Essayed Define Socialism

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For other uses, see Socialism (disambiguation).

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production[10] as well as the political theories and movements associated with them.[11] Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective or cooperative ownership, or to citizen ownership of equity.[12] There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them,[13] though social ownership is the common element shared by its various forms.[5][14][15]

Socialist economic systems can be divided into non-market and market forms.[16] Non-market socialism involves the substitution of factor markets and money, with engineering and technical criteria, based on calculation performed in-kind, thereby producing an economic mechanism that functions according to different economic laws from those of capitalism. Non-market socialism aims to circumvent the inefficiencies and crises traditionally associated with capital accumulation and the profit system.[25] By contrast, market socialism retains the use of monetary prices, factor markets and in some cases the profit motive, with respect to the operation of socially owned enterprises and the allocation of capital goods between them. Profits generated by these firms would be controlled directly by the workforce of each firm, or accrue to society at large in the form of a social dividend.[26][27][28] The socialist calculation debate discusses the feasibility and methods of resource allocation for a socialist system.

The socialist political movement includes a set of political philosophies that originated in the revolutionary movements of the mid-to-late 18th century and of concern for the social problems that were associated with capitalism.[13] In addition to the debate over markets and planning, the varieties of socialism differ in their form of social ownership, how management is to be organised within productive institutions and the role of the state in constructing socialism.[2][13] Core dichotomies include reformism versus revolutionary socialism and state socialism versus libertarian socialism. Socialist politics has been both centralist and decentralised; internationalist and nationalist in orientation; organised through political parties and opposed to party politics; at times overlapping with trade unions and at other times independent ofand critical ofunions; and present in both industrialised and developing countries.[29] While all tendencies of socialism consider themselves democratic, the term "democratic socialism" is often used to highlight its advocates' high value for democratic processes in the economy and democratic political systems,[30] usually to draw contrast to tendencies they may perceive to be undemocratic in their approach. Democratic socialism is frequently used to draw contrast to the political system of the Soviet Union, which critics argue operated in an authoritarian fashion.[31][32][33]

By the late 19th century, after the work of Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels socialism had come to signify opposition to capitalism and advocacy for a post-capitalist system based on some form of social ownership of the means of production.[34][35] By the 1920s, social democracy and communism had become the two dominant political tendencies within the international socialist movement.[36] By this time, socialism emerged as "the most influential secular movement of the twentieth century, worldwide. It is a political ideology (or world view), a wide and divided political movement"[37] and while the emergence of the Soviet Union as the world's first nominally socialist state led to socialism's widespread association with the Soviet economic model, many economists and intellectuals argued that in practice the model functioned as a form of state capitalism[38][39][40] or a non-planned administrative or command economy.[41][42]Socialist parties and ideas remain a political force with varying degrees of power and influence in all continents, heading national governments in many countries around the world. Today, some socialists have also adopted the causes of other social movements, such as environmentalism, feminism and liberalism.[43]


The origin of the term "socialism" may be traced back and attributed to a number of originators, in addition to significant historical shifts in the usage and scope of the word.

For Andrew Vincent, "[t]he word ‘socialism’ finds its root in the Latin sociare, which means to combine or to share. The related, more technical term in Roman and then medieval law was societas. This latter word could mean companionship and fellowship as well as the more legalistic idea of a consensual contract between freemen".[44]

The term "socialism" was created by Henri de Saint-Simon, one of the founders of what would later be labelled "utopian socialism". Simon coined "socialism" as a contrast to the liberal doctrine of "individualism", which stressed that people act or should act as if they are in isolation from one another.[45] The original "utopian" socialists condemned liberal individualism for failing to address social concerns during the industrial revolution, including poverty, social oppression and gross inequalities in wealth, thus viewing liberal individualism as degenerating society into supporting selfish egoism that harmed community life through promoting a society based on competition.[45] They presented socialism as an alternative to liberal individualism based on the shared ownership of resources, although their proposals for socialism differed significantly. Saint-Simon proposed economic planning, scientific administration and the application of modern scientific advancements to the organization of society. By contrast, Robert Owen proposed the organization of production and ownership in cooperatives.[45][46]

