situation in Europe. It was seen as an idiosyncrasy of theItalians; and its ideology, emotional roots, and irrational quality werenot understood. Yet Italy did foreshadow quite clearly the fate of the other nations in central Europe.

Shortly after the war, Italy seemed on the verge of a proletarianrevolution. In the general election of 1919 the socialists won two millionout of a total of 5. 5 million votes, and the leadership of the party hadpassed into the hands of the left wing, which openly asserted that thenext step would be the “creation of a Socialist Republic and theestablishment of a proletarian dictatorship.” Workers had spontaneouslybegun to seize factories, and the peasants of Sicily and the south hadappropriated the uncultivated holdings of absentee landlords. As Sturmthalput it: “Continuous unrest, strikes, factory occupations, expropriation ofland–all this convinced the middle class that a revolution was impendingand that the democratic middle-class state was powerless to stave off thedanger. Public opinion became more and more convinced that a strong manwas needed to establish law and order” ([1943] 1951, p. 182).

The decisive, dramatic incident occurred in August 1920, when a wagedispute in the metal industries led to sudden “stay-in” strikes in which500, 000 workers occupied the factories, kept the machinery going, andassembled arms to resist evacuation. Workers in other industries called on their leaders to order the taking over of other factories. But the socialist leadership, divided and uncertain, hesitated; and finally a pact was reached with the industrialists whereby the employers agreed inprinciple to the union’s demand for workers’ control of production. This was the high point of the revolutionary tide, and the n a new forceappeared, the Fascisti.

Organized by Benito Mussolini, a former leader of the left wing of the Italian Socialist party, the Fascisti preached anticapitalism, nationalism, and the necessity of violence. With his squadristi, Mussoliniwent into the streets to break up working-class meetings and to beat upworking-class leaders. In 1921 an effort was made to form a socialist-liberal coalition government and save the country from the threatened civil war. The right-wing socialists made the proposal, but the idea was vetoed by the left wing. By 1922 a form of civil war had spreadin Italy. In the large urban industrial centers of the north, strongholdsof the socialist movement, the city administrations passed into the handsof Mussolini’s squadristi through terror and intimidation. Bologna, Genoa, Livorno, Milan, and finally Naples were taken over by the fascists. Ageneral strike called by the trade unions on August 31, 1922, failedignominiously, despite the united support of the labor movement; andmiddle-class opinion swung even more strongly to the fascists. At the invitation of the king, and with the support of the army, bureaucracy, and big business, Mussolini was invited to become premier. For two years he ruled by parliamentary means, but after the assassinationof Giacomo Matteotti in June 1924 and left-wing withdrawal from the Chamber of Deputies as a moral protest, Mussolini became more openlydictatorial: trade unions, political parties, and cultural organizationswere either disbanded or placed under fascist control, and local autonomy was abolished. By 1926 parliamentary government had vanished. [SeeFascism. ]

Germany. In November 1918, the Germany of Wilhelm was no more. The Kaiserhad abdicated, and Friedrich Ebert, a former saddlemaker who was now the head of the Social Democratic party, installed himself as head of the newrepublic. But the socialists themselves were split into three factions. The “majority socialists” represented the right wing of the party. The"independent socialists,” led by Kautsky and Bernstein (together for the first time in twenty years), had opposed the war and now favored a radical program of economic reform. The extreme left, led by Luxemburg and Liebknecht, knew that the German republic was going to be a middle-classstate and wanted to organize a proletarian party prepared for an eventualrevolutionary opportunity. But younger socialists took over the left wingen masse, overruled Luxemburg and Liebknecht, and began to prepare the “Spartacus group,” as the left wing called itself, for immediaterevolution.

In this situation the attitude of the majority socialists was decisive. The Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Councils, which had sprung up spontaneously onthe Soviet model, elected the majority socialists to the leadership of the new Council of People’s Commissars. But the majority socialists feared arepetition of the Russian chaos and sought first to achieve stability withthe cooperation of some of the military.

When the Spartacus group initiated a rebellion in early 1919, it was putdown by Gustav Noske– the majority socialist appointed ascommander-in-chief of the army–with the help of the Free Corps, createdand led by former imperial officers. After the uprising was quashed, FreeCorps officers cold-bloodedly murdered Liebknecht and Luxemburg, who hadloyally supported their comrades despite their opposition to the venture. When, in the spring of 1919, left-wing socialists–and later the communists–took over the newly proclaimed Bavarian republic, the FreeCorps was used to take Munich and to murder hundreds of the insurgents, thus seriously reducing the authority and prestige of the socialists. InMarch 1920, Reichswehr troops led by a little-known nationalist namedWolfgang Kapp mutinied and marched into Berlin. The republican governmentcould not muster enough loyal troops to defend the capital, and fled toStuttgart. A powerful general strike, joined by all the factions, defeatedthe putsch in four days. When Kapp was routed from Berlin, communist-ledworkers in the Ruhr tried to continue the general strike. The newly formedWeimar coalition– majority socialists, the Catholic Center, andConservative Democrats–sent the Reichswehr into the Ruhr to crush the revolt.

In the end the majority socialists, as well as the republic, were thelosers. In the general elections of June 1920, the majority socialists and the middle-class parties of the Weimar coalition lost heavily, and the nationalist parties gained. A new cabinet consisting of the Catholic Center and the right-wing German People’s party took office. It was clear that on the right as well as on the left the republic itself had onlyshaky support among the German people.

The socialists were given one more chance. In May 1928 the GermanSocialist party, now reunited because the independents refused to acceptthe Diktat of the Comintern, emerged as the strongest party in the Reichstag. Although they lacked an absolute majority, the socialists tookoffice, with Herman Miiller as chancellor and Hilferding, the famedsocialist theoretician, as minister of finance. But a year later Germany, along with the rest of the Western world, was plunged into the depression, and the socialists had no economic policy to meet the crisis. Hilferding, mindful of the ruinous inflation of the early 1920s, followed an orthodoxdeflationary policy which reduced purchasing power and increasedunemployment. The strength of the labor movement defeated the employers’efforts to reduce wages and salaries; the fault, however, lay not with the employers, who had to reduce production costs or get out of business, but with the state, which had failed to work out any active policy. Instead oftapping idle capital funds, the government worked above all to balance the budget, or at least to reduce budget deficits, even if this meant reducingunemployment insurance benefits. Several German socialist economistsfavored devaluation or the abandonment of the gold standard, a monetarypolicy later associated with Keynes. But they were opposed, on the groundthat this would lead to economic and political nationalism. In allessentials the socialists followed a policy of laissez-faire: the depression had to “run its natural course.” After all, as any Marxist knew, capitalism could not be reformed.

England. A similar dilemma confronted the British Labour party. In 1918 ithad adopted a socialist program for the first time; the new social system was described as a thing that would emerge gradually out of capitalism, bya series of piecemeal changes. The Labour party was then still weak, thirdin size after the Conservatives and the Liberals. Five years later, following a prolonged period of unemployment which the Conservatives hadbeen unable to cope with, the Labour party emerged as the strongestEnglish party and, supported by the Liberals, in January 1924 formed thefirst Labour government in British history. The government carried outsome modest social reforms, but its tenure was short. When the BritishForeign Office published the so-called Zinoviev letter, a set ofinstructions from the head of the Comintern to British communists onantimilitarist tactics–a letter now conceded to be a forgery–the electorate voted strongly Tory, and the Labour government was ousted.

The trade unions, disappointed by their failure in politics, turned tomore militant economic action. The coal miners, always the most militant, had a genuine grievance–their wages had recently been cut. (The problem was one of government monetary policy; in 1925 England returned to the gold standard at the prewar pound-dollar exchange rate, and the prices ofBritish exports were above the world market level. ) The miners, refusingto accept the wage cut and demanding the nationalization of industry, wenton strike in May 1926. With the support of the entire trade unionmovement, this strike soon widened into a general strike, the first inEnglish history. Railwaymen, local transport workers, builders, printers, iron and steel workers, all walked out, almost completely paralyzingLondon and other parts of Great Britain. The strike had had norevolutionary aim– its only purpose had been to support the miners– butwhen the government stood firm, the unions, uncertain of their next step, retreated. After nine days the general strike was called off, and its mainresult was that the left wing lost influence and the right wing gainedcomplete control of the labor movement.

In June 1929 the British Labour party had its second chance. In the general election of that year, the party won 287 of the 615 seats in theHouse of Commons and, with the support of the Liberals, formed the secondLabour government, with Ram- say MacDonald as prime minister. But the problem that soon confronted the German socialists was already bedeviling England. Though other countriesat the time were still enjoying prosperity, England, because it could notcompete in world markets, had a great deal of unemployment. The Labourgovernment was pledged to make far-reaching social reforms; the businesscommunity demanded reduced taxes and a retrenchment in social policy. Acollision was inevitable. One way out would have been devaluation orstrict exchange controls to keep gold from leaving England. Either coursewould have been an acknowledgment of the end of Britain’s domination ofthe international economy–which she had maintained for almost a hundredyears–and a new policy of economic nationalism. This the Labour government refused to do.

When the depression hit England full force, the Labour government had itsback to the wall. The flight of capital from London had become a flood, and the Bank of England warned that unless the budget was balanced, the pound would fall. In orthodox fashion, the Labour government was committedto free trade and to defense of the gold parity of the pound. MacDonaldproposed, as an economy measure, to cut unemployment benefits; and whenthe trade union elements in the party rejected such a cut, or anyreduction in social services, MacDonald split the Labour government and, taking 14 colleagues with him, formed a national coalition with theConservatives and the Liberals. The national government itself failed tostem the tide, and in September 1931 Britain went off the gold standard, introduced protectionism and a tariff, and began, under a Tory government, to set up economic dikes in an effort to save itself from the floods ofworld-wide depression. The Labour party, though it still retained somestrength among the electorate, suffered a great loss of parliamentarystrength–from 287 to 52. For nine years it sat in opposition until itjoined the Churchill government of national unity in 1940. In 1945, forthe first time in its history, the Labour party won a clear electoral majority.

Austria. In February 1934, after four days of bloody fighting, the reactionary regime of Engel-bert Dollfuss destroyed the Austrian socialdemocracy. This was a blow that struck the international socialistmovement especially hard, for Austrian social democracy had been the modelfor all proud socialists. It was a disciplined party and had the supportof almost all of the working class. Its leaders and theoreticians, particularly Friedrich Adler and Otto Bauer, had been respected for their courage and their contributionsto socialist thought. The party, while revolutionary in its aims, maintained a sanity and realism in political affairs which had preventedit from imitating the adventurism of the Hungarian communists in 1919 orthe feckless policy of the German Social Democrats. In 1927, at the peakof its strength, the Austrian Socialist party polled 42 per cent of thetotal electoral vote, and in Vienna the socialists won a majority ofalmost two-thirds. Half a million of Vienna’s two million inhabitants weredues-paying party members, and the city was a showcase of municipalachievement. In 1919 the socialists had joined with the Christian Socialparty in a coalition that gave the country stability and permittedsections of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire to achieve their independence. The first president of the Austrian republic, Karl Seitz, was a socialist, as was its first chancellor, the noted legal scholar Karl Renner.

The problem of the Austrian socialists was twofold: their strength wasentirely in the urban areas, while the surrounding countryside and the middle classes supported the Christian Social party; and Austria was underdirect and steady pressure from Italy to crush the socialist movement andestablish a fascist regime. When the Nazi vote began to increase inAustria, as a result of Hitler’s prestige and his direct aid to the newNazi party of Austria, Dollfuss, a Catholic, was faced with the choice ofcoming to terms either with the Nazis or with the socialists. With the support of Mussolini (who wanted an independent Austria as a bufferagainst Germany), Dollfuss suppressed both the Nazis and the socialists. But the defeat of the socialists meant that the Austrian government hadlost its main hope of independence. Four years later Kurt von Schuschnigg, who succeeded Dollfuss when the latter was assassinated by the Nazis, invited the underground socialists and the trade unions to support himagainst the Nazis. However, while negotiations were going on, Nazi troopsinvaded Austria and the country was annexed by Germany.

France. Only in France, among the major countries of western Europe, was afascist threat —that of Colonel de la Rocque and the Cagoulards, the right-wing group supported by the army— beaten back. In June 1936, asocialist government headed by Leon Blum took office. It was the firsttime that the party officially entered a coalition government, but it did so—also for the first time —with the support of the communists, who hadabandoned their cry of “social fascism” and now proclaimed the need for apopular front to resist fascism. Within a year a French New Deal had been inaugurated. The tradeunions, never before recognized by French employers, now were grantedcollective bargaining rights. A social insurance system was establishedfor the first time. Through public works and wage increases, Blum tried toincrease the purchasing power of the workers and, thus, to restoreprosperity. But, curiously, Blum resisted the idea of economic planning, fearing that it was essentially “statist” and fascist in character. Caughtbetween the rejection of capital exchange controls by its politicalallies; the Radicals, and the communist opposition to devaluing the franc, the first Popular Front government fell.

Sweden. Only in Sweden did the socialists have any real success, and the yachieved it by abandoning the orthodox economic policies that the GermanSocial Democratic and British Labour governments had followed. In 1932 aSwedish labor government was formed for the first time. It decided thatbalancing the budget on a year-to-year basis made little sense and thatthe government itself had to intervene in the economy. The governmentembarked on a set of extensive public works and financed these endeavorsnot by taxes, which simply would have shifted the existing purchasingpower, but by borrowing money from idle capital funds. Public investmentduring a depression had to be expanded to compensate for reduced privatespending. By following a steady policy of economic expansion, the Swedishgovernment managed to eliminate unemployment by 1938. Five years earlierit had been as high as 164, 000. These “Swedish stepping stones to fullemployment,” as A. P. Lerner described the process (1944), whollyunorthodox at the time, have become commonplace economic practice inalmost all Western countries.

The rest of the melancholy story of European socialism before 1939–the Spanish Civil War, the Soviet purge trials and the Hitler-Stalin pact–while crucial to the history of Europe, is less relevant to the discussionof socialist theory and doctrine.

Socialism since World War II

Revisionism and peasant revolution

In the the ory and practice of socialism after 1945 there were two completelyunexpected developments. One was the rise of “revisionism” in the communist countries and movements of Europe. That is, the highlycentralized command economies were modified by the trend toward a marketand profit system, dogmatic ideology was eroded and tended to be replacedby pragmatic and instrumental policies, and force and violence were discouraged as a means of fosteringrevolutionary change in non-communist countries. In fact, with theextension of planning and public control in the noncommu-nist countries ofEurope as a parallel to the growing decentralization of planning incommunist countries, some the orists have argued that a “convergence” wastaking place between the communist social systems and those of the West.

The second development was the rise of the peasantry as a revolutionary force—or at least as a presumed revolutionary force—in colonial countries, bolstered by a new the ory that the revolutions in the last third of the twentieth century would be made not by the proletariat, which had lost itselan through embourgeoisement, but by the peasantry. For the peasants werenow, in the words of the “Internationale,” the wretched of the earth. Marx, in many of his writings, had scorned the peasantry as intrinsicallyreactionary and small-minded because of its preoccupation with privateproperty; he used the phrase “rural idiocy” more than once. But modernmethods of communication and a network of trained political cadres havesince the 1920s been able to weld the peasantry into an active politicalforce. The Chinese Communist party under Mao Tse-tung, following thedestruction of its urban base of support when Chiang Kai-shek smashed the Shanghai commune in 1927, had reorganized itself as a peasant party andhad won power by enlisting peasant support. Fidel Castro, though amiddle-class intellectual, made his revolutionary appeal through the peasantry, while the Cuban working class, including the communist-dominated trade unions, “coexisted” tacitly with the dictatorBatista. In Algeria, in South America, in Vietnam, the peasantry, not theurban working class, became the focus of revolutionary appeal.

The spread of socialism as word and doctrine, especially in the yearsafter World War n, presented itself as a paradox, particularly in terms ofthe original intention and predictions of Marx. It was assumed by Marxiststhat the triumph of socialism would occur first in the industrializedcountries, as a result of the contradictions and crises of the capitalisteconomic system; but this triumph has taken place primarily in backwardcountries and in agrarian societies. Marxism was an ideology of protestagainst the course of industrialization, but it has become, instead, theideology of industrialization; not a creed of social justice, welfare, and the equitable distribution of products, but a rationale for centralizedcontrols, postponement of consumption, and rapid economic growth.

Since the Soviet Union embodied these developments, it became an importantmodel for many of the new states that were seeking to embark on the difficult road of industrialization. The Stalinist regime had apparentlysucceeded in transforming Russia from an agrarian country into anindustrial one. Despite enormous waste during collectivization, it hadachieved high rates of economic growth, and its successes were mostdramatically symbolized by the technological achievement of being the first nation successfully to launch man-made vehicles into outer space.

Socialism in western Europe

In the West, the socialist movement saw the complete triumph of what, in classical doctrine, would be calledreformism. During the war against fascism, almost all the socialistparties had joined the governments of national unity, either at home or inexile. The sense of the nation and democracy took priority over the ideasof class and capitalism. In the Western countries, the labor and socialistparties had become completely of their societies, as well as in them.

One can identify five features, common to almost all the socialist partiesof western Europe, which marked this new practice and doctrine:

(1) The complete abandonment of the idea of revolutionary methods and violence as a means to power; the complete acceptance of parliamentary means; and the complete readiness to participate in nonsocialist coalition governments. The an-guished theoretical debates which had earlier split the French, Belgian, Austrian, and other parties on the question of entering “bourgeois govern-ments” had vanished.

(2) The transformation of the socialist and labor parties from class parties, speaking only for working-class interests, to people’s parties seeking a more inclusive concept of general welfare. In some instances, as in Germany, there was the realization that as a working-class party the Social Democrats would be consigned to being a permanent minority; in other instances, as in England, there was the recognition that the changing class structure of society, particularly the rise of a technical and salaried middle class, made it imperative for the Labour party to speak for these social groups as well as for the working class.

(3) The recognition that the definition of socialism as a social and economic ideal was inseparable from the idea of democracy, both as a means and as an end. The Marxist concept that lingered through the 1930s–that democracy was a “bourgeois” concept and only a mask for class rule– was rejected. By democracy as a means, the social-ist parties meant the full guarantee of the rights of free speech and free assembly, and the maintenance of political rightsfor the opposition. As an end, democracy was defined as the free consentof the governed.

(4) The surrender of the idea of nationalization or state ownership of the means of production as a “first principle” of socialism, and the substitution of public control of enterprise and planning as the means of achieving economic growth and equita-ble incomes. The sectarian orthodoxy that within a capitalist state one could not plan for social ends was replaced by the theory that governmental powers could be used for the gradual transforma-tion of the economy and that a “mixed economy" of public and private enterprise was the most de-sirable solution.

(5) A complete opposition to totalitarianism. While the socialist movements had long been in ideological opposition to communism, what the new attitude meant, in practice, was support of the military and political aspects of the Atlantic Alliance against the Soviet bloc and an identifica-tion with the national interests of each Western country, through NATO, against Russian expan-sionism. Nothing, perhaps, more strongly revealed the degree of change than the choice of Paul-Henri Spaak, once the firebrand leader of the Belgian left, as secretary-general of NATO.

Germany’s Social Democrats. Most of the transformed socialist attitudeswere expressed at the Frankfurt Congress of 1951, which symbolized therevival of the Socialist International. Although no longer the powerfulvoice of a confident movement or the platform for thunderous internationalpronouncements, the Socialist International still provided some doctrinalidentification for those who still called themselves socialists. ItsDeclaration of Principles, unanimously adopted, stated the new commonconceptions of socialism almost a hundred years after the initialstatements of the First International, as formulated in Marx’s inauguraladdress of 1864.

“Socialism,” the declaration reads, “aims to liberate the people fromdependence on a minority which owns or controls the means of production. . . . It aims to put economic power in the hands of the people as a wholeand to create a community in which free men work together as equals”(Lowenthal 1951, p. 113).

Private versus public control remains the decisive contrast, but privatecontrol is not identified with private ownership, nor public control withstate ownership; and the phrase “exploited classes” has been superseded by “the people.” Democratic planning becomes the basic means for the creation of socialism, and public ownership is regarded as only one of a number ofdifferent means, to be used where necessary. “Democratic socialism,” saysthe statement, “therefore stinds in sharp contradiction both to capitalistplanning and to every form of totalitarian planning; these exclude publiccontrol of production and a fair distribution of its results” (ibid. ).

Democracy, in this revised credo, is not only a means to the achievement of socialism—a “favorable battleground for the class struggle,” as theolder view had it—but an integral aspect of socialism itself. “Accordingly,” as Richard Lowenthal put it, “the conflict betweendemocratic socialism and communism no longer appears as a disagreementabout means to a common end, but as a conflict of fundamental ends betweenthe adherents of a democratically controlled economy and the defenders ofthe despotism of a managerial bureaucracy” (ibid. ).

Nowhere is the change more striking than in the new program of principlesadopted in 1959 by the German Social Democratic party in Bad Godesberg. The German SPD had long been a reformist party, but its very adherence tooutworn dogmas, as we have seen in its attitude toward the possibility of reforming capitalism in the 1920s and 1930s, crippled its ability to actrealistically in economic and political affairs. But the Bad Godesbergprogram rejects the very idea of Marxism. The name of Karl Marx and the concept of Marxism are missing from the declaration of principles, andterms like “class” and “class struggle” are carefully avoided.

In modern political analysis, party programs are rarely taken seriously. Usually they are formal documents, paying lip service to expected pietiesthat historically made the parties’ activities legitimate. But, as F. R. Allemann points out:

The German social-democracy is a “programme party” of the first water: inits history of nearly a hundred years it has always attached the greatestimportance to basing its policy on a solid system of principles laid downin a fixed programme rather than merely on the urgent issues of the moment. In this respect at least it has remained true to its Marxisttradition: in its view any political action that is intended to influenceand transform society must be based on an analysis of that society. (1960, p. 67)

This was the view that guided the formulation of the Erfurt Program in1891; it is the view behind the Bad Godesberg declaration of 1959.

The overriding idea in the Bad Godesberg program is that a modernindustrial society cannot be ordered by a single uniform principle. Commonownership is recognized as a legitimate form of public control, but the analysis centers not on property but on economicpower, which must be subject to public control. For the first time asocialist party states explicitly that private ownership of the means ofproduction is entitled to “protection and promotion” so long as it doesnot hinder the construction of an equitable social order. The idea ofsubjecting the entire economy to central planning is rejected, and theparty accepts the free market, wherever there is real competition. The Basic formula is “as much competition as possible–as much planning asnecessary,” and the SPD not only describes free consumer choice and the free choice of place of employment as “all-important foundations” offreedom, but lauds free competition and entrepreneurial initiative asimportant elements of Social Democratic economic policy. The economicpattern envisaged is that of a “mixed economy” in which the private profitmotive has a place and in which the control of great economic power is the central task of a libertarian economic policy.

In line with the lessons of the previous twenty years, particularly thoseof the Soviet experience, the party declared that the problem of economicpower cannot be settled simply by transferring power from private handsinto that of the state. Being dependent on an uncontrolled statebureaucracy is not necessarily better than being subject to privatecapitalist power. The conclusions, however, are rather vague: commonownership is to be “organized according to the principles ofself-government and decentralization,” and in the managerial structures “the interests of the workers and employees must be represented just asmuch as the public interest and that of the consumers” (ibid. ).

The aim of the new socialist program is a plural society, and this ideaextends not only into economics but into the cultural sphere as well. Thusthe party refrains from proclaiming any “ultimate truths” and states thatneither a state nor a political party should have any power in religiousand philosophical spheres. As Allemann says, “Marxism set out both to’interpret’ and to ’change’ the world.” The German Social Democrats, having rejected the myths behind the ideology of socialism, no longer “claim to provide a universally valid philosophy nor do they believe anylonger that their policy is in accord with the irrevocable laws of socialdynamics” (ibid. ).

Britain’s Labour party. The British Labour party never had Germansocialism’s attachment to world philosophy, and its sense of crisis wasless severe. The wellsprings of evangelical feeling, ex- pressed in a strong commitment to equality and social justice, stillprovide the emotional justification of socialism for the EnglishLabourites; but a different problem has confronted the leadership. Socialism, as it was accepted in the West, had been a singularlydistributivist doctrine. It presumed that capitalism had solved all the problems of production and that its failures had to do with socialinjustice and inequality. But the problem of economic growth was found topersist in all social systems. How does one step up the rate of output andincrease production without overt controls and coercion, and withoutinflation?

In 1945 the British Labour party, for the first time in its history, won amajority in Parliament and assumed sole charge of the government. For sixyears it ruled, and during that time it laid down the permanentfoundations of a welfare state in England. Social services were extended, and for the first time a comprehensive system of medical care wasestablished. A number of basic industries, principally coal, railways, transport, and steel, were nationalized; but, to the dismay of the government, nationalization did not provide any automatic answers to the problem of growth. Coal and railways had been sick industries, but the Labour policies, although they helped maintain full employment, did notmaterially increase the productivity of these industries. In 1951 Labour was voted out of office and replaced by a Tory government. Its defeatcaused the British Labour party to ponder its program. In office it hadexhausted the “intellectual capital” inherited from the early Fabians. What would it do if it was voted into power again? The major task ofintellectual renovation was attempted by C. A. R. Crosland in his book the Future of Socialism (1956), which became the working text for HughGaitskell, the new leader of the party. Crosland’s main argument was thatthe Labour party must give up the shibboleth of nationalization and, ineconomic matters, promote the modernization of industry in whatever socialform it could best be done, whether private or public. The main content ofsocialism, Crosland said, is not economic but social: to seek an equitabledivision of wealth by reducing the role of inherited property as the meansof achieving a privileged place in the society; and to erase social classdistinctions, by a major reform of the educational system. Only byreleasing talents which remain unfulfilled, because of the social classsystem, could Britain eventually find new vigor in its industry and itsculture.

For the traditionalists in the party, both left and right, the Crosland-Gaitskell vision smacked of heresy. An effort on Gaitskell’s part to eliminate clause four–whichpledges the party to nationalization of industry as a major doctrinaltenet–from the British Labour party constitution, was rebuffed. Gaitskelldied before the British Labour party was again voted into power in 1965, but the revisionism he espoused had clearly taken hold in the party.

Italy’s Socialist party. The one socialist party in the West whichmaintained a traditional left-wing line was the Italian. Forged in exileand deeply conscious of the intense class heritage of Italian workers, the Italian Socialist party, led by Pietro Nenni, maintained an electoralalliance with the communists for more than ten years, and still vaguelypreached the class struggle. A small group of moderate Socialists, led byGiuseppe Saragat, split away from the Italian Socialist party in 1947 tojoin the coalition government led by the Christian Democrats.

The Khrushchev disclosures in 1956 of Stalin’s misdeeds, the Sovietintervention in Hungary in the same year, the general disillusionment withcommunism, and the growing feeling in Italy that no effective role couldbe played without entering a coalition government eventually led Nenni, in1963, to join a center–left coalition and finally, in 1966, the two wingsof Italian socialism were reunited.

Whatever the socialists in Italy, or in any of the Western countries, could offer, it was no longer the old certitudes of doctrinaire Marxism. Few of the parties had any sure answers about how to build a new socialorder. All that remained was a lingering vision–and hope.

Socialism in the “third world.”

To speak of the tiers monde as asociological entity is to group together geographical areas that arevastly different in their historical and class structures and similar onlyin their poverty, their instability, and, in most cases, their quest formodernization.

The area encompassed by north Africa and the Middle East, from Morocco toEgypt and Syria, was the cradle of ancient civilizations, an areaceaselessly marauded by invading armies for thousands of years. Itspopulations have absorbed a great jumble of genetic strains, and in the last several hundred years the mixture of Arab, Turkish, and European(French, English, and Italian) cultures has blended into a cosmopolitanmelange. It is a world with a small, westernized, intellectual elite, astrong, traditional religious structure, and a vast mass of poor peasants. Southeast Asia has an array of old societies and ancient empires which, inmost instances, were held together after the departure of the former colonial rulers by a thin administrative class, trained bythese rulers, while The political parties or military regimes learned howto govern. Africa south of the Sahara is a motley collection of tribalsocieties grouped in political areas that were carved out by the oldimperial powers. These areas were almost never formed on a basis ofindigenous unity, and there has been no educated or technical classavailable for the many complex tasks of government and economic development.

The social structures of these areas are vastly different from those ofEurope, and it is difficult to see where Marxist categories could beapplied. In south and southeast Asia, primordial relations of blood, religion, language, or tribe are expressed as communal attachments; andnations have been split by ancient ethnic, tribal, caste, regional, andreligious differences. India has Muslim–Hindu divisions, caste lines, secularist-traditionalist splits, and ten major linguistic divisions. Burma, since gaining its independence, has been plagued by insurrectionsof the Shan, Karen, and Kachin peoples, split by linguistic, religious, tribal, and regional differences. Ceylon’s Sinhalese and Tamil communitiesdiffer in language, race, caste, and religion. Indonesia has the classicdivision between the central island, Java, and the outer islands, as wellas a secularist-Islamic controversy. The Malay states are split betweenthe Chinese and the Malays, and the disunity is compounded by indigenoustribal groups in Sarawak and Sabah.

In Africa, within the predominant tribal societies, there has been littleclass differentiation, since most of the land has been held collectivelyand life has heen led communally. But between tribes there has been grislyhostility, and the rectification of borders between the new nationsprovides grist for conflict that will go on for generations. In theIslamic world, in countries as divergent as Morocco and Pakistan, theocratic structures are fused with The political and administrative apparatus, and this fusion in turn shapes a distinctive social structure.

The major tasks which most of these countries have set for the mselves aremodernization and industrialization. How far modernization necessarily must upset the traditional and religious values of a society is a questionthat divides sociologists. But it is clear that in many of these countriesthe new elites are seeking to upset or supplant the traditional values, often because the source of their own authority or of their routes topower rests on different criteria. In these countries socialism is oftenseen as the means of creating new, modernized states. Since the end of World War n, Arab socialism, Africansocialism, and Asian socialism have emerged as new ideological flags andnew socioeconomic forms.

The socialism of these new elites is vastly different from the traditionalvisions of the nineteenth-century socialist prophets, intellectuals whoseideologies were universalistic and humanistic. The new ideologies areparochial, instrumental, and largely the creation of political leaders. While the driving forces of the old ideologies were social equality andpolitical freedom, economic development and national power inspire the new ideologies.

Socialism appeals to the new elites in a number of ways: as a doctrine, itidentifies them with a historical–progressive movement; as an ideology, itseeks to create an identity that can transcend tribal and communalboundaries; and as a social system, it concentrates power in the hands ofthe elites, providing for the nationalization of the basic industries ofthe countries and their direction under some minsterial control. Althoughthe socialism of the West has come to favor decentralization and a mixedeconomy, the socialism of the new states focuses on central planning, state ownership and direction of enterprises, and one-party regimes. Socialism, in effect, serves as a means of mobilizing the society forindustrial and social transformation. [SeeModernization. ]

The Middle East. No socialist movement of the Middle East calls itself, asthe Western movements did, the representative of the working class. Thesemovements, not only in fact but often in theory, are based on an allianceof the new middle class (largely salaried state employees), the peasants, and the workers, with the middle class openly taking the lead. To theextent that a theory of representation exists, it is based on anundifferen-tiated general will. In practice, the effort is being made togive nationalism a social content.

This is clearly the case with the socialism of Gamal Abdel Nasser, in the United Arab Republic. Before he came to power in 1952, there had been nolarge-scale socialist movement in Egypt. (The Egyptian Socialist party wasin fact fascist. ) Nor had Nasser and the army group he represented everespoused socialist ideas. But once he was in power, his proclaimed “SixObjectives of the Revolution,” plus his opposition to foreign business, led him increasingly to speak of his socialist faith. In 1954 he declared: “We consider that the state has tutelage over both private and publicproperty and the responsibility for the protection of the individualagainst all economic and social exploi- tation” (Halpern 1963, p. 244). In 1956, after the abortiveAnglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt, Nasser appropriated the Suez Canaland foreign banks, insurance companies, and export firms. By 1962 he hadnationalized all large Egyptian enterprises, expanded land reform, andplaced all important sectors of the economy under the control of socialistplanners. Democracy, the Egyptians were told, would come only gradually.

Egyptian socialism is not based on any mass or cadre party. Rather, it isbeing installed from the top down, through the initiative of a smalltechnocratic elite whose support is largely military. Whether it cansurvive its first, charismatic leader is a moot point, because, lacking asocial base, Egyptian socialism has not been able to institutionalize its reforms.

The other major socialist movement in the Middle East is the ArabSocialist Resurrectionist party, commonly called the Ba’ath party. Organized in Syria in 1953 as a merger of two smaller parties, it declaresitself “a national, populist, revolutionary movement fighting for Arabunity, freedom and socialism.” Its nationalism is not restricted to anyparticular Arab state, but to the Arab people as a whole, and it isagainst “all other denominational, factional, parochial, tribal orregional loyalties.” Its socialism, in the words of its programmaticstatement, seeks the “guarantee [of] the continuous growth of the nationin its spiritual and material development; and it will guarantee closebrother-liness among its individual members” (ibid. , p. 240). Full ofrhetoric about revolution and struggle, the Ba’ath party has said littleabout the concrete steps it would take to achieve socialism. Like manysuch movements, it is seeking to develop a new faith to supplant the traditional creeds. Islam is never mentioned by name; the implication, asHalpern points out, is that it belongs to an earlier era. In practice, the Ba’ath party, caught in the nationalist rivalries between Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, has split accordingly.

North Africa. In north Africa the socialist creed has been fashionedlargely by French-educated native intellectuals, and it assumed arevolutionary coloration, particularly in the late 1950s, through the vigorous movements for independence from France. In Algeria, where the struggle was most bitter, the FLN (National Liberation Front) was composedmainly of Algerian trade unionists (most of whom worked in France andcontributed money to the struggle), middle-class elements, and Berbernomads. After Algeria became independent, Ahmed Ben Bella, surrounded byvarious Marxist and Trotskyite advisers, sought to introduce workers’ self-management in industry and to collectivize Algerian farms. But as a result of the flight of French technicians and agronomists, Algeria Was soon in severe economic trouble; and Ben Bella’s efforts tosolidify his personal power led to a coup by his ally, Colonel HouariBoumedienne, who controlled the army. Boumedienne pledged to continue “Algerian socialism,” but his program was the typical drab mixture ofstatist enterprises and private landholdings characteristic of so manyothe r new states. For the French left, ironically, Algeria had in the meantime become the emotional symbol of a “new awakening” of the underdeveloped world. Frantz Fanon, a Negro psychiatrist born in the French West Indies and educated in France, renounced his Frenchcitizenship during the Algerian civil war and wrote a new Communistmanifesto, The Wretched of the Earth (1961), which preached the necessityof violence as purification. Fanon also praised the noble qualities of the peasantry, still uncorrupted by bourgeois values–unlike the European working class [see the biography ofFanon]. For Jean-Paul Sartre and othe rleftist intellectuals, the Algerian war was a crisis of conscience inwhich they declared their civil disobedience against the French state. Yetthe revolution ended in tawdry factionalism and a gray, repressive regime.

A quieter path to socialism was taken in Tunisia in the 1960s by the Neo-Destour party, later renamed the Socialist-Destour party. Led by HabibBourguiba, a French-educated lawyer, Tunisia became independent in 1956, without the fierce violence of Algeria. A one-party regime was installed, and it proceeded to nationalize the major enterprises of Tunisia and todevelop a planned economy. The Socialist-Destour movement is actually amiddle-class party, and the trade unions are firmly subordinated to thestate. Bourguiba, as the charismatic leader, has imposed a vigorous cultof personality on Tunisian society–numerous streets, monuments, enterprises, and other public activities are named for him. It is still a “first-generation” country, and it remains to be seen whether it caninstitutionalize its new reforms and maintain a stable political structurewithout undue group conflict when Bourguiba is succeeded.

Sub-Saharan Africa. The 1960s have seen the mushrooming of a new doctrine, largely unknown even five years earlier, which African leaders call African socialism. The meaning of the phrase, however, is very difficultto pin down (Friedland Rosberg 1964). Few African socialists have anyidea what they mean concretely by socialism. President Leopold-Sedar Senghor of Senegal, for example, who has tried to provide a framework in his book African socialism(1959), sees socialist humanism as a combination of Marx and Engels withTeilhard de Chardin, in which the Jesuit paleontologist-philosopher’sideas of “corpusculization” and “complexity” (the effects of outer andinner gravity in creating an increasing complexity of matter) are joinedwith the dialectic to create “the general law ofcomplexity-consciousness.” Whether it is the quasi mysticism of Senghor, trying to create a new definition of man, or the tough-soundingMarxism–Leninism of President Sékou Tour6 of Guinea, seeking to join the idea of a cadre party with the “communaucratic” values of precolonial African society, the idea of African socialism is one of pure rhetoric–alanguage to impress, to inspire, to intimidate–rather than a set ofguidelines for specific action. Its usefulness is hortatory rather than instrumental.

What “African socialism” means to these countries is the effort to bedistinctive and modern, to assume some special character in thecontemporary world, and, in a more prosaic way, to deal with the problemsof social identity, economic development, and new class formations in theemerging societies.

The problem facing most of the new states in Africa–31 black Africannations gained their independence in the decade between 1955 and 1965 –isto find some unifying symbols beyond parochial and local identities inorder to instill a sense of pride and action in their people. If manycitizens of these new states have little feeling of nationality, they havenonetheless found some kinship through the idea of being African. Africansocialism has been a new myth, something to take the place of the anticolonial passions that fueled many of the independence movements. Seeking a specific content for African socialism, its ideologists havestressed the indigenous character of the communal ownership of land, the egalitarian character of the society, and the extensive network of socialobligations which ties clans together. Thus, it is argued, capitalism andprivate property are “unnatural” to Africa.

But though the indigenous elements of traditional society have beenpresent in Africa, there still remains the crucial question whether suchinstitutions can carry over into the complex, modern industrial societythat these countries want to build. By and large, most African countriescommitted to the idea of socialism see the government as exercising theprimary responsibility for accumulating capital, directing investment, andbuilding an infrastructure for the society. The immediate practical difficulty is that Africa has had no largeentrepreneurial class of its own from which modern talent can be drawn. The only large non-European commercial and manufacturing class, particularly in east Africa, has consisted of Indians; and because of their clannishness and their ties to the mother country, they are regardedas unassimilable or as aliens. Nor do most African countries, exceptperhaps Nigeria and a few others that were under British rule, have a sufficiently large number of administrators, engineers, or managers. Another dilemma is that the capital accumulation for most African countries is dependent on earnings from agricultural and other primaryproducts, and these are subject to sharp fluctuations on the world marketor are dependent on the good will of the advanced industrial countries;and good will is a notoriously frail foundation on which to build aneconomic policy.

Many countries seek a way out by industrialization. But rapidindustrialization, if at all possible, involves a large-scaletransformation of the farming class (which in most African countries isbetween 80 and 90 per cent of the population), new class distinctions, andnew social group tensions, either between different interest groups orbetween populations that have become urban and cosmopolitan and those thathave remained local and parochial.

Senghor, when he turns to practical matters, says that Senegal mustproceed slowly. As he wrote in African socialism: “We have rejectedprefabricated models . . . we have observed that formulas like ’priority forheavy industry, ’ or ’agrarian reform’ have no magic power withinthemselves; applied dogmatically, they have produced partial failures. That is why we established priorities as follows: ’infrastructure, ruraleconomy, processing industry, heavy industry, ’ in line with reasonablerequirements and our realities” (1959, p. 157). In keeping with thisordering principle, Senegal has earmarked a substantial part of its budgetfor “social development,” by which it means health and hygiene, municipaladministration and housing, and education. The economy as a whole is notsocialist, but mixed: communal in agriculture, a public-privatecombination in utilities, and private in banks, commerce, and industry.

Under Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana set out vigorously to create a socialistorganization of the economy. While private capital was invited, particularly for the construction of the Volta Dam, state enterprisespredominated in banking, manufacturing, construction, fishing, forestry, and electric power. But the ambitious schemes ran far ahead of the reality. The trade unions protested the squeeze on wages. Capital reservesand foreign exchange were squandered. Grandiose and costlyprojects–presidential residences and palaces, as well as the large-scalePan-African political headquarters–were built at enormous expense. One-party rule became more and more authoritarian: opponents were jailedor murdered, the courts were reorganized to stifle their independence, and the freedom of the university was abridged, while Nkrumah’s decrees becameincreasingly personal. In 1966, while Nkrumah was traveling abroad, arevolt by the army ended his regime.

