Socialism Paper

This essay has a total of 4187 words and 21 pages.



The term socialism is commonly used to refer both to an ideology--a
comprehensive set of beliefs or ideas about the nature of human society and its
future desirable state--and to a state of society based on that ideology.
Socialists have always claimed to stand above all for the values of equality,
social justice, cooperation, progress, and individual freedom and happiness, and
they have generally sought to realize these values by the abolition of the
private-enterprise economy (see CAPITALISM) and its replacement by "public
ownership," a system of social or state control over production and distribution.
Methods of transformation advocated by socialists range from constitutional
change to violent revolution.


Some scholars believe that the basic principles of socialism were derived from
the philosophy of Plato, the teachings of the Hebrew prophets, and some parts of
the New Testament (the Sermon on the Mount, for example). Modern socialist
ideology, however, is essentially a joint product of the 1789 French Revolution
and the Industrial Revolution in England--the word socialist first occurred in
an English journal in 1827. These two great historical events, establishing
democratic government in France and the conditions for vast future economic
expansion in England, also engendered a state of incipient conflict between the
property owners (the bourgeoisie) and the growing class of industrial workers;
socialists have since been striving to eliminate or at least mitigate this
conflict. The first socialist movement emerged in France after the Revolution
and was led by Francois BABEUF, Filippo Buonarrotti (1761-1837), and Louis
Auguste BLANQUI; Babeuf's revolt of 1796 was a failure. Other early socialist
thinkers, such as the comte de SAINT-SIMON, Charles FOURIER, and Etienne CABET
in France and Robert OWEN and William Thompson (c.1785-1833) in England,
believed in the possibility of peaceful and gradual transformation to a
socialist society by the founding of small experimental communities; hence,
later socialist writers dubbed them with the label utopian.


In the mid-19th century, more-elaborate socialist theories were developed, and
eventually relatively small but potent socialist movements spread. The German
thinkers Karl MARX and Friedrich ENGELS produced at that time what has since
been generally regarded as the most sophisticated and influential doctrine of
socialism. Marx, who was influenced in his youth by German idealist philosophy
and the humanism of Ludwig Andreas FEUERBACH, believed that human beings, and
particularly workers, were "alienated" in modern capitalist society; he argued
in his early writings that the institution of private property would have to be
completely abolished before the individual could be reconciled with both society
and nature. His mature doctrine, however, worked out in collaboration with
Engels and based on the teachings of classical English political economy, struck
a harder note, and Marx claimed for it "scientific" status.

The first important document of mature MARXISM, the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO (1848),
written with Engels, asserted that all known human history is essentially the
history of social classes locked in conflict. There has in the past always been
a ruling and an oppressed class. The modern, or bourgeois, epoch, characterized
by the capitalist mode of production with manufacturing industry and a free
market, would lead according to Marx and Engels to the growing intensity of the
struggle between capitalists and workers (the proletariat), the latter being
progressively impoverished and as a result assuming an increasingly
revolutionary attitude.

Marx further asserted, in his most famous work, Das KAPITAL, that the capitalist
employer of labor had, in order to make a profit, to extract "surplus value"
from his employees, thereby exploiting them and reducing them to "wage-slavery."
The modern state, with its government and law-enforcing agencies, was solely the
executive organ of the capitalist class. Religion, philosophy, and most other
forms of culture likewise simply fulfilled the "ideological" function of making
the working class contented with their subordinate position. Capitalism, however,
as Marx claimed, would soon and necessarily grind to a halt: economic factors,
such as the diminishing rate of profit, as well as the political factor of
increasing proletarian "class consciousness" would result in the forcible
overthrow of the existing system and its immediate replacement by the
"dictatorship of the proletariat." This dictatorship would soon be superseded by
the system of socialism, in which private ownership is abolished and all people
are remunerated according to their work, and socialism would lead eventually to
COMMUNISM, a society of abundance characterized by the complete disappearance of
the state, social classes, law, politics, and all forms of compulsion. Under
this ideal condition goods would be distributed according to need, and the unity
of all humankind would be assured because of elimination of greed.


Marxist ideas made a great impact on European socialist movements. By the second
half of the 19th century socialists in Europe were organizing into viable
political parties with considerable and growing electoral support; they also
forged close links in most countries with trade unions and other working-class
associations. Their short-term programs were mainly concerned with increasing
the franchise, introducing state welfare benefits for the needy, gaining the
right to strike, and improving working conditions, especially shortening the
work day.

Moderate Socialism

Ideas other than those of Marx were at this time also becoming influential. Such
ideas included moderate socialist doctrines, for example, those of the FABIAN
SOCIETY in England, founded by Sidney WEBB and including among its adherents the
writers H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw; those of Ferdinand LASSALLE in
Germany; and of Louis BLANC in France. These moderates sought to achieve
socialism by parliamentary means and by appealing deliberately to the middle
class. Fabianism had as one of its intellectual forebears the utilitarian
individualism of Jeremy BENTHAM and John Stuart MILL, and it became a doctrine
that sought to reconcile the values of liberty, democracy, economic progress,
and social justice. The Fabians believed that the cause of socialism would also
be aided by the advancement of the social sciences, especially economics and
sociology. These doctrines, collectively known as social democracy, did not,
like Marxism, look toward the complete abolition of private property and the
disappearance of the state but instead envisaged socialism more as a form of
society in which full democratic control would be exercised over wealth, and
production would be controlled by a group of responsible experts working in the
interests of the whole community. The achievement of socialism was seen by
social democrats as a long-term goal, the result of an evolutionary process
involving the growth of economic efficiency (advanced technology, large-scale
organization, planning), education in moral responsibility, and the voluntary
acceptance of equal shares in benefits and burdens; socialism would be the
triumph of common sense, the inevitable outcome of LIBERALISM, the extension of
democracy from politics to industry.

