Socialism

Fraternity

  • A term, literally referring to ‘brotherhood’, commonly used in socialism and suggesting that members of the working class have a common bond that is as strong as a family link.
  • Thus, all members of the working class are, effectively, brothers. All humans share the basic nature and have the same interests.
  • All differences of class, religion, nationality and race are secondary. Conflict is unnatural, created by vested interests manipulating these false differences.
  • Links to the core value of community - which is a collectivist vision as it stresses the capacity of human beings for collective action, their willingness to pursue goals by working together as opposed to striving for personal interest.
  • From this, human beings are comrades, brothers, and sisters, family – tied to one another by a common bond of humanity.
  • Socialists believe human nature is ‘plastic’, moulded by the experiences and circumstances of social life.
  • Links back to Trade Unions, and the formation of socialism has a correlation that comes from the working class.
  • Today the working class tends to vote for the Labour Party due to their promises of retaining a welfare system and aiding those deemed ‘less fortunate’ as they strive for equality.
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Class conflict - part 1

  • Most people define their social position in terms of their class.
  • This implies that they develop a sense of common interests and common purpose with other members of class – Marx‘class consciousness’
  • All but more modern socialists see social class as a crucial aspect of society.
  • Different strands of socialism produced a variety of responses to growing class conflict in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • Revolutionary socialists – conflicts of interests can’t be resolved within the context of capitalism, so they suggest the abolishment of capitalism and its replacement with a socialist order that will eliminate class conflict all together.
  • Non-revolutionary socialists – form government that will operate in the interests of the working class. The most common form of socialist system that has been promoted by such socialists is one in which most production and distribution is organized by a central state.
  • Democratic socialists – modify capitalism. Control capitalism extensively, intervenes with the state on industry, commerce, and high levels of state sponsored welfare provision.
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Class conflict - part 2

  • Social democracy – dominant form of socialism in Europe since the 1980’s, downplays the importance of class. The state can work simply in the broad national interest, seeking a consensus not based on class at all.
  • Many commentators have suggested that movements that no longer analyse society in terms of class should not be described as socialist. New Labour in the UK would fall into this category.
  • Marxist and revolutionary socialism – society is understood in terms of class and class interest; revolutionary socialists seek a state organized exclusively in the interests of the working class; Marxist seek an ultimately classless society.
  • Democratic socialism – adopts a class analysis of society; a socialist order would aim to reduce class conflict but balance power in favour of the working class.
  • Social democracy – do not analyse society in terms of class, they see society as pluralist and class as having a reduced importance; the state to be inclusive, protecting and advancing the interests of all groups.
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Social justice and welfare redistribution - part 1

  • Social justice is a difficult concept as it is claimed as a virtue by most political movements.
  • Marxists and revolutionary socialists insist that capitalism can never produce a just distribution because the system contains inequality within its own mechanism.
  • If we can attempt to retain capitalism but remove inequality from it, capitalism as a system won’t work.
  • Moderate socialists have suggested that social justice can be achieved under capitalism, although various branches of socialism have proposed different degrees of modification.
  • These proposals have concentrated on measures such as interference with the wage system to create less inequality, i.e. minimum wage legislation, granting significant trade unions rights to allow workers to negotiate for more justice, the use of taxation and welfare redistribution.
  • Most socialists have to find a complex formula for distributing wealth. Under a state socialist system, it is possible to organize affairs so each receives rewards according to the value of his/her contribution.
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Social justice and welfare redistribution - part 2

  • Problem with this – it entails the destruction of free-market capitalism and its replacement by a system of redistribution that is bound to be subjective and open to dispute.
  • Moderate socialists have sought to achieve distributive justice, any conception of justice that seeks to establish a fair and just principle for how rewards should be distributed in society.
  • Welfare socialists – seek to establish a minimum standard of living, redistribution of wealth through taxation and welfare.
  • All socialists believe that the outcome of a completely free market system of capitalism cannot be just – they therefore propose some form of intervention to create more just outcomes.
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Social exclusion - part 1