Most African countries have found that their major problems are primarilypolitical: to maintain that fundamental stability which will allow anyplanning, economic or otherwise, to proceed. The initial glitteringpromises made by the first generation of political leaders have not beenrealized. Within the first decade of independence, military coups rackedhalf of the new nations, and in the others rigged elections and strictbans on opposition have kept the initial regimes in power. For thesecountries the tensions of social change, and the need to createinstitutional mechanisms to deal with them, constitute the major problemconfronting the societies. A Kenya White Paper of 1965 on Africansocialism and its application to planning in Kenya, said soberly thatsocialism, even the socialism of a welfare state, would be a long time incoming. The immediate need was to transform the economy from a subsistenceto a market economy; to develop land and to introduce modern agriculturalmethods. Nationalization, since it does not always lead to additionalresources for the economy as a whole, would be used only when other meansof control were ineffective. The commitment is to socialism as an ideal, not as an ideology (Harris 1965).

South and southeast Asia. In January 1953, representatives of a dozenAsian socialist parties met in Rangoon for the first Asian Socialist Conference. The principal Asian figures—Jayaprakash Narayan and AsokaMehta of India, Ba Swe and Kyaw Nien of Burma, Sutan Sjahrir of Indonesia—were internationally renowned. Leading Western figures came as fraternaldelegates: Clement Att-lee, the former Labour prime minister of England, headed the delegation from the Socialist International, and Milovan Djilas the one from Yugoslavia.

At this time, the governments of half a dozen countries—India, Burma, Ceylon, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Singapore—described themselves associalist, for socialism was the predominant ideology of the area. Itseemed that socialism in Asia was making a triumphal entrance on the world historical scene.

Some dozen years later, Narayan had joined the voluntary bhoodan movement of the Gandhian Vinoba Bhave, and Asoka Mehta had left the Socialistparty; Ba Swe and Kyaw Nien were in jail; and Sjahrir, having spent sixyears in prison, died shortly after his release in 1967. The Asian Socialist Conference itself was no more. Of the socialist governments, India had increasing economic and political trouble; Burma had come undera military dictatorship; Ceylon had swung back to a nonsocialist government; Indonesia was racked by an abortive Communist-inspiredrevolution in 1966, and by a military-led counterrevolution which massacred several hundred thousand communists and finally stripped Sukarno, the first president of the regime, of all his powers; Cambodia was perched precariously between East and West, struggling to maintain itsindependence during the Vietnam war; Singapore, after first joining Malayato form the new state of Malaysia, broke away and remained a small independent enclave still proclaiming itself socialist. What had happenedto these Asian socialist parties, and what had happened to the socialist governments?

One anomaly was that in these countries, which proclaimed themselvesofficially socialist, the Socialist parties were rarely in full control ofthe governments. In Burma, the Burmese Socialist party was for many yearspart of the ruling coalition of the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League, and Ba Swe had at one time been premier of his country. In Indonesia, Sjahrir had been its first prime minister, in 1945, heading a coalitiongovernment. But the Burmese Socialist party was abolished in 1962, whenGeneral Ne Win seized power and proclaimed Burma a socialist state; and the Indonesian Socialist party, wiped out at the polls in 1955, wasabolished by presidential decree in 1960, when Sukarno proclaimed Resopim(Revolution, Indonesian Socialism, and National Guidance) as the officialideology. Except for the period of the independence movements and thestruggle against the colonial powers, and for a few short years after eachcountry won its independence, the socialist parties of Asia have notplayed a major role in their nations, despite the official adherence ofthe governments to a socialist ideology. The regimes called themselves “socialist” but were not based on the socialist parties.

Unlike the socialist movements of the Middle East and Africa, whichscarcely existed before World War n, the socialist parties of Asia had along history of involvement with the international socialist movement and socialist thought. Jayapra-kash Narayan, who becamea revolutionary Marxist at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1920s, founded the Bihar Socialist party in 1931, was acting general secretary ofthe Congress party during the civil disobedience movement in 1932, andfounded the Congress Socialist party in 1933, first as a wing of the Congress party and after 1939 as an independent party. The party organ inthe early 1930s, the Congress Socialist, was edited by Asoka Mehta. Likethe socialist parties of Europe, the Congress Socialist party had itsdifficulties with the communists, who stigmatized it as being “socialfascist” and a “left maneuver of the bourgeoisie.” Its experiences withthe communists led the Indian Socialist party in later years to take astrong anti-Soviet, antitotalitarian position. Sjahrir had been a leaderof the Perihimpoenan Indonesia (PI), the student association ofIndonesians studying in Holland in the 1920s, and on his return toIndonesia in 1932, he was interned by the Dutch and kept in prison for tenyears; upon his release, he organized and directed underground resistanceagainst the Japanese.

The Asian socialist and student movements had long had “tutelary” relations with the European socialist parties, particularly since most ofthe countries were under imperial rule; and freedom for the colonies hadbeen an important plank in the programs of the British Labour party, theDutch Labor party, and others. Thus the leaders of the Asian socialistparties had gone through the doctrinal viscissitudes of the Europeansocialist movements, and in most instances had themselves adopteddemocratic socialist positions. The weakness of these parties, particularly the Indonesian, was that they were primarily parties ofintellectuals, with some following among the workers but no influence orbase among the peasantry in societies that were overwhelmingly agrarian. Their orientation was largely urban, and as Marxists they regarded theindustrialization of their countries as the normal path of development. Moreover, as parties of intellectuals, with only a small hold on the tradeunions, they were peculiarly subject to the factionalism and divisivenessof intellectual groups who lack an anchorage. Individual socialists, suchas Jayaprakash Narayan, Asoka Mehta, or Sutan Sjahrir, were at timesenormously influential in their countries–but only as individuals andbecause of their individual talents, not as party leaders.

Most south Asian countries called themselves socialist even when the leading parties, such as the Congress in India or the Nationalist in Indonesia, had no doctrinal faith, simply because they assumed that statedirection of the economy and state planning were necessary for economicgrowth. And the difficulty for most of these countries was that, lackingany experience in planning, lacking the vital managerial talents, and, inmany cases, lacking the needed resources, they wasted available resourcesand made mistakes that could not be absorbed by the economies. Many of theAsian countries, mesmerized by the idea of industrialization, assumed, inthe early 1950s, that, following the Russian model, this meant a priorityfor heavy industry. Burma, for example, decided to build a steel mill, even though its main “natural resource” was the huge amount of gun scrapleft behind by the invading Japanese and the defending British troopsafter World War n. Other expensive showcases were also built, and preciouscapital and foreign exchange were wasted on large airports and other “visible” features put up to impress foreigners with the progress andmodernity of the new country.

It would be a simplification, of course, to attribute the failures andsetbacks primarily to defects in economic planning. As was indicatedearlier, southeast Asia, more than almost any part of the world, isplagued by communal conflicts, so that the regimes have been torn byinternal conflicts and by threatened and actual insurrection. Also, the secountries have been caught in the crossfire of Great Power rivalries, particularly the demand of the United States for participation in SEATO(the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) and the diplomatic and militarypressure of the Chinese, who seek to extend their influence in southeastAsia. But apart from the real political and sociological problems, acrucial fact was that each of these countries plunged ahead on a coursecalled socialist which not only was failing in practice but also wasincreasingly contradictory to the historic socialist ideals. The latterproblem was foremost in the thinking of Jayaprakash Narayan, perhaps the outstanding figure of Asian socialism in the mid-twentieth century. Speaking at the second– and last–conference of the Asian socialistparties, in 1956, Narayan declared:

All our countries, except Japan, are backward economically and many aredesperately poor. Naturally, therefore, our attention goes first of all tothe problem of economic growth. There is nothing wrong in that, but themischief starts when we begin measuring “socialist achievements” in termsof tons of steel and kilowatts of electricity. Economic growth, even rapideconomic growth, is known to have occurred both under Capitalism andFascism. Mere economic development is not a measure of socialism. I do notwish to suggest that it is not the business of Socialists to see that morewealth is produced. What I wish to emphasize is the danger of equatingsocialism with economic development, and of sacrificing the values ofsocialism at the altar of that development. . . .

The main, if not the whole, emphasis is still being placed on the controland use of the power of the State. Everywhere socialists are organized inpolitical parties which are attempting to seize power and hopingthe reafter to build a new society. . . . But as I have said before theideals of socialism remain far in the distance. The reason seems to me tobe a wrong approach to these ideals. All of us agree that socialism is away of life, an attitude of mind, a certain ethical behaviour. What is notso universally recognized is that such a way of life, attitude andbehaviour cannot be imposed from above by dictates of the Government or bymerely nationalizing industry and abolishing capitalism. Construction of asocialist society is fundamentally construction of a new type of humanbeing . . . if human reconstruction is the key to socialist reconstruction, and if that is beyond the scope of the State, the emphasis in the socialist movement must change from political action to such work ofreconstruction. (Quoted in Rose 1959, pp. 258–259)

Contemporary sociology and mature Marxism share a bias against Utopianthought. What the Marxists called objective conditions, sociologists callstructural constraints. The idea is the same: that the range ofalternatives open to any society is limited by the starting point, the kind of resources, the degree of differentiation, and the like. Certainchosen paths impose certain imperatives: industrialization requires the creation of a technical class and a new kind of educational system; the increasing structural differentiation of a complex society requires a kindof social coordination different from a simple, top-down command system. Necessarily, such a perspective tends after a while to bring out the morelimited choices of means of action, and in the process the ends are oftenforgotten or become ritualized. Socialism as a belief has been both asystem of means and a system of ends; and throughout its history the meanshave invariably tended to diminish the ends.

In his youthful writings, Marx was most vividly concerned with the ends ofhuman action. In the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, a halfway house in the development of his thought, Marx speculated on whatthe phase immediately following the socialist revolution might be. Then egation of private property, he said, is not the aim of socialism, forwhat it does is to usher in a period of what he called raw or crude communism. Crude communism does not transcend private property but universalizes it; it does not over come greed but generalizes it; it does not abolish labor but extends it to all men. The aim of socialism, as a fullydeveloped naturalism, as humanism, is to go beyond communism, beyondnecessity, and therefore beyond history–which itself is a form of determinism—to a world which resolves the “strife between existence andessence, between objectification and self-confirmation . . . and betweenthe individual and the species.” It is a world in which a human being nolonger feels “divided” or alienated from what he believes his essence as asocial being, as a person free to make his own future, can be (Marx 1844, pp. 104–114 in the 1919 edition).

This is the permanent Utopian–and even religious–component of socialism, aquest, as ancient as man’s fall from grace, to unify himself with anultimate and to find a world of freedom. It remains a world beyond.

Daniel Bell

[See alsoCommunism; Economic thought, article onsocialist thought; Marxism; Marxist sociology. Related doctrines and ideas are discussed inAnarchism; Capitalism; Nationalism; Pluralism; Syndicalism; Utopianism. Other relevant materialmay be found in IDeology; Planning, economic; Planning, social; Social movements; Stratification, social; Welfare state. ]


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Theory in Depth
Theory in Action
Analysis and Critical Response
Topics for Further Study
See Also


Socialism is a much used and abused term, which spans the political spectrum from the Right (the National Socialists of Hitler's Germany) to the Left (Stalin's communists in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). It has also described a great variety of regimes that have acquired and used the term for their own purposes, stretching from the poor African socialist states and Arab and Asian military dictatorships, to the wealthy social democracies of Western Europe and Australia and New Zealand.

Generally, we may take the term to describe those doctrines which seek to increase the power of society and the state to determine political, social, and economic processes, as against traditional mechanisms and institutions favored by conservatives, and individuals and the market as advocated by liberals. In common usage, the dividing line between socialism and communism is not always clear or sharp, but may be taken to be between those socialists who subscribe to the basic doctrines of Karl Marx, and those socialists who do not.

who controls government? Society

how is government put into power? Revolution or evolution of other theories

what roles do the people have? Share capital and means of production

who controls production of goods? Society

who controls distribution of goods? Society

major figures Pierre–Joseph Proudhon; Julius Nyerere

historical example Tanzania, 1964–1985

Within the boundaries of policy and ideology just described, there are still wide varieties of forms of socialism. There are also a considerable number of philosophers, political practices, and state policies embraced by the doctrine. As with so many modern political philosophies, however, in order to uncover their origins we must look to the emergence of socialist thought in modern Europe.


The Origins of Socialism: Early Utopian Socialism

In nineteenth–century England, then the world's most–developed state, just as liberalism was being reshaped to converge with the increasing social power and demands of the working class, socialism was also being reshaped to make it not just an idealist, but a real political movement. There was already a tradition of utopian, idealist thought running through the popular philosophy of the country on which to base socialist doctrines.

The roots of socialist thought, whether they be traced to Plato's Republic, Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516), to Rousseau's Discourses on the Origins of Inequality Among Mankind (1755), or Morelly's Code of Nature (1755), are invariably idealist. What all these works also have in common is a belief in the fundamental wrongness of private property. In the case of Plato (428–348 B.C.) that wrongness is seen as the cause of war, but at the same time he only envisions that a select group of people should forego private property and possessions and assume as "guardians" the direction of society.

In Utopia, More approvingly cites Plato's Republic for having argued for "an equal distribution of goods." But Utopia was written as a response to the break down of village life, the enclosure of lands for sheep pasturing, and the excessive punishments meted out to the large number of beggars, vagabonds, and thieves in the England of the early–sixteenth century. It was an attempt to devise a society in which poverty would be eliminated. In its attempt to eliminate poverty, like most communist attempts, it commences with the vilification of existing wealth and the power that accompanies it: "when I consider any social system that prevails in the modern world, I can't…see it as anything but a conspiracy of the rich to advance their own interests under the pretext of organizing society."

Code of Nature (1755) by the obscure Frenchman Morelly, asserts that "where no property exists, none of its pernicious consequences could exist," and "if you were to take away property, and the blind and pitiless self–interest that accompanies it you would cause all the prejudices and errors that they sustain to collapse." Like Utopia, this communist vision is frugal, meticulous, tedious, and draconian:

Every citizen between the ages of twenty and twenty–five without exception, will be required to do agricultural work…In every occupational group, there will be one master for every ten or twenty workers, and it will be his task to instruct them, inspect their work…at the age of thirty, every citizen will be allowed to dress according to his taste…The senators and chiefs are authorized by this law to punish all excesses in this manner…Young people between the ages of twenty and thirty will be dressed uniformly with each occupation…every citizen will have both a work suit and holiday suit…Every citizen will be married as soon as he has reached the marriageable age…


1516:      Sir Thomas More's Utopia is published

1755:      The Frenchman Morelly offers his view of a socialist Utopia in Code of Nature

1825:      Claude Henri Saint–Simon calls for an easing between social divisions in The New Christianity: Dialogues Between a Conservative and an Innovator

1840:      Pierre–Joseph Proudhon rails against private land ownership in What is Property?

1848:      Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto

1880s:      Sydney Webb and Beatrice Potter Webb help form the English Fabian Socialists

1936:      John Maynard Keynes publishes General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

1945–1975:      The welfare state evolves in the developed countries

1948–1975:      Third World countries adopt socialist model regimes

1967:      Julius Nyerere installs ujamaa in Tanzania

1989:      Socialist countries in Eastern Europe begin to collapse

During the upheavals of the English Civil War and revolution of the seventeenth century, some of these ideas actively came to the fore. Indeed, Oliver Cromwell, when pursuing his political ascendancy, had to suppress the Levellers (English radicals of the 1640s). But the eclipse of both Cromwell and the radicals permitted the evolution of the constitutional monarchy after the 1688 Restoration and the subsequent development of a prosperous commercial society. In France, however, the absolutist ancien regime survived and in it utopian socialist opposition festered.

The French Revolution of 1789 and Its Aftermath

Morelly's Code contained many of the core elements of later communists—egalitarianism (belief in equal political, economic, and social rights), a sagacious bureaucracy, principles of rotation, prohibition of private property, and the requirement that all work. But it was Gracchus Babeuf (1760–1797) who is generally heralded as being the first systematic defender of modern communism. Babeuf, who was tried for conspiracy and executed during the French Revolution, saw his communist ideas as the natural progression of the Enlightenment. It was, he said at his trial, the philosophical poisons of Mably, Helvetius, Diderot and, most importantly, Rousseau which had corrupted him. For him, communism was a means for ending injustice.

In the Manifesto of Equals Babeuf wrote, "We declare ourselves unable any longer to tolerate a situation in which the great majority of men toil and sweat in the service and at pleasure of a tiny minority." "Men of all classes" should "be accorded the same rights in order of succession to property" and "an absolutely equal portion of all the goods and advantages that can be enjoyed in this mean world." And in the Analysis of the Doctrine of Babeuf, written by his followers, the egalitarianism of the Constitution of 1793 was invoked against the wealthy: "The revolution is not finished, because the rich are absorbing all goods and are exclusively in command, while the poor are toiling in a state of virtual slavery." The way out of this class division was to make everyone work: "no one has ever shirked this duty without having thereby committed a crime."

What these thinkers had in common was a failure to present a serious economic analysis of what a communist system would entail. Rather, a moral critique was combined with an economic critique and a solution which entailed a revolution in economic activity was presented as if it were guaranteed to reform human nature. Nevertheless, what they also had in common was an emphasis on relieving the suffering of the poorest classes by restricting property rights. This became the core doctrine of socialism.

Social Democracy

During the earlier part of the twentieth century, all the advanced states experienced the rise of such Social Democratic movements with the achievement of the more or less universal franchise. The result was a transfer of demands from the political sphere concerning representation in the deliberations of the state—much of which was achieved at the end of the First World War—to arguments about the purposes for which the state should be used.

The common form of the expression of Social Democracy was a democratic electoral coalition pursuing social rights to add to the political gains already won for the masses. Social Democratic parties were achieving Parliamentary representation by the 1890s and the first Social Democratic government in the world was formed in the semi–sovereign, self–governing British colony of Queensland (Australia) in 1899. Shortly thereafter, Social Democrats began to seriously influence political agendas everywhere. By bargaining for their electoral support with the reforming British Liberal government of 1906–1911 they achieved a significant part of their social agenda. In Australia, the Labour Party, founded in 1891, formed national governments of its own before the First World War and implemented modest reforming programs that either dismayed or astonished European observers of the day. Elsewhere Social Democrats put pressure on Rightist governments to accommodate to their agenda, as in Germany. That agenda emerged from the social composition of industrial society and included pensions, a decent wage, health care, holiday leave, and education.

Social democracy has no outstanding political theoreticians, although a body of literature derives from a variety of political, economic, and philosophical tracts. In the political sphere, among the most developed came from Britain and the Fabian Socialists, including: William Morris (1834–1896), who wrote Why I Am a Socialist in 1884; Sidney and Beatrice Webb; the playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), driving force behind the formation of the Fabian Society in 1884 and writer in 1928 of The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism; the author and novelist H.G. Wells (1866–1946) in Outline of History, 1920; and the academic Harold Laski (1893–1950) who was on the executive at different times, of both the Fabian Society and the British Labour Party, as well as the author of Communism in 1927; and the politicians of the British Labour Party.

In October 1883 a socialist debating group was formed in London and called themselves the Fabian Society, after the Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximus, who advocated weakening the opposition by harassing operations rather than becoming involved in pitched battles. The Fabians came to include intellectuals like Eleanor Marx, J.A. Hobson, George Bernard Shaw, Clement Attlee, Ramsay MacDonald, Emmeline Pankhurst, and H.G. Wells.

These Fabian socialists argued for the pursuit of a vaguely defined form of socialism—which certainly included more state ownership of the economy, higher taxes and more welfare benefits—by using an elected Labour government to legislate for an extension of the egalitarian principle from the political to the economic and social sphere.

The Fabians believed that capitalism had created an unjust and inefficient society and they aimed to reconstruct it more rationally; early discussions included "How Can We Nationalise Accumulated Wealth?" But they rejected revolutionary socialism and wanted society to move to a socialist society painlessly. They tried to convince people by rational argument and they produced pamphlets to this end.

In 1889 they published Fabian Essays—with chapters written by George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Webb, among others—which sold extremely well. Fabian members traveled widely, giving lecturers on "Socialism." They founded a new university, the London School of Economics (LSE), in 1895, to teach political economy along socialist lines. Later, they decided to establish a distinct Labour group in Parliament.

The Fabians adopted similar attitudes to the German Marxist revisionists but were an upper–middle–class intellectual group. They became famous through publishing. These middle–class Fabians rejected revolutionary tactics and were more interested in practical politics and gains to be made through contacts in the international socialist movement, trade unions, and cooperative movements.

In Germany similar arguments were evolved by the previously mentioned Marxist Social Democratic Party, led by Kautsky and Bernstein, before it was twice destroyed—by the 1914 War and then by the Nazi regime. In France, a similar process witnessed the development of the Popular Front Left government of the 1930s, which was in turn to be destroyed by internal conflict with the Right and between competing socialist groups, and later by the Nazi blitzkreig.

In the economic realm, the dominant Social Democratic theoretician became a British academic, John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946). Keynes had achieved some distinction by warning, in The Economic Consequences of the Peace in 1919, that the punitive peace imposed on Germany, including reparations, would lead to the disruption and dislocation of the international economy, as eventually occurred. By later advocating what amounted to greater state intervention in the running of a capitalist economy in his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936, Keynes gave theoretical legitimacy to the political aspirations of the Social Democrats. For a generation after the Second World War, they were to use this to great advantage and construct Social Democratic societies in capitalist Europe and, to a much lesser extent, in North America.

The U.S. had been created as a liberal state and grew rapidly at a time when liberal rather than socialist ideas were in the ascendancy. The resulting popular antagonism towards the state in part explains why no socialist movement of any significance developed in the U.S. In 1906 the German sociologist Werner Sombart asked, "Why is there no socialism in America?" The ethnic divisions among the newly immigrant working class during the rapid industrialization of the late nineteenth century, the strength of religious sentiment, and the high level of geographic and social mobility, all made class solidarity and socialist ideology difficult to achieve in the U.S. The great mass movements in opposition to unbridled capitalism— 1890s' Populism, then Progressivism, and finally the 1930s' New Deal—all failed to ignite a mass socialist movement. Socialist candidates by the end of the twentieth century routinely achieved only one percent of the Presidential vote.

National unity for Americans was not constructed on the basis of ethnic solidarity or Social Democratic ideals, but on the ideology of American "particularism," which stressed liberal values and opposition to an interventionist state. Americanism, and with it the legend of the frontier and then upward social mobility, was an alternative ideology to socialism, which it transcended. The communist party in the U.S. was the result of the amalgamation of even smaller Russian immigrant–based sects. Periodically, small socialist parties existed on the slim pickings of intellectuals, migrants, labor unions and protected industry, but as David Mosler and Bob Catley argued in Global America: Imposing Liberalism on a Recalcitrant World, the U.S. remained determinedly liberal.

In Australia and New Zealand Social Democratic movements had already achieved considerable successes and these were consolidated during the early twentieth century. The Australian Labour Party was founded in 1891 and formed governments in Queensland in the 1890s and nationally before the First World War. The New Zealand Labour Party was created in 1916 and took power in 1935. In both countries the state was expanded deeply into the ownership of capital and the regulation of the economy—arguably to an extent much greater than other capitalist societies by the 1930s. Keynes' doctrines were quickly adopted by the labor political leaderships in both countries, and were only jettisoned following their inflationary impacts of the 1970s.

In the philosophical sphere, the egalitarian project of the Social Democrats was only to achieve its full expression when the movement itself was mature and arguably past its apogee, in the form of John Rawls' major work A Theory of Justice in 1971. In this, he influentially argued for a public policy principle, "the original position" which demanded a common status outcome be blindly pursued for all.


Classical Socialism

The same focus was found in the work of Claude Henri Saint–Simon (1760–1825), who saw in Christianity the means to call an easing between social divisions. He wrote, in The New Christianity: Dialogues Between a Conservative and an Innovator (1825), that "God gave only one principle to men: that He commanded them to organise their society in such a way as to guarantee to the poorest classes the promptest and most complete amelioration of their physical and moral existence." Like Jean Marie Condorcet, who wrote Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind (1795), and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, the physiocrat financial official who authored Reflexions sur la Formation et la Distribution Richesses (1766), Saint–Simon shared the belief that human society was progressing.

But progress for Saint–Simon was not primarily about intellectual evolution and the application of ideas to society, as it largely was in Condorcet, but instead entailed the increasing complexity and productivity of social organization and technology. History was conceived of as a series of stages of technological and sociological advances.

What Saint–Simon brought to this perspective was the promise of social fulfilment in a unified, administrative industrial society: science, industry, and the fine arts were seen as conspiring to form a social unity which if rightly administered would bring peace and prosperity to all. In Saint–Simon, the twentieth century bureaucratic cast of mind with its faith in a planned society found its nineteenth century antecedent, as can be gauged from his phrase, later repeated by German socialist Friedrich Engels (1820–1895): that the government of persons will be replaced by the administration of things.

Pierre–Joseph Proudhon In France, it was Pierre–Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865) who played the most important intellectual role in contributing to actual working class politics. Proudhon's What is Property?

(1840) formulated what socialists and communists had all in one way or another been saying, when he answered: "It is theft." But Proudhon also incurred the wrath of communists by arguing:

Communism is oppression and slavery….communism violates the sovereignty of the conscience and equality: the first, by restricting spontaneity of mind and heart, and freedom of thought and action; the second, by placing labor and laziness, skill and stupidity, and even vice and virtue on an equality in point of comfort.

For Proudhon, liberty was to be found by combining communism and property. But that combination, in his hands, became a plea for a society essentially composed of small–scale property holders, enjoying an interest–free credit system, and each working their land. Thus, while he insisted that he (just like Saint–Simon had done and Marx would do) was merely a messenger who knew the direction of history, his vision, as Marx all too easily saw, was built around a fundamental agrarian anachronism, which was more likely to appeal to the then social conditions of a still mostly agrarian France than industrial England or America.

Karl Marx and Nineteenth Century German Socialism

Karl Marx (1818–1883) dominated German intellectual socialist thought. Marx was a German law student whose philosophical studies of politics, history, and political economy became a search for the true meaning of human nature and history. After he had realized that German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–1872) had understood that man is a "species being," and that is the clue to his nature, he went on to find the answer in The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 to "the riddle of history." It was communism. Only in a communist society could the powers of man's species be unlocked.

Marx would later dispense with any talk about liberating the whole people, and let the "working class" become the agent of historical destiny. Marx became obsessed with one thing—the elimination of private interests and property. Having discovered that history as it had hitherto been experienced was the expression of class conflict, as he wrote in the Communist Manifesto (1848), he came to see all social relations and institutions as pathologically infected by the existence of private interests. He then fled for refuge to liberal England.

Marx developed his ideas into a theory which came to be known as marxism. He declared that within marxism there would be no division of labor, no property, no law, no money, no state, no religion, and no alienation. That property, law, the division of labor, the state, and religion were not the artefacts of capitalist society but the very elements which emerge wherever there is any moderately large–scale, settled social organization or nation did not bother Marx or his followers. Indeed, when the occasion arose they would denounce the very idea of a nation as a repressive ideological construction.

Marx believed that the elimination of all known forms of social organization, apart from voluntary communal cooperation, would provide so much abundance that alienation stemming from the division of labor, capitalist oppression, and poverty would be eliminated. But he persistently attacked the Saint–Simonians, who were engaging in voluntary non–violent, social cooperative experiments for being utopians and idealists. Marx believed he had proof that capitalism would break down, but before it had done that it would sufficiently socialize and expand the means of production so that socialism, through marxism, would occur. Throughout his life Marx believed that communism is "not an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things."

Marx's followers ranged themselves against "idealists" even when, later, Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) made speech after speech declaring communism was an act of will, and of faith; even after the Italian communist Antonioni Gramsci (1891–1937) had said that socialism was a religion; and even when communist states imprisoned and executed people merely for the ideas they held. Marxism became essentially a Last Judgment doctrine that provided moral orientation for a social group, the intelligentsia, who had lost faith in the gods of religion and mere ethics and were themselves largely lacking in political power. When Marx repeatedly pointed to the scientific rigor of his analysis, even though he did not do one single model study of the mechanics of a modern large scale economy under marxism, he was really making a moral point.

Marxism was also the modern way of making philosophers rulers, at least notionally. This helps explain its popularity among them. But they could rule with a clear egalitarian conscience. For the whole enterprise of Marxism was to reproduce in secular society the religious dream of a life including the attainment of equality. The whole moral force of marxism lay in its promise of the elimination of inequalities by its elimination of classes.

In Russia, under Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924), Marx's political idealism was advanced as scientific and inevitable, in part, so that Marxists could also be free to grab power any way they could in the name of the working class, without moral scruples. The entire legitimacy of the enterprise involved Marxists in a moral substitution racket: the critics and opponents of Marx or the communist party were the enemies of the working class; and the enemies of the working class were the enemies of humanity; and all future generations would live in peace and prosperity if only the communists would be victorious. Since the stakes were so high, Marxists could not be bound by moral scruples. Furthermore, Marx had shown that morals were simply the ideological expression of class interests. Thus, Marxists became extremely ruthless.

Ferdinand Lassalle

While Marx fulminated in exile in London, in Germany, Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–1864), President of the General German Workers Association, lay the foundation for the German Socialist Party. Like Marx, Lassalle identified the interests of humanity with the interests of the working class. This class, he wrote in The Working Class Program of 1862, is:

…the disinterested class of the community, which sets up and can set up no further exclusive condition, either legal or actual, neither nobility nor landed possessions, not the possession of capital, which it could make into a new privilege and force upon the arrangements of society. We are all working men in so far as we have the will to make ourselves useful in any way to the community.

The corollary of the belief that the self–interest of the working class would converge with the interest of society as a whole was the belief that the self interest of the upper class had to be at the expense of the nation's development. This too was close to Marx.

But there was one significant difference between them: Lassalle saw the state in positive terms and in this respect provided a cornerstone of Social Democracy. He believed that the state could be transformed by the political participation of the working class.

For Lassalle, like Johann Fichte (1762–1814), author of Critique of All Revelation (1792), and Georg W.F. Hegel (1770–1831), the German theorist of the state, the State thus would become the cornerstone of a nation's economic and moral development. Lassalle argued:

It is the State, whose function is to carry on this development of freedom, this development of the human race until its freedom is attained. The State is this unity of individuals into a moral whole, a unity which increases a million–fold the strength of all the individuals who are comprehended in it, and multiplies a million times the power which would be at the disposal of them all as individuals.

The object of the State, therefore, is not only to protect the personal freedom and property of the individual with which he is supposed according to the idea of the Bourgeoisie to have entered the State. On the contrary, the object of the State is precisely this, to place the individual through this union in a position to attain such objects, and reach such a stage of existence as they never could have reached as individuals; to make them capable of acquiring an amount of education, power, and freedom which would have been wholly unattainable by them as individuals.

This concept of the state, while far removed from laissez–faire liberalism, is not much different from the idealist social liberal conception of the state advanced by English philosopher T.H. Green (1836–1882). By the end of the century, Eduard Bernstein (1850–1932), the leading German socialist politician, had acknowledged that the extremist Marxian roots of social democracy were no longer legitimate. Socialism was a matter of parliamentary democracy and evolution.

English Fabian Socialism

Much the same conclusion had been reached by the English Fabian Socialists, who also believed in the historical inevitability of socialism (but not in either the necessity or desirability of class war). In 1894 the Fabian socialist Sidney Webb (1859–1947) proclaimed in English Progress Toward Social Democracy "that there is no anti–socialist party in England," and that, "England is already the most Socialist of all European communities." The Fabians were convinced

that they saw the future and that it was socialist. The leading English Fabian intellectuals, like Sidney Webb and his wife Beatrice (1858–1943), as well as playwright George Bernard Shaw, believed, like the Germans Bernstein and Kautsky, that socialism could and would be achieved by peaceful and parliamentary means.

This did not mean they were necessarily opposed to other methods being used, if appropriate. After Stalin had taken complete control of the Soviet Union by 1931, for example, they believed that that future had been realized. In 1935, the Webbs published the laudatory Soviet Communism: A New Civilization. Like many other socialist observers of the Soviet barbarity, the Webbs saw what they were shown and what they wanted to see. The Soviets had a whole industry for showing Western sympathizers what they desired, a Russian industry that started ironically with the Potemkin villages of Catherine the Great (1729– 1796), who used building frontages with nothing behind. The Chinese communists later demonstrated their communes in similar light.

For socialists in Europe and North America at that time, and indeed later, the debate was not really about collectivism or individualism. As the philosophical debates among Western intellectuals swung to the Left in the 1930s and Social Democracy assumed a near dominant position after the Second World War, the issue became whether collectivism could be conducted within a liberal democratic framework. In the 1940s, Left academics argued whether the rights and liberties of people which had been won through political conflict could still be guaranteed by an independent judiciary, or whether the collective will of the socialist state had the power and right to do whatever it willed.

The major argument that emerged concerned the appropriate agency for achieving this transition to the socialist state. The Social Democratic, Fabian, or Labour parties were subjected to two critiques. On the one hand, and deriving from Left critiques of Social Democratic organizations, of which V. Gordon Childe's (1892–1923) How Labour Governs remains among the best, was the idea of the "embourgeousification" of Social Democratic politicians. In this process, which the Australians call "Duchessing," the Social Democratic leadership becomes hopelessly corrupted and incapable, and indeed unwilling to make the transition to socialism.


Sidney Webb and Beatrice Potter Webb

At the core of the Fabian Society were Sidney Webb (1859–1947) and his wife, Beatrice Potter Webb (1858–1943). Beatrice was a leading Fabian and in 1892 married Sidney Webb, a socialist economist and politician. The Webbs were at the center of British intellectual and political life during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They wrote books on trade unionism and industrial democracy and founded The New Statesman. Parts of Beatrice's voluminous diary were written by Sidney during their world tours of 1898 and 1911 and their Soviet tour in 1932. Sydney was also a member of the London County Council and an MP. In his Presidential Address to Labour Party Conference in 1923, he referred to "The inevitability of gradualness." In 1929 he was made Lord Passfield by the British Labour government. She was also very energetic in the pursuit of their policies. In her Minority Report to the 1909 Commission on the Poor Laws, for example, she produced one of the first charters for a comprehensive social security scheme of state pensions and a welfare state that emerged later in Europe.

Beatrice Potter Webb wrote prodigiously. Her works include: Cooperative Movement in Great Britain, 1891; Wages of Men and Women: Should They be Equal?, 1919; My Apprenticeship, 1926; and Our Partnership, 1948. She also wrote numerous books and articles with Sidney, including: History of Trade Unionism, 1894; Industrial Democracy, 1897; and, most notoriously, Soviet Communism: A New Civilization?, 1935.

Together, the Webbs also wrote numerous studies of industry in Britain, alternative economic policies, and pamphlets for political reform. They believed that rent applied to capital as well as to land and that the state should acquire this rent. Their later admiration of Soviet Russia stemmed partly from Stalin's ability to acquire this rent. They tried to influence public opinion in this direction by the selective education of the powerful, including themselves, who would lead these reforms in government. They only later extended their appeal beyond the intelligentsia. This narrow appeal led some Fabians, such as G.D.H. Cole and H.G. Wells, to break with the Fabians.

The Fabians rapidly declined in the 1930s, when the Webbs' admiration of Soviet Russia seemed excessive. In any case, the power of the British Labour Party and trade unions made them seem redundant, although Sidney Webb did write the famous Clause Four of the Labour Party charter, committing it to a socialist policy. They also lost control of the LSE and their intellectual influence during the 1930s was overshadowed by the Keynesian Revolution. Finally, many of the reforms they had advocated were undertaken during and after the Great Depression, as Karl Popper described in The Open Society and Its Enemies. In the 1940s, following the famous 1942 Beveridge Report, a comprehensive welfare state was established in Britain, perhaps finally vindicating Beatrice Potter Webb.

On the other hand, Robert Michels (1876–1936), in Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy, after long observation of the German Socialist Party, then the largest of its kind in the world, concluded that as such organizations were subjected to the "Iron Law of Oligarchy." They ceased to be agents of socialist transition and became instead bureaucracies with a life form of their own. This proved to be an almost clairvoyant analysis of the forces which were to drive socialist parties in power, and therefore of the kinds of state they would create.


In Das Kapital (1863), Marx believed he had proven there was a central contradiction within capitalism, between capital and labor, which would necessarily lead to the break down of the system. The false premise was that all value derived from one source: the power of labor. The entrepreneurial role of the capitalists and the interplay between consumer and the marketplace were ignored entirely. Marx asserted that the capitalist class could not create value and that value was like a congealment of labor power that could be measured on an homogenous time scale of man/hours. He then argued that while the capitalist class lives off labor power, the drive for profits leads the capitalists to discover labor displacing technologies. The technologies, however, do not generate profits, the workers do. Capitalism is thus a system devouring itself as the capitalists ruthlessly exploit labor which will revolt against and destroy them.

Marx held that the struggle between labor and capital must lead to massive poverty and a technology all geared up and ready to go to progress, but unmanned because it can not be used profitably by the capitalist class. Perceiving this contradiction, the working class will seize power, run the factories, and society will then be governed by need rather than profit. Marx believed that the contradiction would play itself out in the most advanced industrialized countries because that would be where the technologies were most advanced, and thus where the workers would lead the revolution.

This theory was wildly out of line with what actually happened in the industrialized world. Friedrich Engels saw the living conditions of English working men and women improve on a scale unprecedented in history. When writing a new Preface to his The Conditions of the English Working Class (1844), he had to concede this and offered the highly implausible explanation that the discovery of gold in California had a great deal to do with it.

Marx himself, who had always insisted that capitalism was the precondition of socialism, abandoned a semblance of consistency when he conceded to Russian socialists that it might be possible in Russia to bypass the capitalist phase on the way to socialism.

The lack of concern for political organization to Marx and Engels stemmed from their remoteness from any genuine revolutionary struggle. In England, they were largely left alone to get on with their writings and go to small political meetings, where the rhetoric of revolution was strong but they were in a thoroughly secure liberal state. In the less liberal backlands of Russia, revolutionary politics meant something altogether different: it was life and death. The lack of development of civil society in Russia went hand in hand with the lack of development of a tolerant state resting on pluralist institutions. Ideas in Russia had invariably come from France and Germany; but the political ideas that were still being circulated and taken seriously among the Russian intelligentsia were the ideas that were undergoing significant transformation in Europe as the working classes gained increasing economic and political power.

In industrialized England, the trade union movement created its own parliamentary Labour party, which at first allied with the Liberals to achieve legislative successes before 1914, and then formed its own government in the late 1920s. But in Russia, the lack of an industrial proletariat meant that there was no strong socio–political base to moderate the radical dreams of the intelligentsia.

The intelligentsia could speak on behalf of the Russian masses precisely because the masses were mostly illiterate peasants whose very livelihoods were not conducive to mass political organization. Thus, the ideas of Marx, twisted and developed by Lenin into Marxism–Leninism, could have more impact. There was less chance of their being dissolved and defused within the actual political experience of the group they purported to represent; and there was less chance of them becoming Social Democratic. Marx and Engels were radical democrats and eschewed secret political organizations because they could openly denounce capitalism in tolerant Britain. In Russia radical political ideas could only exist within clandestine political activity.

What had been instigated as a supposed materialist approach to power revealed itself more and more as an attempt to consolidate the ideas of a people, to control every thought that could be uttered. When Stalin succeeded Lenin, he pulled Russia even further way from socialist ideals into communism. Stalin not only interfered in music and literature, he also determined the truth to be followed in the sciences of linguistics, anthropology, biology, and physics. The extremism of Lenin and Stalin provided a dead end for human emancipation. This posed the issue of whether alternative socialist forms might better serve.


Social Democracy, 1945–1975

The political rise of the Social Democratic movement was achieved in the developed states in the late 1940s, and was maintained for three decades thereafter. It derived from three main sources: a call for using the state as a re–distributive mechanism; the intellectual ideas of socialism; and the economic ideas of state intervention associated with the doctrines of John Maynard Keynes.

The Great Depression of the 1930s had an impact on political programs everywhere in the developed world. The level of employment became an important issue, and since classical laissez–faire liberalism appeared to have little to alleviate the situation in the short term, it faced political defeat everywhere. In its place, the movements which struggled for supremacy included fascism, communism, and social democracy. The fascists had already triumphed in Italy and the Nazis seized power in Germany. During the next decade much of Europe progressively came under fascist regimes, who used state economic intervention and terror to increase economic activity. Their communist opponents had control only in the Soviet Union, where the state ownership of the economy enabled avoidance of the Depression at great cost to human liberty.