The term "socialism" is attributed to Pierre Leroux[47] and to Marie Roch Louis Reybaud in France; and in Britain to Robert Owen in 1827, father of the cooperative movement.[48][49]

The modern definition and usage of "socialism" settled by the 1860s, becoming the predominant term among the group of words "co-operative", "mutualist" and "associationist", which had previously been used as synonyms. The term "communism" also fell out of use during this period, despite earlier distinctions between socialism and communism from the 1840s.[50] An early distinction between socialism and communism was that the former aimed to only socialise production while the latter aimed to socialise both production and consumption (in the form of free access to final goods).[51] However, by 1888 Marxists employed the term "socialism" in place of "communism", which had come to be considered an old-fashion synonym for socialism. It was not until 1917 after the Bolshevik revolution that "socialism" came to refer to a distinct stage between capitalism and communism, introduced by Vladimir Lenin as a means to defend the Bolshevik seizure of power against traditional Marxist criticisms that Russia's productive forces were not sufficiently developed for socialist revolution.[52]

A distinction between "communist" and "socialist" as descriptors of political ideologies arose in 1918 after the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party renamed itself to the All-Russian Communist Party, where communist came to specifically mean socialists who supported the politics and theories of Leninism, Bolshevism and later Marxism–Leninism,[53] although communist parties continued to describe themselves as socialists dedicated to socialism.[54]

The words "socialism" and "communism" eventually accorded with the adherents' and opponents' cultural attitude towards religion. In Christian Europe, communism was believed to be the atheist way of life. In Protestant England, the word "communism" was too culturally and aurally close to the Roman Catholic communion rite, hence English atheists denoted themselves socialists.[55]Friedrich Engels argued that in 1848, at the time when the Communist Manifesto was published, "socialism was respectable on the continent, while communism was not". The Owenites in England and the Fourierists in France were considered "respectable" socialists, while working-class movements that "proclaimed the necessity of total social change" denoted themselves communists. This latter branch of socialism produced the communist work of Étienne Cabet in France and Wilhelm Weitling in Germany.[56] The British moral philosopherJohn Stuart Mill also came to advocate a form of economic socialism within a liberal context. In later editions of his Principles of Political Economy (1848), Mill would argue that "as far as economic theory was concerned, there is nothing in principle in economic theory that precludes an economic order based on socialist policies".[57][58] While democrats looked to the Revolutions of 1848 as a democratic revolution, which in the long run ensured liberty, equality and fraternity, Marxists denounced 1848 as a betrayal of working-class ideals by a bourgeoisie indifferent to the legitimate demands of the proletariat.[59]


Main article: History of socialism

Early socialism

Main articles: Utopian socialism, Revolutions of 1848, Paris Commune, and History of anarchism § Early history

Socialist models and ideas espousing common or public ownership have existed since antiquity. It has been claimed – though controversially – that there were elements of socialist thought in the politics of classical Greek philosophers Plato[60] and Aristotle.[61]Mazdak, a Persian communal proto-socialist,[62] instituted communal possessions and advocated the public good. Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, a Companion of Prophet Muhammad, is credited by many as a principal antecedent of Islamic socialism.[63][64][65][66][67] In the period right after the French Revolution, activists and theorists like François-Noël Babeuf, Étienne-Gabriel Morelly, Philippe Buonarroti and Auguste Blanqui influenced the early French labour and socialist movements.[68] In Britain, Thomas Paine proposed a detailed plan to tax property owners to pay for the needs of the poor in Agrarian Justice[69] while Charles Hall wrote The Effects of Civilization on the People in European States, denouncing capitalism's effects on the poor of his time[70] which influenced the utopian schemes of Thomas Spence.[71]