  • This term was created by New Labour and refers to those groups in society that suffer multiple deprivations and therefore do not enjoy the usual rewards, choices and opportunities.
  • They are therefore socially excluded. Social and economic policy should be directed at such groups.
  • New Labour accepts inequality and understands its role in creating incentives that promote a healthy and dynamic business environment.
  • However, it also recognizes the phenomenon that it has dubbed as social exclusion.
  • The problems of socially excluded tend to be multiple and can include poverty, low educational attainment, bad housing, crime, poor parenting, drug addiction etc.
  • The state therefore needs a multi-constitutional approach to social exclusion policy.
  • New Labour virtually abandoned its attachment to a class analysis of society. It accepts that we see ourselves mainly as individuals, pursuing our own goals, and that we don’t identify strongly with a social class.
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Social exclusion - part 2

  • There is a danger that society may lose its cohesion as a result of too much individualism.
  • Closest thing to addressing this concern is ‘communitarianism’.
  • It accepts that society is basically individualist in nature, but also recognizes an obligation to maintain the integrity of the community as a social entity.
  • Instead of using the state as the chief method of retaining this community, individuals are expected to take responsibility for maintaining society.
  • This implies taking an active role in the political process, promotion of community spirit, in caring for those less fortunate. This is similar to the hierarchical concept in conservatism where the rich accommodate for the poor.
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Freedom - part 1

  • Marxist and revolutionary socialism – individual freedom is seen as a bourgeois concept; collective freedom to be created through equality. Marx claimed that liberty was an illusion.
  • Democratic socialism – individual liberty to be preserved as long as it does not conflict with socialist objectives.
  • Social democracy – individual liberty and individualism are to be preserved and guaranteed with almost no qualification.
  • The charge that is most often levied by liberals against socialism is the curtailment of liberty.
  • If liberty is fundamental to human existence, attempts to pursue greater equality represent an affront to human dignity.
  • As capitalism modified workers became free to form trade unions and as working-class parties were formed to represent them, the Marxist view began to appear overcritical.
  • For those born with greater opportunities and those with more comfortable incomes, there was clearly more positive liberty available.
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Freedom - part 2

  • By contrast, the poor sections of the community were less free because they had less income and were subject to more social problems and a narrower range of opportunities.
  • 20th century socialists argued that the expansion of opportunities and the provision of welfare together with wealth redistribution would result in a more even distribution of freedom.
  • Rawls philosophy – idea of distributive justice protects the concept of individual liberty, but accepts that the economic liberty of some may reduce the economic liberty of others.
  • Therefore, general liberty remains intact, but economic liberty becomes negotiable.
  • Most liberals and moderate social democrats now accept that the main objective of a liberal society is to be just in terms of the distribution of both goods and freedom.
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Utopianism - part 1

  • This is generally used as a critical terms and has been applied to a number of political movements, including early socialism.
  • The charge of utopianism usually implies that an ideology is not based on rational thought or scientific truths, but on hopes and aspirations alone.
  • It also implies that the goals of such movements are unrealistic and cannot be achieved or sustained.
  • Furthermore, many claim that utopians, such as socialists and anarchists, present their beliefs as rational and scientific but are in fact deceiving themselves and their followers.
  • Owen and Fourier were both described as utopian in that their schemes were not based on any scientific study of society and economics, and the social and economic systems they proposed were impractical.
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Utopianism - part 2

  • The reasons why utopian socialists were unsuccessful are as follows:
  • They pre-dated that full development of capitalism. Instead of being a reaction to free-market capitalism, utopian socialism represented an alternative to the early growth of capitalism.
  • The social evils of capitalism had not become apparent in the early part of the nineteenth century, which was when the utopian socialists were prominent.
  • Utopian socialists were concerned by the onset of mass production, fearing it would drain working people of their creative instincts. There were reactionaries, seeking to hold back the process of industrialization. It never gained many supporters.
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Communism - part 1

  • This term refers to any social system that is based upon small, independent communities.
  • Communists propose not only communal living but also the abolition of systems of money, exchange and competition.
  • Instead, goods are to be produced on a cooperative basis and income distributed equally within the commune.
  • Government of the commune is usually based on direct democracy. The idea of the commune has been shared by utopian socialists; Marxists and anarchists.
  • The term ‘communism’ denotes the aim of destroying the existing class structure of society and the institution of private property, thus transforming the economy.
  • Communism was also profoundly internationalist. All states were viewed by communists as the creatures of their own ruling class.
  • There was an idea that class-consciousness would wish to overthrow the existing society that exploited and oppressed the workers.
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Communism - part 2