In the other advanced societies some form of social democracy became more influential, although at differing rates of growth. In the U.S., President Franklin Roosevelt (1882–1945) reversed generations of liberal economic doctrines to inaugurate the "New Deal" with its emphasis on public works programs and welfare measures to stimulate economic activity. In Australia and New Zealand the welfare state was extended. In Britain the Depression only started to recede with the rearmament program of the 1930s, but the political impact of mass unemployment later changed the political landscape fundamentally. In France the Popular Front governments also pushed the Social Democratic program in a society close to civil war and soon to be rather easily defeated.

The end of the Second World War heralded the triumph of Social Democracy. The classical liberal ideas about an uncontrolled market economy seemed unsustainable in light of the experience of the depressed 1930s. The fusion of these tendencies produced the post–war dominance of Social Democratic governments.

In Britain, the Labour Party led by Clement Atlee (1883–1967) formed a majority government from 1945 to 1951, and spent those years nationalizing many British industries and creating the welfare state. The principles involved were straightforward. The state would run the commanding heights of the economy which were then defined as being the railways, road transport, electricity, water and gas supplies, and, more controversially, the steel industry. It also increased the rate of progressive taxation—particularly income tax—to pay for a greatly expanded system of welfare services, which included age pensions, a national health system, education, and unemployment benefits. It also adopted Keynes economic ideas to justify a progressive expansion in the size of the state and its anti–cyclical policies of running what should have been occasional deficits, which proved to be almost permanent.

In Australia the Labour governments of 1941–1949, under John Curtin and Ben Chifley, also laid the basis for state–directed industrialization. As Bob Catley described in Globalising Australian Capitalism (1996), in addition to forms of the Social Democratic program which British Labour introduced, in Australia the government also induced forced industrialization. This involved protecting and fostering domestic industry, including a new automobile industry, and building new industries through state financing, like the massive hydro–electricity generating scheme in the Snowy Mountains.

In New Zealand, the Labour government had been in power since 1935 and under Prime Minster Michael Savage introduced the world's first welfare state. There, again, state ownership of key industries—like the extensive railway system—was augmented by state regulation and protection of industry and a high, progressive level of taxation to finance a wide welfare program.

In liberated Europe, the Anglo–Americans sponsored Social Democratic–style regimes designed at first to crush the social forces which had sustained fascism. In most of Western Europe, Social Democratic parties expanded state intervention in the economy along much the same lines as British Labour. This program sometimes went even further as industries owned by wartime collaborators or bankrupted by war damage, were brought into the public sector. These included banks, automobile manufactures, and even aerospace companies.

Although not all the Social Democratic parties stayed in power—indeed the Conservatives led by Winston Churchill returned in Britain in 1951 and Robert Menzies led the Liberals back in Australia in 1949—the impact of their doctrines remained strong until the late 1970s. In the three decades that followed the war economic growth was strong, the business cycle was minimal, and the role of the state in economic management, redistribution of resources, and the running of welfare programs was extended.

International similarities The essential characteristics of Social Democracy were similar throughout Europe. The welfare expenditure of the state and its programs were steadily expanded to provide standard services to all citizens regardless of income or other status. These services included: in most countries education at least to secondary and often University level; universal health care; aged pensions and unemployment benefits; training and re–training programs for labor to adjust to economic change; public housing for rental; universal no fault insurance; sick and vocational leave; and, depending on the case, subsidized transport, holidays, sporting, and care facilities for the infirm, abandoned, or aged. These services were funded by a high rate of at first progressive income taxation—which is heaviest on higher incomes—and then by a wide–ranging sales tax in the form of a Value Added Tax (VAT) as the European Union expanded.

These services were often supplemented by an extensive system of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), which might include employee representation in the management structure at all levels. SOEs were typically operated in the transport, hospital, energy, utility provision, and even major manufacturing sectors like automobile, steel, banking, and aerospace.

In the developed countries outside Europe, these tendencies towards Social Democratic regimes were also evident. In the U.S. the state sector grew, most notably in the welfare services under Democratic administrations in the 1960s, although the U.S. never became a truly Social Democratic society. In Australia and New Zealand the state share also expanded further under labor governments in the mid–1970s.

The effect of the encroachment of the democratic socialist state on the liberal capitalist order was at first positive. Wages and other entitlements for workers who provided the electoral support for these regimes, gradually rose. Unemployment generally fell to almost zero and the trade cycle was flattened by Keynesian demand management techniques involving budget deficits and rapid money supply growth. The size of the state also increased as a proportion of the national economy. In addition, even in those sectors of the economy where SOEs were not evident, the level of state regulation of private enterprise rose progressively to match diverse social democratic demands about labor conditions, employment levels, environmental protection, and product quality. The European Union even devised a Social Charter, which encouraged its member states to pursue these options.

Asian Socialism

Socialist ideas took a wide variety of forms in Asia. These varied from communism in China, after the Revolution of 1949, and North Korea and Vietnam, through a mix of Fabian ideals and indigenous traditions in India, to the heavily Trotskyite– influenced organizations which prospered in Sri Lanka in the 1950s and 1960s.

India India adopted a unique socialist model, which involved a commitment to small scale peasant farming along traditional Indian lines as advocated by the independence agitator and mystic Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948). Alongside this, the more modernist elements in the Indian independence movement, associated with the dominant Congress Party and the ascendant family of Pandit Nehru (1861–1931), also encouraged the development of heavy industry. Much of this was privately owned and state protected, but much also came into the state infrastructure sector as State Owned Enterprises. This hybrid project was strengthened after 1960 by establishing an economic relationship with the Soviet Union. It had a mixed success in terms of both economic growth and political egalitarianism until it was abandoned for more market–oriented structures in 1991 after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Sri Lanka In Sri Lanka a promising socialist model and welfare state was established in the 1950s, but fell prey first to declining prices for its exported commodities, notably tea, and then a protracted and extremely ferocious civil war in 1975. The vaguely socialist (and extremely corrupt) Guided Democracy of President Sukarno in Indonesia was terminated by a military regime which, after 1966, eliminated the physical presence of socialist forces.

Burma Burma became independent from Britain in 1948. It then adopted a socialist direction and isolated itself from the several military conflicts that ravaged Southeast Asia during the Cold War. It also declined from one of the richest countries of the region to one of the poorest, while similar and neighboring Thailand achieved more rapid growth with a more open economy. During this period Burma's dominant politician was Ne Win.

Ne Win's 1962 coup was to establish "Burmese Socialism" by military rule, based on a one–party political system. Ne Win held the chairmanship of the Burma Socialist Programme Party and remained in effective political control of the country until 1988, when he resigned after admitting to economic mismanagement in the face of mounting popular discontent. The reason for Burma's impoverishment was the implementation of a socialist system of state planning and controls. Foreign trade was closed and foreign investment forbidden in the 1960s. Most industrial enterprises were brought into public ownership. The trade in rice was regulated and the price fixed to satisfy consumers, thereby discouraging increases in production. Ownership of land cultivating rice was strictly controlled. The arbitrary nature of the political and judicial system gave no incentive for private investment, either domestic or foreign, and economic stagnation set in. People knew Burma was missing the Asian economic miracle by retaining a socialistic economy.

In 1988 mass demonstrations for free elections led to a massacre of student activists—in which 20,000 were killed—and a complete military takeover, although Ne Win remained a power behind the scenes. The ruling junta was at first called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) but later called itself the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

Burma, which was officially renamed Myanmar in 1989, held free multiparty elections in May, 1990. The military junta's political front overwhelmingly lost the election but refused to hand over power. The opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who easily won the election, maintained her opposition. She supported a democratic state and a market economy. She was held under house arrest for next six years—until July of 1995—and then re–detained in September of 2000. Her supporters are routinely harassed or jailed. Aung Sang Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Nonetheless, SLORC made some efforts to open and liberalize the economy and even joined the Association of South East Asian Nations in 1999. But it stepped back from liberalization as it became clear that this might threaten its already fragile power base. Burma is the world's second–largest producer of illicit opium (after Afghanistan), with an estimated potential production in 1999 of 1,090 metric tons. This helps sustain its poor still partly socialist economy.


Ne Win

Born in 1911, Ne Win abandoned his original name in 1941 when he joined a nationalist military group opposing British rule and supported by Japan. He became commander of the Burmese Independence Army in 1943, but later turned against the Japanese. After Burma's independence from Britain in 1948, he became Home and Defense Minister. During this time many of the minority nationalities of Burma established regional independence from the ineffective central government.

In 1958, Ne Win deposed prime minister U Nu. U Nu returned and served from 1960 to 1962, but Ne Win removed him again in a coup. By 1971, he had transformed Burma into a one–party state led by the Myanmar Socialist Programme Party. Under the new constitution adopted in 1974, Ne Win became President, and remained Party head until 1988.

After 1988 Ne Win slipped into obscurity as the democratic opposition, rallied by Aung San Suu Kyi, grew stronger. The result of Ne Win's policy of cultural isolation and economic self–sufficiency had been the steady impoverishment of a nation rich in resources. Although the country avoided the wars that plagued the surrounding region, Burma's own precarious internal security and insurrections has been a major drain on national revenues.

In October 2001, Ne Win was admitted to a Singapore hospital with a terminal illness.

Burma pursued a heavily regulated economic system under Ne Win's socialist regime. It now has a mixed economy with private activity dominant in agriculture, light industry, and transport, but with substantial state control over activity, mainly in energy, heavy industry, and the rice trade. Government policy in the 1990s aimed at revitalizing the economy after three decades of socialist planning. Private activity increased in the early to mid–1990s, but then began to decline. Published estimates of Burma's foreign trade are greatly understated because of the volume of black–markets, illicit drugs, and border trade—particularly in opium. It has failed to achieve monetary and fiscal stability or provide a transparent legal system for business to operate. Burma remains a poor Asian country and living standards for the majority of Burmese have not improved over the past several decades.

By the 1990s, indeed, the path to modernization for most Asian societies appeared best illuminated by the economic structures of liberalism, which had displaced socialist doctrine over much of the continent.

African Socialism

Socialism was also taken to Africa by European–educated independence movement leaders and was long linked to Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. He began as an anti–colonial African nationalist, demanding the independence of Tanganyika, a United Nations trusteeship under British administration. Nyerere helped form the Tanganyika African National Union in 1954, and when the country became independent in 1961, Nyerere became Prime Minister and then President in December 1962. In 1964 it united with Zanzibar to form Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Nyerere was born of peasants in a remote village, educated by Catholic missionaries, and went to Edinburgh University in Scotland. He was clever, educated, and very articulate. His commitment, then, to nonviolence and socialism made him not just an icon in his own country but in the wider world. Nyerere developed a Christian socialist ideology designed to organize a new society where there were hardly the rudiments of modern physical structures. He believed that poor Tanzanians could transform their country into a new model in which both traditions and British imperial legacies could be jettisoned.

Nyerere had visions of a village–based socialism in which modern techniques, such as the use of tractors and fertilizers, could be managed by village teams and used in communal fields, with the village selling and buying from the wider economy on a cooperative basis. He was inspiring but too often inspired the wrong policies. He was self–righteous and held dogmatically strong convictions. Since his opinions could not be challenged at the ballot or by a free press, his ideas were never effectively challenged. Nyerere inaugurated three platforms: a cultural system based on the Swahili language; a political system based on the one–party state; and an economic system based on an African approach to socialism, ujamaa (familyhood).

The cultural policy based on Kiswahili was the most durable. Tanzania became one of the few African countries to use an indigenous language in parliament and as the primary language of national business. Kiswahili was promoted in politics, administration, education, and the media. It became a major instrument of nation–building, the most lasting of Nyerere's legacies. Tanzanians hold Swahili, the national language,

above other languages, a factor that has helped prevent Tanzania from disintegrating into tribal conflict which has torn other African countries apart.

The political experiment of the one–party state produced exciting political theory but bad political practice. Nyerere tried to unify Tanzanians through the instrument of the one party state, under his Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. He thought he knew best and took short cuts in judicial procedures that ended up incarcerating his opponents without trial in miserable conditions. The theory that the one–party state could be as democratic as the multiparty system and was more culturally suited to Africa, was intellectually stimulating but merely excused Nyerere's long period of rule. Tanzania became a multiparty state only after he left office in 1985.

Nyerere defined ujamaa as the basis of African socialism: "ujamaa is familyhood and an attitude of the mind that is needed to ensure people care for each other's welfare," he said. "In traditional African society, the people take care of the community and the community takes care of them, without exploiting each other." Under ujamaa the people were encouraged to move into "familyhood" villages, which formed the cornerstone of Tanzanian socialism. ujamaa did help Tanzanians to gain access to primary and secondary education irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, or economic status.

Implementation of ujamaa He began his economic experiments in the early 1960s by making urgent appeals to his people. The economic experiment of ujamaa was launched with the Arusha Declaration on Socialism and Self–Reliance in 1967. It was greatly admired by some Western intellectuals and the governments of such Social Democratic countries as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. By the early 1970s he decided he had preached enough and ordered peasants to move into collective villages. This uprooted people who had sometimes farmed the same scattered plots of land for hundreds of years. Some moved voluntarily, but others had to be pushed. Villagers were herded together where there was often no running water, good agricultural land, or roads.

By June 1975, 9.1 million people—or 65 percent of Tanzania's entire population—lived in about 7,000 villages. The implementation of ujamaa was largely completed in 1976. But the rapid rate of imposition of the scheme and the disruption of traditional agriculture caused social and economic problems for the country. For example, "Operation Maduka," was designed to replace private retailers with cooperatives. This was begun early in 1976, but its implementation caused distribution problems and shortages and the operation was slowed down.

Some problems were the result of ujamaa's poor implementation. During the villagization program in 1971, people were forced to leave their homes and set up what were more like concentration camps than traditional African villages. But the villagization program did help the provision of social services by the government as the people settled together and shared schools and hospitals. But the ujamaa policy, under which private properties were nationalized, was extremely disruptive and did not produce rapid economic development. One result was that Tanzania soon became riddled with state industries, state banks, state plantations, and state marketing boards, all of which lost money.

Education in the villages, greatly assisted by foreign aid, had some success. Tanzania achieved a literacy rate of about 91 percent, the highest in Africa.

The Arusha Declaration had about twenty years in which to deliver results. By 1985, disenchantment was widespread and the end was near. Far from Tanzania being self–reliant, it was more dependent on aid than ever. Nyerere admitted that even in his home village ujamaa had not taken hold. In the end he was forced to abandon ujamaa, but considerable damage had been done. Since socialist ujamaa had left the country poorer, so liberalization, privatization, and the market were adopted to reform it. Nyerere's African socialist economic policies were failures. ujamaa and villagization had kept Tanzania backward.

Nyerere blamed economic difficulties on inherited poverty, appalling weather, world recessions, awful neighboring regimes like Idi Amin in Uganda, and war in southern Africa for such continuous failures. Also, after he started supporting the southern African liberation movements in Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa and his country paid a heavy price. But the hard task of developing policies that ensured that Tanzania worked well and developed was sacrificed to socialist doctrine. When he stepped down from power in 1985 his experimental socialist system, ujamaa, had clearly failed.

The African National Congress A more promising socialist experiment has been provided by The African National Congress (ANC), which took power in South Africa in 1994 and overthrew White rule and apartheid. The ANC was formed in 1912 to unite the African people and spearhead the struggle for fundamental political, social, and economic change. The ANC achieved a decisive democratic breakthrough in the 1994 elections, where it was given a firm mandate to negotiate a new democratic Constitution for South Africa. The new Constitution was adopted in 1996. The ANC was re–elected in 1999 to national and provincial government. This was Africa's best chance for socialist development, since the previous racist regime had used statist methods to create an industrialized economy, an appropriate base for a socialist society.

In 1994 the ANC adopted the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) as the basic policy framework guiding the ANC in the transformation of South Africa. Since the country is easily the most developed in Africa, the ANC had some realistic opportunity to pursue democratic socialist program. In fact, the economy has stalled, social dissonance and violent crime have risen quickly, and the government has had to severely modify its socialist policies with a view to reviving the economy—so far with limited success.

Arab Socialism

In the immediate aftermath of independence, the Arab world was also swept by ideas of socialist development. Arab socialism was heavily influenced by an emphasis on the Government, the Public Sector, and the use of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). These ideas were first tried in Egypt under Gamel Abdel Nasser (1918–1970) in the 1950s, and then given considerable support from the 1970s by the increases in the revenues of some Arab states provided by hefty

oil price increases, as well as the involvement of the Soviet Union during the period of its strategic expansion, 1970–1985. The role of the state in the national economies of the Arab countries was as an economic agency and regulating body.

As an economic agency the state influenced resource allocation and acted as an investor and producer of goods and services. In the production of goods and services, the state often replaced, competed with, or shared with the private sector in these activities. State Owned Enterprises represented the basic instrument of state engagement in the field of economic activities. As a regulatory agent, the state also intervened in the activities of the private sector, mixed sector, cooperatives, and foreign–owned enterprises.

As in many other developing countries, in the Arab countries the state played a central and pivotal role in their national economies from independence until the 1990s. The centrality of the state in the national economies was not peculiar to the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa, and it came about gradually as a consequence of the interaction between many international, regional, and national factors.

Influence of the National Charter After a series of nationalizations from the mid 1950s, including the Suez Canal, Egypt embarked on a program of social reform on the basis of "Arab Socialism," which was introduced in the "National Charter" of 1962. According to the ideology of Arab Socialism, the whole society was expected to rally behind the government, which would, it was claimed, pursue the interests of all. This was translated into public ownership of public services, commercial activities (such as banking and insurance), communications, heavy, large and medium–sized industries, and of foreign trade. In Egypt the best–known case was the Suez Canal. A set of "socialist laws" were enforced, to put into practice what was envisaged by the Charter and by Arab Socialism.

Soon the influence of such developments in Egypt began to emerge in other Arab countries, namely Syria and Iraq. With the formation of United Arab Republic (UAR) between Syria and Egypt (1958–1961) all Syrian banks and insurance companies and three industrial enterprises were fully nationalized, and twenty four others were partially nationalized in June 1961. Though most of these nationalizations were lifted after the end of the UAR, more nationalizations and re–nationalizations took place in 1964 and 1965.

In Iraq, many "socialist laws" were enforced in July 1964 to increase the role of public sector to facilitate economic planning and implement government policies, and also (it was hoped) to accelerate the economic development of the country. A new "Economic Organization" was created intending to develop the national economy by virtue of its activities in the public sector. All banks, both national and foreign, were nationalized in 1964.

Elsewhere in the Arab World, other regimes and rulers became committed to strong government expansion into the public sector. After Algeria gained independence in July 1962, attention was directed towards the nationalization of banks and of farms formerly owned and managed by the French settlers. The land of Algerians who had collaborated with the French regime prior to independence were confiscated in 1964. Socialist policies expanded elsewhere as the Ba'ath socialist party recaptured power in Iraq in 1968, Muammar Al–Qaddafi (1942–) overthrew the monarchy in Libya in 1969, and a Marxist group came to power in South Yemen in 1969.

These socialist trends were not peculiar to radical regimes. In Tunisia, for example, the 1960s was characterized as the decade of "state–led industrialization" where the state established more than eighty public sector industrial enterprises, producing everything from sugar and clothes to phosphates and tractors. Extensive nationalization of private and industrial enterprises was also undertaken in the Sudan into the 1970s. By the end of the 1960s, the public sector enterprise had consolidated its position in many, but not all, Arab countries. This second stage ended with increased involvement of the state in various aspects of economic life.

The third phase ran during the 1970s to the early 1980s, a period of extreme liquidity in the oil–producing states, and brought with it mixed developments among the Arab countries at large and within some of the new industrial enterprises owned by the state. What emerged were many joint ventures in the oil and other sectors, as well as the establishment of many inter–governmental and non–governmental organizations. This development in itself meant increasing the role and importance of the state even beyond the political boundaries of the particular country concerned.

But by the 1980s many Arab socialist countries, particularly those without oil revenues, found their economies deteriorating, external debt increasing, the balance of payment's worsening, the budgetary deficit rising, and that they were financially unable to sustain the expansion of the public sector. This had happened in spite of the development boom in the oil rich Arab countries.

Calls for change One of the first initiatives against the state–dominated economy in the Arab countries took place, again, in Egypt in the mid–1970s, with the development of the Infitah, or policy of the "open door." The then–President and Nasser's successor, Anwar el Sadat (1918–1981), issued the October Paper in 1974 according to which legislation was introduced to provide incentives for private investment (domestic and foreign), to open foreign trade to private companies, to eliminate most controls on workers' emigration, and to reduce government control over the agricultural and industrial sectors. This was designed to end the stagnation into which Arab socialism had taken Egypt.

During this phase, many Arab countries began the process of structural adjustment. But this attempt was abandoned in the following year due to the ensuing price increases and the social unrest that followed those measures. Then, in October 1980, Morocco embarked on a second stabilization program and concluded an agreement with the IMF in which the food subsidies were reduced.

By the early 1980s, the public sector domination phase had reached the end. A privatization and liberalization phase had begun, and this continued until the twenty first century. The public sector and many state–owned enterprises have been on the retreat and Arab socialism went on the defensive. Developments at the international, regional and national levels encouraged the move towards privatization, and consolidated the position of its advocates.

At the international level, the calls for privatization of public enterprise became stronger into the 1980s with Margaret Thatcher (1925–) in power in Great Britain and Ronald Reagan (1911–) in the U.S., and they influenced the IMF and the World Bank. The outbreak of the international and mostly Third World debt crisis in 1982, and the need to re–schedule the debt, made it easier for these institutions to insist on Stabilization and Structural Adjustment Programmes to be implemented by those countries seeking their assistance. Many governments found it impossible to continue with their increasing budgetary deficits. This was coupled with further declines in export revenues due to the deterioration of commodity export prices, terms of trade, and shrinking markets. A continuing decline in foreign aid donations after the Cold War and falling private foreign capital inflows made the situation even worse for many countries with fragile economies.

The collapse of the former Soviet Union furnished advocates of privatization in the Arab countries with an unprecedented argument, and thus provided support for the move toward privatization both there and worldwide. These dramatic developments also had a direct impact on the Arab and other Third World countries, who had relied on the Soviet bloc for economic assistance and cooperation. Assistance ended and their former Soviet bloc aid donors began to compete with them for Western aid, private capital investment, and officially supported export guaranties.

Socialism in Australia and New Zealand

The British colonized Australia and New Zealand in a lengthy process that started in 1788 with a British convict settlement at what is now the city of Sydney. Overland exploration and further coastal settlements then produced seven colonies that became self– governing in the 1850s. In 1901 the six Australian colonies formed the Commonwealth of Australia and in 1907 New Zealand became an independent Dominion. At the beginning of the twentieth century these two countries were famous for the success of their socialist experiments.

Whereas the U.S. Constitution had been written at a time when liberalism was a dominant ideology among English–speaking intellectuals and politicians, Australia and New Zealand formed their political structures when socialism was a doctrine sweeping Britain.

The early years of Australia's history comprised a parliamentary contest between the growing power of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the dominant social liberals led by Alfred Deakin (1856–1919). The result was an interventionist state, which regulated foreign trade through tariffs, set and enforced wage rates for workers, and controlled immigration. Later, the federal and state governments extended their ownership of businesses to encompass ports, banks, utilities, and shops. During the 1930s depression this was further developed into the state's regulation of many agricultural products, including wheat and wool, by marketing boards.

Not surprisingly, the development of nearby New Zealand took a similar path. While the New Zealand Labour Party was only formed twenty–five years after the ALP in 1916, it arguably became even more dominant. In 1935 the First New Zealand Labour government was formed and, in addition to introducing similar regulatory agencies to Australia, developed what may have become the world's first welfare state by 1949. Its measures included a complete free education system, universal health care, and pension provisions for the aged, unemployed, and infirm.

These socialist experiments were widely admired in Europe and attracted the attention and visits of socialist intellectuals, including Albert Metin, later French Minister for Labour who wrote the admiring Socialism Without Doctrines, and the Fabian Socialist Webbs, who left behind The Webb's Australian Diary. Needless to say, Lenin was scathing about the collaborationist nature of these socialist parties and quickly established opposing communist parties in the 1920s, which attracted only limited support. Visiting Americans, like author Mark Twain (1835–1910), were also less impressed by what they regarded as these excessively statist societies, as David Mosler and Bob Catley describe in America and Americans in Australia.

Australia and New Zealand were secure, social democratic societies for their White colonists, with extensive welfare systems and short hours of work. These conditions were underpinned by extremely democratic political systems, which were the first to give the vote to women. They were also rather intolerant of their indigenous communities, to whom socialist doctrines did not extend. In the mid–1970s both countries elected Labour governments, led by Gough Whitlam and Norman Kirk (1923–1974), who in many respects extended these Social Democratic regimes to include indigenous peoples.

The considerable affluence of these societies was underpinned by the efficient production of primary commodities—like wheat, wool, meat, and minerals— on territory newly discovered or conquered from indigenous peoples. During the 1960s and 1970s prosperity was maintained only with increasing difficulty, as the price of these commodities became less assured and markets more difficult to access. Both countries faced difficult economic problems in the 1980s, including stagflation and external trade deficits.

In the 1980s, both countries started to dismantle their statist and social democratic economic structures and joined the movement towards liberalization. In both cases, these reforms were undertaken by Labour governments. International trade was deregulated, economic regulatory agencies were dismantled, and many state–owned enterprises were privatized. Although the two countries often followed different polices, the pursuit of liberalizing reform was common to both. They continued to face difficulties in reorienting their economies to meet the challenges of the global economy of the twenty first century, but neither could be properly described any longer as socialist in structure.

The Neo Liberal Counter–Revolution, 1975–1991

In the mid–1970s the developed countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) underwent a severe economic dislocation. It was easily the worst since 1945. During the deep recession of 1974–75 the social democracies of Western Europe, Japan, North America and Australasia experienced increased inflation, negative growth, a large jump in unemployment and, for most, a severe imbalance in their domestic fiscal and foreign trade accounts. This became known as the crisis of stagflation.

There ensued a long intellectual debate about the causes of this problem. The OECD officials attributed the crisis to a series of singular events, which coincided and were unlikely to be repeated in that form. In some instances this was true, including the sharp rise in oil prices which the exporting states had been able to achieve by the coincidence of an Arab–Israeli War and a prolonged OECD dependence on that commodity. But there were also criticisms of the policy reactions of the OECD countries and indeed of their policy regime structures, which seemed for long unable to deal with the problems that had emerged. In particular, an old critique of Social Democracy emerged in a new guise.

Liberals had long held that the extension of the state into the economy and its resultant politicization would endanger the operation of economic calculation and damage the maintenance of economic prosperity. They had maintained this critique throughout the long post–war boom during which Social democracy had been extended in the manner previously indicated throughout much of the developed world. While growth was maintained, the liberal critique was broadly ignored. It then re–emerged as an explanation of the problem of stagflation and a policy recommendation for its resolution. Neo–liberalism revived in the Anglophone world and the U.S. economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman (1912–) became its most–celebrated advocate.

Friedman and the liberals argued that inflation was essentially the product of a rapid growth in the supply of money. Since money was a commodity, if it flooded the market its price would drop and all other prices, expressed in money terms, would rise. This had happened in the mid–1970s throughout the OECD. The solution was to arrest the growth of the money supply. Policy makers gradually took this on board into the 1980s and inflation receded. Corollaries of this policy, however, included stopping the growth of the state sector, abandoning budget deficits, deregulating domestic economies and foreign trade, and, later, privatizing SOEs. All these policies were adopted to varying degrees in the OECD states during the 1980s.

The result was winding back of the Social Democratic regimes. This was not undertaken at a similar pace or with the same intensity in each state. In the English–speaking countries, the liberal reforms of Social Democracy went furthest. In Great Britain, where arguably the crisis of stagflation hit deepest, Margaret Thatcher was elected Conservative Prime Minister in 1979 and while in office during the next eleven years wound back the level of state regulation and subsidies, the size of the state–owned sector, the power of the labor unions, and the commitment to full employment. The next Labour government under Prime Minister Tony Blair, elected in 1997, did not overturn these basic reforms.

In less–populated English–speaking countries— Canada, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand—similar processes occurred. In each, SOEs were privatized, economies and markets deregulated, trade restrictions abolished, and the size of the state sector reduced. In general, this group of countries entered the twenty–first century with the smallest state sectors and the highest growth rates of the OECD countries. But they mostly retained a modest socialist structure, consistent with providing a social safety net for their citizens.

The developed countries of Western Europe were also influenced by these trends, but did not undertake the reforms nearly as far. They became known as the "Social Charter" capitalist counties who continued to subscribe to the European Union Charter on labor regulation and welfare provision. They retained large welfare systems, many SOEs, a state sector of up to half their economies, and extensive provisions and benefits to labor. Perhaps as a result, at the start of the twenty first century these countries had slower growth rates and higher unemployment levels than their Anglo–Saxon counterparts.

Collapse of the Soviet Union

As the heartland of Social Democracy was undergoing reform, so the countries of Communist socialism effectively collapsed. After the Second World War, Soviet–style communism had expanded into Eastern Europe and east Asia. Centered on the Soviet Union, it then created an alternative system of states based on the model created by Stalin in the 1930s. In the ensuing conflict with the West, known as the Cold War, its doctrines were then extended into many Third World countries, such that by the late 1970s it appeared a formidable social formation indeed. Nonetheless, within a decade it faced economic decline, geographic contraction, and finally, strategic defeat.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and its system took place in three phases. First, the client and allied regimes of the Soviet bloc were abandoned and their subsidies withdrawn in the late 1980s, thereby precipitating an economic crisis in many of them. Secondly, the Soviet garrisons and political guarantees to the puppet regimes of Eastern Europe were withdrawn in 1989, and all of the regimes of the "Peoples Democracies" collapsed almost immediately. Thirdly, the Soviet Union itself disintegrated into fifteen non–communist states in December, 1991.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was accelerated by the strategic confrontation and arms race opened by Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, which the Soviet Union found itself unable to afford. But it could not compete because its economic and political structures were frozen in the socialist forms of the 1930s, implicitly created by nineteenth–century doctrines. The rigidity of the Soviet planning system made it unable to adapt to new technologies and processes. Its political dictatorship made it unable to change and provide the mechanisms for economic transformation. By the 1980s, Soviet communism was too conservative and rigid to survive. The liberal reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s were insufficient to save it, but enough to generate its demise.

This marked the end of the long socialist experiment that had begun in 1917. The Soviet Union had effectively and/or ideologically underpinned the other variants of socialism, which had been created throughout the world in the period following the Revolution. The support that the Soviet state had provided—financially for communist parties, ideologically for philosophers, politically for activists, economically for state planners and SOE managers, and militarily for revolutionaries—disappeared. With it went one of the most significant props that the socialist movement had had since its modern incarnation two centuries earlier.

Certainly, socialist states continued to exist after 1991, but their utility as a model for continuing progress for the doctrine was greatly diminished by their character. The People's Republic of China was a poor Third World country, although it demonstrated impressive rates of growth. But by 2001 it was clear that these had been achieved by abandoning socialist doctrines and adopting market mechanisms, deployed in the revealing phrase "socialism with Chinese characteristics."


In theory, socialism is a political theory with the best of intentions—the elimination of private property and the sharing of economic resources. However, it has been difficult to maintain because it goes against the concepts of freedom and individuality. Not many people want to be forced to move into farming villages or turn their crops over to the government instead of selling them on an open market. All forms of socialism run into problems when they are put into action. "The social democracy form of socialism is difficult to maintain because it runs head on into the political pressure of democracy—which replaces abstract issues of fairness with the practical calculations of interest–group politics—and the economic pressure of open markets," wrote Victoria Postrel in a 1999 issue of Reason magazine. Moreover, socialism has a hard time shaking the negative associations brought on by the experiments in Soviet Russia and Third World countries. Too many versions of socialism take over areas of everyday life beyond economics.

The Problems With African and Arab Socialism

Why did Julius Nyerere's African Socialist policy of ujamaa fail in Tanzania? The problem essentially stemmed from the fact that Marxist doctrines assumed that socialism would be implemented in already developed societies. Many of the former colonies of the Third World were in fact very poor and often dominated by primary production with low levels of education and labor productivity. In these circumstances, socialist programs deriving from European circumstances had to try to produce a more egalitarian society and develop the economy at the same time. These were often difficult objectives to reconcile. Tanzania was and is one of the poorest countries in the world and faced this dilemma.

Nonetheless, in the 1960s and 1970s Tanzania gained much political respect, chiefly due to Nyerere's political ideas. He was personally uncorrupted by fame or position and remained throughout his life self–effacing and unpretentious. Since Nyerere's death in 1999 the positive aspects of ujamaa, particularly enhanced national unity, has received more credit, even from Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Nyerere's successor who abandoned socialism and began liberalization in 1985. Tanzania is one of the very few African countries that has not experienced serious tribal conflict.

Of course, ujamaa was not the only form of socialism that ran into problems. Egypt was a prime example of an economy ruined largely by its own self–destructive Arab Socialist policies. In 1979, with the conclusion of the Israel–Egypt peace treaty, there were predictions and expectations of large–scale Middle East trade; multinational infrastructure projects; joint ventures involving Egyptian, Israeli, and American or European investors; technology transfers; and a reallocation of resources from the military to civilian pursuits. But for various reasons, many unrelated to the Camp David agreements, since the 1980s the Egyptian economy has stagnated and per capita income has declined.

The poor performance of the economy, especially in the first half of the 1990s, was particularly disconcerting, in view of the massive financial aid which Egypt received in those years. A major part of Egypt's $50 billion debt was cancelled; interest rates were lowered and payments reduced on the remaining debt; and "Official Development Assistance" from various industrialized countries was raised from $1.8 billion in 1989—before the Gulf War—to $5.7 billion in 1990 and $10 billion in 1992. Egypt's economic problems stem largely from the legacy of "Arab Socialism" instituted by President Nasser in the 1960s. The state–owned industries, especially in manufacturing, suffered from gross inefficiency, over–manning, and very low productivity and profitability.

The loss–making state–owned firms were a serious drain on the treasury. Nasser guaranteed jobs to all university graduates and demobilized soldiers in the civil service or in state–owned enterprises. This policy was continued by Sadat and by his successor Hosni Mubarak (1929–) during the 1980s. Subsidies were expanded under Sadat and maintained by Mubarak. Price controls, foreign exchange regulations (including multiple–exchange rates), wage policies, and other measures added more distortions to the economy. Egyptian corruption did not begin with Arab Socialism, but Nasser's policies multiplied the opportunities and inducements. And the wide gap between the few rich and the many poor widened to dangerous dimensions, fuelled by widespread corruption.

Since 1991 Egypt has made some important monetary and fiscal changes in addition to alterations in its foreign exchange controls but it has been reluctant to embark on a large–scale privatization program to get rid of the bloated and very costly public sector enterprises. Politically powerful interests who benefit from "milking" the public sector oppose privatization plans. The public sector workers and managers fear that privatization would be followed by massive dismissals. As a result, about two–thirds of industrial production, together with oil extraction and refining remains in the public sector. Egyptian efforts to liberalize the economy have been very limited.

There was a similar problem in the Soviet Union, as well in other socialist countries. In the early twenty–first century, China faces the daunting prospect of either privatizing its SOEs, with the resulting labor shedding and fear of political destabilization, or having the rest of the economy carry a socialist and inefficient millstone around its neck. Another problem is the massive public payroll common to socialist economies, involving literally millions of employees with little or nothing to do. Egypt has four million public servants comprising 23 percent of the labor force and another eight percent employed by public sector enterprises. In the public sector it is virtually impossible to sack anybody and labor laws also make it very difficult to dismiss private sector employees. This results in low productivity, financial losses, and depressed incomes. In the years since the conclusion of the peace agreements between Israel and Egypt in 1979, economic progress has been slight. Egypt is a modernized and more populous, but stagnant, Pharaonic state.

Socialism in the Third World has proven to be a difficult project. The Again, Marxist–Socialist doctrine assumed that capitalism would develop a country before socialism took it over, and socialists found their own doctrines only partly useful for providing a model for rapid development in undeveloped Third World countries. Indigenous socialism fell back on public ownership and collectivized land, which often impeded economic growth. The state forms which Third World socialists utilized, were almost uniformly dictatorial. By the twenty first century socialist regimes in the Third World were commonly reverting to the market as a means of escaping the problems their doctrines had devised. A similar pattern was evident in the more developed societies.

The Future: Socialism under Globalization

At the end of the Cold War in 1991 the doctrines of socialism faced considerable problems. The Soviet bloc had disintegrated because of its own failures to produce a viable alternative structure to democratic liberal capitalism. In the social democracies of Europe and elsewhere they had been exposed to a vigorous attack by the revival of the liberal critique. The remaining communist states were adopting liberal oriented reforms. In the Third World privatization and de–regulation was replacing statist, socialist development models almost everywhere. It seemed that the high tide of socialism had passed.

This process was accompanied by the evolution of a substantial international economy in a process often referred to as "globalization." The global economy was the manifestation of international market transactions increasingly overtaking those that had been nation based. A growing section of national economies become locked into a global trading structure rather than being confined to their own domestic market. States found that a growing proportion of their economies were devoted to foreign trade; that more of their capital markets were derived from foreign investors; that more of their own investments went into other economies; that more of their commodities were international brand name products; and that a growing proportion of their labor forces were internationally mobile.

This was a process that derived form three sources. First, the U.S. had been a determined sponsor of an international regime designed to produce a free market in capital, products, and culture for most of the twentieth century and after 1991 pursued it energetically as the only remaining superpower. Next, technological change increasingly permitted the global organization of production, distribution and exchange. This was evident in cheaper transport systems, including bulk carriers, containerization, and wide–bodied jetliners; in better data transmission, which created a global finance market; and in enhanced communications involving the fax, mobile phones, and the Internet. And finally, the only alternative economic system collapsed with the Soviet Union and its major successor state, the Russian Federation, became an advocate of liberal capitalism, not social democracy.

By 2001 these processes were creating a global economy. The institutional agencies of globalization, particularly the U.S. Treasury, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the IMF, promoted a state regime policy structure which was known as the "Washington Consensus." As David Mosler and Bob Catley describe in Global America, this involved free trade, deregulation, privatization of government assets, free movement for capital and investment, and, by the late 1990s, transparent representative government. This program contrasted sharply with the doctrines of socialism which—whatever its claims to internationalism—had evolved as an intellectual guideline for state policy makers.

At the dawn of the twenty–first century, it appears that socialism is an idea whose time has come and gone. However, many writers remind us that history comes and goes in cycles, and it was not even a century ago that philosophers and world leaders spoke of the coming death of capitalism. "The thesis that the end of socialism does not have a historical basis," states James Petras in a 1992 issue of Canadian Dimension. "At best, it is a reflection on a moment of retreat and reversals." And yet, it remains to be seen if and how socialism can adapt and survive into its third century as a serious competitor to other political ideas and social formations.


  • How do Marxism and Fabian socialism compare?
  • Why and how did the doctrines of socialism became popular in Australia but not in the United States?
  • Is socialism is an appropriate doctrine for Third World countries? Why or why not?



Berki, R.N. Socialism,. Needham, Massachusetts: Prentice Hall, 1995.

Catley, Bob. Globalising Australian Capitalism, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Mosler, David, and Bob Catley. Global America: Imposing Liberalism on a Recalcitrant World, Praeger, 2000.

Petras, James. "A Leftist Resurgence" in Canadian Dimension, March 1992 (vol. 26, no. 2). Canadian Dimension Publication, Ltd., 1992.

Postrel, Virginia. "After Socialism" in Reason, November 1999 (vol. 31, issue 6). Reason Foundation, 1999.

Further Readings

Hayek, F.A. The Road to Serfdom, 1944. A critical evaluation of the application of socialist doctrines to prosperous capitalist economies by one of the leading critics of socialist thought.

Lipset, Seymour Martin and Gary Marks. It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States, W.W. Norton & Co., 2001. An explanation of why socialism as an ideology and a movement has been weaker in the United States than arguably any other developed country.

Morris, William. Why I Am a Socialist, 1884. Morris was the precursor of the Fabian Socialists in Britain, and this is one of the most forceful statements of a committed Democratic Socialist.

Sassoon, Donald. One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, New Press, 1998. A clear account of the recent history of socialist movements in Western Europe.