The first "self-conscious socialist movements developed in the 1820s and 1830s. The Owenites, Saint-Simonians and Fourierists provided a series of coherent analyses and interpretations of society. They also, especially in the case of the Owenites, overlapped with a number of other working-class movements like the Chartists in the United Kingdom".[72] The Chartists gathered significant numbers around the People's Charter of 1838, which demanded the extension of suffrage to all male adults. Leaders in the movement also called for a more equitable distribution of income and better living conditions for the working classes. "The very first trade unions and consumers’ cooperative societies also emerged in the hinterland of the Chartist movement, as a way of bolstering the fight for these demands".[73] A later important socialist thinker in France was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who proposed his philosophy of mutualism in which "everyone had an equal claim, either alone or as part of a small cooperative, to possess and use land and other resources as needed to make a living".[74] There were also currents inspired by dissident Christianity of Christian socialism "often in Britain and then usually coming out of left liberal politics and a romantic anti-industrialism"[68] which produced theorists such as Edward Bellamy, Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Kingsley.[75]

The first advocates of socialism favoured social levelling in order to create a meritocratic or technocratic society based on individual talent. Count Henri de Saint-Simon is regarded as the first individual to coin the term "socialism".[76] Saint-Simon was fascinated by the enormous potential of science and technology and advocated a socialist society that would eliminate the disorderly aspects of capitalism and would be based on equal opportunities.[77][unreliable source?] He advocated the creation of a society in which each person was ranked according to his or her capacities and rewarded according to his or her work.[76] The key focus of Saint-Simon's socialism was on administrative efficiency and industrialism and a belief that science was the key to progress.[78] This was accompanied by a desire to implement a rationally organised economy based on planning and geared towards large-scale scientific and material progress,[76] thus embodied a desire for a more directed or planned economy. Other early socialist thinkers, such as Thomas Hodgkin and Charles Hall, based their ideas on David Ricardo's economic theories. They reasoned that the equilibrium value of commodities approximated prices charged by the producer when those commodities were in elastic supply and that these producer prices corresponded to the embodied labour – the cost of the labour (essentially the wages paid) that was required to produce the commodities. The Ricardian socialists viewed profit, interest and rent as deductions from this exchange-value.[citation needed]

West European social critics, including Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Louis Blanc, Charles Hall, and Saint-Simon were the first modern socialists who criticised the excessive poverty and inequality of the Industrial Revolution. They advocated reform, with some such as Robert Owen advocating the transformation of society to small communities without private property. Robert Owen's contribution to modern socialism was his understanding that actions and characteristics of individuals were largely determined by the social environment they were raised in and exposed to.[78] On the other hand, Charles Fourier advocated phalansteres which were communities that respected individual desires (including sexual preferences), affinities and creativity and saw that work has to be made enjoyable for people.[79] The ideas of Owen and Fourier were tried in practice in numerous intentional communities around Europe and the American continent in the mid-19th century.

Paris Commune

The Paris Commune was a government that briefly ruled Paris from 18 March (more formally, from 28 March) to 28 May 1871. The Commune was the result of an uprising in Paris after France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War. The Commune elections held on 26 March elected a Commune council of 92 members, one member for each 20,000 residents.[80] Despite internal differences, the council began to organise the public services essential for a city of two million residents. It also reached a consensus on certain policies that tended towards a progressive, secular and highly-democratic social democracy.

Because the Commune was only able to meet on fewer than 60 days in all, only a few decrees were actually implemented. These included the separation of church and state; the remission of rents owed for the entire period of the siege (during which payment had been suspended); the abolition of night work in the hundreds of Paris bakeries; the granting of pensions to the unmarried companions and children of National Guards killed on active service; and the free return, by the city pawnshops, of all workmen's tools and household items valued up to 20 francs, pledged during the siege.[81] The Commune was concerned that skilled workers had been forced to pawn their tools during the war; the postponement of commercial debt obligations and the abolition of interest on the debts; and the right of employees to take over and run an enterprise if it were deserted by its owner. The Commune nonetheless recognised the previous owner's right to compensation.[81]

First International

The International Workingmen's Association (IWA), often called the First International, was founded in London in 1864. The International Workingmen's Association united diverse revolutionary currents including French followers of Proudhon,[82]Blanquists, Philadelphes, English trade unionists, socialists and social democrats. The IWA held a preliminary conference in 1865 and had its first congress at Geneva in 1866. Due to the wide variety of philosophies present in the First International, there was conflict from the start. The first objections to Marx came from the mutualists who opposed communism and statism. However, shortly after Mikhail Bakunin and his followers (called collectivists while in the International) joined in 1868, the First International became polarised into two camps headed by Marx and Bakunin respectively.[83] The clearest differences between the groups emerged over their proposed strategies for achieving their visions of socialism. The First International became the first major international forum for the promulgation of socialist ideas.