  • Communism implies the abolition of all classes. Marx and Engels argued that classes exist because there is a limited amount of resources. This limitation has to be managed by a ruling class, and in order to do this, ruling classes create states.
  • 20th century – communism came to represent the most intransigent revolutionary position. Across the world communist parties disintegrated under the impact of the collapse of the USSR. 
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Democratic socialism - part 1

  • British socialism, usually known as ‘democratic socialism’, has a particular character largely because of the varied nature of its origins and the fact that Marxism or other movements that based their ideas on the notion of class conflict did not heavily influence it.
  • British Labour has always understood the importance of class differences, has always understood that it would be electable only if it governed in the national interest.
  • The party believes that it is possible to serve the interests of both major classes in society.
  • British socialism has therefore been a relatively moderate movement that hasn’t pursued social justice without jeopardizing the achievements of market capitalism.
  • Between 1945 and 1970 when the traditional party lost power, it followed these principles;
  • Total defence of the parliamentary system of government
  • Pursuit of equal rights and equality of opportunity
  • State control of large strategic interests in order to prevent capitalist monopolies working against public interest
  • Provision of a welfare state
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Democratic socialism - part 2

  • Range of personal services provided by local government including subsidized housing, social services and public health measures
  • Redistribution of some income through the tax and welfare system
  • Defence of powerful trade unions and workers’ rights to promote justice
  • Traditional Labour policies implied that an accommodation could be reached between free-market capitalism and a just society.
  • European socialists have tended to oppose capitalism and propose its replacement by some form of state planning.
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Gradualism - part 1

  • Early socialists in Western Europe took a revolutionary standpoint when deciding which means were the best with which to achieve socialism.
  • The introduction of the extension of the franchise, an increase in trade unions and the establishment of social democratic parties, the ‘oppressed’ classes, maintained that they could reach what they believed in via the ballot box.
  • Socialists believed in what is known as the ‘inevitability of gradualism’ the idea that it is inevitable that socialist principles would eventually prosper. This was largely due to the extension of the franchise and eventually achieving universal suffrage.
  • The concept of giving every person of a certain age the right to vote would mean the opinion of the majority would prosper. The majority = the proletariat = the working class; socialist support base.
  • In theory this was what socialists believed but in practice it wasn’t recognized.
  • As Western Europe became more technologically advanced more skilled workers as opposed to labourers were required. The number of skilled workers surpassed the traditional manual workers, the working proletariat.
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Gradualism - part 2

  • Introduction of divorce of ownership and control meant specialist managers were running the companies instead.
  • As the majority of the people were becoming middle class they would be less likely to identify and support socialist principles.
  • When socialist parties do now get into power it is now increasingly difficult for them to legislate as much reform as they would like to. This is mainly due to the fact that other institutions of power, for example the House of Lords, tend to be middle-class.
  • The failure of gradualism has led many to believe in the ‘death of socialism’. However, others would say that while gradualism may not have followed its designated path, it has transformed us all into socialists.
  • Socialism today is very much alive in Britain, through the welfare state, NHS, unemployment benefit and free education until eighteen. Socialism may be considered dead, but the result of socialism is very much alive.
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Revisionism

  • Originally this term referred to those socialist movements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that proposed compromises with capitalism and a peaceful transaction to socialism.
  • Lenin and his followers were especially critical. Fabianism and the beliefs of Eduard Bernstein were examples.
  • In the modern era, revisionism can refer to any moderate socialist movements that make compromises with a class analysis of society and with the revolutionary road to socialism.
  • Democratic socialism, social democracy and New Labour would be examples.
  • The term is most commonly used by Marxists to describe in pejorative terms the ideas of those followers who have distorted Marxist theory to such an extent that they can no longer be described as socialists at all.
  • Eduard Bernstein was perhaps the most notorious of the Marxist revisionists. The term has also been used by other movements to describe anyone who moves too far away from orthodox beliefs. Antony Crosland was often described as a revisionist in the context of orthodox Labour Party policies in the 1970’s.
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Social democracy - part 1