Communism, Marxism, Utopianism


views updated May 11 2018


The difficulty of defining socialism is apparent to anyone who attempts to study this protean doctrine, not least because what socialism is or is not is usually a matter of contentious debate. However, there is a general consensus that the various schools of socialism share some common features that can be summarized as follows. Socialism is above all concerned with the relationship between the individual, state, and society. For the socialist, the individual is never alone and thus must always define himself or herself in relation to others. Socialists believe that a well-ordered society cannot exist without a state apparatus, not least because the state is seen as the most effective vehicle for coordinating and administering to the needs of all.

Socialists' views on human nature distinguish them from their principal political rivals, the liberals and conservatives. While the latter two groups tend to hold that all humans are inherently self-interested and materialistic, socialists contend that these traits are products of social conditioning under capitalism. On this view, individuals act selfishly and competitively, not because it is in their nature do so, but rather because they are encouraged and rewarded for such behavior. Socialists hold that the values and beliefs promoted in a socialist society would enhance our capacity for acting cooperatively and collectively in pursuit of mutually reinforcing material and spiritual goals.

Because they see material circumstances as being key to the well-being of individuals, socialists stress the importance of the economic system that operates in every society. It was their observations of the deleterious effects of industrial capitalism that caused socialist reformers to call for the development of new economic structures based on a completely different set of moral principles. The question of how the transition from capitalism to socialism would occur has been answered in different ways by different socialist theorists. Robert Owen (17711858), Charles Fourier (17721837), and other early socialist thinkers saw the need to reform rather than destroy capitalism, while followers of Karl Marx (18181883) and Friedrich Engels (18201895) insisted that capitalism had to be completely overturned in order for society to advance to a state of socialism. Contemporary socialists do not envisage the transition from capitalism to socialism as a sharp break, but as a process of economic reforms that takes into account the role of market forces.

So far as is known the terms socialist and socialism first appeared in print in Italian in 1803, but in a sense were entirely unconnected with any of their later meanings. No trace of the word socialist appears again until 1827, when it was used in the Owenite Co-operative Magazine to designate the followers of Robert Owen's cooperative doctrines. Across the English Channel, socialisme was adopted by the Saint-Simoniansfollowers of the French philosopher and social scientist Claude-Henri de Rouvroy (17601825), comte de Saint-Simonduring the 1830s to describe their theory, and thereafter it was increasingly used to refer to those groups aiming at some kind of new social order resting on an economic and social conception of human rights.

In these senses, socialism was used to distinguish the attitudes of those who laid stress on the social elements in human relations from those who emphasized the claims of the individual. In fact, to be a socialist was to be someone who promoted a social system in direct opposition to the highly individualistic order being advocated by the proponents of laissez faire economics.

Industrial Revolution and the Rise of Socialism

As a political ideology, socialism arose largely in response to the economic and social consequences of the Industrial Revolution. There is an abundance of literature that attests to the dramatic way in which the industrialization of Europe affected the daily lives of individuals, particularly the working classes. The reformist trend in British politics during the 1830s brought some of these harsh realities to the public's attention. In 1832, for example, a parliamentary investigation into the conditions in the textile factorieslater known as the Sadler Committee's Reportrevealed the appalling toll on human life that had resulted from unregulated industrial growth. And, even if we discount certain embellishments or exaggerations, these accounts of the general working conditions in the factories were nonetheless all too illustrative of a social climate in which practices of the most callous inhumanity were accepted as a natural order of events and, most important, were at first not thought to be the general public's concern.

It deserves mention here that, in addition to the horrors wrought by an unregulated factory system, workers were also subjected to the changes brought on by the machine age. The introduction of new technologies in the workplace invariably meant the displacement of laborers. No less important was the fact that many of the changes wrought by rapid technological advances and the consequent restructuring of the workplace (e.g., the factory system) had an alienating effect on the worker. To the minds of some, however, these evils of industrialization were not inevitable outcomes. Such was the case with the so-called Utopian socialists who emerged in England and on the Continent around this time.

Utopian Socialists: Owen, Saint-Simon, Fourier

In the beginning there were basically three groups of socialists, although there were lesser groups representing broadly similar tendencies. The three principal groups were the Fourierists and Saint-Simonians in France and the Owenites in Great Britain. There were obvious similarities between them: (1) they regarded the social question as by far the most important of all; (2) insisted that it was the duty of all good men to promote the general happiness and welfare of everyone in society; (3) regarded this task as incompatible with the continuance of a social order that was maintained strictly on the basis of a competitive struggle between individuals for the means of living; and (4) were deeply distrustful of politics and politicians, believing that the future control of social affairs ought to lie not with parliaments or ministers or kings and queens but with the "producers." They held that, if the economic and social aspects of men's lives could be properly ordered, the traditional forms of government and political organization based on conflict and competitiveness would soon be superseded by a new world order of international peace and collaboration.

On the other hand, there were wide diversities separating these three groups. The Fourierists and Owenites were community-makers. They set out to establish a network of experimental communities based on their ideas that would become the foundation stones of a new social order. The Saint-Simonians differed from these two groups in that they were strong believers in the virtues of large-scale organizations and scientific planning. Their principal aim was to transform nations into great productive corporations dominated by a sort of "technocracy" composed of scientists and technicians. Unlike the Fourierists and Owenites, who eschewed political activity, the Saint-Simonians were not opposed to using the existing political channels as a means to bring about the transformations they were advocating.

Thus, at this juncture in its historical development, socialism meant collective regulation of the affairs of people on a cooperative basis, with the happiness and welfare of all as the ultimate goal, and with the main emphasis not on "politics" per se but on the production and distribution of wealth. Enemies of individualism, the socialists sought to strengthen the socializing influences that brought people together in a harmonious whole. They therefore emphasized education as an instrument for conditioning patterns of behavior, social attitudes, and beliefs.

It deserves mention that in this description of socialism nothing is said about the proletariat or the class struggle between it and the capitalist class. This is because the members of the aforementioned socialist schools did not think in these terms. They did not see capitalists and workers as rival classes, nor did they believe that a revolutionary struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie was necessary to put their social plans into effect.

"Scientific Socialism"

In following the historical analysis of socialism offered by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the modern socialist movement dates from the publication of their Communist Manifesto in 1848. The term communism, which came into common usage in this same period, was often used in connection with the idea of socialism, though the former tended to have a more militant connotation. This is most likely why it was used by the Communist League, the group that commissioned Marx and Engels to write the Communist Manifesto. As Engels later explained, the word communism carried with it the idea of common ownership, and, above all, it helped to distinguish the ideas of Marx and Engels from those of the so-called utopian socialists in that it lent itself better to association with the idea of the class struggle and with the materialistic conception of history.

The publication of the Communist Manifesto coincided with the revolutionary tide that swept through Europe between 1848 and 1849. Marx and Engels were still correcting the proofs of their soon-to-be famous pamphlet when the first barricades of 1848 were being erected in Paris. But while it is true that the Manifesto was published during a period of political tumult, it did not have a profound impact on the revolutionaries of the period. Nevertheless, it was an important document in the history of socialism, above all because it presented in outline form the theoretical basis for modern socialism.

Perhaps the boldest and most probing argument advanced by Marx and Engels was their critique of present and past societies. According to this, society's political and cultural arrangements (superstructure) are shaped primarily by the forces of material production (base). When the productive modes and relations have developed as far as they can within the existing framework of political and economic structures of society, then the conditions arise for a thoroughgoing social revolution, a process that inevitably brings about a transmutation of these older forms into more progressive ones. In this way, societies are able to advance progressively from more primitive states (e.g., feudalism) to more sophisticated ones (e.g., capitalism).

In their discussion of the relationship between state and class, Marx and Engels identify further dimensions of their "stages" view of history that were to become cornerstones of "scientific" socialism. According to them, the state is essentially a class-based institution, expressing the will and exclusive interests of the dominant political and economic groups in society. The state and its apparatuses are thus seen as essential features of the superstructure that overlays the economic base (which itself corresponds to the stage reached in the development of the powers of production). Under capitalism, the authors go on to say, the bourgeoisie seek both to expand their basewhich is too narrow to accommodate the wealth created by themand to overcome the economic crises caused by the development of productive forces beyond the point compatible with capitalism. By so doing, they begin to dig their own graves, for the scramble for new markets inevitably creates new problems that cannot possibly be resolved within the framework of the one created by the bourgeoisie. At this point, the Manifesto explains that it is the ongoing and ceaseless dialectical struggle between the dominant and dominated classes that provides the impetus for breaking down the barriers for further social and economic development. With the advent of revolution, the control of the state and its forms passes into the hands of the new dominant class (the working classes), thus paving the way for the development of new forces of production.

Another distinguishing aspect of the doctrine outlined in the Manifesto has to do with the special historical mission that Marx and Engels assigns to the proletariat. Unlike previous insurgent classes, which developed their importance and strength within the preceding social order, Marx and Engels contend that the laboring class under capitalism is driven to revolt through its own increasing misery. Once they have wrested political power from the middle classes, the authors believe that the proletariat will be able to establish their own hegemony (construed more concretely in later writings as a dictatorship). Over time, during which the material conditions are created for the construction of socialism, their class rule would give way to a classless and stateless society, communism.

As regards the relationship between communists and the working classes, Marx and Engels assert that communists were the most advanced and politically resolute segment of the proletariat in every nation, not least because they had the advantage of seeing more clearly than others the direction in which society is moving. As revolutionaries, their role was to assist the exploited workers in three ways: (1) to raise their class consciousness so that they can realize their role in history; (2) to overthrow the bourgeoisie; and (3) to establish working-class control of the state and its ruling apparatuses (i.e., a dictatorship).

Having said all of this it is important to keep in mind that the Manifesto cannot be regarded as a full exposition of Marxist doctrine. And while Marx sketches out many of the basic tenets of his communist viewpoint, at this point in his career he had not worked out his complete system of thought, which was carefully developed over many years, culminating with the publication of his magnum opus, Das Kapital, in 1867. Nonetheless, it is significant to note that both Marx and Engels continued to endorse the views of the Manifesto even after most of them were rendered irrelevant by the course of events. The continuing relevance of this important document, then, had less to do with its predictive powers than with its potency as a clarion call for revolution. The Manifesto is full of memorable and moving phrases such as, "Workers of the World unite. You have nothing to lose but your Chains." The teleological understanding of history presented in the Manifesto was also compelling to successive generations of socialists. In their "scientific" critique of the bourgeois society with which they were acquainted, Marx and Engels managed to invest history with both a dramatic purpose and a desirable destination. History was, according to them, moving toward a higher goal that could only be obtained through class struggle and social revolution. It was thus the moral message embedded in their theory of historical materialism that made the Communist Manifesto a landmark publication in the history of modern socialism.

Socialism during its "Mature" Phase

The genesis and development of socialism paralleled the rise of liberalism in Europe. Over the course of the nineteenth century, liberalism had become the predominant ideology in Great Britain and on the Continent. However, from 1889 on, socialism increasingly challenged liberalism's supremacy in the political arena. In Europe generally there were various schools of socialist thought that came to maturity during the second half of the nineteenth century: reformist socialism, Marxism, anarchism, and syndicalism. Of these currents, Marxism tended to be the dominant socialist theory, partly because of its conceptual cogency and partly because it was embraced by the most powerful and influential social democratic parties affiliated with the Second (Socialist) International, (18891914), a confederation of socialist parties and labor organizations that was created in order to continue the work of the First International Workingmen's Association.

Why did socialism become so important at this time? One of the contributing factors was the growing influence of positivism on the general outlook of European thinkers. Following in the tradition of the French Enlightenment, intellectuals like Auguste Comte (17981857) and Herbert Spencer (18201903) promoted the idea that an understanding of both the natural and social worlds could be achieved through scientific knowledge. It was this belief that inspired socialists like Saint-Simon and Marx to develop political cosmologies that they thought could be grounded on a sound empirical basis. Marx in particular asserted in the Communist Manifesto and other major writings that his brand of socialism was distinguished from all others by its "scientific" approach to the study of economics and society. This is not to say that Marxists were the only socialists who were convinced of the scientific validity of their theories. Anarchist social views, particularly those espoused by the Russian revolutionary Pyotr Kropotkin (18421921), also owed a great deal to the positivist tradition. And, finally, the evolutionary brand of socialism known as Fabianism that developed in Great Britain at the end of the nineteenth century was shaped by the positivist beliefs of its leading theorists.

A general shift in the attitude toward the role of the state in society also contributed to the growth of socialism. The failure of laissez-faire political and economic policies, which had been long favored by liberal governments as a way to respond effectively to the problems created by the periodic crises of capitalism, the second wave of industrialization, and the emergence of a mass society caused many to see the state in a more favorable light. For example, the unexpected and occasionally jolting economic fluctuations of the 1870s and 1880s not only drove a wedge between the workers and their liberal middle-class representatives, but also alarmed industrialists and other members of the economic elite. As a result, an increasing number of all these groups started turning to the government for protection. The growing popularity of imperialism in the closing decades of the century also made the average person less opposed to the growing powers of the state.

Among the many other factors that favored the rise of socialism at this time, the most notable can be summarized as follows. (1) The increase in the number of workers in the industrializing nations was one important factor. The concentration of industries during the so-called second industrial revolution that occurred during the last two decades of the nineteenth century brought together workers in unprecedented numbers. Rapid industrialization also accelerated the tendency of the general population to move from the countryside into urban centers. Cities proved to be favorable environments for socialist organizationswhich demanded a fairly sophisticated social/cultural infrastructure in order to thrive. (2) The rise of literacy also redounded to the benefit of the socialists: as more and more workers learned to read they were able to imbibe socialist ideas in the form of pamphlets, books, and the press. (3) The "democratization" of the ballot box also helped the socialists in that the extension of the franchise brought more workers into the political arena thus making it possible to get socialist deputies elected to parliament. All of these factors created the basis for a "proletarian" mentality or consciousness. By the late 1880s workers were joining clubs and trade unions, electing their own representatives, and subscribing to their own publications. And though this is not to say that all workers were necessarily socialist, it did mean that the principal vehicles for propagating and sustaining socialism were now anchored in the framework of modern industrial society.

The Spread of Marxism during 1880s

Of all the varieties of socialism that existed during this period, Marxism proved to be the most popular doctrine among working-class parties that began to emerge in the 1870s in France, Germany, Belgium, and elsewhere where there was a large industrial proletariat. In countries where industrialization had yet to be firmly established, Marxism was a minority tendency. This was particularly evident in Spain, where anarchism was a major force among both the industrial workers and the peasantry. Anarchism also attracted a sizeable following among peasants and workers in Italy, though it never achieved the mass following it did in Spain. In Russia, Marxism became important only after the turn of the century and even then it did not represent the largest segment of the socialist movement as a whole.

Beginning in the 1880s a special effort was made by Friedrich Engels to popularize Marx's theories, particularly among the growing reading public of workers. As far as Marx's general theories were concerned, this was no easy task, for, apart from intellectuals, few people could easily grasp the meanings of his probing analysis of capitalist development. In order to make such views more accessible, Engels set himself the task of defending Marxian theories against Marx's would-be critics. In Anti-Dühring and several of his better known works, Engels attempted to expand upon the views of his lifelong collaborator by stressing that Marxism was not just a revolutionary theory but a scientific worldview that lay bare the complexities of society. By arguing in this way, Engels hoped not only to discredit rival views of socialism but also to demonstrate the continuing relevance of Marx's theories. From a doctrinal point of view, Engels's most enduring legacy to socialism, however, was his materialist conception of history. More so than Marx, Engels saw the march of socialism as an inexorable historical process that could be predicted with almost mathematical certainty by correctly reading the "objective laws" that governed the evolution of both the natural world and society. He therefore suggested a view of socialist development that linked it to a general process of change that could be measured and read by means of empirical investigations.

The certitude of the causal explanatory model sketched out in Engels' writings on historical materialism appealed especially to the generation of socialists who came of age during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a period when positivism was at its height. Karl Kautsky (18541938), Eduard Bernstein (18501932), Georgy Plekhanov (18571918), and V. I. Lenin (18701924) were all indebted to Engels's elaboration of Marxist doctrine. No less a testament to Engels's impact on the future development of socialism is the fact that his materialist conception of history became an article of faith in all the regimes that declared themselves to be Marxist in the twentieth century.

The Anarchist Alternative

The anarchists represented one of the strongest non-Marxian currents in the socialist movement and it was their ongoing rivalry with the Marxists that kept alive the doctrinal debates and organizational divisions that characterized both the First (18641876) and Second Internationals (18891914).

Anarchism was never a homogenous ideological movement. At one time or another in the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries anarchists who belonged to the international socialist movement identified themselves as mutualists, collectivists, communists, and syndicalists. Yet, despite their theoretical differences, anarchists of all schools were united in their opposition to Marxism. Above all this was because of their diametrically opposed views of the role of the state. For the Marxists, the state was a necessary vehicle for governing society until full communism had been achieved. Once this stage of history had been reached, the state would, in the words of Engels, cease to be a useful instrument of rule and simply wither away. The anarchists completely rejected the notion that the state could serve any positive function. In sharp contrast to the Marxists, they believed that the working classes would overturn capitalism, not by wresting political power from the middle-classes, but by concentrating their energies in developing and organizing their own social institutions and by engaging continuously in an economic struggle against their oppressors.

Anarchists also opposed Marxism on the grounds that its communist principles were incompatible with the kind of libertarian society they envisaged. The Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin (18141876) famously declared that he detested communism because, "it is the negation of liberty." He further accused Marx of promoting an authoritarian form of communism that "concentrates and absorbs all the powers of society into the state."

Since the anarchists abstained from politics and thus rejected the ballot box as a means of advancing the workers' cause, they were forced to adopt a revolutionary strategy that also placed them at odds with Marxists and reformist socialists. For this reason there are two main features of the movement that need to be mentioned: direct action tactics and violence. The former included such things as sabotage, strikes, and public demonstrationsMay Day celebrations, for example. The anarchists' reliance on a tactic known as "propaganda by the deed" gave rise to the stock image of thempopularized by writers and social scientists like Joseph Conrad (18571924), Henry James (18431916), and Cesare Lombroso (18351909)as social deviants who were bent on destroying the foundations of civilization. This overblown stereotype was reinforced by several widely publicized anarchist outrages that punctuated the last years of the nineteenth century. Apart from launching small-scale attacks against symbols of class, state, and religious rule, anarchists were responsible for the political assassinations of several heads of state. Within a span of only six years, the presidents of France (1894) and the United States (1901), the empress of Austria (1898), the prime minister of Spain (1897), and the king of Italy (1900) were murdered by anarchists. The stigma that all anarchists were now saddled with obscured the fact that these were isolated acts committed by only a handful of individuals. Most rank-and-file anarchists were strongly opposed to terrorism, and most saw education and trade unions as the main vehicles for conducting their revolutionary activity.

At the turn of the century anarchism, which had nearly died out in most areas of Europe, was revitalized by the development of yet another brand of socialism known as revolutionary syndicalism. When Arturo Labriola (18731959), Émile Pouget (18601931), José Prat (d. 1932), and other libertarian thinkers began to marry the new doctrine (which emphasized trade unionism and direct action tactics like the general strike) to old anarchist beliefs the result was anarchosyndicalism, a movement that was particularly important in France, Spain, and Italy. In fact, it was the introduction of syndicalism that brought about the phenomenal growth of anarchism in Spain. Over the course of the next two decades, anarchosyndicalism became a mass movement, with its membership peaking at over 1.5 million members during the Spanish Civil War (19361939).

Marxism Challenged

The anarchists were not the only ones to challenge the view that socialism was synonymous with Marxism. Toward the end of the nineteenth century there emerged several strands of "new" socialist thinking that developed outside the Marxist tradition. The most important of these was the brand of socialism known as Fabianism, which became an important movement in Great Britain after 1889. Originally comprised almost exclusively of upper-middle class intellectualsnotably, George Bernard Shaw (18561950), Annie Besant (18471933), and Beatrice Webb (18581943), and Sidney Webb (18591947)the Fabian Society advocated a nonrevolutionary form of socialism that was shaped more by the ideas of Herbert Spencer (18201903), Jeremy Bentham (17481832), James Mill (17731836), and John Stuart Mill (18061873) than it was by those inpired by Karl Marx. Unlike the Marxists, who saw historical progress in terms of class conflict, the Fabians conceived of society as an organism that evolved gradually over time. Socialism was, in their eyes, a natural outcome of social development, but one that needed to be guided by enlightened thinkers like themselves. Drawing upon their faith in positivist principles, the Fabians were convinced that a "scientific" approach to the study of social phenomena would produce an effective strategy for constructing incrementally a socialist society. By insisting that socialism could be achieved in a peaceful way, the Fabians set themselves against the Marxian parties of the Second International who conceptualized social change in terms of a dialectical struggle.

Revisionist Controversy on the Continent

The greatest challenge to Marxism at this time, however, came not from without but from within the Marxian current of socialism. Beginning in the late 1890s a diverse group of so-called revisionist thinkers increasingly questioned the validity of a number of fundamental Marxist tenets. They particularly objected to how rigidly Marx's doctrine was being interpreted by his epigones in the Second International. The foremost theoretical spokesman of the revisionist movement was Eduard Bernstein. Bernstein was a German social democrat whose views on socialism had been influenced by his extended sojourns in Switzerland and particularly in England, where he became familiar with the views of the early Fabian Society. While his own theory of socialism differed from theirs, Bernstein nevertheless shared many of the Fabian beliefs, including the notion that socialism could be achieved by nonrevolutionary means. In a series of articles that first appeared in Die Neue Zeit between 1896 and 1899 and later published in the book Evolutionary Socialism (1899), Bernstein laid the foundation for a revisionist challenge to Marxist ideas that had long been regarded as sacrosanct. Above all, Bernstein's writings were meant as a corrective to some of Marx's fundamental economic suppositionshis theory of surplus value, for exampleas well as to some of his a priori claims, such as his prophecy that, by virtue of its inherent contradictions, the cataclysmic end of capitalism was inevitable. From his own observations of general economic and political conditions at this time, for example, Bernstein concluded that class tensions were easing rather than intensifying. Instead of becoming increasingly poorer, Bernstein asserted that available statistical measures indicated that workers were generally enjoying higher living standards. By further arguing that the state should be used as a vehicle for abolishing all class privileges and promoting democratic rights, not just for workers, but for all groups in society, Bernstein also ran afoul of his colleagues in the Marxist-dominated sections of the German Social Democratic Party (known by the German acronym SPD) who maintained that the working classes alone should benefit from the advent of socialism.

Bernstein's intellectual assault on the reigning orthodoxy of Marxist thinking set in motion a series of debates and discussions within the Second International that did not die down until the onset of the World War I (19141918). Leading the opposition to Bernstein's revisionism were Karl Kautsky, the foremost interpreter of the writings of Marx and Engels at this time, and Georgy Plekhanov, the principal architect of the Russian Social Democratic movement. Both attempted to defend what they regarded as the core principles of Marxism by contending that Bernstein had failed to grasp Marx's basic notions about the relationship between economics and politics and that the antirevolutionary policies implied by his revisionism rendered socialism completely unnecessary. In the former case, for example, Kautsky explained that socialism would come about, not as a result of the increasing pauperization of the working classes, but as a result of sharpening class divisions, which were inevitable and therefore unavoidable features of historical development.

In reaffirming their faith in the immutable principles of Marxism, Kautsky and other antirevisionists hoped that they could prevent socialism from deviating from its revolutionary path. Yet despite their commitment to this understanding of socialism, the fact is that the majority of groups affiliated with the Second International at this time were already pursuing reformist policies. In France, Spain, Italy, and even in Germany the social democratic parties preferred the ballot box to confrontational tactics as a means of advancing their cause. In most instances this entailed working in cooperation with rather than against the middle-class parties that dominated political activity in the various Western European countries where socialism had an important following. Thus, Jules Guesde (18451922), the leading figure in the Marxist branch of the French socialist movement, was so committed to the idea of achieving socialism through peaceful means that he advocated parliamentary collaborationism. Another key French socialist in preWorld War I period, Jean Léon Jaurès (18591914), was equally convinced that theoretical concerns should be subordinated to the tactical needs of the movement. He therefore thought it possible to retain his commitment to revolutionary Marxism while at the same time promoting a democratic path to socialism.

There were other socialist thinkers around this time who did not necessarily draw reformist conclusions from their critique of Marxism. Georges Sorel (18471922) was a French socialist who had come to Marxism late in life. Within a few years of his conversion, however, Sorel was ready to reject the scientific pretensions of Marxist doctrine as well as the reformist policies of the French socialist movement in order to embrace a form of revolutionary syndicalism. In his most famous work, Reflections on Violence (19061908; English trans., 1912), Sorel set forth a philosophy of syndicalism that stressed the importance of violence (by which he meant rebellion against existing institutions) in the workers' moral and economic struggle against capitalism. According to Sorel, the revolutionary élan of the workers needs to be sustained by the "myth of the general strike" or poetic vision of the coming epic showdown between workers and their oppressors.

While Sorel himself was not directly involved in the workingclass movement, his ideas contributed to the growing body of left-wing syndicalist theories that had been developing since the late 1890s in countries like Belgium, Holland, France, Italy, and Spain and that would continue to exercise a profound influence on trade union development in those countries until the outbreak of World War II (19391945).

Socialism versus Communism

The two events in the twentieth century that had the greatest impact on the course of international socialism were the World War I and the Russian Revolution (1917). The outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1914 brought to an abrupt halt the numerous theoretical debates inside the socialist movement that had been raging up to that time. The war also dispelled the notion held by nearly all socialists that, irrespective of doctrinal differences, socialist parties everywhere were united by a common goal (the overthrow of capitalism) as well as by their internationalist outlook.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 that brought the Bolsheviks to power had even more far-reaching consequences for the development of socialism. First and foremost, it signaled an end to Marxism as it was generally understood by most socialists up to 1917. This was not least because the epicenter of Marxism was transferred from Western Europe to the east and would remain there for the greater part of the twentieth century. In its new surroundings, Marxism would be widely referred to as communism, a term that was adopted in 1919 by V. I. Lenin (18701924) and the Bolsheviks in order to distinguish their movement from the so-called infantile revisionist socialism that had come to characterize the Second International. With the founding of the Soviet Union in 1924, the division between socialism and communism was formalized and made permanent. From this point on, socialism moved along two very distinct paths. One was defined and largely controlled by the Soviet communists and the other followed a course that was defined by the pluralistic socialist traditions of Western Europe. Because the story of communism occupies a distinct chapter in the history of socialism in the twentieth century, it is not our intention here to summarize the main features of that movement. Instead, we will proceed with our survey of European socialism after the advent of communism.

Socialism in the Interwar Period, 19191939

The trauma and physical destruction that resulted from the World War I created widespread political and economic instability in Europe. Established political traditions and practices were the first to be challenged in this uncertain environment, first by the communists who sought to build upon the revolutionary experiences of Russia, and then by radical right-wing factions and fascists, who set themselves against both liberal democrats and left-wing parties. In these circumstances, socialists of the social democratic variety fared rather poorly. In most countries, socialist parties had barely recovered from their setbacks during the war when they were met with crises caused by the aforementioned groups. On one level, the communists forced socialists to adopt either the Russian Revolution as their standard or the reformist model that still prevailed in most European social democratic movements. The result was disastrous in countries like Italy and Germany, where a divided left made the socialists and communists more vulnerable to their more unified opponents on the right. The fascists were particularly adroit at playing on the weaknesses of the socialists. By the mid-1930s socialists everywhere were either in retreat in the few democratic countries that had survived the aftershocks of the war or driven completely underground by the authoritarian and totalitarian one-party states that had come into existence across Continental Europe.

Socialist participation in the communist-inspired Popular Front was an electoral strategy during the mid-1930s that was meant to check the rapid advance of facism and other antidemocratic movements that were gaining ground at this time. In both Spain and France, for example, socialists played a pivotal role in forging a political alliance that embraced a wide spectrum of left and liberal factions. However, in Spain the Popular Front government formed in February 1936 was short lived, as civil war broke out in July. In France, Léon Blum's (18721950) socialist-led Popular Front coalition also enjoyed only limited success between 1936 and 1938. In this brief period, Blum managed to push through a number of social reform measures, such as the implementation of the forty-hour work week, before his government succumbed to the pressures of its conservative and pro-appeasement rivals.

The outbreak of yet another general war in 1939 marked the beginning of a seven-year hiatus in the development of socialism. When the war ended in 1945, socialist parties found themselves struggling against a number of currents. On the one hand, they were confronted by the spread of communism throughout the greater part of East and Central Europe. The strangle-hold that Joseph Stalin (18791953) had secured over the postwar regimes that emerged in this region between 1946 and 1949 effectively smothered the development of any independent socialist movement for the next few decades. Under immense pressure from Moscow, social democratic parties were forced to disband and amalgamate with the communist parties loyal to the Soviet Union.

Except in Great Britain and the Scandinavian countrieswhere social democratic parties were in the ascendantcircumstances in much of Western Europe also conspired against a general revival of socialism. The right-wing dictatorships in Portugal (Antonio de Oliveira Salazar) and Spain (Francisco Franco) survived the war and both governments maintained their ban on left-wing parties for the next few decades. The postwar difficulties socialism faced elsewhere in Europe were compounded by the onset of the Cold War. Because the political and economic stability of the pro-capitalist nations remained in doubt in the immediate aftermath of the war, socialism was generally viewed with suspicion by the electorate. This was partly because socialists in Italy and France tended to form alliances with the Moscow-oriented communists, and partly because of the growing dependency of many European nations on the economic and military support of the United States. In fact, the United States made it clear to the newly restored postwar regimes that, because Europe was now divided into mutually hostile ideological blocs, it would not tolerate the idea of socialists and communists forming government coalitions outside the Soviet umbrella.

There were further reasons why socialism failed to make inroads into the political arena at this time. One was connected with the cultural and ideological shifts on the liberal and conservative end of the political spectrum that had taken place in Europe since the Great Depression and World War II. The economic problems thrown up by the Depression had caused many liberals to revise their views regarding the state's role in the economy. The mixed economic model for capitalism promoted by the liberal economist John Maynard Keynes (18831946) gained currency at this time, and this trend in economic thinking was generally reinforced during the war, when the collectivist practices of the state were deemed both necessary and desirable by the majority of the population. At war's end, the consensus among liberals and conservatives was, at least for the time being, the state would have to play a major role not only in bringing about the political and economic recovery of wartorn Europe but also in sustaining the social welfare of the general population during this critical period of transition.

While the socialists stood to gain much from this development, they failed to win popular backing at the polls for policies with which they had long been identified. This was due in part to their own miscalculationssuch as their insistence on forming alliances with the communistsand in part to the fact that the socialists' general political outlook was woefully out-of-date. With few exceptions, social democratic parties in Europe were reluctant to refashion the theoretical content of their political programs. For example, most still looked to the working classes (trade unions) as their main constituency and most retained a nostalgia and even reverence for the Marxist ideological underpinnings of their movement.

Despite these shortcomings, socialist parties continued to occupy an important place in the political arena. This was especially true in countries like Sweden, where the social democrats (SAP) dominated politics for the greater part of the twentieth century, and in Great Britain, where the Fabian style of pragmatic reformism of the Labour Party has won out over other forms of socialism.

The cultural ferment associated with the 1960s and early 1970s helped to inject some new life into socialist doctrine. The left-wing radicals who spearheaded protest movements in this period turned a fresh eye to the historical and ideological roots of socialism. In doing so they helped to resurrect themes that had lain dormant for many years but that now appealed to the intellectually diverse postwar generation of leftists. Perhaps the most important of these was the question of women's role in the socialist movement. From its origins, socialist thinking had been concerned with the fate of both men and women. Yet, apart from Charles Fourier, August Bebel, Friedrich Engels, Edward Carpenter (18441929), and a handful of other theorists, socialists tended to ignore specific questions relating to sexuality and gender. Indeed, all of the classical socialists who addressed the woman question, such as Engels did in his Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), regarded women as proletarians in the household and thus did not, as twenty-first-century socialist feminists do, view gender as distinct from class. Fewer still thought it necessary to transform socialist practices so that they matched the pro-feminist rhetoric of their movement. It was against this background that a new generation of socialist thinkers began their campaign to infuse socialism with feminist values and beliefs. The research of socialist feminists like Sheila Rowbotham and other historians of gender revealed that women played a much greater role in the development of socialism than had hitherto been acknowledged. Up until this point, Flora Tristan (18031844), Vera Zasulich (18511919), Rosa Luxemburg (18711919), Alexandra Kollantai (18731952), Dolores Ibárruri (18951989), Clara Zetkin (18571933), Beatrice Webb, and other notable activists had rarely received the kind of historical attention that was commensurate with the contributions they had made to socialist theory and practice. For example, it was not until the late 1960s that the prominent role that Luxemburg played in the key debates and discussions within European socialism during the first decades of the twentieth century became widely recognized by the scholarly community. Beside making her mark as a theorist during the revisionist controversy in Reform or Revolution (1899), Luxemburg became famous during World War I for leading the socialist opposition to the war in Germany. By the time of her death in 1919, the year she helped spearhead an ill-fated coup against the provisional Weimar government, Luxemburg had also established a reputation as a critic of the authoritarian policies of the Leninist brand of revolutionary vanguard Marxism. While the theoretical differences between her and Bolsheviks such as Lenin and Trotsky should not be exaggerated, Luxemburg always stood for a more open and democratic interpretation of socialism than did her Russian counterparts. No less important was the light that gender-sensitive research cast on the role that anonymous women in the past and present played not only in building socialism through their participation in grass-roots associations but also in broadening female participation in the public sphere.

Besides seeking to revise the historical record, socialist academics, writers, and activists in the women's liberation movement were also interested in changing the attitudes and perceptions that the majority of socialist men held of women. Socialist feminists pointed out that, while most men endorsed pro-feminist principles, they nevertheless tended to see women in sexist terms. For example, few concerned themselves with issueschild care, birth control, sexual expression, among othersthat directly affected their wives, sisters, mothers, and female friends. Nor were they alive to the second-class status to which women were consigned in the workplace, where gendered divisions of labor prevailed, and in society generally, where male dominance was both profound and pervasive. The degree to which socialist feminists were successful in their endeavors is hard to measure. There can be no question that their efforts to place the women's question high on the socialist agenda and their insistence that "the personal is political" contributed in a number of ways to the rejuvenation of the theory and practice of a doctrine that was increasingly out of step with the realities of late twentieth century society. Nonetheless, the legacy of socialist feminism is mixed. Though it failed to bring about the much sought after gender reorientation of a number of socialist parties, socialist feminism can be credited for greatly advancing the ongoing struggle for women's rights. Contemporary feminists are above all indebted to this movement for having raised society's awareness of the multiple ways in which gender relations affect the daily lives of everyone.

Socialism at the End of the Twentieth Century

In the closing years of the twentieth century, socialism experienced further transmutations. On a practical level, socialist parties tended to resemble each other more and more, though this was not necessarily due to a closer collaboration among the various socialist parties. Ever since the demise of the Second International in 1914, socialists had all but abandoned the idea of using an overarching body to coordinate the policies of the various national socialist parties. The largely inert bureau of the Labour and Socialist International (LSI) met for the last time in April 1940, and it was not replaced until 1946. The onset of the Cold War after 1948 forced changes within the LSI that resulted in the creation of a new organization, the Socialist International (SI), in 1951. Echoing the realities of the postwar era, the executive council of the SI made clear to all its members that it would "put an end to the equivocation of parties which want to belong to our socialist group while in fact obeying directives from Moscow." Apart from reaf-firming the European socialist parties' commitment to democratic socialism, the SI provided intellectual and moral support to the socialist parties that had been forced underground in antidemocratic regimes of Western Europe or were threatened by communist influence in the non-aligned movement countries. It was particularly successful at assisting the resurrection of socialism in Portugal (1974) and Spain (1975) when democracy returned to those countries in the late 1970s. During the 1980s, the SI continued to expand its influence in Europe and in parts of the Third World, though, in an age when nationalist feelings greatly diminishes the spirit of internationalism, its relevance to the future development of socialism remains an open question.

Partly in response to the electoral successes of their ideological opponents on the right, during the mid-1980s socialists throughout Europe began questioning their longstanding commitment to socialization policies, such as social welfare and public ownership (nationalization). And though a small core of purists refused to abandon the transformative goals of their doctrine, the vast majority of socialists elected to office in this period believed that social justice and equality could best be achieved by adopting the principles and practices of neoliberalism. As a result, the notion of what it meant to be a socialist underwent significant revision, with some critics arguing that the pre-capitalist values of "credit card" socialists made them indistinguishable from their liberal and conservative rivals.

Those who belong to the generation of socialists alluded to here are widely known in the early twenty-first century as social democrats, a label that refers to their commitment both to parliamentary democracy as well as to the principles of market socialism. According to this model of a mixed economy, the government should play a role in overseeing the ownership of certain enterprises (e.g., utilities and public transportation) but would allow market forces to determine the allocation of their goods and services. While the social democrats insist that their policies are aimed at implementing the classic socialist ideals of social justice and economic equality for all, they do not subscribe to the age-old socialist belief that holds that the state should function as the sole vehicle for achieving these much-desired goals.

The theoretical and policy shift that were identified with the social democratic movements of the 1980s greatly contributed to a reversal of the political fortunes of socialist parties in several countries. In Spain and France, for example, the socialists dominated national politics throughout the 1980s. The ascendancy of the New Labour Party movement in Great Britain during the late 1990s and early years of the twenty-first century seems to have signaled a further shift of socialist doctrine away from its historic ideological foundations.

The rightward drift of socialism in the last decade of the twentieth century was given even greater emphasis following the collapse of communist regimes in East Central Europe in 1989 and the Soviet Union in 1991. With communist ideas largely discredited the socialists' doctrinal links with Marxism were completely severed. The intellectual preoccupations and foci of the postCold War era promise to erode further the core elements of socialist ideology.

It is evident from the foregoing account that socialism has been in a state of flux over the course of the past two centuries. Socialism in the twenty-first century cannot be located on the same ideological map that it occupied as a revolutionary theory in the nineteenth and greater part of the twentieth centuries. Whether it will continue to change or cease to exist as a distinct ideology remains to be seen. But whatever its fate as a doctrine, socialist ideas and values are so integral to Western political traditions that they will no doubt continue to find expression in an ever-changing political landscape.

See also Anarchism ; Capitalism ; Communism ; Marxism .



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George Esenwein


views updated Jun 11 2018



The words socialism and socialist were first used about the year 1830 but the origin of the ideas which led to the establishment of the modern labor movement goes back to the time of the French Revolution. For a variety of reasons Jews were attracted to socialism as it developed in Western Europe. Some regarded it as the building of a "just society" based on the teachings of the Bible and the Prophets, while others were attracted by its revolutionary nature. Thus, while some Jews saw socialism as a reply to antisemitism, there were also Jews who saw in it a way of getting rid of their Jewish heritage and serving the cause of the "Brotherhood of Man." Socialism was particularly attractive for Jews anxious to leave the ghetto behind them and who, disappointed with the slow progress of 19th-century liberalism, were keen to embrace a new universal faith.


The forerunners of modern socialism were two Frenchmen, Count Henry Claude de Rouvroy de Saint-Simon (1760–1825; see *Saint-Simonism) and Charles *Fourier (1772–1837). Saint-Simon was impressed by Jewish messianic ideals and, referring to the persecution of the Jews, wrote that he looked forward to the time when all men would be brothers. Two of his followers, Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin (1796–1864) and Armand Bazard (1791–1832), considered the *emancipation of the Jews as being one of the preconditions for the liberation of humanity. They believed that Jewish monotheism foreshadowed the approaching unity of mankind and their supporters included many French Jews, among them the poet Léon *Halévy, the bankers Émile and Isaac *Péreire, and the financier Olinde Rodrigues (1794–1851). On the other hand, Charles Fourier identified Jews with capitalism and opposed their emancipation on the grounds that they were "parasites, merchants, usurers." Nevertheless, in his last writings he argued that the Jews should be helped to escape from persecution in Europe by returning to Palestine and once more become a recognized nation with their own king, their own flag, their own consuls, and their own currency. A number of Fourier's followers were Jews who rejected their master's antisemitism. Thus Alexander Weil wrote in 1845 that it was unfair to blame one section of the population for what he regarded as the iniquities of Catholicism and capitalism. He also described the serious condition of the Jews in Eastern Europe, in order to draw the attention of the public to their plight. Similarly, Jean Czynsky, a Polish refugee of Jewish origin, wrote that freedom for Poland and the emancipation of Polish Jews were concepts for which all socialists must strive.