The followers of Bakunin were called collectivist anarchists and sought to collectivise ownership of the means of production while retaining payment proportional to the amount and kind of labor of each individual. Like Proudhonists, they asserted the right of each individual to the product of his labor and to be remunerated for their particular contribution to production. By contrast, anarcho-communists sought collective ownership of both the means and the products of labor. Errico Malatesta put it: "[I]nstead of running the risk of making a confusion in trying to distinguish what you and I each do, let us all work and put everything in common. In this way each will give to society all that his strength permits until enough is produced for every one; and each will take all that he needs, limiting his needs only in those things of which there is not yet plenty for every one".[84]Anarchist communism as a coherent, modern economic-political philosophy was first formulated in the Italian section of the First International by Carlo Cafiero, Emilio Covelli, Errico Malatesta, Andrea Costa and other ex Mazzinian republicans.[85] Out of respect for Mikhail Bakunin, they did not make their differences with collectivist anarchism explicit until after Bakunin's death.[86]

Syndicalism emerged in France inspired in part by the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and later by Fernand Pelloutier and Georges Sorel.[87] It developed at the end of the 19th century "out of the French trade-union movement – syndicat is the French word for trade union. It was a significant force in Italy and Spain in the early 20th century until it was crushed by the fascist regimes in those countries. In the United States, syndicalism appeared in the guise of the Industrial Workers of the World, or "Wobblies", founded in 1905.[87] Syndicalism is an economic system where industries are organised into confederations (syndicates)[88] and the economy is managed by negotiation between specialists and worker representatives of each field, comprising multiple non-competitive categorised units.[89] Syndicalism is thus a form of communism and economic corporatism, but also refers to the political movement and tactics used to bring about this type of system. An influential anarchist movement based on syndicalist ideas is anarcho-syndicalism.[90] The International Workers Association is an international anarcho-syndicalist federation of various labor unions from different countries.

The Fabian Society is a British socialist organisation which was established with the purpose of advancing the principles of socialism via gradualist and reformist means.[91] The society laid many of the foundations of the Labour Party and subsequently affected the policies of states emerging from the decolonisation of the British Empire, most notably India and Singapore. Originally, the Fabian Society was committed to the establishment of a socialist economy, alongside a commitment to British imperialism as a progressive and modernising force.[92] Today, the society functions primarily as a think tank and is one of 15 socialist societies affiliated with the Labour Party. Similar societies exist in Australia (the Australian Fabian Society), in Canada (the Douglas-Coldwell Foundation and the now disbanded League for Social Reconstruction) and in New Zealand.

Guild socialism is a political movement advocating workers' control of industry through the medium of trade-related guilds "in an implied contractual relationship with the public".[93] It originated in the United Kingdom and was at its most influential in the first quarter of the 20th century. Inspired by medieval guilds, theorists such as Samuel G. Hobson and G. D. H. Cole advocated the public ownership of industries and their organisation into guilds, each of which would be under the democratic control of its trade union. Guild socialists were less inclined than Fabians to invest power in a state.[87] At some point "like the American Knights of Labor, guild socialism wanted to abolish the wage system".