  • In the 19th and early 20th century it was used by revolutionary and evolutionary socialists.
  • In the second half of the 20th century it came to mean a moderate form of socialism committed to democratic methods and a pluralist political system.
  • Its current usage implies a movement in the centre of the political spectrum that takes a social perspective on many issues and mediates between the demands of the individualism and those of the community as a whole.
  • The New Labour version of such social democracy has been called the ‘Third Way’.
  • The creation of the Third Way was effectively a response to the post-Thatcher consensus that had dominated Britain from the mid-1980’s and which had spread to the USA and most of the rest of Europe.
  • The main elements of New Labours Third Way were a response to the consensus issues post-Thatcher.
  • Third Way responses included;
  • Accepting free markets but control of monopoly power through state regulation.
  • Promoting competition even within public institutions such as schools.
  • Accepting the decline of subsidized rented housing supplied by local government.
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Social democracy - part 2

  • Accepting privatization but also introducing partnerships between public and private sectors.
  • No attempt to exercise active control over the economy but introducing measures of stability.
  • Not restoring union powers but strengthening the individual rights of workers.
  • Accepting inequality, but establishing a minimum standard of living and minimum wage.
  • Taxation on income to be held down and business taxes to be reduced.
  • Social security benefits should be targeted at the most needy to ensure a decent standard of living for all, and at those who are working/seeking work/unable to work.
  • The Third Way was a term coined by Anthony Giddens and refers to New Labour policies after 1992 that steered a path between socialism and neo-liberalism to social justice within a free market, capitalist society.
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Private property, public ownership and collectivis

  • A feature of socialism that is closely related to collectivism is common ownership of the means of production and distribution.
  • It was the development of capitalism that brought about a more complex set of ideas relating to the evils of private property and the virtues of common ownership.
  • The Earth is given to humankind and no individual can claim it to be a part of it.
  • Claiming private property deprives someone else of its use.
  • Property gives rise to inequality, especially between those who have and who lack property.
  • Ownership of property gives rise to the exploitation by property owners of those who lack property.
  • Common ownership can give rise to a number of good outcomes including;
  • The possibility of imposing economic equality.
  • Common ownership creates a natural state of society.
  • It is possible to direct commonly owned property to serve the interests of the whole community, not just those fortunate owners of property.
  • Marxism – all property is common, there is no private enterprise.
  • State socialism – all means of production and distribution are publicly owned and run by the state.
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Private property, public ownership and collectivis

  • Syndicalism – industries are owned and run collectively by their own workers.
  • Cooperative movement – groups of producers distribute their goods in common. Worker cooperatives are owned by their own workers.
  • Democratic socialism – welfare organisations such as for health and education are publicly owned and state controlled. Some large strategic industries are publicly owned and run for the public good.
  • Social democracy and New Labour – welfare services publicly owned, very few enterprises are nationalized.
  • Collectivism; people usually prefer to achieve goals collectively rather than independently, and that action taken by people in organised groups is likely to be more effective than the sum of many individual actions.
  • Marxist and revolutionary socialism – a totally collectivist perspective; all-important economic and social activities to be collective.
  • Democratic socialism – a largely collectivist outlook, however individualism can flourish alongside important collectivist institutions.
  • Social democracy – individuals prefer to pursue their own goals, collectivism largely limited to the welfare state and other public services i.e. NHS.
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Equality - part 1

  • Marxism and revolutionary socialism – absolute economic equality should be pursued, with minimal inequalities to create incentives; rewards must be based on needs not contributions.
  • Democratic socialism – a high degree of equality should exist, but rewards to be distributed on the basis of the value of one’s contribution, not merely on the basis of needs.
  • Social democracy – inequality is the natural result of free markets and can be justified; however, a minimum standard of living for all to be guaranteed with some mild redistribution of income.
  • There is considerable overlap between those enduring principles of liberalism and socialism – especially so over the core value of equality.
  • Liberals believe that humans are naturally unequal, whereas socialists have argued inequality is artificial and the product of an unjust society.
  • Socialists are more optimistic that every individual is capable of becoming equal as long as he/she has equality of opportunity and society is organised on a just basis.
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Equality - part 2

  • However in the mildest form of socialism – New Labour – it is questionable whether there is much of a distinction in outlook.
  • Ed Miliband Spring Conference Speech 2013 – “George Cadbury had a simple idea: his business would be more successful if his workforce was well motivated and lived in decent homes with decent conditions” – promotion of equality, and securing the working class for their efforts.
  • Hierarchy observations – “long term youth unemployment here in Birmingham went up 46% last year”.
  • Redistribution of wealth – supporting of the millionaire’s tax cut.
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