Great Britain

The early development of socialism in Britain at the beginning of the 19th century had little to do with the Jews, who numbered only 20,000 in the country. Nevertheless, Robert Owen (1771–1858), "the father of British socialism," actively campaigned for equality for the Jews and in 1830 submitted a petition to the House of Commons urging the abolition of religious disabilities. His example was followed by a number of leaders of the Chartist movement. Jews first became prominent in British socialism in the latter half of the 19th century and in May 1876 the *Aguddat ha-Soẓyalistim ha-Ivrim was formed in London, its founders including A.S. *Liebermann and Lazar *Goldenberg. German radical groups were also active in London and largely influenced the ideology of Jewish socialists in Britain. They kept in contact with the Russian revolutionary Peter Lavrov (1823–1900), who published the socialist organ, Vpered, in London. Toward the end of the 19th century an increasingly large number of Russian Jews became active in British socialism. Theodor Rothstein was a leader of the Marxist Social Democratic Federation, founded by H.M. Hyndman in 1884. Rothstein, who was shocked by an antisemitic outburst by Hyndman, later played an important part at the congress of the Russian Social Democratic Party in London in 1907, and after the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917 was their unofficial representative in London. Later he helped found the British Communist Party, in which his son Andrew Rothstein was a prominent figure for many years. He was anti-Zionist, as were Joe Finberg, and Boris and Zelda Kahn, all refugees from Russia who played a major part in the British socialist movement. An outstanding figure of the British socialist movement was Eleanor Marx-Aveling (1855–1898), Karl Marx's youngest daughter, who felt a close affinity with the Jewish people and affirmed that "my happiest moments are when I am in the East End of London amid Jewish workpeople."


In Germany, many of the pioneers of socialism were Jewish. Among them was Moses *Hess, whose study Die Philosophic der Tat ("The Philosophy of Action"), linked the ideas of the German philosophical school with the concept of historical materialism on which communism was based. Hess largely influenced the thinking of Karl *Marx and Friedrich Engels but differed from them in that his brand of socialism was based upon ethical concepts. The course of socialism in Germany, however, was dominated not by Hess but by Marx and Ferdinand *Lassalle, the former as the founder of the school of economic materialism and the latter as the father of German Social Democracy. But while Marx was the great theoretician who set out to revolutionize international politics, Lassalle was the political strategist who brought socialism into German political life. Both showed a marked hostility to Judaism. On the other hand, Marx's non-Jewish colleague Friedrich Engels, who at first equated Jews with capitalists, later took a stand against antisemitism which he described as the weapon of the German governing class.

The First International

A number of Jews became prominent during the 19th century in the International Working Men's Association, formed in 1864 by Marx and Engels, which became known as the First International. Among them were several French Jews, including E.E. Fribourg, an opponent of Marx, who was a disciple of the non-Jewish anarchist writer Pierre *Proudhon (1809–1865). Fribourg advocated membership in the association only to people engaged in physical work, a move against Marx, whereas Lazare Lévy, another leading member of the French section of the First International, was a strong supporter of Karl Marx. Jews were also prominent in the workers' uprising in the Paris Commune in March 1871, one of the leaders being Léo *Frankel.

The Second International

The Second International set up at the Paris Congress of 1889 was largely dominated by German socialists, whose delegates represented a strong socialist party in effective control of the trade unions. They included August Bebel, William Liebknecht, Clara Zetkin, and Eduard *Bernstein, the son of a Jewish worker, who had a profound influence on the development of socialism in Germany and elsewhere. Bernstein combined Marxist ideology with British pragmatism in a concept which became known as "Revisionism." He considered assimilation the best solution to the Jewish problem but Jewish suffering in World War i made him a supporter of Jewish settlement in Palestine and of *Po'alei Zion. His non-Jewish colleague August Bebel was also sympathetic to the Jewish cause, describing antisemitism as "socialism of the fools," and, while there were antisemites among the German socialists, the party was committed to fight against discrimination. By 1912 there were 12 Jews among the 100 Social Democrats in the German Parliament. Many other Jews were prominent in the party, the majority of them favoring assimilation, especially after Karl Kautsky's book, Race and Judaism, was published in 1914. Most members of the Social Democratic Party were hostile to Zionism, as was the party organ Die Neue Zeit, but the Revisionists showed understanding of the labor Zionist cause and their newspaper Sozialistische Monatshefte, edited by Joseph *Bloch, was pro-Zionist. In Austria, many prominent figures in the Socialist Party were Jews, among them Victor *Adler, Friedrich Adler, Otto *Bauer, Max *Adler, Hugo *Breitner, and William *Ellenbogen. They all supported assimilation and opposed Jewish national aspirations. In particular, Otto Bauer's work Die Nationalitaetenfrage und die Sozialdemokratie (1907), which denied that the Jews were a separate nationality, had considerable influence in socialist circles. On the whole, Jewish socialists in Austria avoided discussion of the Jewish question and were hostile to Zionism, but a notable exception was Julius *Braunthal, who supported the labor Zionist movement.


During World War i several Jewish socialists were among the most outspoken critics of the war, among them Rosa *Luxemburg and Hugo *Haase in Germany, Friedrich *Adler in Austria, Julius *Martov and Lev (Leon) *Trotsky from Russia, and Angelica Balabanov in Italy. In the chaotic conditions after World War i, Jewish socialists held top cabinet posts in socialist administrations in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Russia. Thus Haase and O. *Landsberg joined the German provisional government following the collapse of imperial Germany, Hugo *Preuss became minister of the interior in the Weimar Republic, Paul Hirsch (1868–1938) was prime minister of Prussia, Kurt Rosenfeld was Prussian minister of justice, and Kurt *Eisner was prime minister of "Soviet" Bavaria. In Austria, Victor Adler, Otto Bauer – who became foreign minister – and Friedrich Adler all played a major part in the Austrian revolution of 1918, and following the Hungarian revolution of 1919 Bela *Kun became dictator in a "Soviet" Hungarian government containing 14 Jewish commissars. In Russia, many Jews held senior posts in the first Bolshevik administration and the Communist Party (see *Communism; *Russia).

Between 1918 and 1939 individual Jewish socialists held prominent positions in several European countries, but their importance tended to be exaggerated by antisemites. Thus in Germany, the Nazis represented the few Jewish socialists as having far greater influence than they actually had. In Austria, Otto Bauer was foreign minister from 1919 to 1920, Oscar Pollak was editor of the party organ Arbeiter-Zeitung, and Matilda Pollak was leader of the Social Democratic women. Léon *Blum was prime minister of France and Jules *Moch was minister of public works. In Czechoslovakia Ludwig *Czech was minister of social welfare, while in Holland Saloman Rodrigues de *Miranda was minister of housing, and in Britain Emanuel *Shinwell was secretary of mines. The socialist movement in continental Europe gradually weakened as the pace of the Nazi advance increased.

After the outbreak of World War ii, socialist parties survived only in Britain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Most of the socialist refugees fled to England, where the British Labor Party took the initiative in convening regular meetings to discuss matters of common concern. Among them were several Jewish socialists, including Oscar Pollak and Karl Czernitz from Austria and Claudio Treves from Italy.

Post-World War ii

After World War ii, Jews continued to be prominent in the socialist movements of France and Great Britain. In France, Léon Blum, Jules Moch, Pierre *Mendes-France, and Daniel *Mayer emerged as leading French socialists and all held posts in French coalition governments. All four were active in Jewish affairs and supporters of the State of Israel. In Britain, Jewish participation in the Labor movement considerably increased in the postwar years. There were four Jewish cabinet ministers in the Labor government of 1945–51: Emanuel Shinwell, Harry *Nathan, Lewis *Silkin, and George *Strauss, and the Labor government of 1964–70 at various times included Jews in senior or junior offices, among them Austen Albu (1903–1994), John *Diamond, Harold *Lever, Reginald Freeson (1926– ), Baroness Serota, Edmund Dell (1921–1999), and John *Silkin. In addition, Harold *Laski was chairman of the Labor Party from 1945 to 1946, Emanuel Shinwell was chairman of the Parliamentary Labor Party and Ian Mikardo (1908–1993), Frank Allaun (1913–2002), and Sydney *Silverman were members of the Labor Party national executive. One particularly noticeable feature of the growth of Jewish participation in the Labor movement was the sharp increase in the number of Jewish Labor members of Parliament, from four in 1935 to 26 in 1945, around 36 in 1966, and 30 in 1970. Many of the Jews prominent in the Labor Party were associated with the British Po'alei Zion and a Zionist group formed in 1956 called Labor Friends of Israel.

In the British Commonwealth, too, Jews have played an increasingly important part in socialist politics. In Canada a number of Jews were actively associated with the leadership of the socialist New Democratic Party formed in 1961. The most prominent of them was David *Lewis – leader of the parliamentary party. Other Jewish mps representing the ndp were Max Saltsman (Toronto) and David *Orlikow (Winnipeg). In Manitoba, five Jews were members of the Provincial Legislature: Saul Cherniak, C. Gonick, Sidney Green, Saul Miller, and Sidney Spivak. In British Columbia, too, a number of Jews were prominent in the party, but not in Montreal where the ndp was, generally, a weak body. While the Canadian Labor Zionist movement was not affiliated to the party, there was close cooperation in a number of provinces. Leading personalities of the ndp, which is a member of the Socialist International, visited Israel and showed a friendly attitude to its socialist party. The Canadian Congress, formed in 1956, had a close association both with the Histadrut in Israel and local Jewish labor bodies. In Australia, too, Jews played an increasingly active part in socialist politics. Sidney Einfeld and Senator Sam *Cohen were Labor Party parliamentarians for a number of years. In 1969, three Jewish socialist candidates were elected to the Australian House of Representatives: Joe Berison (Perth), Moses Cass (Melbourne), and Barry Cohen (Robertson Constituency – near Sydney). In 2005, the only Jewish member of the Australian Parliament was the Labor mpMichael *Danby. In recent decades the participation of Jews in left-of-center parties has probably declined sharply, while socialism as a viable ideology would seem to be a thing of the past. The movement of most Jews into the upper middle class, the diminution of right-wing antisemitism, and, above all, the hostility of much of the extreme left to Israel's post-1967 policies, have made it difficult for many Jews to identify as socialists in the old sense. Events such as the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 have also made it difficult for many to see what socialism might be like in the 21st century, especially any such ideology entailing widespread nationalization or sympathy for the radical enemies of Israel.

While many Jews, especially in the United States, remain committed to the value system of liberalism, it would seem clear that the engagement of the Jewish people with socialism is increasingly a thing of the past.

By contrast, the Holocaust and the Communist takeover in part of Europe reduced the Jewish participation in socialist politics to a mere fraction of what it had been before 1939. Nevertheless, a small number of Jews held important posts in European socialist parties after 1945, among them Ludwig *Rosenberg, who was president of the German Confederation of Trade Unions, Siegfried Aufhauser (1884–1962), president of the German Federation of Labor in Berlin, Bruno *Kreisky, who in 1970 became chancellor of Austria, and Karl Czernetz, who was international secretary of the Austrian Social Democratic Party.

Eastern Europe


Socialism developed in Russia later than in Western Europe, in the second half of the 19th century. The death of Nicholas i and the accession of Alexander ii in 1855 led to the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 and a relaxation of the repressive regime. Jews became less isolated from the general stream of Russian public life, and the number of Jewish children in Russian secondary schools rose from 8 to 2,362 between 1840 and 1872. Many Jewish socialists came from traditional homes and were influenced by the writings of Russian philosophers, whose works they studied at secondary schools. They were largely in favor of assimilation, since they regarded Judaism as obsolete and believed that Jewish emancipation would come about through the liberalization of the Russian people with whom the Jews should integrate. Thus, most of the early Jewish socialists regarded the growth of Russian socialism as more important than Jewish emancipation. Many young Jews chose to join the revolutionaries and "go to the people." A number of Jewish socialists converted to Christianity to facilitate their activities among the people, while Jewish women socialists became estranged from Judaism by marriage to non-Jewish revolutionaries. Though the persecution of Jews was an important motivating force in bringing Jews into the revolutionary camp, the pogroms of 1881 came as a great shock to many Jewish revolutionaries. Particularly disappointing were the antisemitic trends in the Populist movement and the indifference of non-Jewish revolutionaries to violent outbreaks against Jews. In addition Jewish socialists who neglected their own people because they believed them to be tradesmen and middlemen discovered the existence of Jewish workers who were facing oppression and social exploitation.

Some of the first Jewish socialists were prominent in revolutionary uprisings outside the borders of Russia. Robert Feinberg fought in the German revolution of 1848 and was later deported to Siberia, where he died, and Nicolai Utin, son of a rich Jewish contractor, was a liaison officer for the Polish revolutionaries in 1863. Utin fled to Germany, where he became a colleague of Karl Marx and established the Russian section of the First International. However, others were prominent in the ideological movements of the 1860s and 1870s which grew up in the wake of the acute poverty of the Jews. Marc Natanson (1849–1920), son of a Jewish merchant from Grodno, was the organizer of the Zemlya i Volya ("Land and Liberty") group from which emerged some of the famous non-Jewish revolutionary figures, such as Prince Peter Kropotkin, Vera Zasulich, and Georg Plekhanov. Joseph Aptekman (1850) and Lev Deitsch (1855–1941) were leaders of the Narodniki (Populists), a movement which developed among the intelligentsia to redress the injustices done to the Russian peasants. The revolutionaries dressed like peasants and lived with the peasants in the countryside. They soon exposed themselves to ridicule and many were arrested and imprisoned. The failure of the Populists led the revolutionaries to attempt fresh measures. In 1878 the terrorist group known as the Narodnaya Volya ("People's Will") was formed to combat oppression by violence. A number of Jews joined the organization. Many were made desperate by their increasing poverty resulting from the emancipation of the serfs, which enabled the latter to enter trades which had previously been mostly occupied by Jews. Several Jewish members of the Narodnaya Volya were captured and executed, among them Aaron Gobet, who had participated in a plot to assassinate Czar Alexander ii in 1879, Solomon Wittenberg, Meir Mlodetsky, a yeshivah student from Slutsk, and Grigori Goldenberg (1855–1880), who committed suicide in the fortress of Petropavlovsk after being arrested for assassinating the governor-general of Kharkov. Other Jewish revolutionaries included Aaron Zundelevich (1850–1923) and Saveli Zlatopolsky, who were members of the executive committee of Narodnaya Volya. The assassination of Czar Alexander ii in 1881 led to a reign of terror against the revolutionaries, but the latter continued to work against the regime and many joined the underground socialist organizations that sprang up toward the end of the 19th century.

Jews were exceptionally prominent in the Social Democratic movement and some eventually became leaders of the Russian Social Democratic Party, such as Julius Martov and Lev Trotsky. Others were active in Jewish workers' groups which united in 1897 as the *Bund and by 1904 numbered 23,000 Jews from Lithuania, Russia, and Poland. The Bund and the Russian Social Democrats were united in their opposition to Zionism, but while the Social Democrats insisted that the Jews should assimilate with the general Russian population, the Bund campaigned for recognition of a separate Jewish nationality within a federation of nationalities. After the 1903 split in the Social Democratic Party into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, some Jewish members of the two groups were particularly vociferous in their opposition to Jewish national aspirations. The Bolsheviks argued that the revolution would solve the Jewish question by giving Jews complete equality and thus lead to their assimilation with the rest of the population.

A third organization in which Jews of Russia played a prominent part was the Russian Social Revolutionary Party formed in Switzerland in 1901. A successor party to the terrorist Narodnaya Volya, the party advocated agrarian reform by violence and the establishment of a Russian federation. Among the forerunners of the movement were Chaim *Zhitlowsky, who later settled in the United States, Mendel Rosenbaum, who immigrated to Israel, and Charles *Rappoport, who became an important figure in the French Communist Party. The movement included a terrorist "fighting organization" in which Mikhail Gots (1866–1906), Abraham Gots (1882–1937), Grigori *Gershuni, and Yevno *Azeff were prominent. Unlike the Social Democratic Party, they were not hostile to Zionism and did not actively struggle for assimilationism. The ultimate success of the Bolsheviks under *Lenin eventually brought about the end of Jewish participation in the socialist movement in Russia. Those Jewish socialists who were opposed to the Bolsheviks were forced to go into exile, and while many other Jews held prominent positions in the Communist Party, they were ultimately purged from the party hierarchy either between 1936 and 1939 or between 1948 and 1953.

poland and romania

In Poland, Jews were among the pioneers of the socialist movement in the latter part of the 19th century. The first socialist group, Proletariat, was an underground organization responsible for numerous workers' strikes. It included a number of Jews, among them Zigmund Dering and Szymon *Dickstein. Proletariat gave way to the Social Democratic Party (sdkp), a Marxist party which rejected Polish independence and advocated partnership with the Russian socialist movement. Among its leading members were Rosa Luxemburg, Leo Yogiches and Adolf *Warski-Warshawski, all of whom opposed the Bund and the nationalist Polish Socialist Party (pps). Nevertheless, the Bund and the pps attracted considerable support from prominent Jewish socialists such as Herman *Diamand, Herman *Liebermann, and Boleslaw *Drobner. In Romania, too, Jews were among the founders of the socialist movement. Thus Constantin Gherea-Dobrogeanu (1855–1920) organized a peasants' revolutionary group in Russia and later settled in Romania, where he advocated universal suffrage. The Romanian Socialist Party was largely antisemitic, however, and when the Jewish Social Democratic group, Lamina, submitted a memorandum to the international Socialist Congress (1896) on the plight of the Jews in Romania, the Romanian socialists defended their party's inimical attitude to the Jewish question. The New Social Democratic Party formed in 1910 urged equality for the Jews but had little influence on the reactionary governments of Romania during the first half of the century.

[Schneier Zalman Levenberg]

United States

Jews played little part in the brand of American socialism which derived from agrarian and populist discontent with the social order. Nor did they appear in the numerous short-lived utopian communities which sprang up early in the 20th century or in the proletarian constituency of the revolutionary syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World which flourished from about 1908 to 1920. The role of Jews in American socialism lay within the urban, industrial environment where the movement had its main strength, and whose ideology was more or less Marxist. They were most prominent in the American Socialist Party from about 1915 until the 1930s, the period when ethnic minorities generally played a key role in the socialist movement. Socialism developed among industrial workers and intellectuals during the 1870s, when the Socialist Labor Party was founded (1877) with one of its strongest bases in the largely Jewish International Cigar Makers Union. Adolph Strasser (1844–1939), a leader of that union, had been secretary of its predecessor, the Social Democratic Party, in 1874. However, he and Samuel *Gompers, also a cigar maker, as founders and leaders of the American Federation of Labor (1886), firmly led it away from socialist involvements and toward "pure and simple" trade unionism. During the 1880s, Jews were among the leaders of short-lived municipal labor or socialist parties in such cities as Detroit, Milwaukee, and New York. After 1890, the Socialist Labor Party was dominated by Daniel *De Leon who maintained the slp's doctrinal purity by expelling all dissenters and losing practically all influence in the socialist and trade-union movements.

American socialism reached its climactic years between 1900 and 1920. Although Eugene V. Debs was the party's orator, presidential candidate, and moral symbol, its real leaders were Victor *Berger, the first Socialist Party congressman, and Morris *Hillquit. Louis Boudin was a leading Marxist scholar and theoretician. One socialist stronghold was the Jewish labor movement which had begun among East European immigrant proletarians during the 1880s. Their weak, unstable unions were fervently socialist and revolutionary in temper. After 1910, trade unionism, which was overwhelmingly Jewish in membership and leadership, won control of labor conditions in the garment industry by means of a series of dramatic strikes. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America remained explicitly socialist, but the revolutionary content of their socialism was relegated to rhetorical flourishes about a vague, ultimate end. The unions' socialist activity emphasized the creation of a comradely environment for their members, who included perhaps 200,000 Jews. The tone of Yiddish-speaking fraternal orders, literature, and theater was also socialist. Abe *Cahan's prosperous *Jewish Daily Forward, with a maximum circulation of about 150,000 in 1917, wielded great influence, and the monthly *Zukunft was a notable organ of socialist letters. It was the Jewish East Side which sent the Socialist Party's Mayer *London to Congress in 1914 for the first of three terms, and elected socialists to the state legislature.

Although the Socialist Party had a very high proportion of Jews among its followers and leaders, it took no position on Jewish problems as such. Its general view was that Jewish problems did not exist, being imaginary constructs to divert attention from the true problems of all oppressed. Thus, Jews would achieve a full and final solution with the ultimate social revolution. The existence of the Jews as a people, it was tacitly assumed, might then end. American socialism had nativist elements who pushed it into an anti-immigration policy for several years after 1908, but perceptible antisemitism such as in some European socialist movements did not exist. Nevertheless, it was charged that some of the opposition in 1932 to Hillquit's leadership was antisemitic. In 1908 a Jewish Agitation Bureau was established in order to spread socialism among Yiddish-speaking Jews. Stimulated by immigrants with experience in the East European Bund, the Bureau developed into the Jewish Socialist Federation (jsf) from 1912, over strong opposition from Abe Cahan and other Yiddish-speaking stalwarts opposed to such "separatism." Actually the jsf disavowed any distinct Jewish purpose and attempted only to spread socialism, while it vigorously combated Zionism. Its membership was drawn mainly from immigrants of Bundist background. American socialism was greatly weakened by its opposition to American entry into World War i and by the Communist split in 1919. Among Jews it remained strong, although racked by savage quarrels with Communists. However, as the Democrats from 1928 became the party of urban liberalism, ethnic groups, and social reform, they drew increasing numbers of Jews and other socialists into their ranks. Jewish unions and voters moved en masse to the Democrats during the 1930s as F.D. *Roosevelt's New Deal enacted social legislation and provided national political recognition for Jews and other urban ethnic groups. Such Jews as Gus Tyler, Max and Robert Delson, Sidney *Hook, and J.B.S. Hardman were significant Socialist leaders during the 1930s. The American Socialist Party, led after Debs' death in 1925 by Norman Thomas, turned toward pacifism and isolationism in the face of Nazism and did not change its view on Jewish problems. The magnet of the New Deal and the inadequacies of the Socialist Party left the latter with very little Jewish or other following by the time of World War ii.

[Lloyd P. Gartner]

The years after World War ii, with their combination of economic prosperity, cold war, and political conformism, witnessed the near total collapse of the socialist movement as a serious political force in the U.S. Many older Jewish socialists joined this trend by moderating their criticisms of American society so as to be reabsorbed into the American political mainstream. Typical of this process was the emergence in New York City and State of the mildly reformist Liberal Party, which was dominated by Jewish labor leaders such as David *Dubinsky and Alex *Rose, nearly all of whom had been active socialists in the 1920s and 1930s.

Nevertheless, although socialist politics remained moribund in America for two decades after World War ii, a community of influential socialist thinkers, many of them Jews, continued to exist and to sustain a tradition of radical political critique that served as an intellectual seedbed for the radical revival of the late 1960s. The individuals who composed this community held a wide divergence of views, ranging from the revolutionary Marxism of Herbert *Marcuse to the anarchism of Paul *Goodman and the social democratic humanism of Irving *Howe. All joined in rejecting both Soviet communism and American capitalism as viable social models for the future, though most openly expressed their preference for the latter as the less malign of the two evils and the more amenable to structural change. Other prominent figures from these years whose approach to public issues was socialist in tenor, were academicians such as Lewis A. *Coser and Daniel Bell, writers and journalists like Norman *Mailer, Harvey Swados, Paul Jacobs, and I.F. *Stone, and the psychoanalyst Erich *Fromm. Many socialists published in the pages of the journals Dissent, edited by Irving Howe, and Partisan Review, edited by Philip Rahv, and a number were identified with the League for Industrial Democracy directed by Tom Kahn.

As in earlier decades, the majority of American Jewish socialists tended to regard specifically Jewish issues as peripheral to broader social and economic problems, but many supported the establishment of the State of Israel both as a result of the Holocaust and as a legitimate expression of Jewish national aspirations. The revival of radical politics in the U.S. toward the end of the 1960s led to profound differences of opinion among socialist intellectuals. Some, such as Marcuse, supported the *New Left despite reservations about its ideological unclarity and tendencies to violence. Others, such as Howe, strongly attacked it for its contempt of intellectual values and climate of "left fascism." Among the points of contention in this debate was the State of Israel, particularly after the Six-Day War (1967). Many New Left supporters tended to side with the anti-Israel position, while its socialist detractors generally defended the Jewish state, though often with noticeably more ambivalence than in former years.

[Hillel Halkin]

Latin America

Jewish work for socialism in Latin America was mainly the result of the efforts of various Jewish labor organizations established by immigrants from Europe. However, in Argentina, where the socialist movement is one of the oldest in the world, Jewish workers played a part in the development of the General Labor movement and were active in both general politics and the trade unions. Enrique Dickmann was one of the outstanding socialist leaders in the early 1940s. The establishment of the military regime in Argentina greatly limited the activities of the Socialist Party, which nonetheless retained its long-standing association with the Socialist International, its representatives including persons of Jewish origin. In Chile, where the socialist movement had deep roots in the country's history, individual Jews played a part within the various left-wing groups. Jews were active, to a lesser degree, in Uruguay, where the socialist groups were weaker than in Chile. In other Latin American countries with a sizable Jewish population, the socialist movement was either very weak or its development was hampered by totalitarian regimes and the contribution of individual Jews was marginal.

Asia and Africa

Of special significance was the impact made by Israeli socialism in Asia and Africa, where it often served as an example for post-colonial development. The achievements of the *Histadrut, the unique character of the *kibbutz and the *moshav, the development of Israel's people's army and the industrial and scientific progress of the Jewish state, were greatly admired in many developing countries. In 1960, the Histadrut established the Afro-Asian Institute. By 1970, about 2,000 students from the "Third World" had attended its various courses conducted alternatively in English or French. The number of visitors to Israel from African and Asian countries increased substantially during the 1960s and the Histadrut sent many technical advisers to developing countries.

In the political field, the Israel Labor Party played an active part in the establishment of the Asian Socialist Conference (1953). Its activities were suspended after the establishment of totalitarian governments and the suppression of socialist groups in a number of Asian countries. A new attempt at setting up a center for the socialist movement in Asia and Oceania was made at a conference held in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1969; the Israel Labor Party was elected as a member of the secretariat established in Singapore. In Africa, the Israel labor movement established close contact with the socialist parties in power in Madagascar and Mauritius.

Within the Socialist International, the Israeli party *Mapai pressed for greater understanding of the specific conditions and needs of Asian and African countries, and was instrumental in the formation of the special committee for underdeveloped countries within the organization. The Israel Labor Party made clear on a number of occasions that it would welcome the affiliation of genuine Arab socialist groups to the International but it opposed cooperation with semi-Fascist or semi-Communist parties using the label "socialist" for political purposes.


The modern anarchist movement emerged during the 19th century. Some of its leaders believed in violent action, others confined themselves to putting forward their own highly individualistic theories on the transformation of authoritarian societies into free cooperation between individuals and groups. The impact of anarchist ideas has differed from country to country.

Famous anarchists had an indirect influence on the development of Jewish radical thought. The ideas of Proudhon, *Bakunin, Elisée Reclus (1830–1905), Kropotkin (1824–1906), Enrico Malatesta (1853–1932), and other libertarian writers were studied in Jewish revolutionary circles, but the impact of socialism on the Jewish labor movement was incomparably stronger than that of anarchism. Political action had a greater appeal to Jewish workers than the belief in the possibility of a violent and sudden transformation of society. Some of the "giants" of anarchism had a friendly attitude to Jews but others, such as Proudhon and Bakunin, showed clear antisemitic tendencies. Bakunin's antipathy to Jews was considerably influenced by his struggle with Karl Marx for the leadership of the First International. The greatest impact of anarchism was in Mediterranean countries – Spain, Italy, and southern France; and in Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, and southern Russia. In all these countries Jewish participation in the movement was of a minor character; of greater significance was the part played by Jews in the development of libertarian ideas in America and Britain.

Anarchism as an organized movement among Jewish immigrants began in the United States in 1886. A new organization, The Pioneers of Liberty, attracted a number of Jewish radical thinkers, among them the poets David Edelstadt and Morris Rosenfeld, the journalist S. *Janovsky, Emma *Goldman, and Alexander *Berkman. At first, Jewish supporters of the new creed were influenced by German immigrants, but they gradually began to make a direct appeal to Jewish workers and to issue literature in Yiddish. Violent clashes with Jewish socialists and religious elements soon followed. During World War i the number of Jewish anarchists fell; some returned to Russia after the Revolution or otherwise departed. Nevertheless, small groups continued their activities.

The Jewish anarchists in the United States kept in close touch with those in Britain, where the movement found a strong foothold among Jewish workers in Whitechapel. One of the leaders of the British group was Rudolf *Rocker, a German non-Jewish anarchist who lived in London from 1895 to 1914. He was a colorful figure among the Jewish supporters of the libertarian ideas and became editor of Yiddish publications. After 1917, anarchism declined as an active force among Whitechapel Jews, although it still retained a small group of adherents in Britain, including a number of Jews.

On the continent of Europe, anarchism attracted support among the Jewish socialist leaders. Thus in Germany, Moses Hess, who knew both Proudhon and Bakunin, was for a short time influenced by their ideas. He adopted the title "anarchy" for his own social philosophy developed in Die Philosophie der Tat (1843). A prominent anarchosocialist intellectual in Germany with an international reputation was Gustav Landauer. In France, Léon Blum in his early years was influenced by anarchist ideas, as was Bernard *Lazare, who combined his social revolutionary ideas with belief in Zionism.

In Russia, the anarchists were a marginal factor in the development of the Jewish labor movement. While their ideas influenced some of the Jewish revolutionaries, anarchism played only a minor part among Jewish radical elements. During the years 1918–21, peasants of the southern Ukraine joined the anarchist guerrilla leader Nestor Makhno, whose Revolutionary Insurrection Army was responsible for some of the most brutal pogroms against the Jewish population. Makhno had a number of Jewish supporters and denied responsibility for the brutalities. Toward the end of 1918, Aaron and Fanya Baron helped form the Confederation of Anarchist Organizations in Ukraine. In September 1921, Fanya Baron and eight of her comrades were shot in a Moscow prison. Alexander Shapiro – another Jewish anarchist – hoped to bring about an amelioration of conditions through working with the Soviet regime. But Jewish anarchism, and the movement as a whole, ceased to exist as a vital force in Russia after the "purge" of its supporters in the early 1920s. A number of former anarchists were attracted by kibbutz life in Israel, but after World War ii anarchism virtually ceased to exist as an organized force in Jewish life. Nevertheless, "revolt against authority" and belief in libertarian ideas can be found among Jewish New Left intellectuals and students in various countries.

socialism and the jews

The first socialists were greatly divided about their attitude to the Jewish problem. Some ignored the issue because of ignorance, indifference, or the small number of Jews in their respective countries. Others were imbued with the general antisemitic prejudices prevailing in both Western and Eastern Europe during the 19th century. Another group – among the pioneers of socialism – was sympathetic to the Jews and championed their right to freedom and equality. Moses Hess, who was the first Zionist among the socialist theoreticians, was an exceptional case. The First International (1864–76) never adopted resolutions on the Jewish problem; the views expressed by its various leaders were of a personal nature. However, three official representatives from Jewish labor organizations were present at the first congress of the Second International (1889): Philip Kranz from London's Jewish International Workers' Educational Club, and Joseph Barsky and Louis Miller from the New York's United Hebrew Trades. The latter submitted a report on the activities of Jewish trade unions; this was the first time that an international socialist conference received information about the existence of an independent Jewish labor movement. The Jewish issue was raised at the second congress of the International (Brussels, 1889) by Abraham Cahan, who represented 30,000 "Yiddish-speaking workers" from the U.S.; he did it against the private advice of Victor Adler and Paul Singer and a number of other leading figures in the organization, who believed that a public discussion on antisemitism was both unnecessary and harmful. After a debate in the course of which two delegates from France made reference to the exploitation of workers by Jewish capitalists and denounced "philo-Semitic agitation," the congress adopted the following resolution:

Considering that the socialists and workers' parties have always affirmed that there cannot exist for them racial or national antagonism, but only the class struggle of the proletariat of all races and countries against the capitalists of all races and countries;

Considering that for the proletariat of the Jewish race and Yiddish language there exists no other way to achieve emancipation than to join the workers' organizations of their respective countries;

Condemning antisemitic and philo-Semite outbursts as one of the means by which the capitalist class and the reactionary circles seek to divert the Socialist movement from its purpose and divide the workers;

The Congress decides that the question raised by the delegation of the Yiddish-speaking group of American comrades was superfluous and passes to the next item on the Agenda.

The Russian socialists were not represented at the congress, but the resolution on the Jewish problem was sharply attacked for its lack of understanding in an article written by Georg Plekhanov in Sotsial-Demokrat (Geneva, 1892). In 1903, the Second International condemned the *Kishinev pogrom but refused to take a clear stand on the Jewish question. Jewish Social Democratic groups had been represented at congresses of the International from 1893, when Jacob Stechenberg represented both Lemberg and Cracow, but the Bund was allotted 12 out of the 29 mandates of the Russian Social Democratic Party. On the other hand Jews also represented the Russian Social Revolutionary Party at congresses of the International, Chaim Zhitlovsky and Ilya Rubanovich representing the party at the congress of 1904. The World Confederation of Po'alei Zion applied for membership of the International in March 1907. It submitted a special memorandum to the bureau of the organization, in the course of which attention was drawn to the unique nature of the Jewish problem which, it claimed, was primarily a result of the abnormal class-structure of the Jewish people and the special economic conditions of the Jewish working masses. The specific character of Jewish emigration was stressed as was the need for a territorial solution of the Jewish problem through the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine. The Zionist socialist memorandum ended with the following request for admission:

According to the latest resolution of the International Socialist Bureau, representation will henceforth be determined not on the basis of states but of nationalities. The Jewish Socialist Labor Party – Po'alei Zion – which numbers more than 19,000 organized Jewish workers in Russia, Austria, America, England, and Palestine requests the International Socialist Bureau to grant it – as a socialist party of proletarians of Jewish nationality – representation in the Bureau.

In October 1908, the Po'alei Zion Confederation put forward the idea of the creation of a Jewish section within the Socialist International which would comprise all the existing socialist parties of the Jewish proletariat: the Bund, the Po'alei Zion Confederation, the *Jewish Socialist Workers' Party ("Sejm") of Russia, and the *Zionist Socialists (ss) Party of Russia. The request was renewed in May 1911. Po'alei Zion's efforts to obtain admission to the International did not produce any tangible results – ostensibly on account of objections on organizational grounds. Actually, the request was not granted because of the opposition by the majority of socialist leaders – especially of the large parties – to Jewish national aspirations and labor Zionism. Prior to World War i, the large majority of socialist leaders believed in assimilation as the solution of the Jewish problem. Even those of them who recognized that the Jews were a people, either failed to see any justification for their separate existence or did not believe that they would survive as an independent entity. Many socialist leaders of Jewish origin favored assimilation, and for some the Jewish problem was a personal embarrassment. Others were sincere in their belief that socialism would solve the problem of all minorities and that there was no need for the Jews to be singled out as a special issue. There were also individual socialist spokesmen of Jewish origin who suffered from "self-hatred" and expressed antisemitic sentiments. Nevertheless, even prior to 1914, there were leading socialists who showed understanding of Jewish national aspirations and were sympathetic to the Zionist cause. Toward the end of World War i, Jewish socialists renewed their demands for recognition in the world socialist movement. In 1917, *Po'alei Zion submitted a detailed memorandum on the Jewish situation to the Dutch-Scandinavian Socialist Committee, and presented concrete demands on behalf of the Jewish labor movement. In the same year the committee, whose secretary was the pro-Jewish leader, Camille Huysmans (1871–1968), issued its peace manifesto to the warring powers and urged an international solution to the Jewish problem, involving autonomy for the Jews living in compact masses in parts of Poland, Russia, Austria, and Romania. In December 1917, a special conference of the British Labor Party and Trades Union Congress approved a memorandum on war aims which was later endorsed by a meeting of all the socialist parties in allied countries. The memorandum included, inter alia, the following section on the Jewish question:

The conference demands for the Jews equal elementary rights in the sense of freedom of conscience, residence and trade, and the same political rights that ought to be extended to all citizens. But the conference further maintains that Palestine ought to be set free from the harsh and oppressive government of the Turk and ought to be transformed into a free state, under international guarantee, to which the Jewish people may return if they desire to do so, and where they may develop their own civilization free from the influence of alien races and religions.

During 1919 a number of international socialist conferences were held to discuss problems of a peace settlement. One of them, held in Amsterdam in April, adopted a special resolution dealing with Jewish rights. Beside the demands for equal civil rights, freedom of immigration and settlement in all countries, national autonomy, and representation of the Jewish people in the League of Nations, the motion contained the following clause:

Recognition of the right of the Jewish people to build their National Home in Palestine, and the establishment of conditions favorable thereto under the protection and control of the League of Nations, which shall also safeguard the rightful interests of the existing non-Jewish population.

These resolutions showed a radical change in the attitude of a number of socialist parties to the Jewish problem. The Po'alei Zion Confederation was permitted to take an active part in the various socialist consultations dealing with a peace settlement and the reconstitution of the International. After the war, the Second International was reconstituted in February 1921 from among the socialist parties which did not join the Communist International. Po'alei Zion accepted an invitation to attend as a separate group and, at the Hamburg conference in May 1923, was represented by seven delegates. In the following year the position of the Po'alei Zion within the International was finally settled by a resolution of the executive in February 1924:

1. Palestine is included in the list of nationalities.

2. The only Palestinian party who has so far declared its readiness to affiliate is the Po'alei Zion Confederation.

3. The Po'alei Zion Confederation also has members in countries other than Palestine and demands – in accordance with article 10 of the bylaws relating to factions and parties – that these members be accredited to the Palestinian party. Accordingly, the members of the Confederation who do not belong to other affiliated parties will be accredited to Palestine.

4. Palestine is granted two votes at Congresses. These votes are allotted to the Po'alei Zion Confederation with the understanding that there will have to be a reallotment in case other parties in Palestine will affiliate to the International.

There was still considerable opposition to the Po'alei Zion within the Second International, largely from Jewish assimilationists such as Friedrich *Adler and members of the Bund among the Polish delegation. However, the Po'alei Zion succeeded in forming a representative Socialist Committee for Palestine, whose sponsors included Emil Vandervelde, Léon Blum, and Eduard Bernstein. In addition, 40 leading socialists representing ten European states responded to an invitation to attend a conference in Brussels in August 1928 to extend moral and political support for the labor movement in Palestine.

The persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, and the extermination of the Jewish population on the continent of Europe during World War ii, finally made the socialist movement alive to the Jewish problem. This, in turn, led to an increasing understanding of Zionist aspirations. The British Labour Party led the campaign for increased Jewish immigration into Palestine and against the anti-Zionist *White Paper introduced by the Conservative government (May 1939), and its program of postwar aims envisaged the establishment of a Jewish state. The reversal of the party's pro-Zionist platform by the Labour government after 1945 came as a shock to many socialists in both Britain and elsewhere. A number of European socialist parties – while deeply sympathetic to the plight of Jewish refugees – were reluctant to criticize the policy of the British Labour government. The situation changed after the un Partition resolution of 1947 and the establishment of the State of Israel (1948), whose emergence was greeted by many socialist leaders in various parts of the world. From its revival in 1951, the Socialist International gave consistent support to Mapai and later to the Israel Labor Party, which played an active part in the meetings of the bureau, council conferences, and congresses of the organization. The Socialist International, mainly on the initiative of Israeli delegates, took an active interest in the problem of Soviet Jewry and several times officially demanded its positive solution. (See *Russia, Struggle for Soviet Jewry.) The 11th Congress of the Socialist International (June 1969) adopted a resolution which expressed deep concern that two years after the war of the Arab states against Israel, no advance had yet been made toward a settlement based on security and lasting peace in the area. It stated that flagrant violations of the cease-fire agreement and senseless acts of terrorism threatened to lead to an escalation toward a new war. It also pledged full support for the mission of the un representative Gunnar Jarring and directly negotiated peace treaties between Arab states and Israel. The International appointed a special working group to study the situation of Soviet Jewry and actively identified itself with the struggle for the attainment of its legitimate rights; it also urged Arab governments to allow Jews to emigrate.


Summarizing the Jewish contribution to the Socialist movement the following picture emerges regarding the situation at the end of 1970.