Second International

As the ideas of Marx and Engels took on flesh, particularly in central Europe, socialists sought to unite in an international organisation. In 1889, on the centennial of the French Revolution of 1789, the Second International was founded, with 384 delegates from 20 countries representing about 300 labour and socialist organisations.[94] It was termed the "Socialist International" and Engels was elected honorary president at the third congress in 1893. Anarchists were ejected and not allowed in, mainly due to pressure from Marxists.[95] It has been argued that at some point the Second International turned "into a battleground over the issue of libertarian versus authoritarian socialism. Not only did they effectively present themselves as champions of minority rights; they also provoked the German Marxists into demonstrating a dictatorial intolerance which was a factor in preventing the British labor movement from following the Marxist direction indicated by such leaders as H. M. Hyndman".[95]

Reformism arose as an alternative to revolution. Eduard Bernstein was a leading social democrat in Germany who proposed the concept of evolutionary socialism. Revolutionary socialists quickly targeted reformism: Rosa Luxemburg condemned Bernstein's Evolutionary Socialism in her 1900 essay Social Reform or Revolution?. Revolutionary socialism encompasses multiple social and political movements that may define "revolution" differently from one another. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany became the largest and most powerful socialist party in Europe, despite working illegally until the anti-socialist laws were dropped in 1890. In the 1893 elections, it gained 1,787,000 votes, a quarter of the total votes cast, according to Engels. In 1895, the year of his death, Engels emphasised the Communist Manifesto's emphasis on winning, as a first step, the "battle of democracy".[96]

Early 20th century

Main articles: History of anarchism § 20th century, Russian Revolution, German Revolution, Biennio Rosso, and Spanish Revolution of 1936

In 1904, Australians elected the first Australian Labor Party prime minister: Chris Watson, who became the first democratically elected social democrat. In 1909 the first Kibbutz was established in Palestine[97] by Russian Jewish Immigrants. The Kibbutz Movement would then expand through the 20th century following a doctrine of Zionist socialism.[98] The British Labour Party first won seats in the House of Commons in 1902. The International Socialist Commission (ISC, also known as Berne International) was formed in February 1919 at a meeting in Bern by parties that wanted to resurrect the Second International.[99]

By 1917, the patriotism of World War I changed into political radicalism in most of Europe, the United States and Australia. Other socialist parties from around the world who were beginning to gain importance in their national politics in the early 20th century included the Italian Socialist Party, the French Section of the Workers' International, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, the Socialist Party of America in the United States, the Argentinian Socialist Party and the Chilean Partido Obrero Socialista.

Russian Revolution

Main article: Russian Revolution

In February 1917, revolution exploded in Russia. Workers, soldiers and peasants established soviets (councils), the monarchy fell and a provisional government convoked pending the election of a constituent assembly. In April of that year, Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Majority (or in Russian: "Bolshevik") faction of socialists in Russia and known for his profound and controversial expansions of Marxism, was allowed to cross Germany to return to his country from exile in Switzerland.

Lenin had published essays on his analysis of imperialism, the monopoly and globalisation phase of capitalism as predicted by Marx, as well as analyses on the social conditions of his contemporary time. He observed that as capitalism had further developed in Europe and America, the workers remained unable to gain class consciousness so long as they were too busy working and concerning with how to make ends meet. He therefore proposed that the social revolution would require the leadership of a vanguard party of class-conscious revolutionaries from the educated and politically active part of the population.[100]

Upon arriving in Petrograd, Lenin declared that the revolution in Russia was not over, but had only begun and that the next step was for the workers' soviets to take full state authority. He issued a thesis outlining the Bolshevik's party programme, including rejection of any legitimacy in the provisional government and advocacy for state power to be given to the peasant and working class through the soviets. The Bolsheviks became the most influential force in the soviets and on 7 November the capitol of the provisional government was stormed by Bolshevik Red Guards in what afterwards known as the "Great October Socialist Revolution". The rule of the provisional government was ended and the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic – the world's first constitutionally socialist state – was established. On 25 January 1918 at the Petrograd Soviet, Lenin declared "Long live the world socialist revolution!"[101] and proposed an immediate armistice on all fronts and transferred the land of the landed proprietors, the crown and the monasteries to the peasant committees without compensation.[102]