CHRISTIAN SOCIALISM spread from its beginnings in England to France and Germany.
Charles KINGSLEY, John Malcolm Forbes Ludlow (1821-1911), and Frederick Denison
MAURICE were among its founders. They in the main supported moderate social
democracy, emphasizing what they understood as the central message of the church
in social ethics, notably the values of cooperation, brotherhood, simplicity of
tastes, and the spirit of self-sacrifice. Their ideas proved fertile in both the
short and the long runs, although in actual political terms Christian socialism
never succeeded in altering the predominantly secular orientation of most
socialist movements.

Radical Socialism

On the other hand, many doctrines and movements were decidedly more militant
than Marxism. Anarchists (see ANARCHISM), influenced mainly by the ideas of the
Frenchman Pierre Joseph PROUDHON and later of the Russian emigres Mikhail
Aleksandrovich BAKUNIN and Pyotr Alekseyevich KROPOTKIN, were intent on
immediately overthrowing the capitalist state and replacing it with small
independent communities. Unlike the Marxists, whom they bitterly criticized,
anarchists were against the formation of socialist parties, and they repudiated
parliamentary politics as well as the idea of revolutionary dictatorship. Their
followers, never very numerous, were and are found mainly in the Latin countries
of Europe and America. SYNDICALISM, an offshoot of anarchism, was a movement of
militant working-class trade unionists who endeavored to achieve socialism
through industrial action only, notably by using the weapon of the general
strike. Their doctrine was similar to Marxism in that they also believed that
socialism was to be achieved only by and for the working class, but unlike the
Marxists they rejected the notion of a future centralized socialist state. Their
most eminent theorist was Georges SOREL. Syndicalist ideas also had intermittent
success in the British and American trade union movements, for example, the
INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD, an American-based syndicalist union active
around the turn of the century. Guild socialism in England, dominated by George
Douglas Howard Cole (1889-1959), the academic economist and historian,
represented a modified and milder form of syndicalism.

In Russia, where it was impossible to organize openly a popular socialist
movement under the tsarist regime, socialism became mainly the ideology of young
militant intellectuals whose favored means of furthering the cause were secret
conspiracies and acts of individual terrorism. Debate raged between those who
believed in the native socialist ethos of the Russian village community and
those who wanted to adopt Western ideas of modernization. The latter party,
which eventually emerged victorious, soon came under Marxist influence. Among
its adherents was V. I. LENIN, who emerged as the leader of a small but
dedicated group of "professional revolutionaries," the Bolshevik (see BOLSHEVIKS
AND MENSHEVIKS) wing of the illegal Russian Social Democratic Workers' party.
Lenin was also the theorist who irrevocably gave a markedly elitist and
authoritarian twist to Marxism: he worked out the theory of the proletarian
vanguard--that is, the Communist party--which was destined to lead the masses
toward socialism, irrespective of the masses' inclinations.


Throughout the 19th century the socialist movement was beset by a number of
ever-deepening conflicts and doctrinal controversies.

The Internationals

The International Workingmen's Association (First International; see
INTERNATIONAL, SOCIALIST), founded in 1864, was expected to achieve unity among
various socialist and militant trade union organizations, but its efforts were
greatly hindered by, among other things, the conflict between the followers of
Bakunin and those of Marx. It came to an end soon after the suppression of the

The Second International (1889-1914) assumed for a time at least an outward
appearance of unity, in that it represented the high watermark of classical
Marxist influence in West European socialism. It was dominated by the largest
socialist parties then in existence, the French--led by Jean JAURES, Jules
Guesde (1845-1922), and Paul Lafargue (1842-1911)--and the German--led by August
BEBEL, Karl Johann KAUTSKY, and Wilhelm Liebknecht (see LIEBKNECHT family)--who
agreed at least in their broad understanding of the aims and methods of
socialism. Their spokesmen emphasized the need to foster international
solidarity among the mass of the working class and thus to avert the threat of a
major war in Europe. This effort proved singularly unsuccessful: NATIONALISM in
1914 and later proved a much stronger mass emotion than socialism. Apart from a
few exceptions, such as Lenin and his Bolshevik group, socialist movements
supported the war effort of their respective governments. As a result of the
general conflagration in 1914 the Second International disintegrated and
therewith also the hopes of socialist unity.


Another important controversy broke out in the 1890s within Marxism, involving
the German Social Democratic party. This party was divided then between a
militant revolutionary left wing, an orthodox center that held to the classical
Marxist doctrine of economic determinism, and a right wing moving rapidly toward
a position of open reformism. The right wing had as its most renowned spokesman
Eduard BERNSTEIN, a personal friend of Marx and Engels, who was, however, also
influenced by English Fabian ideas.

Bernstein repudiated the notion of violent revolution and argued that conditions
in civilized countries such as Germany made possible a peaceful, gradual
transformation to socialism. He sought to reinterpret Marxist doctrine in the
light of fresh advances made in economic science, such as those also embraced in
Fabian doctrine, and argued that socialism was compatible with individual
economic responsibility. He rejected, furthermore, the idea of "class morality,"
which judged all actions according to their revolutionary import. Instead he
advocated a code of individual morality, derived from Kant's moral philosophy.
Consequently, Bernstein asserted the need for socialists to concentrate on
immediate tasks instead of ultimate and remote objectives; the movement, he
wrote, was everything; the goal, nothing.

This doctrine, henceforward called revisionism, immediately became the subject
of bitter attacks by the revolutionary left wing, represented above all by Rosa
LUXEMBURG, which on this issue was supported by the orthodox center and its
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