(1) The Nazi-Fascist period and the Holocaust led to a decline both of the Jewish population in Central Europe and in its contribution to the socialist movement; individual Jews, however, continued to play their part in the various labor parties.

(2) The establishment of Communist regimes in Eastern European countries led to the suppression of socialist parties and thus brought to an end the long chapter of Jewish participation in the struggle for democratic socialist ideas in Russia, Poland, Romania, and other countries of the region.

(3) The period of Gaullism in France was followed by both a decrease in the strength of the socialist movement and the part of Jews in its leadership.

(4) A feature of the postwar period was a considerable increase in Jewish participation in the activities of the British Labour Party, and a parallel process, on a smaller scale, was discernible in the Canadian New Democratic Party. A tendency to greater Jewish participation in labor politics was also felt in Australia where the Jewish community was still comparatively small. Similar currents were noticeable in South American countries but the outlook was unclear due, on the one hand, to military dictatorships and, on the other, to the possibility of revolutionary upheavals.

(5) The major center of the Jewish socialist movement with wide links in many parts of the world was Israel. It was the Israel Labor Party and the Histadrut which attracted the interest of both international labor circles and non-aligned countries in the "Third World." The center of gravity of Jewish socialist thought and actions shifted from Diaspora countries to Israel. During the 19th century, the world was mainly familiar with the contribution to socialism made by individuals of Jewish origin, but it is now aware of the collective Jewish contribution created by Jewish labor in the Jewish state.

[Schneier Zalman Levenberg]

socialism and women

Jewish women's involvement with socialism began in 19th-century Europe with the emergence of modern Jewish political movements that sought to address the dislocations caused by industrialization, urbanization, and the breakdown of traditional religious structures. Socialists aspired to create a just society, often conceived in utopian, classless terms. Some Jewish women who worked within socialist movements, parties, trade unions, and causes added gender to their class and national analyses of modernity's problems, insisting on an amalgam of socialism and feminism.

The first Jewish socialists, including female intelligentsia such as Rosa *Luxemburg in Germany, Angelica *Balabanov in Italy, and Matilda Pollak of Austria, put their energies into general socialist movements. However, by the end of the 19th century, the composition and nature of Jewish involvement with socialism was transformed by the growth of a massive Jewish artisanal working-class in Eastern Europe. As Jewish women flocked into light industry, primarily the needle trades, but also tanning, bristle making, and cigar and cigarette production, many began to organize as workers and as Jews to protest their exploitative working conditions. Jewish women joined the socialist-oriented Bund when it formed in Vilna in 1897, comprising one-third of its membership, and occupied many of its middle rank leadership roles. Esther Frumkin (b. 1880), despite being born to a life of privilege, devoted herself to the Bundist cause.

Emigration from Eastern Europe stimulated socialist activism. Jewish immigrant communities in Europe, the Americas, Palestine, and elsewhere, were deeply sympathetic to socialist ideals, many of which were expressed through trade unionism. Women played an important role in realizing many of these aspirations. Although Jews comprised 40 percent of New York's garment workers in the early 20th century, Jewish women often found themselves in less skilled, lower-paying positions, and were viewed skeptically by the labor establishment. Yet, the American and American Jewish trade union movements only became secure when galvanized by labor activities spearheaded by young Jewish women workers in the first decade of the 20th century.

The most important female labor action of the period, the so-called Uprising of the Twenty Thousand (also known as the 1909 Shirtwaist Strike; see *International Ladies Garment Workers Union), involving thousands of Jewish and Italian working girls, began a series of strikes that spread to Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, and Kalamazoo – later called "The Great Revolt" – and emboldened the American labor movement. By 1919, half of all garment workers were members of a union. Fannia M. *Cohn, Rose *Schneiderman, Pauline *Newman, and Clara Lemlich *Shavelson, all East European-born, experienced the shirtwaist strike as the formative event of their activist youth, as did Theresa *Malkiel, who later became an important Socialist Party activist and immortalized her experiences in the novel Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker (1910). Many female Jewish trade unionists continued their socialist-inspired activism through progressive and reform politics in the New Deal. Most notable was Bessie Abramowitz *Hillman, who at 21 led a walkout with 16 other young women against a Chicago clothing firm that began the 1910 strike and later became an organizer for the Women's Trade Union League (wtul). Similar narratives are told of other young Jewish women raised in immigrant communities, such as Rose Kerrigan, whose socialist activism informed her earliest years as a rent striker and her later years as a pension activist in Glasgow, Scotland. While most female Jewish socialists felt loyalty foremost to the working-class from which they came, they also supported middle-class feminist issues, such as suffrage, in disproportionate numbers.

Socialism's strength on the New York Jewish street before World War i made the Jewish Socialist Federation (jsf), established in 1912, the third largest foreign-language federation within the Socialist Party. When the 1917 October Revolution radicalized and split the international socialist and trade union movement, Jewish women joined the ranks of both the Socialist Party (and the nascent Communist Party). Many others became fellow travelers who worked for socialist ideals through the expansive Jewish immigrant fraternal, educational, and cultural networks that included the Yiddish press, supplementary Yiddish schools, theater, and housing and consumer cooperatives.

Socialist activism also informed the Zionist movement and as early as 1907 the Po'alei Zion applied for membership in the Socialist International, asserting that the needs of the Jewish proletariat merited a special Jewish organization. Opposition to Zionism ran strong in the international socialist community, and labor and social Zionists found their successes in the Israeli kibbutz and labor movements. The Plough Woman (1931; rep. 2002) recorded the testimonies of female pioneers, such as Rachel *Katznelson-Shazar and Yael Gordon among many others, who were imbued with the socialist ideals that underpinned labor Zionism.

Because socialism was so intimately tied to immigrant labor, culture, and community life, post-World War ii suburbanization and upward mobility led to the decline of socialist activism among Jews, including women. An exception was the prominence of certain Jewish women activists in "Second Wave" feminism, which as a movement criticized society chiefly through the lens of gender. Individuals such as Clara Goodman Fraser, a Jewish feminist from East Los Angeles, believed that resolution of class conflict was necessary to ameliorate the condition of women in a patriarchal society. She combined socialism and feminism on behalf of the Freedom Socialist Party (fsp) and Radical Women (rw) throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In Latin America, many Jewish women, such as the socialist Alicia Portnoy, suffered as leftists under the Argentinean junta in the 1970s.

[Nancy Sinkoff (2nd ed.)]


E. Silberner, Western European Socialism and the Jewish Problem (1955), incl. bibl.; idem, Ha-Sozyalism ha-Ma'aravi u-She'elat ha-Yehudim… (1955); idem, in: hj, 15 (1953), 3–48; 16 (1954), 3–38; idem, in: huca, 24 (1953), 151–86; idem, in: jsos, 8 (1946), 245–66; 9 (1947), 339–62; idem, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 3 (1955); O. Bauer, Die Nationalitaetenfrage und die Sozialdemokratie (19242); G.D.H. Cole, A History of Socialist Thought, 5 vols. (1953–60), index; J. Braunthal In Search of the Millennium (1945); idem, Geschichte der Internationale, 2 vols. (1961–63); J. Joll, The Second International (1966); D.A. Chalmers, The Social Democratic Party of Germany (1964); E. Mendelsohn, Class Struggle in the Pale (1970); J.L.H. Keep, The Rise of Social Democracy in Russia (1963); K. Landauer, European Socialism: A History of Ideas and Movements from the Industrial Revolution to Hitler's Seizure of Power, 2 vols. (1959). in the u.s.: D. Bell, in: D.D. Egbert and S. Persons, Socialism and American Life, 2 vols. (1952), 215–425; A. Goren, New York Jews and the Quest for Community: The Kehillah Experiment 19081922 (1970), 186–96; A. Gorenstein (Goren), in: ajhsp, 50 (1960/61), 202–38; R. Rockaway, in: Detroit Historical Society, Bulletin (Nov. 1970), 4–9; D.A. Shannon, The Socialist Party of America (1955); J.S. Hertz, Di Yidishe Sotsialistishe Bavegung in Amerike (1954); R. Schwarz, in: Fraenkel (ed.), The Jews of Austria (1967), 445–66; M. Jarblum, The Socialist International and Zionism (1933). add. bibliography: socialism and women: H. Davis-Kram, "The Story of the Sisters of the Bund," in: Contemporary Jewry, 5:2 (1980), 7–43; P.S. Foner, Women and the American Labor Movement: From Colonial Times to the Eve of World War i (1979); S. Glenn, Daughters of the Shtetl: Life and Labor in the Immigrant Generation (1990; P.E. Hyman, Gender and Assimilation in Modern Jewish History (1995); N. Levin, Jewish Socialist Movements, 1877–1917 (1978); E. Mendelsohn, Class Struggle in the Pale: The Formative Years of the Jewish Workers' Movement in Tsarist Russia (1970); T. Michels, "Socialism and the Writing of American Jewish History: World of Our Fathers Revisited," in: American Jewish History, 88:4 (December 2000), 521–46; idem, "Socialism with a Jewish Face: The Origins of the Yiddish-Speaking Communist Movement in the United States, 190–1923," in: G. Estraikh and M. Krutikov (eds.), Yiddish and the Left (2001), 24–55; A. Orleck, Common Sense and a Little Fire: Women and Working-Class Politics in the United States, 1900–1965 (1995); G. Sorin, "Socialism," in: P.E. Hyman and D.D. Moore (eds.), Jewish Women in America (1997), 2:1269–73.


views updated May 14 2018


Eric D. Weitz

Socialism is a word that has inspired great hopes and dread fears. It became the preeminent ideology of the labor movement in the industrial age, even if it never won the majority support of workers, let alone the rest of the population. Amid the harsh realities of industrial society, when poverty and insecurity were often the fate of workers, when society seemed riven by intense class conflict and an obsession with productivity and material success, socialism's promise of a world infused with liberty, equality, and prosperity proved immensely appealing. Socialism gave to its largely working-class advocates an enhanced sense of identity as workers, the opportunity to improve themselves through education and political activity, organizations through which they could fight for their ideals, and associations in which they and their families could enjoy their leisure. In many countries in Europe, the socialist movement played the key role in establishing or widening the democratic system and contributed greatly to the expansion of the social welfare state. It promoted women's participation in politics and the economy and gave a more open and liberal tenor to society.

At the same time, socialists fostered the enhanced discipline and regulation of modern society, both through the expanded role of the state that most socialists demanded and through the ideal of the self-disciplined, dedicated, male socialist militant. Socialists were often blind to forms of oppression that were only partly rooted in the class character of industrial society. In the heyday of the socialist movement, roughly from 1880 to 1960, women were accorded secondary status and socialist parties rarely challenged the gender division of labor or even the overt discrimination against women in the labor market and in wage scales. Too often, the socialist movement degenerated into sterile controversies over what precisely constituted "true" socialism. Factionalism—one group leaving to form a new party, another group expelled by party leaders—became a fixed feature of modern socialism. In its worst forms, the belief that the future society would come about through armed revolution and a vigilant state resulted in authoritarian systems in central and eastern Europe that systematically violated democratic liberties and, at times in the Soviet Union, engaged in mass killings of defined population groups, all in the name of socialism.

Socialism has been most commonly studied from the standpoint of intellectual or political history. Social history has also made important contributions, by turning its attention to the movement's social composition and its significance for working-class life and culture. In their studies, social historians have examined the variety of social groups that were drawn into the movement—artisans in the utopian socialist phase, students, discontented professionals, and, certainly in some cases, peasants. The social history perspective has illuminated the fact that socialism has never been a purely working-class phenomenon, and it has helped to explain why the movement failed to attract some workers, such as British textile workers, long drawn to the Conservative Party. Social history has also sought to assess what socialism meant for the workers involved, both in terms of practical politics and individual and group identities. For many workers, socialism was a means of reinforcing their efforts to improve wages and working conditions—a view of the movement which tended to promote a revisionist, rather than a revolutionary, ideology. Others, however, found real meaning in socialist revolutionary ideology, which sustained them in agonizing work situations and motivated them for political action when they could find no other place within the existing political system.


The words "socialist" and "socialism" appeared first in German in the eighteenth century and have Latin roots. The immediate derivation of the words lay with the natural-rights philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, notably Hugo Grotius, Samuel Pufendorf, Thomas Hobbes, and Christian Wolff, who made "society" or the "social" an object of rational investigation and a source of sovereignty. The term "socialist" was first used as a pejorative, especially by Catholic philosophers who attacked natural-rights theorists as heretics. By the 1790s, "socialist" had become a more neutral term of description for them, chiefly for Pufendorf and his intellectual descendants. Often, they were called interchangeably "naturalists" or "socialists." In 1802 came the first recorded instance of the word "socialism," again in reference to Pufendorf and his teachings. Around the same time, the philosopher G. W. F. Hegel used the term "antisocialist," by which he meant, oddly enough, the same group of thinkers whom others had labeled socialist. For Hegel, natural-rights theory, especially in its French variants, was individualistic, hence antisocialist.

Into the 1830s, the terms were only common in the intellectual discourse of the very few members of the educated elite, especially in Germany and Italy. Conservative philosophers and theologians would continue to see a direct line of descent from Grotius, Pufendorf, and Hobbes and their concern with the social to the socialist thinkers and organizers of the modern period. But around the 1820s and 1830s, the meaning of the words became transfigured, and their usage became vastly broadened. The sources for the change were the French and industrial revolutions of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the great transformations that ushered in the modern era. Both revolutions gave an entirely new meaning to the social. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the word "social" conjured up images of masses in motion, the popular classes going to the barricades in Paris and Lyon or joining the revolutionary and Napoleonic armies as they crossed the Continent, spreading the ideas of liberty and fraternity. "Social" also signified the new factory system, with scores and hundreds of workers toiling away behind the gates in a factory and giving a new density to urban life. The "social question" emerged, signifying a new realization of the poverty and the dangers to the social order that industrialization brought in its wake.

"Utopian" socialists. For the first time in the 1820s, "socialist" was used self-consciously and in a positive sense by a political group, namely, the followers of Robert Owen in England. They seemed to have no knowledge of the word's usage in German, but obviously adopted it from the term "social," now widely current to designate both English versions of natural-rights theory and the entire complex of transformations associated with the French and industrial revolutions. In the 1840s Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would pin the term "utopian socialists" on the Owenists and their French and (a few) German counterparts, notably the writers, ideologues, and organizers Charles Fourier, Étienne Cabet, Flora Tristan, and Claude Henri de Saint-Simon and their followers. The term has stuck ever since, though not always with the disparaging sense used by Marx and Engels. These first socialists were by no means all alike; a number of them postulated ideas that definitely ran toward the wild (and sometimes endearing) end of the political spectrum. Fourier's belief that men and women in the future socialist society would live among oceans of lemonade is only one of the more bizarre examples.

Still, it is possible to identify certain common elements among the utopian socialists. All of them believed that industrialization had created a crisis in human existence that required radical solutions. As heirs of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, they believed that the new society could be created by self-conscious acts of will, by human beings, rational in nature, dissecting the problems around them and conceiving the correct course of action. In opposition to the conflict and anonymity of the new industrial society, people would live in small-scale, face-to-face, self-governed communities. Production would still be largely artisanal in nature (though Owen's communities were based on factories). The early socialists did, indeed, imagine their solutions to be utopian in the sense that they would solve for all eternity the problems of human existence. The mutual ownership of wealth would unleash great prosperity, precisely because wealth would not be squandered by the excesses of the few who could afford to indulge their whims and desires. Common ownership would also abolish the jealousies that arose from social inequalities, which had caused so much conflict and so many wars in all of past time. But the utopian socialists firmly believed that their promised society was not only about economics. It would also be about liberty and the creation of a true fraternity (and, in the minds of a few, like Tristan, a new sorority as well) that had been promised by the French Revolution but that had gone unfulfilled. Socialism would be the stage of the "loving and productive society," in the words of the Saint-Simonians. Warm and affectionate relations would emerge among people, perhaps underpinned by the recognition that their interests lay in harmony with one another. Artistry and innovation would flourish, and true liberty—self-government and individuality—would at last prevail.

A number of the utopian socialists also engaged in a radical critique of the patriarchal family and were among the first to articulate a call for the equality of women and men. A few of them, like Fourier, also envisaged more open and experimental sexual lives in their communities. Particularly in the sphere of family and gender relations, the utopian socialists promoted more diverse and radical ideas than the marxist parties and trade unions that came to dominate the socialist movement later in the century. In this sense, marxism, while playing a key role in the explosive growth of the movement, also represented a narrowing of the social critique and of the political possibilities represented by socialism.

Alongside the emancipatory strains, there was, no doubt, also a strong tenor of control and regulation in utopian socialism. The Owenite communities in Scotland and the United States, notably New Lanark and New Harmony, were carefully supervised by Owen, who was, after all, an industrialist, albeit an atypical one. The Icarian communities, founded by Cabet and his followers in France and the United States, were more completely collectivist than the Owenite ones, but by their very nature they too were not exactly amenable to expressions of individuality. Fourier thought each socialist community should house precisely 1,620 members.

But even organization and control could prove appealing to people whose lives were being battered by the advance of the market system and the factories. Both the timing and the message of the utopians held particular appeal for anxious urban craft workers. The utopian socialists began to attract popular support in Britain and France between the 1820s and 1840s, and somewhat less so, but also significantly, in Germany. They were tireless organizers and thereby helped create the pattern of ceaseless political activism that would be a major characteristic, for good and bad, of the socialist movement well into the twentieth century. Much of their energies (and resources) went into the establishment of model autonomous communities, which they believed would become replicated throughout society. Utopian socialists also engaged in political activism in the existing systems. Owen, Cabet, Tristan, Fourier, and others lectured, wrote pamphlets and books, and published newspapers. Their followers agitated around the country, distributing the printed word and learning to speak whenever an audience could be found. They formed the first trade unions and producer and consumer cooperatives in working-class communities. They helped generate the climate of opposition to the prevailing order that fed into the revolutions of 1848. The cause in 1848 was not theirs alone, by any means, but the early activists inserted a minority, socialist strain into the agitation surrounding the revolts that spread all over Europe.

These engagements generated intense hostility from the forces of order, governments, industrialists, and the churches. The dreary run of arrests, prison sentences, exile, and, sometimes, execution became a feature of the activist life. For the representatives of order, the utopian socialists represented dangerous, even perverse, ideas, and they went to great lengths to paint the socialists as destroyers not just of the political and social order but of the family and morality as well.

The marxian impulse. The utopian socialists suffered in the widespread repressions that followed the revolutions of 1848. But there were inherent weaknesses in their ideas that also contributed to their decline (though not disappearance) in the second half of the nineteenth century. The biggest problem was the small-scale orientation of utopian socialism at a time when industrial units were becoming ever larger and the wave of nationalism was superimposing national upon local and regional identities. By 1880 or so, utopian socialism seemed somewhat quaint, the product of an earlier, now largely surmounted, era. Marxian socialism could meld far more easily with nationalism than could utopian socialism. Moreover, the Owenite and Icarian communities suffered the fate of so many communal organizations that set themselves apart from society. A kind of sterile infighting set in, along with severe economic difficulties. A few of the communities would survive into the twentieth century, carrying along traces of their original egalitarian ideas. But almost no one could imagine them to be the pioneers of new forms of social and political organization.

Instead, over the course of the second half of the nineteenth century, the ideological direction shifted to marxism. One should not imagine that marxism became easily and completely the single or even dominant expression of socialism. Various strands of anarchism had strong followings, especially in the Mediterranean regions of Europe and in Russia. Moderate socialists, especially in Great Britain, explicitly rejected marxism. Even in Germany, syndicalist-type socialism, rooted in the trade unions and contemptuous of politics and the state, had significant support in particular regions and trades, notably in the Berlin construction trades, among others. The supporters of Marx and Engels fought long and hard in France and Russia to establish their own parties and their domination over other groups, and they were never completely successful. The majority of workers all across the Continent remained outside the socialist camp and affiliated with Catholic, conservative, or liberal parties.

Nonetheless, it was marxism that became the dominant ideology of the socialist labor movement. Marxism offered militants and workers a clear perspective on contemporary society and a sense of history. For those who engaged the ideas, even on a cursory level—and Engels's "Socialism, Utopian and Scientific," was probably the most accessible and widely read summation—marxism gave people an understanding of how capitalism had emerged and how it would be, inevitably, superseded. By accepting and even promoting industrialism and the nation-state and, at the same time, ruthlessly critiquing them, marxism accorded with the lived realities of many workers, who lived within these structures yet chafed at their oppressions. Marxism also promised, in essence, a developmental dictatorship to the more backward parts of Europe—that is, a system that would bring more underdeveloped areas into the era of the factory and the nation-state, and then would go beyond them.

Still, marxism retained many of the impulses of the utopian socialists who both preceded and were contemporaries of Marx and Engels. Like the utopians, marxism promised an end to history, a point at which all the bloody, ceaseless conflicts that had defined history would truly be surmounted. Society would be harmonious, egalitarian, and democratic. Self-government in a world of equality would create the substratum that would allow individuals to develop freely their own talents and interests. The clash between individual and society would be forever erased. And that essential contradiction of capitalism—social production coupled with private ownership of the means of production—would also be surmounted, leading to unparalleled riches for all.

Marxist arguments continued to appeal to many artisans, who, along with intellectuals, often provided the leadership for the political movements that resulted. (The German socialist leader August Bebel, for example, was from an artisanal background.) But the ideology and above all the strong emphasis on solid political organization also attracted factory workers and miners, many of whom, by the last third of the nineteenth century, became durable supporters. Finally, it was at this point that peasants in certain regions, because of tensions over landownership or traditions of regional dissent, moved toward socialist commitment. This was the case in the countryside around Bologna, Italy, for example, and also in southeastern France.


Marxism provided a heady vision, and it helps explain why a new surge of the socialist movement began in the 1860s and then took off, especially from the 1880s, and continued well into the twentieth century.

Organization and the movement before World War I. The socialist upsurge began more or less concomitantly in all the countries of central and western Europe and then spread more slowly into eastern Europe, where the economies were less developed and the political systems more repressive. The socialist upsurge did not occur easily, and it was not a simple creation of political ideologues. Socialism as a movement was shaped not just by the ideology of marxism but also and very profoundly by the proletarian milieu in which it was anchored.

Around the 1860s in central and western Europe, that milieu was still largely artisanal in nature despite the tremendous growth of factories. The first socialists tended not to be factory proletarians, those idealized by Marx, but skilled, male craft workers who labored in small shops, some of which they owned. They had not been subject to the difficulties of factory labor, but had very definitely felt their livelihoods and ways of life threatened by the advance of factory production and the capitalist market. Some of these people became the key rank-and-file militants of the socialist movement, those who spread the word, organized cooperatives and trade unions, and helped found, in the 1870s, the first marxian socialist parties that would last long into the twentieth century. Increasingly, they began to attract factory workers to their side as well, though many of those workers first entered the trade unions, especially when the so-called "new unionism" of the 1890s emerged, with mass unions in large-scale enterprises like the docks, coal mines, and steel factories. New unionism was clearly tied to the contemporaneous "second industrial revolution" based on very large-scale production and on the high technology of the day and typified by chemicals production, electric-power generation, steel manufacturing, and deep-shaft mining.

Germans succeeded in creating the largest socialist party in this era, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). This feat alone would warrant attention to the SPD. In addition, the SPD became the model party of the Second International, the association of socialist parties formed in 1889. Because of its size and ideological sophistication, and because, after all, Marx and Engels were German, the SPD was seen as their filial descendant.

Around 1900, the model socialist in Germany, as well as in Britain and soon also in Russia, was a male skilled worker, self-disciplined at work and at home and dedicated to the cause. In this period the "cradle-to-grave" concept—the notion that one would be involved in the party through the entire life course, and that the party would also take care of its members—became firmly ensconced. Children and youth would spend their free time in the libraries and clubs accommodated in union or party halls. They would distribute party leaflets and sell its newspapers on street corners. As apprentices, they would be prepared to enter the union along with learning a trade. As adults, they would distribute party writings; demonstrate in support of free suffrage, higher wages, and peace; wander to different localities and workplaces as agitators for the party; stand for election as union delegates; and, if they lived in a country where democratic norms prevailed, run for the local city council. They might also learn to administer the arcane rules of state-supervised health plans, or learn how to counsel workers to obtain their accident insurance or old-age pensions. Their free time might be spent in the socialist choir or bicycle club. After a Sunday outing with the family, they might retire to the party hall for beer and a hot meal.

The situation for women was more complex, and everywhere women were a distinct, and sometimes minute, proportion of the organized socialist movement. Despite the socialist call for equality between men and women, the male "family wage" had become a fairly common ideal in the socialist movement. By demanding that working-class families be able to live on male wage earning, the socialist parties absorbed the common dual-spheres rhetoric of the age, which charged women with maintaining and developing the domestic sphere. In this manner, socialism supported patriarchal power. Moreover, socialists were enamored with heavy metal, the coal and steel industries that were the very epitome of industrialism and that employed few female workers. Socialists could not imagine a movement that organized only textile and commercial food workers, sectors in which women were much more prevalent, let alone those in domestic service. Yet at the same time, socialists sought to organize women into the movement, most successfully when women were allowed to join separate female groups. Some women, like Clara Zetkin and Adelheid Popp, countered the intense male prejudice of the movement. Like male militants, they found in socialism a setting where they could develop their talents and interests and give meaning to their lives.

Socialism was never, then, simply a political movement. It became inscribed in the social and cultural life of workers and militants, male and female, in very profound ways. There were towns and neighborhoods in Germany, France, Britain, and Scandinavia that acquired a pronounced socialist tone by the time of World War I. Clearly, the movement itself depended upon the tight intertwining of workplace and community that marked the age of high industrialization. There were always competing and overlapping identities—of religion, region, gender, and nationality. But an identification with class was probably strongest in Europe between 1880 and 1960, when workers encountered one another in the factory, on the streetcar or train commuting to work, and on the sidewalks and in the courtyards and pubs of the neighborhood. Upon that social reality, socialism provided an added layer of identity, one that gave ideological meaning to the status of worker.

Farther east on the Continent, socialism was far less rooted in society, if for no other reason than that industry was much less developed. Still, significant socialist parties had emerged in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Poland, and Russia, and they too won at least a few pockets of support. The harshly repressive political conditions, especially in Russia, resulted in a more militant, still angrier tone to the socialist parties. Almost every leading socialist in the Russian Empire endured the horrendous conditions of tsarist prisons and Siberian exile. They had little opportunity and fewer resources to provide the recreational programs and representation that socialists gave to workers in the western countries. They also competed with more peasant-based parties that represented a nonmarxian, populist form of socialism. A more typical form of contact between socialist militants and regular workers in these areas was literacy groups, in which socialist militants, often intellectuals, strove to teach workers, many of them only weeks removed from the villages, to read, and thereby introduce them to socialist teachings. Surreptitious trade unions were another form of organization, as was the establishment of underground couriers, who would distribute pamphlets and other literature.

Sometimes the rigors of underground life brought out the worst aspects of conspiratorial mentalities—sterile ideological conflicts, authoritarian dealings with others, arrogant confidence in the righteousness of one's own cause, and acts of terror against opponents. Indeed, in his famous tract What Is to Be Done? (1902) Vladimir Ilich Lenin turned many of the aspects of party life specific to the authoritarian conditions of Russia into the model organizational form for all socialist parties. Lenin wrote rhapsodically about the most severe discipline and most complete devotion required of party members, who were to be professional revolutionaries. Going further than most contemporary socialists and sharply modifying standard marxism, Lenin also argued that workers would not automatically develop revolutionary class consciousness. Instead, the revolutionary socialist party had to bring class consciousness to the proletariat.

Lenin's views were by no means universally accepted even within the marxian wing of the Russian socialist movement. Nor were the conflicts restricted to the east. The socialist movement, always diverse, faced severe internal dissension in the two decades before World War I. The "revisionist controversy," begun in the 1890s, can be seen as the precursor to the great divide that would open up between socialists and communists in the wake of World War I. Initially fought out within the SPD, the conflict soon spilled over to the other member parties of the Second International. Eduard Bernstein, a leading figure in the SPD, argued that capitalism was not dividing into two classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, as Marx had predicted. Instead, the middle class was expanding. Socialist parties had to win the backing of the members of the middle class as well as proletarians if they were ever to come to power with majority support. Socialism would then be implemented gradually and democratically. An accumulation of reforms, not armed revolution, would create the socialist future. Bernstein was opposed by Karl Kautsky and Rosa Luxemburg, who would later have their own differences, but for a time at least were united in upholding the marxian orthodoxy of revolution against Bernstein's more accurate sociological analysis of capitalism.

Most socialist workers, it can safely be estimated, were closer to the revisionist than the revolutionary position. Despite all the fire and brimstone of marxian rhetoric, which the socialist parties happily reproduced, in Germany, France, Britain, and Scandinavia socialists were increasingly drawn into the administration of the state. If not at the very top levels, at least in the municipalities, welfare agencies, and state-supervised labor markets, socialists worked ardently to improve the daily existence of the working class. They had successes, and the revolutionary impulse waned, at least in central and western Europe. At the same time, in the years just before World War I, class conflict grew exceedingly intense. Strikes and demonstrations became ever more prevalent, inspiring great unease among the upper classes, great hopes among workers and socialist militants. Luxemburg gave voice to this view with her idealization of mass spontaneous strikes, which was based on her observations of the 1905 Revolution in the Russian Empire.

World War I and socialist movements. On the eve of World War I, socialism had become a powerful movement in many countries. As political and diplomatic tensions accelerated in Europe in the summer of 1914, socialists made concerted efforts to prevent the advent of war. In every country they held great rallies in favor of peace, and the national leaderships convened for deliberations under the rubric of the Second International. But the SPD, attracted by the force of nationalism, fearful of government repression and a Russian invasion, voted in support of war credits in the German parliament—in contradiction to the antiwar position that both the German party and the International had expressed for years. With very few exceptions, the other socialist parties followed suit. Contrary to long-held opinions, however, the most recent research has shown that workers did not all march enthusiastically off to war. The vote for war remained controversial among the rank and file, and many went off to war bitter at their own leaders and fearful of the realities of warfare.

World War I, the first total war in history, had unprecedented consequences for the working class and the socialist movement. As states directed resources, human and material, into the war-related industries, the working class became more concentrated in heavy industry and the more urbanized industrial areas. By and large, this was not the first time that women were drawn into the industrial labor force, as the most recent research has shown, revising another longstanding myth from the war era. But there were important sectoral shifts in women's labor, out of textiles, commercial food processing, and small-scale production generally and into the metalworking and munitions factories. Female workers were also becoming more highly skilled. The working class became more concentrated, accentuating those links between community and workplace, the sense of a common destiny, that underpinned the rise of the socialist movement.

This restructuring occurred in the midst of the enormously high death rate suffered by soldiers at the front and the intense losses and hardships endured by the population at home. Moreover, the state, since it had assumed such enormous powers during the war, became the object of hatred and the target of protests. With increasing breadth moving west to east across Europe, a chasm opened up between populations and governments and between workers and their socialist representatives who supported the war effort. In many places, notably the metalworking and munitions factories of Düsseldorf, Berlin, Turin, Petrograd, and elsewhere, incremental change seemed a rather unsatisfying program as food supplies and official rations plummeted, the number of working hours grew incessantly, and increasing numbers of soldiers never returned or came back physically and psychically wounded.

The result of popular discontent was a wave of strikes and revolutions on a scale not seen since 1848. Typically, strikes broke out first over wages and food rations. Workers were often able to extract concessions from employers and the state. Quickly, though, strikes became more overtly politicized as workers raised demands for an end to the war and for democratization. In Russia, the strikes in February 1917 led almost seamlessly to revolution when the troops began to follow the sentiments of workers, many of them female, and Tsar Nicholas II realized that he had virtually no support. Elsewhere, in Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, revolution would erupt more or less concurrently with the end of the war.

Two critical factors emerged out of this vast wave of popular protest. In the course of strikes and revolutions, workers invented the "council" ("soviet" in Russian), a democratic form of representation initiated in the workplace during mass demonstrations. Typically, at the end of a great rally workers would elect delegates to represent their interests to employers and the state. The councils from different factories in a city would convene and constitute the city council. Usually workers elected well-respected local leaders, shop stewards or other union representatives, to the councils, and most of those elected were members of one or another socialist party. The councils presented an often chaotic and confused form of governance and could not easily be assimilated into the existing state structure. Leon Trotsky famously labeled the situation in Russia between the February Revolution and the October Bolshevik Revolution as the period of dual power, when the executive of the councils and a more regular state ministry existed side by side. At first, the councils were rather submissive to the government, but in the course of the year they became far more assertive, and each body began jockeying for power.

However chaotic the situation, however unfulfilled the leaders' promises went, the councils represented the potential for a more democratic form of governance than that which prevailed both in the Soviet Union and in the West. The councils represented a distinctively twentieth-century model that emerged out of the disastrous conditions of war, out of the long-term process of capitalist development that concentrated a good segment of the working class in the heavy industries, and out of the decades of socialist organization that had intensified the sense of class identity and promoted the ideas of democracy and socialism as the solution to the travails of life under capitalism.

But the struggle over the councils, which lasted in many countries until 1921, also revealed the limits of socialism's democratic promise. Men were not the only workers who went out on strike, nor were strikes the only manifestation of workers' protests in the World War I era. Women initiated strikes in many factories, and they launched demonstrations and riots designed to force merchants and government officials to lower food prices. Yet all across Europe, women were forced out of the factories at war's end as the men returned from the front. Socialists, trade unionists, employers, government officials—all were united in the belief that men deserved priority in the job market. The vain, desperate search for a return to "normalcy" meant that women were to return to home and hearth and men were to regain their supposedly rightful place at the workbench. All of the politically active groups could envisage, with hopes or fears, depending on the perspective, a new order arising out of the workplace and the councils. None of them could imagine the contours of a future society based on female drill press operators or demonstrations and riots in the marketplace.

The Bolshevik Revolution. The second enormous consequence of World War I was the fatal, irreparable division of the labor movement into communist and socialist wings. The February Revolution that had toppled the tsarist system had inspired nearly universal support among socialists and great hopes for a future democratic Europe. The Bolshevik Revolution aroused almost immediate criticism, which became ever more fervent as the Bolsheviks undertook antidemocratic measures, such as dispersing the Constitutional Convention because Bolsheviks were in the minority of those elected to the body. When counterrevolutionaries launched a civil war that lasted from 1918 to 1920, the Bolsheviks responded with the organization of the Red Army and the open advocacy of terror against political opponents. To many Western socialists, the Bolsheviks merely mirrored the traditional authoritarianism and violence of tsarist Russia. "Russian conditions" became a watchword for avoiding experiments like the council system and a term that conjured up images of chaos, violence, and backwardness. A good deal of prejudice against Slavs, so deep that it approached a racialized hostility, was bound up with these views. To many well-schooled marxists, the Bolsheviks had violated the laws of history by trying to push Russia from its peasant-based underdevelopment to the socialist future without bothering to linger in the intermediary stage of bourgeois capitalism.

Yet to many workers and socialists, the Bolshevik Revolution became a great rallying point. After the long, dreary, miserable years of war, a war that so many socialist leaders had supported, the audacity of the Bolsheviks, their willingness to seize and defend power in the name of socialism and their unbridled opposition to the war, proved inspiring. The Bolsheviks promised the socialist future in the here and now, and that was enough for many people. Many of these hopes would be dashed over the course of time—the disillusionment with communism is a pronounced literary genre of the twentieth century, resulting in shelf loads of epochal novels and memoirs. Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon (1940) is simply one of the most famous, but it was hardly the first of its kind.

Nonetheless, communism would continue to draw powerful support, even in its most undemocratic, murderous periods under Joseph Stalin. Like the socialists before them, communists proved dedicated and tireless organizers. In particular neighborhoods and towns all over Europe—in Wales and Scotland, in Berlin, in the Paris suburbs, in Turin—communism became a part of everyday culture, structuring and giving meaning to the lives of its supporters. Despite a few lapses, notably the period of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact from 1939 to 1941, in the 1930s and 1940s communists proved the most consistent opponents of Nazism and fascism. Their prominent and effective roles in the resistance against German occupation led to the high tide of communism from around 1943 to 1956, when the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, revealed publicly the immense crimes of Stalin. In that same year, the televised images of Soviet tanks crushing the Hungarian revolt, combined with the impact of Khrushchev's revelations, destroyed for many people the allure of communism, although communist power remained in place for another thirty-five years.

Despite the virulence of the communist-socialist split and the growing competition from mass consumer culture, the 1920s were the high point of a specifically socialist culture in Great Britain and the German-speaking countries. "Red Vienna" became a model socialist municipality. Socialists implemented extensive social-welfare and cultural programs, organized giant festivities, and built well-run city housing for workers. On a smaller scale, similar programs were initiated in a number of German cities that had significant socialist representation in the municipal governments. Socialist ideals were woven through daily life, which also now became the object of discipline and reform by socialist leaders who found the unruly aspects of working-class life distasteful and an expression of the moral degeneration of life under capitalism.

The social democratic model. Socialist culture in central Europe was effectively quashed by the rise of Nazism. But in Sweden socialists came to power in the 1930s in alliance with the rural population and established a successful system that combined an extensive social welfare program with democratic participation. This was the archetypal social democratic model that, in one fashion or another, was followed by other socialist parties that came to power after World War II. Its attraction was so great that even conservative parties modeled some of their programs along similar lines, if only to outcompete their socialist rivals.

The success of the social democratic system went hand in hand with the decline of socialism and the working-class subculture that had sustained it. Socialists in central and western Europe were now deeply entwined with liberal capitalism. By the 1960s, the utopian impulse of socialism had all but disappeared. Socialism now meant trade union officials who negotiated wage increases and improved benefits and government leaders who raised old-age pensions. The progress here should not be underestimated. After the upheavals of two world wars, worldwide depression, and fascist violence, the postwar decades offered workers, for the first time, a measure of economic security and material improvement. Without the force of socialism, these improvements would never have occurred, certainly not on the scale that enabled workers, by the 1960s, to enjoy four-week vacations and the pleasures of the automobile.

Yet the mobility offered by the automobile symbolized the breakup of working-class communities. Since World War II capitalist expansion has displaced the once-tight linkages between residency and workplace. Highways, automobiles, and urban renewal dispersed working-class populations. Most recently, work itself has sometimes been dispersed into cyberspace by computers and all over the globe by the hyperactive mobility of capital. The influx into Europe from the late 1950s onward of large numbers of immigrants from Africa and Asia has sometimes made ethnic and national identities seem far more salient than class identities. Consumerism and mass, popular culture have provided alternative sites of leisure and entertainment and, most definitely, values different from those invoked by the socialist and communist parties.

Historians and sociologists continue to debate what socialism or communism meant to workers in affluent European consumer societies. Proclamations about the "end of ideology" in postwar Europe seemed premature. But it is true that the lives of workers moved beyond the confines of socialist organizations and that attention to consumer goals diluted political activism. These pressures pushed for greater pragmatism in socialist and communist parties alike.

Socialism, then, grew in tandem with industrialization and nation-building, two central features of Europe's modern epoch. Socialism's tide ran high in the period from roughly 1840 to 1960; its decline is symptomatic of Europe's move into a postmodern age. Work and workers remain, but a specifically socialist class consciousness is ever harder to find. Yet socialism's past provides a storehouse of democratic ideas and promises that may still find its advocates.

See alsoMarxism and Radical History (volume 1);The Welfare State; Communism (volume 2);Social Class; Artisans; Working Classes (in this volume);Gender and Work; Factory Work (volume 4); and other articles in this section.


Barclay, David E., and Eric D. Weitz, eds. Between Reform and Revolution: GermanSocialism and Communism from 1840 to 1990. New York, 1998.

Berlanstein, Lenard R., ed. Rethinking Labor History: Essays on Discourse and ClassAnalysis. Urbana, Ill., 1993.

Cole, G. D. H. The History of Socialist Thought. 5 vols. London, 1953–1960.

Daniel, Ute. The War from Within: German Working-Class Women in the First WorldWar. Translated by Margaret Ries. Oxford, 1997.

Eley, Geoff. "Reviewing the Socialist Tradition." In The Crisis of Socialism in Europe. Edited by Christiane Lemke and Gary Marks. Durham, N.C., 1992. Pages 21–60.

Frader, Laura L., and Sonya O. Rose, eds. Gender and Class in Modern Europe. Ithaca, N.Y., 1996.

Gruber, Helmut. Red Vienna: Experiment in Working-Class Culture, 1919–1934. New York, 1991.