On 26 January, the day after assuming executive power, Lenin wrote Draft Regulations on Workers' Control, which granted workers control of businesses with more than five workers and office employees and access to all books, documents and stocks and whose decisions were to be "binding upon the owners of the enterprises".[103] Governing through the elected soviets and in alliance with the peasant-based Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Bolshevik government began nationalising banks and industry, and disavowed the national debts of the deposed Romanov royal régime. It sued for peace, withdrawing from World War I and convoked a Constituent Assembly in which the peasant Socialist-Revolutionary Party (SR) won a majority.[104]

The Constituent Assembly elected Socialist-Revolutionary leader Victor Chernov President of a Russian republic, but rejected the Bolshevik proposal that it endorse the Soviet decrees on land, peace and workers' control and acknowledge the power of the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies. The next day, the Bolsheviks declared that the assembly was elected on outdated party lists[105] and the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets dissolved it.[106][107] In March 1919, world communist parties formed Comintern (also known as the Third International) at a meeting in Moscow.[108]

International Working Union of Socialist Parties

Main article: International Working Union of Socialist Parties

Parties which did not want to be a part of the resurrected Second International (ISC) or Comintern formed the International Working Union of Socialist Parties (IWUSP, also known as Vienna International/Vienna Union/Two-and-a-Half International) on 27 February 1921 at a conference in Vienna.[109] The ISC and the IWUSP joined to form the Labour and Socialist International (LSI) in May 1923 at a meeting in Hamburg[110] Left wing groups which did not agree to the centralisation and abandonment of the soviets by the Bolshevik Party led left-wing uprisings against the Bolshevikssuch groups included Socialist Revolutionaries,[111]Left Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and anarchists.[112]

Within this left wing discontent, the most large scale events were the worker's Kronstadt rebellion[113][114][115] and the anarchist led Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine uprising which controlled an area known as the Free Territory.[116][117][118]

Third International

Main article: Communist International

The Bolshevik Russian Revolution of January 1918 engendered communist parties worldwide and their concomitant revolutions of 1917–1923. Few communists doubted that the Russian success of socialism depended on successful, working-class socialist revolutions in developed capitalist countries.[119][120] In 1919, Lenin and Trotsky organised the world's communist parties into a new international association of workers – the Communist International (Comintern), also called the Third International.

The Russian Revolution also influenced uprisings in other countries around this time. The German Revolution of 1918–1919 resulted in the replacing Germany's imperial government with a republic. The revolutionary period lasted from November 1918 until the formal establishment of the Weimar Republic in August 1919 and included an episode known as the Bavarian Soviet Republic[121][122][123][124] and the Spartacist uprising. In Italy, the events known as the Biennio Rosso[125][126] were characterised by mass strikes, worker manifestations and self-management experiments through land and factory occupations. In Turin and Milan, workers' councils were formed and many factory occupations took place led by anarcho-syndicalists organised around the Unione Sindacale Italiana.[127]

By 1920, the Red Army, under its commander Trotsky, had largely defeated the royalist White Armies. In 1921, War Communism was ended and under the New Economic Policy (NEP) private ownership was allowed for small and medium peasant enterprises. While industry remained largely state-controlled, Lenin acknowledged that the NEP was a necessary capitalist measure for a country unripe for socialism. Profiteering returned in the form of "NEP men" and rich peasants (kulaks) gained power in the countryside.[128] Nevertheless, the role of Trotsky in this episode has been questioned by other socialists, including ex Trotskyists. In the United States, Dwight Macdonald broke with Trotsky and left the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, by raising the question of the Kronstadt rebellion, which Trotsky as leader of the Soviet Red Army and the other Bolsheviks had brutally repressed. He then moved towards democratic socialism[129] and anarchism.[130]

A similar critique of Trotsky's role on the events around the Kronstadt rebellion was raised by the American anarchist Emma Goldman. In her essay "Trotsky Protests Too Much", she says: "I admit, the dictatorship under Stalin's rule has become monstrous. That does not, however, lessen the guilt of Leon Trotsky as one of the actors in the revolutionary drama of which Kronstadt was one of the bloodiest scenes".[131]

The celebration of the election of the Commune on 28 March 1871—the Paris Commune was a major early implementation of socialist ideas
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