Gruber, Helmut, and Pamela Graves, eds. Women and Socialism, Socialism andWomen. New York, 1998.

Hobsbawm, Eric. Workers: Worlds of Labor. New York, 1984.

Joll, James. The Second International, 1889–1914. Rev. ed. London, 1974.

Katznelson, Ira, and Aristide R. Zolberg, eds. Working-Class Formation: Nineteenth-Century Patterns in Western Europe and the United States. Princeton, N.J., 1986.

Kocka, Jürgen. Arbeitsverhältnisse und Arbeiterexistenzen: Grundlagen der Klassenbildung im 19. Jahrhundert. Bonn, Germany, 1990.

Kriegel, Annie. Le pain et les roses: Jalons pour une histoire des socialismes. Paris, 1968.

Lidtke, Vernon. The Alternative Culture: Socialist Labor in Imperial Germany. New York, 1985.

Lindemann, Albert S. A History of European Socialism. New Haven, Conn., and London, 1983.

Manuel, Frank E., and Fritzie P. Manuel. Utopian Thought in the Western World. Cambridge, Mass., 1979.

Maynes, Mary Jo. Taking the Hard Road: Life Course in French and German Workers'Autobiographies in the Era of Industrialization. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1995.

Moss, Bernard H. The Origins of the French Labor Movement, 1830–1914: TheSocialism of Skilled Workers. Berkeley, Calif., 1976.

Sassoon, Donald. One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in theTwentieth Century. New York, 1996.

Schieder, Wolfgang. "Sozialismus." In vol. 5 of Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland. Edited by Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, and Reinhard Koselleck. Stuttgart, Germany, 1984.

Taylor, Barbara. Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the NineteenthCentury. London, 1983.

Thompson, E. P. The Making of the English Working Class. New York, 1963.


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owen and owenism
fourier and fourierism
saint-simon and saint-simonism
karl marx
the development of late-nineteenth-century socialism
other varieties of later-nineteenth-century socialism

Although there were theoretically significant antecedents in both the utopian tradition associated with Sir Thomas More (Utopia, 1516), in which the holding of property in common is a central tenet; in certain strands of the republican tradition, where agrarian laws proposed the limitation of private property in land in particular; and in minor currents of debate during the French Revolutionary period, notably associated with Gracchus Baboeuf (1760–1797); European socialism proper commences with three main thinkers and the schools associated with them. In Britain, the Welsh industrialist Robert Owen is regarded as the founder of socialism, with the term gaining circulation from the late 1820s onward. In France, Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier commenced two socialist movements of note at about the same time. These movements were marginalized from 1848 onward by the growing influence of Karl Marx over European socialist thought, which eventuated by World War I, and notably the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, with the virtual eclipse of most other socialist alternatives. This article accordingly will survey the commencement and development of the main early socialist writers and offer an account of Marx's thought and the later Marxist movements, and some later non-Marxist socialists.

owen and owenism

Robert Owen (1771–1858) rose from humble origins to international fame as the manager of the New Lanark cotton mills south of Glasgow, whose management he assumed in 1800. Here, while Owen reaped a fortune through fine cotton-spinning, he improved working and living conditions for the workforce substantially. From his first substantial publication, A New View of Society(1813), Owen insisted on the malleability of human character, and its improvability, contingent on the reduction in poverty and temptations to crime and immorality. With the post-Napoleonic War economic slump, he turned from proposing wider but similar factory reforms to the problem of poverty as such, now urging the relocation of the urban poor in cooperative "villages" of around two thousand people each in the countryside, where labor would alternate between agriculture and manufactures, and the results would be shared in common. Initially termed "the social system," as opposed, by 1820, to the "individual system" of competition and "buying cheap and selling dear," this scheme was widely referred to as "socialism" by 1830. Owen attempted a number of practical communitarian ventures, notably at New Harmony, Indiana, in the mid- and late 1820s, and at Tytherly or Queenwood, Hampshire, in Britain, in the early 1840s. In these communities it was assumed that some exchange of aggregate social produce for greater free time would probably be agreed, such that needs would not expand indefinitely. It was also widely contended that traditional mechanisms of social coercion, such as the police, would be obviated by the improved moral behavior of the population, and the collective control that small communities could exert over their members. Neither these nor similar ventures proved successful, however.

Nonetheless Owenism both spawned a substantial social movement and produced a considerable body of theoretical literature. Its chief success socially lay in the creation—chiefly in London and the industrial districts, between 1835 and 1845—of an interlinked set of branches, whose aim was to raise funds to found a community, but which built "Halls of Science" for social and educational activities and by the early 1840s enjoyed audiences of some fifty thousand weekly. Its intellectual successes were primarily the work of three writers: George Mudie, the editor of the first Owenite journal of importance, The Economist (1821–1822); John Gray, author of A Lecture on Human Happiness (1825), The Social System (1831), and other works; and an Irish landowner, William Thompson, whose Inquiry Concerning the Distribution of Wealth (1824) and Labor Rewarded (1827) were the most astute engagements in early British socialism with the dominant school of liberal laissez-faire political economy. A later writer of note was John Francis Bray, author of Labour's Wrong and Labour's Remedy (1839). Collectively these writers disputed the inevitable tendency of capitalism to distribute wealth fairly, particularly to the laboring class. They contended that the market mechanism was prone to cyclical instability and fluctuations caused by overproduction and underconsumption, and by the early 1830s forecast increasingly severe crises induced by mechanization in particular. Early efforts to calculate the percentage of the value of the product received by the laborer, begun by the London doctor Charles Hall, were continued by the Owenites, and became central to the account of surplus value offered by Marx. Politically, most Owenites proposed democratic management of communitarian experiments but deferred to Owen's paternalistic leadership during much of the movement's history.

Owen himself preferred to avoid mechanisms of election and political contest, and proposed in his most mature formulation for social and political reorganization (The Book of the New Moral World, seven parts, 1836–1844) the future division of society into age groups, with each individual passing through an identical scheme of being educated, working, supervising others, governing the community, and negotiating relations with other communities. Owenism was also notable for its championing of women's rights in Britain, notably through the efforts of William Thompson and Anna Wheeler, whose Appeal on Behalf of One Half the Human Race was published in 1824.

fourier and fourierism

Like Owen, the French writer Charles Fourier (1772–1837) proposed a communitarian solution to poverty and the increasing competitiveness of liberal capitalist society, whose anarchic elements he had witnessed growing up in an affluent Lyon mercantile family. Like Owen, too, Fourier proposed to reorganize social thought into a new "social science" based on the law of "passionate attraction," which he assumed governed all material relations in the universe as well as human affairs. Fourier's communitarian ideal, which he called the "Phalanx" from about 1800, was however based on a much more radical view of the human passions, whose repression he condemned utterly. Instead, he assumed the community could both harmonize and satisfy human passions in a manner that promoted happiness while abolishing poverty. Fourier's main writings were the Theory of the Four Movements (1808), the Traité de l'association domestique-agricole (1821; Treaty of the domestic-agricultural association, 2 vols.), Le nouveau monde industriel et sociétaire (1829; The new industrial world and its members), and La fausse industrie (1835–1836; The false industry). His radical theories on sexuality and marriage, or "enslaved monogamy," which he proposed to abolish, and his urging of the necessity for universal sexual gratification, with a "Court of Love" supervising sexual relations, were regarded as overly controversial by his disciples and were suppressed. Fourier's account of commerce, like Owen's, focused on converting all forms of unproductive into productive labor by pooling resources communally and abolishing idleness. The system of "attractive association" was to be applied to work in order to release individual creative potential, and monotony was to be avoided by a scheme of rotation of up to eight tasks daily. The Phalanx was not designed to be completely communistic, and the product was to be divided into three parts: capital receiving four-twelfths, labor five-twelfths, and talent three-twelfths. The Fourierist movement spawned a number of communities in France and Britain, and rather more in the United States, notably during the 1840s. Fourier's chief disciple in France in this period was Victor-Prosper Considerant (1809–1893), while in the United States Albert Brisbane (1809–1890) proved an indefatigable interpreter.

saint-simon and saint-simonism

While both Owenism and Fourierism were communitarian in orientation, the third main strand of early-nineteenth-century European socialism, Saint-Simonism, was oriented toward alterations in the nation-state as a whole. Founded by Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon (1760–1825), a French aristocrat, the initial system was not socialist as such, but instead focused on the need for industrial reorganization. Saint-Simon coined the term industrialism to describe the progressive development of the modern economic system and its supplanting of earlier forms of both social and political organization, notably feudalism. In L'industrie (1816–1818) society is divided into three leading classes: scientists, writers, and artists; proprietors; and toilers. In the future, spiritual power was to be exercised by the first; temporal power, or control of the state, by the second; and the right of election by all workers. All useful workers were termed "industrialists" by Saint-Simon, who saw the postrevolutionary era as one of significant transition from a feudal or governmental regime to an industrial or administrative regime, where regulation of the process of production assumed primacy over the traditional mechanisms of regulating social behavior through politics. For Saint-Simon the future regime was to be meritocratic in the extreme, with a growing harmony of interests assumed between managers and the workforce. Politically, nations would offer economic "plans," but their development would be independent of national parliaments. Saint-Simon also proposed, in De la réorganisation de la société européenne (1814; Concerning the reorganization of European society), the reduction in influence of the European nation-state through a transnational European parliament composed of two houses.

Saint-Simon's most notable followers included his secretary, Auguste Comte (1798–1857), whose system, styled "positivism," was influential in the later nineteenth century, and a group of overtly socialist disciples, such as Olinde Rodrigue, Barthélemy-Prosper Enfantin, Philippe Buchez, Saint-Amand Bazard, Gustave d'Eichtal, and Michel Chevalier, who by the early 1830s had extended Saint-Simon's influence widely, even to Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) in Britain. Their leading manifesto, The Doctrine of Saint-Simon (1828–1829), urged greater equality for women, ease of divorce, expanded national education, and a remodeling of both the productive and banking systems. The Saint-Simonian philosophy of history, and assumption of the leading role to be played by the supervision of production by contrast to traditional forms of government, were taken up by Marx and Carlyle, among later writers.

Among other early French socialist writers of note, mention should be made of Étienne Cabet (1788–1856), whose Voyage en Icarie (1840) helped to produce a communitarian emigrant movement in the United States, and Louis Blanc (1811–1882), whose Organisation du travail (1840) helped influence debates about the relationship between the state and the economy following the Revolution of 1848, and who is regarded as among the founders of state socialism.

karl marx

Early German socialism prior to Marx produced several thinkers of note, particularly Wilhelm Weitling (1808–1871), author of Mankind as It Is and as It Ought to Be (1838) and Guarantees of Harmony and Freedom (1842), and Moses Hess (1812–1875). No German socialist writer, however, achieved the stature of Karl Marx (1818–1883). The son of a Jewish lawyer converted to Protestantism, Marx was born and raised in Trier, and attended university in Bonn and then Berlin, where he was deeply influenced by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831). Hegel's followers in the early 1840s were divided into the "Young" or "Left" Hegelians, who contended that the dialectical process of historical development implied the emergence of a successively progressive, democratic regime, and his more orthodox disciples, who supported the view that the existing Prussian state exemplified the highest development that reason or "spirit" could assume. Emigrating to the Rhineland in 1842, Marx fell under the influence of the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–1872), whose materialist account of religion as the projection of individual fears and desires led him to reject the Hegelian system. In 1844 in Paris, Marx converted to communism while applying the Feuerbachian scheme of alienation to his reading of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776). The "Paris Manuscripts," unpublished until the 1930s, offered an account of the varieties of alienation undergone by the working classes, and assumed as a central critical standpoint Feuerbach's theory that the "species being," or communal essence possessed by all, was eradicated by the egotistical and competitive nature of modern commercial society. Since alienated labor was for Marx founded in the institution of private property as such, only its abolition, or communism, would bring about the resumption of a "general human emancipation" and reinforcement of the sociable aspects of human nature.

Nonetheless this analysis was in turn superseded after Marx commenced an intellectual partnership with a young German merchant also recently converted to communism, Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), whose account of industrial conditions in Manchester, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, was published in 1845. Following their collaboration Marx and Engels agreed that any new critical system must be based on an amalgamation of the three most highly developed trends in European thought in the period, German philosophy, especially the critique of religion; French politics, in its revolutionary form; and British political economy, which provided the most incisive account of the actual workings of civil society. In the winter of 1845–1846 Marx and Engels wrote the work later published (but again not until the 1930s) as "The German Ideology," in which they now set aside as abstract the materialism of Feuerbach, and substituted instead the theory known as the "materialist conception of history." While much of Marx's energies at this point were devoted to distancing himself from his opponents on the left, notably Bruno Bauer (1809–1882) and the "True Socialists," attacked in The Holy Family (1845); the French mutualist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865), the target of The Poverty of Philosophy (1846); and the German individualist, Max Stirner (Johann Kaspar Schmidt; 1806–1856), the subject of the longest section of the "German Ideology"; the latter text also sets forth in outline the chief elements of what would later be regarded as the Marxian system. These consist, firstly, of a historical account of the succession of forms of property ownership from the earliest period to the present, in which three early types of ownership (tribal; ancient communal and state ownership, where slavery exists and private property begins; and feudal property) are succeeded by the emergence of the modern capitalist system of production; secondly, of the insistence on analyzing society

in terms of an economic "basis"—the mode of production or system of property ownership—from which is derived the system of social and political relations, law, religion, politics, and thought as well, which constitute the "superstructure" of society; and thirdly, of the description of the motive force of social development as the struggle between classes, with the contest between the wealthy bourgeoisie and the propertyless proletariat looming as the decisive moment of modern history.

In this account Marx and Engels thus finally disposed of the Hegelian idealist system as well as Feuerbach's nonhistorical materialism. Politically, they dismissed the existing state as merely an organizing committee for bourgeois industrial and commercial interests, assuming instead in a Saint-Simonian vein that the organization of production would take priority in the future society. In a famous passage that suggests that in communist society one might alternate between hunting, fishing, rearing cattle, and engaging in critical activity in the course of a day, there are also echoes of Fourier's scheme for rotation of tasks. Given the sparsity of references to such themes in the later works of Marx and Engels, doubts have been cast on the seriousness with which they may have been intended.

Nonetheless the single most famous exposition of Marx and Engels's social, political, and economic program, the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), certainly brings forward the leading themes of the "German Ideology." Commissioned by the leading revolutionary socialist organization of the period, the Communist League, the Manifesto describes the rise and development of the industrial proletariat, its growing poverty, the successive series of cyclical capitalist crises that further enrich the bourgeoisie, and the final crisis—then anticipated—in which the proletariat would seize power; establish a temporary "dictatorship of the proletariat" that would centralize the means of credit, communication, transportation, and production; and set in motion the eventual creation of the final stage of social development, "communist society." Marx's political thought remained relatively little developed, though during the Paris Commune (1870–1871) he suggested (in The CivilWars in France) that the form of government elected there corresponded to his notions of the "dictatorship of the proletariat." He has however been criticized for underestimating the force of nationalism in modern history.

Forced into exile in Britain, where he remained, often in poverty, for the rest of his life, Marx devoted most of his subsequent years to the analysis of the inner workings of the capitalist system, first in the Critique of Political Economy (1859), but most famously in Das Kapital, the first volume of which appeared in 1867, which offers an account of the generation of "surplus value" by way of assessing how the capitalist exploits the labor-power of the proletariat. In exile Marx was also active politically in the International Workingmen's Association, founded in London in 1864 but eventually dissolved following constant infighting with its anarchist members, led by one of Marx's leading critics, Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876), whose State and Anarchy (1873) lambasted Marx's supposed dictatorial tendencies. Engels's later writings include Anti-Dühring (1878), which moved the materialist conception of history closer to an orientation with the natural sciences, The Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), and a popular pamphlet, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880).

the development of late-nineteenth-century socialism

Between Marx's death and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 the most important working-class movement inspired by his ideas emerged in Germany. German Social Democracy made a number of substantial innovations to it, notably in proposing a nonviolent, electoral strategy as a strategy for achieving political power. Here Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–1864), its earliest leader, was chiefly instrumental in proposing a view of the state as a neutral agency capable of being utilized by a proletarian political party, though Marx rejected the party's program in the Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875). Lassalle's chief successor was Karl Kautsky (1854–1938), whose "revisionist" Marxism stressed both the need to await the ripening of material conditions and the possibility of using existing parliamentary institutions to introduce fundamental social and economic changes. Such views were supported by Eduard Bernstein (1850–1932), whose Evolutionary Socialism (1898) provided a restatement of the gradualist case. Bernstein also stressed the need for revision of Marx's account of capitalist crises, by emphasizing the increasing propensity of large-scale capitalist enterprises to stabilize in quasi-monopolistic forms. In How Is Scientific Socialism Possible (1901), Bernstein also broke from the argument that communism emerged inevitably out of the development of capitalism, describing it instead in quasi-moralistic terms as an ideal to be achieved. Such views, however, met with vehement opposition from the more revolutionary wing of the Social Democratic Party, notably Rosa Luxemburg (1870–1919), whose Social Reform or Revolution (1899) insisted on the necessity for a revolutionary commencement of the socialist regime. Luxemburg also stressed the growing internationalization of capitalism in the late nineteenth century, and its connections with imperialism, a thesis developed by New Liberal writers such as John Atkinson Hobson (1858–1940) as well as Marx's greatest Russian disciple, Vladimir Lenin (Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov; 1870–1924), who also provided a new account of the necessity for a vanguard of professional revolutionaries to introduce communism.

other varieties of later-nineteenth-century socialism

Although Marxism emerged ideologically as victorious over other competing forms of socialism in the early twentieth century, a much greater range of socialist doctrine and movement is evident in the later nineteenth century. Less powerful Marxist parties developed in other European nations in this period, and there were also a variety of contending forms of non-Marxian socialism. In France, the Parti Ouvrier emerged in 1875–1876 after the failure of the Commune and was led by Jules Guesde (1845–1922). In Britain, Henry Mayers Hyndman (1842–1921) founded the Democratic Federation in 1881, while William Morris (1834–1896) united the Romantic, creative, and aesthetic ideals of John Ruskin (1819–1900) to a more anti-authoritarian brand of socialist program described most successfully in his utopia, News from Nowhere (1890), and through his organization, the Socialist League. Morris also insisted on restricting heavy industry wherever possible and curbing the propensity toward centralization evident both in modern capitalist development and Marxian theory. A growing stress on the individual in British

socialism was shared by Edward Carpenter (1844–1929), author of Civilization: Its Cause and Cure (1889). Considerably more influential from a literary standpoint was Herbert George Wells (1866–1946), whose early dystopian satires gave way to a positive program of socialistic reform, partially outlined initially in A Modern Utopia (1905), and which brought him to associate with the Fabian socialists, notably Beatrice Webb (1858–1943), Sidney Webb (1859–1947), and George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950). The hallmark of Fabian socialism lay in its emphasis on gradual, incremental permeation of the political establishment and its reliance on the creation of an administrative, bureaucratic elite to oversee the development of a social reform program.

Throughout the nineteenth century, socialism also combined in various European countries with Christian reform doctrines and movements of varying types, producing a notable movement in Britain, linked to the cooperative movement between 1848 and 1854, and led by Frederick Denison Maurice (1805–1872). Land nationalization movements in various countries, such as that led in Britain by the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913), also contributed to the popularization of socialist ideals. A semiauthoritarian socialism indebted in part to Saint-Simon was popularized by Thomas Carlyle, whose Past and Present (1843) also promoted a philomedievalism of considerable influence later in the century. Among liberals, too, a group of reformers usually termed "New Liberals" emerged in late-nineteenth-century Britain, notably the economist and social theorist John Atkinson Hobson, author of The Evolution of Modern Capitalism (1894), Imperialism (1902), and other works. Distinctive to Hobson's views was an extension of the Ruskinian humanist critique of political economy, and the proposed development of a dual-sphere economy in which state-production would not supersede but operate alongside private enterprise. The growing tendency toward collectivism in British liberalism in this period was lent credence by the sympathetic treatment of socialism offered by the leading liberal philosopher and political economist of the period, John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), whose opposition to Marxian revolutionary socialism was nonetheless tempered by the proposal that capitalism might reach a "stationary state" where economic development could give way to a more qualitative emphasis on education and cultural activity. The growing trend toward statist intervention in most late-nineteenth-century European economies, however, was indebted to other factors besides the popular success of socialist agitation, including evangelical and philanthropical movements of humanitarian reform and the desire of authoritarian leaders to avoid greater socialist successes by introducing their own welfare measures (as in the case of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck).

See alsoBlanc, Louis; Capitalism; Class and Social Relations; Cooperative Movements; Industrial Revolution, First; Industrial Revolution, Second; Labor Movements; Liberalism; Owen, Robert; Strikes; Utopian Socialism.


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Gregory Claeys


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Socialism can be defined as a political ideology that endorses the equality of power. Socialists believe that the existence of unequal material relationships is evidence of unequal political and social power in any given society. The goals of all socialists are the same: collective living and working arrangements, equal distribution of wealth, and equality of power. The attainment of these goals would guarantee a moral human society with happiness, equality, brotherhood, and community as foundational values.

The methods used to attain these goals have differed according to unique historical circumstances. Some socialists have endorsed industrial efficiency, while others have argued for a return to a primitive, nonindustrial stage of human history. Additionally, certain socialists have valued organization, control, discipline, hierarchy, leadership by experts, compulsion, violent revolution, and messianic elitism over gradual change, democratism, and pacifism to develop a socialist society. Socialists have sometimes appealed to nationalism and patriotism to recruit supporters. Other times they have proposed a more cosmopolitan philosophy of human organization. The role of the state has often been at the heart of these contradictory approaches. Some socialist states have created dictatorial governments to destroy traditional society and replace it with a pseudosocialist one. Other socialist movements have called for the creation of a just welfare state to take the primary responsibility for providing adequate housing, health care, pensions, and unemployment benefits to all citizens. Alternately, Communists have worked to eradicate the state apparatus entirely, instead offering a purely democratic structure of power relationships.


The formulation of socialism as a political ideology occurred between 1815 (the end of the Napoleonic era) and 1848 (the publication year of Karl Marxs Communist Manifesto and a year of liberal, nationalist revolutions across Europe) as a particular response to the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. The French Revolution of 1789 began the slow destruction of the ancien régime in Western Europe and ushered in the modern period of liberal democracy and industrialization. During this process, the bourgeoisie replaced the aristocracy as the dominant social class, and as the abolition of serfdom swept across Europe during the Napoleonic Wars, European peasants left the villages and migrated to the cities to work in the new industries of the nineteenth century. The population of European cities exploded during this era of urbanization, and the new industrial working classes suffered tremendously from horrid living and working conditions.

The dual revolution, as the simultaneous liberal and industrial revolutions of the nineteenth century are called, created a social, political, and economic system that destroyed the traditional identities of Europeans, a system that had been founded on values of community, and instead legitimized an individualism that favored white, male property owners. The promotion of a minority of the European population at the expense of the workers, peasants, and women of all social classes angered socialist intellectuals, who criticized the failure of liberal democracy to extend fundamental human rights to all peoples. Though professing that liberalism would bring about progress in Europe through the destruction of legally defined social groups and the introduction of the right to vote, the right to free assembly, an end to censorship, equality before the law, social mobility, and economic freedom, socialists charged that liberal democracy merely created a new bourgeois-dominated social hierarchy that exploited the working classes for personal gain. They saw the liberal promise of economic freedom as a dangerous one because it guaranteed only workers rights to sell their labor to the highest bidder, and since wages in a capitalist system are tied to market forces, industrial society justified its exploitation of workers as being a kind of natural economic state. Socialists thus viewed liberal capitalism as an immoral system.

Liberal democracy and socialism in the nineteenth century were therefore antithetical: Whose rights should be protectedthose of the bourgeoisie to possess private property or those of the working classes against the vagrancies of capitalism? At the heart of this dispute were differing ideas of the intrinsic goodness and value of private property. Liberal capitalists viewed private property as the most sacred of all human rights, while socialists viewed it as the root of all evil in the modern world. Another controversial debate was the natural state of humanity: Is communal organization the foundation of natural law? Can and should we use some definition of natural law to judge existing social institutions? Early nineteenth-century socialists agreed with Enlightenment thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau (17121778), who argued that men are social by nature and naturally want to do and be good. Humanity therefore had the ability to return to this natural state through a process of purification. Rousseau also argued that the fall of humanity began with the introduction of private property.

Rousseau inspired the first French socialists, the egalitarians, who reacted violently to the fact that the French Revolution did not bring about social equality or abolish material wealth in the early nineteenth century. Egalitarians urged the people to seize power, do away with social hierarchy, and institute a commonwealth. They also advocated the use of terrorism to dispossess the wealthy and redistribute private property equally among all members of society. In this early stage of socialist development, the abolition of private property was not yet part of the political agenda and the goal was to end the misery of the poor. The egalitarians introduced the idea that the community was more valuable than individuals in isolation. Egalitarianism also endorses a pure democracy without party divisions. Service, devotion, and sacrifice for the sake of community were the hallmarks of egalitarianism.

Socialism took on a more organized form with the rise of utopianism in the 1830s. Charles Fourier (17721837), often referred to as the father of utopian socialism, argued that industrialization and liberal democracy did not constitute historical progress. He firmly placed the critique of bourgeois society in the greater context of the rise of the materialization of humankind. Bourgeois society, he argued, reflected a fundamental departure from the foundation of human social life. Fourier rejected the progressive function of industry and technology and instead advocated for the creation of communal organization based upon agricultural units he called phalanstères. Along with this rejection of industrial capitalism, Fourier demanded minimum public regulation of individuals and a maximum level of individual freedom. Total gender equality, guaranteed by the destruction of marriage as a social institution, was also a major component of his philosophy.

Fellow utopian socialist Henri de Saint-Simon (17601825) rejected Fouriers denunciation of industry and focused his critique of liberal capitalist society on increasing workers economic and political power, clearly defining socialism as an economic doctrine. Saint-Simon argued that order and efficiency were natural characteristics of humans. Since the interests of entrepreneurs and workers were identicalto increase political status through productivityhuman beings would naturally agree to a collective social and economic construction once they realized how profitable such an arrangement could be. Private property, Saint-Simonians charged, was therefore incompatible with the efficiency of the industrial system. By transferring private property to the state, which would be controlled by an association of workers, privileges of birth would disappear. Additionally, the banking system, acting as a social institution, would coordinate the economy for the entire society. Saint-Simon also advocated for female emancipation and special care for paupers and criminals, all of whom he considered to be victims of the immoral bourgeois capitalist state. These radical changes would allow for the moral regeneration of society to occur. Fouriers and Saint-Simons contradictory critiques of industrial society and visions of the future illuminated the controversial aspects of socialist thought in its early years.

The French utopian socialists greatly influenced German philosopher, historian, sociologist, and economist Karl Marx in the mid-nineteenth century. The Communist Manifesto, published by Marx and his partner Friedrich Engels in 1848, presented a theory of history in which an inevitable communist revolution led by industrial workers, the proletariat, would destroy bourgeois capitalist society. While utopian socialism in its various manifestations can loosely be defined as a worldview that promised individuals a full sense of belonging to a progressive communal society, Marxs Communist theory at this early point in his career outlined a specific path toward the attainment of this goal. Marx viewed the history of mankind as being propelled forward by class warfare. He argued that human beings identities are defined by their economic relationships to one another, not by religion or other social constructs. The dominant social class, therefore, uses its political and economic position to exploit the subordinate social classes. The struggle between social groups, and the revolutionary attempts of the subordinate classes to destroy the ruling class, is what moves history forward. He called this process dialectical materialism.

In the context of nineteenth-century European industrial society, Marx forecast that the industrial proletariat would overthrow the capitalist bourgeoisie and the revolutionary cycle would end because, for the first time in history, the revolutionary class would represent the majority of the population. The revolution, Marx predicted, would occur on a worldwide scale as members of the proletariat in every industrialized country would spontaneously revolt. Industry would quickly spread to nonindustrialized portions of the world and all societies would become one large workers paradise. In the process, nations would cease to exist as primary determiners of an individuals identity. The new communist system would guarantee total equality among all people through collective ownership of the means of production (such as land, machines, factories, tools, and animals), the abolition of private property, and collective living arrangements. The establishment of a complete democracy under such conditions would allow for the withering away of the state apparatus and the complete spiritual fulfillment of each individual.

The failure of the Paris Commune (1871) to install a socialist society in France prompted Marx to question this early assertion that a spontaneous and violent revolution was the only path toward socialism. In his later works, Marx tacitly acknowledged the possibility of a peaceful transition to socialism in those societies with mature democratic political systems. This move away from the notion that the excesses of liberal capitalism would naturally produce a proletariat revolution laid the foundation for democratic socialism to emerge as a Marxist political ideology in the late nineteenth century. This inconsistency in Marxs philosophy of revolution allowed future communists and social democrats alike to claim him as the founding father of their radically different processes of revolutionary change. However divergent in their methods, atheistic socialist revolutionary movements around the world shared a common belief in Marxs materialist interpretation of the human experience, one that charged religion with being the opiate of the people in the twentieth century.


Vladimir Ilyich Lenin led the worlds first socialist revolution in Russia in 1917. Lenin compromised the democratic foundation of Marxs vision by using dictatorial revolutionary tactics to destroy the Russian autocracy and establish socialism. Because Russia lacked the large industrial proletariat needed to complete the Communist revolution, Soviet leaders created a totalitarian version of socialism. Each individual was equally submissive to the dictatorstripped of basic human rights, controlled by secret police forces and spy networks, educated by socialist propaganda, and forced to conform to a new identity as a Soviet socialist citizen. With its focus on industrialization, Marxian socialism in the Soviet Union became an ideology of modernity instead of communism.

The Soviet revolutionary model was widely adopted around the world in the 1940s and 1950s. After World War II, Stalins takeover of Eastern Europe imposed Soviet communism there. In 1949, Mao Zedong led a nationalist and anti-imperialist Communist revolution in China where the peasantry, rather than the proletariat, was considered to be the revolutionary class. Maos socialist revolution was also a political and military struggle against imperialist powers (most notably Japan) instead of a Marxist class struggle. Guerrilla warfare, therefore, drove the revolution, rather than the organization of a labor movement or a political party. This pattern of socialist revolution was repeated in North Vietnam in 1954 by Ho Chi Minh. In both the Chinese and Vietnamese cases, the Soviet Union offered heavy support to the revolutionaries in order to extend its sphere of influence across Asia.

In 1959, Cuban leader Fidel Castro established the first socialist government in Latin America. Castros revolution, however, concerned itself more with the conquest of power than ideology. After a short period of euphoric hope that Latin America might be able to throw off imperialist control through the adoption of Castros socialism, many Latin American socialists in the 1960s and 1970s rejected his dictatorial model. They also repudiated Marxs atheism and used the power of their Catholic faith to fight against unjust socioeconomic structures. Liberation theology, as the movement was called, argued that the Churchs preferential treatment of the poor be involved in political struggles.

Socialism in Africa emerged after the exit of colonial powers in the 1960s. African socialists generally condemned capitalism and worked to protect human dignity, though their goals and methods varied from region to region. Africans desire to create a postcolonial national identity free from imperialist economic exploitation accounts for this variety.

Alternatively, revisionist socialists in Eastern and Western Europe in the 1950s and 1960s attempted to resurrect the social democratic foundation of Marxism. They rejected the Soviet dictatorial model of communism as well as the Western liberal capitalist model of modernity. Supporters of the New Left of the 1970s and 1980s dedicated themselves to establishing just social, economic, and political domestic and international structures. The fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s effectively destroyed the dictatorial socialist model in Europe, with most European countries working to develop liberal capitalist societies that guarantee freedoms and rights for all individuals.

SEE ALSO Capitalism; Castro, Fidel; Communism; Cuban Revolution; Egalitarianism; French Revolution; Left and Right; Lenin, Vladimir Ilitch; Liberalism; Marx, Karl; Marxism; Materialism; Minh, Ho Chi; Nationalism and Nationality; Patriotism; Peasantry; Philosophy, Political; Planning; Political Theory; Russian Revolution; Stalin, Joseph; Totalitarianism; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; Vietnam War; Welfare State


Blackburn, Robin, ed. 1991. After the Fall: The Failure of Communism and the Future of Socialism. New York: Verso.

Harrington, Michael. 1989. Socialism: Past and Future. New York: Arcade.

Howe, Irving, ed. 1986. Essential Works of Socialism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Kilroy-Silk, Robert. 1973. Socialism Since Marx. New York: Taplinger.

Lichtheim, George. 1970. A Short History of Socialism. New York: Praeger.

Radice, Giles. 1966. Democratic Socialism: A Short Survey. New York: Praeger.

Sassoon, Don. 1996. One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century. New York: New Press.

Ulam, Adam B. 1979. The Unfinished Revolution: Marxism and Communism in the Modern World. Boulder, CO.: Westview Press.

Tracey A. Pepper


views updated May 23 2018


Socialism had its roots in the social and economic changes wrought by the rapidly increasing industrial capitalism in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. As factory owners became increasingly wealthy and workers grew impoverished, many workers sought a more-collective and less-competitive organization of the means of production and distribution of goods. Whether grounded in the theories of Robert Owen (1771–1858), Charles Fourier (1772–1837), Karl Marx (1818–1883), or homegrown socialists, America in the period of 1870 to 1920 saw an increasing—and increasingly diverse—array of socialist movements, which strongly affected American politics, economics, and culture.


Friendship Community, Mississippi, 1872–1877 Bennett Cooperative Colony, Mississippi, 1873–1877

Social Freedom Community, Virginia, 1874–1880 Hays City Danish Colony, Kansas, 1877 Mutual Aid Community, Mississippi, 1883–1887 Kaweah Cooperative Commonwealth, California, 1885–1922

Cooperative Brotherhood, California, 1893–1898 Hiawatha Village Association, Michigan 1893–1896 Altruria, California, 1894–1895 Ruskin Cooperative Association, Tennessee, 1894–1899

Home Employment Cooperative Colony, Mississippi, 1894–1906

Christian Corporation, Nebraska, 1896–1897

Freedom Colony, Vermont 1897–1905

Equality, Washington, 1897–1907

Cooperative Brotherhood, Washington, 1898–1908

Ruskin Commonwealth, Georgia, 1899–1901

Friedheim, Virginia, 1899–1906

Niksur Cooperative Association, Minnesota, 1899–1899

Kinder Lou, Georgia, 1900–1901

Freeland Association, Washington, 1900–1906

Southern Cooperative Association, Florida, 1900–1904

Helicon Hall, New Jersey, 1906–1907

Fruit Crest, Missouri, 1911–1912

Llano del Rio Company, California, 1914–1918

Army of Industry, California, 1914–1918

Llano del Rio Company, Nevada, 1916–1918

Newllano Cooperative Colony, Louisiana, 1917–1938

Brian J. Berry, America's Utopian Experiments: Communal Havens from Long-Wave Crises, p. 165.


In October 1883 delegates from a number of American socialist groups, comprised mostly of recent immigrants, gathered in Pittsburgh to form the International Working People's Association (IWPA). Their "manifesto" proclaimed opposition to capitalism and promotion of Marxist revolution. Page Smith gauges the effects of the International Working People's Association, which he says did not result in a mass movement but did spread some of its ideas through the more radical elements of the labor movement (p. 234). In subsequent years the IWPA sponsored meetings and published journals. Less militant and radical was the International Workingmen's Association, formed in San Francisco in 1881 and devoted to education and self-help; they called for a "scientific system of governmental co-operation of the working-people" (Smith, p. 235).

In 1877 the Workingmen's Party changed its name to the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), and by the end of 1879 it had a membership of ten thousand people. The party's hopes quickly faded, however, as economic conditions improved; membership dipped to fifteen hundred in the early 1880s when the "Black International," the anarchist wing of the SLP, split off. Events of 1886, though, occasioned gains for the SLP, which supported Henry George for mayor of New York. His loss led to yet another split in 1888. Daniel De Leon reinvigorated the SLP, which through his efforts nominated a candidate for president in 1892 who received twenty-one thousand votes. Yet De Leon's leadership led to a split in 1899 when Morris Hillquit, Job Harriman, and Eugene V. Debs formed the Socialist Party. Debs, who had risen to prominence in the Pullman strike of 1894 and who helped form the Social Democratic Party in 1897, was the most popular of the Socialist Party leaders and its nominee for president most years from 1900 to 1920. He presided over what Daniel Bell in Marxian Socialism in the United States (1952) calls "the 'golden age' of American Socialism" (p. 55), 1902 through 1912. In Socialism and America (1977) Irving Howe says that Debs's brand of socialism was very attractive to many workers in that it offered solidarity and tolerance to a wide variety of groups, from strikers to farmers to miners (pp. 18–19). Debs's popularity as a presidential candidate is indicative of the Socialist Party's success in the first decades of the century: he received 96,000 votes in 1900; 402,000 in 1904; 875,000 in 1912; and even 920,000 in 1920 while in prison for sedition.

Having a more openly and concertedly socialist agenda than many other socialist organizations was the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, the "Wobblies"), founded in Chicago in 1905. Its members included the Western Federation of Miners and the more revolutionary elements of the labor movement and were led by William D. ("Big Bill") Haywood, Debs, Thomas J. Hagerty, and De Leon. The central purpose of the IWW was to unite all workers, skilled and unskilled; as Debs said at the founding convention, "Without solidarity nothing is possible . . . with it nothing is impossible." By 1906, however, the IWW was split between a faction focusing on unionism and one calling for more radical practices. This feud was compounded by events of 1905 and 1906, when Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg was assassinated by a bomb and Haywood and others were dragged to Idaho and tried. The Western Federation withdrew from the IWW, and subsequent conferences of the organization saw a decline in socialist involvement. Bell indicates that the IWW eventually became an organization of unskilled workers, a transformation completed in 1908 with the ouster of De Leon (p. 68). De Leon formed the Detroit faction of the IWW, while Haywood and Vincent St. John formed the Chicago IWW, promoting sabotage and other direct action.


Robert V. Hine outlines the various communitarian experiments of the last half of the nineteenth century and shows the rise of the Social Gospel and Christian socialism (Berry, p. 139). Brian J. Berry discusses the former movement as focused on planning as a means of social justice; its most prominent minister was Rev. Washington Gladden (1836–1918). In The Working People and Their Employers (1876) he summarizes his view of history as follows: "The subjugation of labor by capital is the first stage in the progress of industry; the second stage is the warfare between capital and labor; the third is the identification of labor and capital by some application of the principle of cooperation" (Cort, p. 227). Boston, the center of much Christian socialism, was the site of the founding of the Christian Labor Union in 1872 by Rev. Jesse James, who edited the monthly Equity from 1874 to 1875 and the LaborBalance from 1877 to 1879. The Christian Labor Union advocated mutual benefit societies, support of unions by churches, and an economic system based on labor. Other Christian organizations included the Society of Christian Socialists, which was founded in 1889 and which published the journal the Dawn from 1889 to 1896, and the Christian Social Union, which was founded in 1890. Another advocate of Christian socialism was Richard T. Ely (1854–1943), one of the leading economists of the period. A professor at Wisconsin and Johns Hopkins, Ely based his socialism, which included public ownership of monopolies, on the New Testament's emphasis on caring for the poor. The controversial (due to his views on sexuality) minister Edward Ellis edited the Christian Socialist from 1905 to 1922. He was, as John C. Cort says in Christian Socialism (1988), a major figure in Christian socialism, one whom the Socialist Party sponsored on a number of lecture tours (p. 241). Flourishing particularly during the Third Great Awakening of the 1890s, Christian socialism spawned a number of utopian communities across the nation—twenty-four in the period from 1875 to 1920. Secular communes also flourished during this period, connecting socialism to such diverse beliefs as free love, vegetarianism, spiritualism, feminism, and celibacy.

Utopian communities also arose out of the "Scientific Socialism" movement, particularly as responses to economic crises of the 1870s, 1890s, and 1907. For example, between 1893 and World War I twenty-one socialist communities were established, the most significant of which was likely the Ruskin Colony, founded in 1894 in Tennessee by Julius A. Wayland (1854–1912). Berry traces the development of the Ruskin Cooperative Association, which gave some Americans hopes that a viable communal life could be an answer to the growing problems of urbanization and industrialization. However, with an increased population, the usual quarrels and splits set in, and Ruskin ended in 1899. Berry speculates about "An Epidemic of Socialism?" and concludes: "Having rejected politics, government, and other institutions of society, many reformers adopted some form of cooperative organization as their instrument of change, with the hope that by forming one successful cooperative community they could begin the conversion of a troubled world. Each community viewed itself as instruments of broader social and economic change" (p. 161).

Henry George's Progress and Poverty (1879) argued that rent was the major cause of poverty. Daniel Bell summarizes George's proposal as based upon the concept that natural and social reasons were the basis of the value of land; therefore, no individual should profit from it. Instead, George favored a single tax as the land's full rental value, which he thought would lead to more productive use. George's single tax ideas, which can be traced back to Karl Marx and Frederick Engels's Communist Manifesto (1848), were popular during the turbulent 1880s. In 1886 the Central Labor Union of New York nominated George for mayor.

Incorporating the theories of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer into their mainly Marxist ideology, many evolutionary socialists of the period were faced with serious contradiction between progressive and revolutionary aims. Mark Pittenger says that "very few Gilded Age socialist evolutionists would join the Socialist Party after its founding" (p. 10). Into the twentieth century more vigorous debates over the possibility of reconciling socialism and evolutionism were held by A. M. Simons, Ernest Untermann, Arthur M. Lewis, and Robert Rives La Monte, whose scientific socialist theories were highly sophisticated (Pittenger, p. 11). For example, Lewis, working-class and self-educated, wrote several volumes—most notably Evolution Social and Organic (1908)—that popularized the idea that the sciences could be effectively used by socialists. Pittenger indicates that Lewis's significance resulted from his effectiveness in conveying complex socialist theories to the working classes (p. 143).


Much of the socialist theories were disseminated by the plethora of newspapers and magazines devoted to the cause. The Massachusetts Episcopalian minister W. D. P. Bliss became interested in the publications of the British Fabians and formed the Fabian Society of Boston and its magazine the American Fabian in 1895. In it Bliss called for a league of Fabian Societies, which, as Howard H. Quint says in The Forging of American Socialism (1953), aimed to bring together those socialists committed to gradualism, forming a genuinely American version of socialism (p. 121). The journal continued until 1900, directed mainly at the middle class. One of the most effective socialist propagandists was Julius Augustus Wayland, "the One Hoss Editor." Through his weekly newspapers, the Coming Nation (Greensburg, Indiana, and Ruskin, Tennessee) and Appeal to Reason (Girard, Kansas), Wayland gained a national audience from the 1890s until his death in 1919. In them Wayland promoted what Quint calls "grass roots socialism," which was generally unconcerned with theoretical consistency but was persuasive in spreading the doctrine of the cooperative commonwealth (p. 209). Also influential was the Masses, which, according to Christine Stansell in American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century (2000), blended socialism with the ideas of the bohemian avant-garde of Greenwich Village (p. 166). Beginning in 1911 under the editor Piet Vlag, the journal was a conventional socialist outlet until Max Eastman took over in 1912, when it became more of a feminist and modernist magazine, though retaining its leftist politics, which led to its suppression by the postal authorities in 1917. Summing up these developments, Morris Hillquit's History of Socialism in the United States (1903) aimed to provide a thorough and complete account of the rise of socialism in the nineteenth century and its place in turn-of-the-century America.

The IWW published six newspapers, the most enduring of which were Solidarity (1909–1917) and the Industrial Worker (1909–1913). Wobbly songs, gathered in the Little Red Songbook: Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent (1909), also helped to popularize the organization. The songwriter Joe Hill (born Joseph Emmanuel Haaglund) was the most famous of the Wobbly singers from the time of his immigration in 1902 until his controversial execution in Utah in 1915. Called "the hobo's poet laureate," Hill promoted through his verse the IWW's call for solidarity and direct action. One of the most visible of the IWW's literary enterprises was the 7 June 1913 Paterson Strike Pageant, organized by Haywood along with Mabel Dodge, John Reed, Walter Lippman, and Joan Sloan. The pageant, held to support and help striking workers in the Paterson, New Jersey, textile mills, included poems, songs, essays, and dramatic performances. According to Martin Green in New York 1913: The Armory Show and the Paterson Strike Pageant, the participants "had cast a new truth and a strong demand in the teeth of Manhattan: a truth of class conflict and a demand for radical change, which contradicted the pleasant half-truths of the politicians, theaters, and newspapers of the establishment" (p. 203).

Perhaps the most influential socialist work of the period is Edward Bellamy's (1850–1898) utopian fantasy Looking Backward 2000–1887 (1888), which presents an essentially socialist—though Bellamy terms it "nationalist"—vision of the future. His narrator, Julian West, falls into a coma in 1887 and awakes in 2000. Guided by Dr. Leete, West learns that the trusts have been consolidated and nationalized and the "national organization of labor under one direction" (p. 57) has solved the labor problems of the nineteenth century. Every citizen has a period of "industrial service" from age twenty-one to forty-five. What the service is depends on "natural endowments," but the administration constantly seeks to equalize the trades and insure that all work is equivalent. In addition to his portrayal of the utopia, Bellamy, through his narrator's recollections, gives a thorough critique of the social ills of 1880s America.

Other writers also promoted socialism through utopian novels. William Dean Howells's (1837–1920) A Traveler from Altruria (1894) is structured around conversations among the narrator and others with Mr. Homos, an Altrurian whose socialist utopia is sharply contrasted with conditions in America. Mr. Homos tells the others, "We have found that it is human nature to work cheerfully, willingly, eagerly, at the tasks which all share for the supply of common necessities. . . . It is nowise possible for the individual to separate his good from the common good" (pp. 196–197). Howells's more conventional novels Annie Kilburn (1889) and A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890) also take up socialist themes. In the former the title character works to implement a Social Union for factory workers, whereas the latter portrays the socialist Lindau and the violence of a strike by streetcar workers. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's (1860–1935) Herland (1915) depicts a feminist utopia, where children are raised and educated by experts in early childhood development, particular talents are channeled into occupations best suited for them, and they live together communally without private property. In her earlier Women and Economics (1898) Gilman insisted that "the economic progress of the race, its maintenance at any period, its continued advance, involve the collective activities of all trades, crafts, arts, manufactures, inventions, discoveries, and all the civil and military institutions that go to maintain them" (p. 8).

In his chapter "The Philomaths" (a club), Jack London presents a sustained argument between the "Plutocrats," primarily Colonel Van Gilbert and Mr. Wickson, and London's hero, Ernest Everhard. The following is Everhard's final response.

It is true that you have read history aright. It is true that labor has from the beginning of history been in the dirt. And it is equally true that so long as you and yours and those that come after you have power, that labor shall remain in the dirt. I agree with you. I agree with all that you have said. Power will be the arbiter, as it always has been the arbiter. It is a struggle of classes. Just as your class dragged down the old feudal nobility, so it shall be dragged down by my class, the working class. If you will read your biology and your sociology as clearly as you do your history, you will see that this end I have described is inevitable. It does not matter it is in one year, ten, or a thousand–your class shall be dragged down. And it shall be done by power. We of the labor hosts have conned that word over till our minds are all a-tingle with it. Power.

London, The Iron Heel, p. 54.

Socialism is a prevalent theme in much of Jack London's (1876–1915) writing but is perhaps most fully represented in The Iron Heel (1908), a futuristic projection of the conflicts between the socialists and the capitalists beginning in 1912. The novel's hero is Ernest Everhard, a London-like philosopher and author of Working-Class Philosopher. Besides arguing against the Plutocracy (bankers and corporate heads) with textbook Marxist theory, Everhard leads two revolts against the Oligarchy, whose Iron Heel mercilessly crushes the revolutionaries. A longtime member of the Socialist Labor Party, London nevertheless had a strained relationship with it. In his resignation letter of 1916, he complains that the party has lost its "fire and fight," while London "believed that the working class, by fighting, by never . . . making terms with the enemy, could emancipate itself " (Letters, p. 1538).

Like The Iron Heel, Upton Sinclair's (1878–1968) The Jungle (1906) ruthlessly exposes the abuses workers were subjected to under the capitalist system. Sinclair details the life of stockyard worker Jurgis Rudkus, who experiences all of the effects of poverty, degradation, and despair, finding in the end hope through socialism.

See alsoAnarchism; The Jungle; Labor; Poverty


Primary Works

Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward 2000–1887. 1887. New York: New American Library, 1966.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland and Selected Stories. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1992.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Women and Economics. 1898. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

Howells, William Dean. A Traveler from Altruria. 1894. New York: Hill and Wang, 1957.

London, Jack. The Iron Heel. 1904. Ware, Hertfordshire, U.K.: Wordsworth Editions, 1966.

London, Jack. The Letters of Jack London. 3 vols. Edited by Earle Labor, Robert C. Leitz III, and Milo I. Shepard. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1988.

Secondary Works

Bell, Daniel. Marxian Socialism in the United States. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996.

Berry, Brian J. America's Utopian Experiments: Communal Havens from Long-Wave Crises. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1992.

Chambers, John Whiteclay, II. The Tyranny of Change: America in the Progressive Era. 1992. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

Cort, John C. Christian Socialism. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1988.

Ginger, Ray. Age of Excess: The United States from 1877 to 1914. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Green, Martin. New York 1913: The Armory Show and the Paterson Strike Pageant. New York: Scribners, 1988.

Herreshoff, David. Origins of American Marxism. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1967.

Howe, Irving. Socialism and America. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1977.

Johnson, Oakley C. Marxism in United States History before the Russian Revolution (1876–1917). New York: Humanities Press, 1974.

Jones, Howard Mumford. The Age of Energy: Varieties of American Experience, 1865–1915. New York: Viking, 1971.

Painter, Nell. Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877–1919. New York: Norton, 1987.

Pittenger, Mark. American Socialists and Evolutionary Thought, 1870–1920. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993.

Quint, Howard H. The Forging of American Socialism: Origins of the Modern Movement. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1953.

Smith, Page. The Rise of Industrial America: A People's History of the Post-Reconstruction Era. 1984. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.

Stansell, Christine. American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000.

John Samson


views updated Jun 27 2018


Socialism has been one of the most popular political ideas in history, rivaling in some ways even the great religions. By the late 1970s, a mere 150 years from the time the term socialism was coined, roughly 60 percent of the world population was living under governments that called themselves "socialist," although these varied widely in their institutions and were often violently at odds with one another.

Socialism drew impetus from the rise of industry in Europe in the nineteenth century. The new wealth generated by new methods of production encouraged the belief that now it would be possible to assure a comfortable standard of living for every member of society. The uneven distribution of this new wealth was seen to pose ethical questions that were less often asked about long-entrenched class disparities prevalent in the countryside. Socialism was seen by many of its advocates as not only an ethical but also a scientific response to these new circumstances. Drawing on the Enlightenment critique of religion, socialism offered an image of the ideal life as something to be achieved in the here and now rather than in the great beyond.

Five Types of Socialism

The myriad forms of socialism that were actually put into practice might be grouped into five broad categories: communism, social democracy, Third World socialism, fascism, and communal socialism. (There were others, such as anarcho-syndicalism, that remained forever in the realm of speculative thought.) Each of these five requires a note of explication.

In the early decades of socialist thought the terms socialism and communism were often used interchangeably, and while some writers attempted to define the distinction between the two, no such distinction ever achieved widespread acceptance. When Vladimir Ilich Lenin (1870–1924) led his group of Bolsheviks to power in Russia in 1917, he announced that they would henceforth call themselves communists. Until then, they had been merely the bolshevik (meaning majority) segment of Russia's Social-Democratic movement. (This had been a single party, at least formally, until 1912, when Lenin's faction announced it was a party in itself. Still they were all social democrats.)

In the years following 1917, as parties modeled after Lenin's appeared in dozens of countries, a clear distinction emerged between social democracy and communism. There were countless points of dispute and differences, but probably the most profound was that social democrats sought parliamentary means to power and adhered to the principle that political systems should have multiple parties, whereas communists envisioned a revolutionary path to power and believed that communist parties, as the only true representatives of the working class, were the only legitimate ones. This made for such a wide gulf that thereafter social democrats never called themselves communists, and communists never called themselves social democrats. The distinction, however, continued to be clouded by the fact that both sides claimed the term socialism for themselves. Thus the country Lenin created was called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and at the same time the international federation that brought together the world's social democratic parties (the British Labour Party, the German Social Democrats, etc.) called itself the Socialist International.

Third World socialism is a loose category comprising "African socialism," "Arab socialism," and various cognate forms that appeared elsewhere in poorer countries after World War II. These were usually dictatorial in their political practice (although not in all cases: India offers a dramatic counterexample), but rarely was the state as all controlling as in communist systems. Some of these states (for example, Tanzania under Julius Nyerere [1922–1999]) elaborated complex blueprints of economic development, whereas in others "socialism" probably served as little more than a popular label for a hodgepodge of policies of a military dictator or a rationalization for strengthening the power of the central government (for example, Somalia under Mohammed Siad Barre [c. 1919–1995]).

To include fascism as a subset of socialism invites controversy because fascist movements often made their appeal on the promise to protect society from socialists or communists, because they were almost always part of the Right (whatever that may mean) rather than the Left, and because their inclusion may be taken as a polemical device to tar socialism with the odium attached to fascism. Yet the historical basis for their inclusion is strong. Adolf Hitler's party called itself National Socialist (as did some similar groupings in other countries, such as Hungary, some of which thought up the name independently of, and even prior to, Hitler). In Italy, Benito Mussolini formed his fascist movement as a leftist pro-war breakaway from the Socialist Party, of which he was a top leader. Each of these movements attempted to retain some of the elements of socialism while substituting the nation (or in Hitler's case the German volk) for the working class that had been seen as the main engine and beneficiary of socialism in traditional theory. Once in power, both Mussolini's party and Hitler's continued to preserve some of the accouterments of their socialist heritage. Mussolini himself probably captured best the relationship between these isms when he declared that fascism was a "heresy" of socialism, suggesting something that had sprung from the same premise but turned to challenge some of socialism's integral tenets.

Communal socialists differ from all the others in that they do not focus on trying to gain power (whether by vote or violence) in order to establish a socialist system over an entire country. Rather they are groups of individuals whose primary goal is to live a socialist life themselves by organizing communities operating on socialist principles. (No doubt many commune members also hope that their example might inspire emulation.) Usually such communities have numbered a few hundred members, although some have measured only in the tens and others in the low thousands. In the United States, a few hundred such societies were founded over the course of the nineteenth century, some by people whose driving belief was socialism, per se, others by devotees of religious sects, such as Shakers, for whom sharing property was but a facet of their sense of spirituality. Israeli kibbutzim are another important example of this form.

Historical Origins

Except for the communal, all of these forms grew from the same acorn: the French Revolution of 1789, with its ethos of "liberty, equality, fraternity." Although the Revolution itself did not aim for socialism, and although the term socialism was not coined until decades later, it was in pursuit of this inspiring triad of goals that socialism came to be conceived and then popularized. How can there be equality, it was asked, with vast disparities between rich and poor? How can there be brotherhood in a context of heartless economic competition? How can there be liberty if most people are enslaved to material necessity?

These questions presented themselves with greater urgency as the Industrial Revolution took hold. Although the poor of the factories were not poorer than the poor of the farms, their poverty, concentrated in urban slums, was more visible. Moreover, the Industrial Revolution entailed new ills such as industrial accidents and work environments devastating to human health. The labor of young children in factories offered a spectacle more heartbreaking than work of children on farms, which seemed a natural part of rural life from time immemorial.

The solution, it was argued, was to be found in collective ownership of property and the egalitarian distribution of the goods of society. These twin principles were to remain at the heart of socialism, although each of them, as well as many lesser points of doctrine, were to be disputed, refined, and amended repeatedly. Collective ownership in an individual commune was easy to envision. Collective ownership of the economic assets of an entire society was more difficult to conceptualize. It might mean ownership by the central government, but in other versions it might mean something less centralized—for example, that individual enterprises would be owned by the people who worked in them or by local communities. Egalitarian distribution did not necessarily mean exactly equal shares. The most fetching socialist slogan was "from each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs," which implied a measure of inequality but raised the question of how such needs would be determined. In Israeli kibbutzim, one place where an earnest effort was made to implement this principle, special committees existed to which kibbutz members could bring their special needs or abilities (a medical condition, an artistic calling, a family emergency abroad that required travel, and the like), and these committees were empowered to distribute resources accordingly.

Relation to Science and Technology

The connection between socialism and science originates in the claim of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), the most influential of all socialist thinkers, to have discovered "scientific socialism." By this they meant to distinguish themselves from such early-nineteenth- (or in a few cases, late-eighteenth-) century visionaries as Henri de Saint-Simon (1760–1825), Robert Owen (1771–1858), Charles Fourier (1772–1837), and Étienne Cabet (1788–1856), who had inspired the founding of various communes. Marx and Engels ridiculed the idea that a group of individuals could move the world toward socialism by creating model communities to demonstrate socialism's benefits. They saw this as naive because they doubted that political forms or even political ideas emerged simply from the free play of the human mind. To believe this, they said, is to be "utopian."

This term utopian itself is misleading because Marx and Engels were not objecting to the fancifulness of some of the early socialist visions. (Fourier's socialism, for example, envisioned that lions and whales would be tamed so as to free humans from physical labor and that each citizen would be entitled not only to a "social minimum" of economic rewards but also a "sexual minimum" of carnal satisfaction.) The fleeting glimpses Marx and Engels offered of life under socialism were pretty idyllic in themselves: People would do only those activities that they find intrinsically gratifying, say, hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon, writing poetry in the evening. Rather, what Marx and Engels found unrealistic, hence "utopian," about the earlier thinkers were their ideas about how socialism could be brought about. "Life is not determined by consciousness but consciousness by life," they wrote (The German Ideology part 1A,1845).

What they meant by this was that socialism could not come about until the objective conditions—which meant a certain level of wealth and technology—were right. Nor would it be brought about by individuals who happened upon the idea of socialism through reading or contemplation; rather its engineers would be people impelled to fight for socialism by the very conditions of their daily lives. Specifically, they held that socialism had not been possible in rural society but that the advent of industrialization laid open a new era. For one thing, the new technologies generated unprecedented abundance, making it possible for every member of society to enjoy a high standard of living. (Of course, what seemed a high standard in 1850 would be considered quite low by twenty-first-century standards, a wry comment perhaps on the elasticity of human need.) Moreover, the character of industrial production, depending on highly collective human effort, was conducive to collective ownership, making socialism a natural choice.

For the first time, because of this change, socialism had become a realistic possibility. Indeed its appearance had become likely, perhaps even inevitable. This was because industrialization brought the flowering of capitalism. Capitalist competition forced manufacturers to cut costs, including labor costs, thus driving down rates of pay. As a result, the very individuals whose sweat was providing the new abundance were left with too little income to share in it themselves. Eventually, driven in part by a sense of injustice but even more by the whip of destitution, they would rise up to abolish the system of private capitalism and replace it with socialism. This would not be because anyone had persuaded or taught them to do so but because bitter circumstances would impel them to do it.

In sum, Marx and Engels believed that they had discovered the processes that drive social and political change, and that these were rooted in the march of technology rather than in anything as arbitrary as individual will or cognition. They believed that this revelation of the laws of social evolution was analogous to the recent sensational revelation of the principle of the evolution of species. As Engels put it in his graveside eulogy to Marx in 1883: "Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history."

Relation to Science and Ethics

Science, itself, as it is now understood, was not as clearly demarcated in their time, and from the perspective of the early twenty-first century it is easy to see the flaws in Marx and Engels's claims to science. To start with, they did an injustice to those they invidiously compared to themselves as "utopian." Owen among others also considered himself a man of science. Like Marx and Engels, Owen sought to draw generalizations about human behavior from his observations. His most cherished belief was that persons' characters are formed by the circumstances of their lives rather than by inner moral convictions or any other factors that they can control themselves. This notion, that one's thoughts and actions are shaped by forces larger than oneself, is very akin to Marx and Engels's central scientific claim and anticipated them by a full generation.

Moreover, in their approach to socialism, a good case can be made that the "utopians" were more scientific than Marx and Engels. Having hit on the idea that socialism would furnish a cure for society's ills, they set out to demonstrate its efficacy by attempting socialist experiments. Insofar as experimentation lies at the heart of the scientific method, the "utopians" were more genuinely "scientific socialists" than Marx and Engels, who discounted any such attempt. The latter duo claimed they could see where history was heading, but it is hard to imagine how this counts as more scientific than any other exercise in prophecy.

Beyond the absence of experimental method, Marx and Engels never stated any testable proposition nor did they betray any doubts inspired by the failure of specific details of their prophesies. Tellingly, they never treated their own forecasts as if they did amount to "science," at least as the term has come to be understood. As the decades passed they poured forth an endless stream of commentary, much of it arresting, on unfolding political events. But they rarely displayed any sense of needing to examine whether and in what way these new events comported with their larger theories. That is, they conducted themselves as what today are sometimes called "public intellectuals" or as activists, not as people who thought of themselves as scientists.

Still, it is difficult to dismiss Marx and Engels's claim to "science" without conceding that their method of attempting to distill systematic generalizations from the study of contemporary history constitutes a main building block of contemporary social science. There may be room to debate about how "scientific" social science is, falling as short as it does from the methodological rigor of "hard science," but insofar as its scientific legitimacy is accepted, then Marx and Engels must be given credit as pioneers, however imperfect their methodology.

In terms of its relationship to ethics, socialism presents an ambiguous picture. By claiming that they were doing no more than divining historical laws that showed that socialism was due to triumph, Marx and Engels shifted the argument in favor of socialism from the realm of "ought" to "is" (or, more precisely, to "will be"). And they specifically denied the possibility of absolute or universal moral principles, as opposed to principles that merely served the interests of a particular class. "Law, morality, religion are to [the proletarian] so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests," wrote Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto (1848).

At the same time, it would be hard to deny that the force of Marx and Engels's indictment of capitalism is the sense of moral indignation that flows through it. Despite their own militant atheism, they decried capitalism as a system under which "all that is holy is profaned." A similar ambiguity can be found in various non-Marxist socialists. To take Owen, his fervent assertions that people's characters were molded for them seemed to negate any sense of moral responsibility. Yet he was very interested in discovering methods to mold characters to some kind of proper moral standard. He was for this reason a pioneer in early childhood education, and the organization of his followers in the 1830s called itself the Society for the New Moral World.

Owen, like Marx and Engels, was a vituperative opponent of revealed religion. (They called it an "opiate"; he called it one of the "three great evils" afflicting humanity.) In contrast, however, there have always been some religious socialists. As already mentioned, various socialist communes rested on religious bases, and a broader movement of Christian socialism made a strong appearance during the twentieth century. These adherents saw socialism as an expression of the biblical precept to love thy neighbor as thyself and of the Christian emphasis on spiritual rather than material values.

This points toward another aspect of the ambiguity of the relationship between socialism and ethics. On the one hand, socialist ideas aim to create a society that will fulfill certain moral goals, such as liberty, equality, and brotherhood. On the other hand, the emphasis on politics and policy has meant that many socialists have made little use of traditional notions of individual moral agency. The socialists who have most fully avoided this dilemma are the communal socialists who aim to carry out socialism in their own lives rather than to engineer larger political changes.

Their great emphasis on improving the world through political and economic changes rather than uplifting individual behavior has also brought socialists into a fraught confrontation with the question of whether, or to what extent, ends justify means. In the main, communists (as well, of course, as fascists, if one counts them under the socialist umbrella) have been ruthless in their means and ruthless in justifying this. As Leon Trotsky (1879–1940) once put it: "Only that which prepares the complete and final overthrow of imperialist bestiality is moral, and nothing else. The welfare of the revolution—that is the supreme law!" ("The Moralists and Sycophants Against Marxism," essay in his Their Morals and Ours [1936])

Social democrats and other noncommunist socialists have ordinarily rejected such claims, and they have often chastised the communists on moral grounds for their deceptive or violent tactics. Yet the force of such condemnations in intrasocialist debates was often vitiated by the emphasis on social change as the preeminent path to improving the world. If social change bulks so much larger than individual behavior, then might not unsavory tactics be justified in pursuit of the necessary policies?

The Legacy of Socialism

By the twenty-first century, much of the body of socialism has wasted away. Fascism, if it ever deserved to be counted here, is little more than a grim memory—although the term continues to be applied to various violent authoritarian movements. Communism has disappeared from the large majority of once-communist states. The remaining communist states all seem either to be following China in gradually shedding their distinctly communist features or to be living on borrowed time, awaiting the demise of a powerful dictator. Communal socialist societies are few and far between. Even their most triumphant exemplars, the kibbutzim, have mostly transformed themselves into miniature market economies.

What remains strong, however, is the legacy of social democracy. Social democratic parties justly claim most of the credit for various forms of worker protection and a wide variety of services and benefits that every developed democratic society provides. And these parties continue as powerful forces throughout the democratic world. None of them aim any longer to displace capitalism; rather their program is to continue to tame or modify it. Although markets have, to most minds, proven their superiority over the socialist dream of "economic planning," there still are social values—protection of the weak or of the environment or the provision of certain public services, for example—that unfettered markets do not serve. Social democracy has found an enduring niche as the advocate of these values—which have been put into practice through such programs as social security and socialized medicine.

If this is a dilute residue of socialism, so, too, do the scientific and ethical issues that have long surrounded socialism endure in dilute form. Contemporary protests against "globalization" echo earlier ones against capitalism itself. While there are few remaining believers in "scientific socialism" or in Marx and Engels's economic determinism, the question of the degree to which individual behavior should be attributed to free will as opposed to external or biological influences continues to be hotly debated in such policy areas as criminal justice and the rights of homosexuals. And the deep discourse over whether it is more efficacious to improve society by uplifting individuals or to improve individuals by reforming the society seems certain to endure.


SEE ALSO Arendt, Hannah;Communism;Critical Social Theory;Fascism;Marxism;Marx, Karl;Mondragón Cooperative Corporation;Morris, William.


Harrington, Michael. (1970). Socialism. New York: Bantam. A brief for socialism by the leading American socialist writer of the late twentieth century, who was both a social democrat and a Marxist.

Kolakowski, Leszek. (1978). Main Currents of Marxism, trans. P. S. Falla. 3 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press. A comprehensive account of the many varieties of thought flowing from socialism's most influential thinker. Includes also Marx's antecedents.

Lichtheim, George. (1970). A Short History of Socialism. New York: Praeger. A concise history of Western socialism by a leading European intellectual of socialist bent.

Muravchik, Joshua. (2002). Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. San Francisco: Encounter Books. An overview history of socialism in all its forms told through biographical sketches of its key figures.


views updated May 21 2018


This entry is concerned with "socialism" from the time at which, so far as anyone knows, the word was first used in print to describe a view of what human society should be like. This was in 1827, in the English Co-operative Magazine, a periodical aimed at expounding and furthering the views of Robert Owen of New Lanark, generally regarded as the father and founder of the cooperative movement. (Owenite cooperation, incidentally, was an institution different from, and far more idealistic than, the distributive stores which in the Victorian age took over the name.) Some historians have traced the ancestry of socialism much further back: For example, to primitive communist societies, to the Jesuits of Paraguay, to the ideal communities described by Thomas More and others, to the Diggers of Cromwell's army, and even to Plato's Republic. Although there are elements of socialism to be found in all these, particularly in More's Utopia, the scope of this article is limited to socialism in modern times and to the sense in which the word is normally used, omitting both distant possible origins and, of course, bastard movements such as the National Socialism (Nazism) of twentieth-century Germany and Austria which, save for the bare fact that they enforced central control of social policy, had nothing of socialism in them.

Origin of Socialism

The seedbed of socialism, as of so much else in modern thought, was the French Revolution and the revolutionary French thinkers who preceded itVoltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the Encyclopedists. Rousseau was no socialist, but from his cornucopia of seminal though sometimes unclear and inconsistent thought socialists drew the ideas of people born free but everywhere in chains, of a "general will" making for perfection in society, of the importance of education, and a host of others. From the Encyclopedists they learned to question all institutions in the light of reason and justice, and even from "Gracchus" Babeuf to demand equality for the downtrodden and to seek it by means of dedicated conspirators. Owen himself was no revolutionary; insofar as his ideas can be traced to anyone but himself, they probably came from early reading of the William Godwin who wrote Political Justice ; Owen envisaged a society consisting of small, self-governing, cooperating communities, established by the free and rational consent of all, of whatever class or station. Originally, the word socialism appears to have laid particular emphasis on communal cooperation in contrast to the more-or-less liberalism that was coming to be the creed of the industrial revolutionhence Owen's rather contemptuous dismissal of Jeremy Bentham and the utilitarians. The idea of socialism came rapidly to fit the aspirations of the working classes and their radical champions not only in its country of origin but far beyond it.

Socialist Tenets

Since its beginnings in the early 1800s, a period that has seen vast changes not merely in the industrial and political organization of society but also in people's minds, their modes of thought, and their interpretation both of themselves and of what they have seen around them, "socialism" has naturally borne many meanings, and dozens of views have been held and expressed about the form of society that socialists hope to see and about the means by which it should be attained and secured. Long before Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels introduced the great schism between what they called utopian and scientific socialism, there were wide differences of opinion; and the differences are no less wide today. George Bernard Shaw, for example, in The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism, laid down absolute equality of money incomes as a sine qua nona dictum accepted by few of his fellow socialists, and not by Shaw himself in any practical sense. There are many other definitions that could be quoted. Nevertheless, the word is certainly not meaningless. It describes a living thing that grows and changes as it lives; and it is possible to discern certain beliefs that are fundamental to all who can be called socialists, as well as to note the divergences in what may be called secondary beliefs and to relate these, in part at least, to the conditions of the time.

critique of existing society

The first of the fundamental beliefs of socialists is that the existing system of society and its institutions should be condemned as unjust, as morally unsound. The institutions that are thus condemned vary from time to time and from place to place according to circumstances, the greatest stress being laid sometimes on landlordism, sometimes on factory industry, on the churches, the law, or the political government, or a combination of these (as William Cobbett, in an earlier century, denounced "The Thing"), depending on what seems to be the most potent engine or engines of oppression. This condemnation may be associated with the values of revealed religion, as in the case of the various forms of Christian socialism, or may positively repudiate those values, as Marx did; in either case the emphasis is on injustice. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's dictum, "Property is theft," expresses this condemnation most concisely.

Many socialist movements, such as the Saint-Simonians in the 1830s and the Fabians half a century later, attacked the existing system for its economic and social inefficiency as well; but this criticism was less fundamental. Socialists such as François Marie Charles Fourier in France and William Morris in England laid much more stress on freedom, happiness, and beauty than on material wealth. Even the economists among them, however, long asserted that granted decent (that is, socialist) distribution of the product of industry and agriculture, there would easily be "enough to go round" and to provide everyone with a standard of living recognized to be reasonable. By the mid-twentieth century the enormous multiplication of potential demand, coupled with realization of the existence of hundreds of millions living far below European standards of life, had referred that type of prophecy to the far-distant future.

a new and better society

The second fundamental of socialism is the belief that there can be created a different form of society with different institutions, based on moral values, which will tend to improve humankind instead of, as now, to corrupt it. Since it is living men who are to create the new institutionsmen who must, therefore, recognize and follow the appeal of moral valuethis belief is in effect an assertion of the perfectibility, or at least near-perfectibility, of man. It was most dogmatically stated by Owen, in books such as A New View of Society ; and the history of socialism shows that it can survive innumerable disappointments. It is not the same as a belief in "progress," which has been held by many who were not socialists; it is more like Magna est veritas et praevalebit ("The truth is great and will prevail")truth being here equated with justice.

Does justice, in social institutions, imply equality? Does it also imply democracy? For socialists, the answer to both these questions has generally been positive but the answer has not been absolute. Equality of rightsyes; equality before the lawyes, again. We have already observed, however, that complete equality of income was not a universal socialist tenet; and from the very earliest days there were sharp differences among socialists on the relationship between work and income. On the dictum "From each according to his ability" they more or less agreed. But some added "to each according to his needs"; others countered with "to each according to his effortor his product." This debate, in which sides were taken, on the whole, in accordance with the temperament and/or environment of the individual and in which many intermediate positions were adopted, remained unresolved throughout the history of socialismnot surprisingly, since the problem of controlling the level of incomes has defeated all except completely static societies. On the question of democracy, again, the great majority of socialists have been democrats in the ordinarily accepted sense of the word. But some rejected any formal democratic process in favor of a communal consensus resembling the Quaker "sense of the meeting" (or Rousseau's general will). Owen, in practice, was an autocratic egalitarian; and post-Marxist socialism has evolved a procedure known as democratic centralism, which bears little relation to what any pre-Marxist would recognize as democracy.

Deep differences arose early on the kind of institution which would be best suited for a world devoted to justice. There was one main difference at first: Some put their faith in small communities of neighbors, as far as possible self-sufficient, cooperating freely with other similar communities in such functions as exchange of goods, and relying to the minimum on any regional or central authority for such necessities as defense and the supply of credit; others looked rather to a development of science, technology, and large-scale industrial production and banking to increase rapidly the supply of material goods and thereby the prosperity of a socialist economy through centralized planning techniques. Of these two schoolswhose views have necessarily been greatly simplified for the compass of this articlethe first, or "utopian," is best known from the writings of Owen, Fourier, and Proudhon, and the second, or "scientific," from those of the Comte de Saint-Simon and his followers. The first clearly derived from rural society: Owen's villages of cooperation and Fourier's phalansteries were based upon small-scale agriculture, with such industrial and craft production as could conveniently be carried on in villages or small communities. This was the kind of society envisaged, much later, in William Morris's News from Nowhere ; and much later still, there were curious echoes of it in V. I. Lenin's dreams of cheap electricity transforming the life of the Russian peasantry and even in the Chinese "great leap forward," with a piece of factory in every backyard.

The weakness of this school is that its fear of size, of external authority, and of the apparatus of the state and of central government, whatever concessions it may in theory make to "natural necessities," such as the conduct of a national railway system, are liable to lead in practice as well as in theory to anarchism and the repudiation of any government at allwhich in the modern world means chaos. The second school, that of large-scale production and planning, was, from the beginning, in harmony with the way the world was tending. Its dangers are today only too obvious, and the recurrent malaise of large-scale industry in times of prosperity, the demands for "shares in control," and the like, show the vacuum created by the nonfulfillment of the utopian ideals of a just society.


Whatever form of institution the several schools of socialism envisaged for the future, all agreed that what was required was a fundamental transformation of society amounting to revolution, a program of action to effect such a transformation, and a revolutionary will so to transform it existing in the members of present-day society. This is the third fundamental socialist assumption; how it is to be put into effect has been the subject of much division of opinion. As socialism was generally believed to have a strong rational basis, it was natural that all schools of socialists should set great store by education, persuasion, and propaganda; Owen, indeed, carried the trust in rationality so far that he could not believe that anyone, whatever his condition or his preconceived opinions, could fail to be converted by "Mr. Owen's powers of persuasion," if only Mr. Owen could employ them sufficiently often and at sufficient length. Others, less confident, sought to achieve their end by preaching to and working upon groups already conditioned by the circumstances of their working lives to accept the whole or a part of the socialist gospelthe most obvious of these being, of course, the trade unions and other organizations of the working class. In this spirit Marx looked upon the British trade unions that supported the International Working Men's Association (the "First International") as "a lever for the proletarian revolution." Strikes, threats of strikes, and other forms of what much later came to be known as "direct action," supplemented persuasion by inducing the ruling classes to make concessions which could not otherwise have been wrung from them.

The practicability, either of persuasion or of group action, depended very largely on the political conditions of time and place. And although there was a running argument between gradualists, who believed that revolutionary change could be brought about peacefully and piecemeal, and revolutionaries, who thought head-on collision between the holders of power and their victims was inevitable in the long run if not immediately, the difference was not as absolute as was often supposed. In Britain, after the defeat of Chartism had registered the end of insurrectionism in any form, after the press had been freed and the franchise widened, the organizations of the working class leaned to peaceful evolution far more than to violencethe "inevitability of gradualism" was an accepted belief long before Sidney Webb put it into words in the 1920s. In tsarist Russia, at the other extreme, a generally authoritarian government, operating a police state, appeared to bar the door to anything but physical revolution. There were many possible in-between positions; and the role of the convinced individual socialist varied similarly, from that of open persuader, adviser, and organizer, like Keir Hardie at the end of the nineteenth century, to that of secret conspirator, like Auguste Blanqui in France after 1848 and organizers of communist cells in the twentieth century.


One other characteristic should briefly be mentioned. Socialism was initially a world philosophy, not concerning itself with race or nation, not advocating the brotherhood of man so much as assuming it. The opening of the Communist Manifesto, "Workers of the world, unite," crystallized this into words; the nationalism of Poles, Irish, Italians, Hungarians, was only an aspect of the struggle against corrupt institutions. Later, of course, nationalism grew so strong that it clashed, sometimes violently, with other fundamentals of socialism; nevertheless, the idea remained potent for generations, and it may still be suggested that socialist movements that have become exclusively nationalist have ceased to be socialist at all.

Marxian Socialism

The Communist Manifesto marks a great divide between pre-Marxian and post-Marxian socialism. Marx and Engels dismissed all their predecessors as utopians and formulated a system of socialism that they claimed was "scientific." There is no room here to expound Marxist philosophy or Marxist economics; but it must be pointed out that neither "utopian" nor "scientific" is an accurate description. Marxist socialism accepted the fundamentals as set out above; it differed from most of its forerunners in that it did not, save in a few very vague allusions, seek to describe the new, uncorrupt institutions that would appear after the revolution; it assumedand what could be more utopian?that after the proletariat had conquered, it would make all anew and "the government of man be replaced by the administration of things."

"Scientific," in Marxist language, meant not so much acceptance of technology and large-scale productionalthough this was includedas the proving, by logical argument and study of history, of two quite simple propositions: First, that under the existing capitalist system, the proletariat, the laboring class, is systematically and continuously robbed of its just share of the fruits of production; second, that "changes in the modes of production and exchange," and not any other factor, such as "man's insight into eternal truth and justice," are leading inevitably to a reversal of the system that will remove the bourgeois capitalist class from the seats of power and replace it by the organs of the proletariat. This is the base on which the whole enormous superstructure of Marxism is founded; it is not science, but messianic prophecy. It is easy to understand, however, the compelling effect that this fundamentally simple appeal had to the downtrodden at various times and in various places. At the same time, Marx's powerful and penetrating analysis, which discredited a great deal of current economic and historical theory, profoundly attracted many of the best brains among those who were dissatisfied with the human results of the existing system, and the teaching of the Marxists that morality in action was relative to the needs of the time, even if slightly inconsistent with their denunciation, on grounds of injustice, of slavery and wage slavery, gave their followers both the inspiration of those who were fighting a continuing battle and the sanction to use any and every method that could advance their cause. Marx did not invent the conception of classes, but Marxists fought the class war.

The work of Marx and Engels has had as great and lasting an effect on the thinking of non-Marxists, particularly after the Russian Revolution, as has that of Sigmund Freud on non-Freudians. This entry cannot deal with the developments in socialist thought, Marxist or non-Marxist, in the post-Marxian era. These are of enormous importance for the study of history and present-day politics; but they are concerned principally with method and strategy. The fundamental tenets of socialism as a view of society have remained substantially unaltered, although the process of translating them has been far more lengthy and complicated than the nineteenth century ever foresaw.

See also Anarchism; Bentham, Jeremy; Communism; Encyclopédie; Engels, Friedrich; Fourier, François Marie Charles; Freud, Sigmund; Godwin, William; Justice; Lenin, Vladimir Il'ich; Marx, Karl; Marxist Philosophy; More, Thomas; Plato; Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph; Rousseau, Jean-Jacques; Saint-Simon, Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de; Utilitarianism; Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet de.


By far the most complete work on socialism is G. D. H. Cole, History of Socialist Thought. 7 vols. (London, 19531960), last volume published posthumously. Each volume except the last has a full bibliography for every chapter.

Earlier books are Max Beer, History of British Socialism (London: G. Bell, 1929); Édouard Dolléans, Histoire du mouvement ouvrier, 2 vols. (Paris: A. Colin, 19361939); Sir Alexander Gray, The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin (London: Longmans, Green, 1946); Élie Halévy, Histoire du socialisme européen (Paris: Gallimard, 1948); Thomas Kirkup, History of Socialism, rev. ed. by E. R. Pease (London: A. and C. Black, 1913); H. W. Laidler, Social Economic Movements (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1944), first issued as History of Socialist Thought (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1927); and Paul Louis, Histoire du socialisme en France, rev. ed. (Paris, 1950).

For documents, see Raymond Postgate, Revolution from 1789 to 1906, reissued, with a new introduction (Gloucester, MA: P. Smith, 1969).

Margaret Cole (1967)

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