Democratic socialism

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</span> Democratic socialism is a broad political movement propagating the ideals of socialism within the context of a democratic system.

In many cases, its adherents promote the ideal of socialism as an evolutionary process resulting from legislation enacted by a constitutional democracy. Other democratic socialists favor a revolutionary approach that would establish socialism by creating a non-parliamentary direct democracy, usually based at the local and national levels — including broadbased popular associations such as worker councils, consumer councils and community groups. While radical left-wing currents such as anarchism could be considered to be democratic and socialist, the term 'democratic socialist' is not used to describe them.

Writers and activists such as Upton Sinclair, Karl Marx, George Orwell, Jean Jaurès, Robert Owen, Eduard Bernstein, Bertrand Russell, Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb have contributed to democratic socialist philosophy. Popular movements such as trade unionism, the Chartists and the British Labour Party are also notable.

Contents

[edit] Definitions

Many of those who describe themselves as socialists argue that socialism necessarily implies democracy, thus making democratic socialism a redundant term. The fact that one specific movement is called democratic socialism does not mean that other branches of socialism must be less democratic. The term is often used by those who wish to contrast this form of socialism with Communism, Stalinism and other ideologies that democratic socialists consider dictatorial in practice.

The terms democratic socialism and social democracy have often been used interchangeably, and many have considered them synonymous until recently. Now the term social democracy refers to an ideology that is more centrist and supports a broadly capitalist system, with some social reforms (such as the welfare state), intended to make it more equitable and humane. Democratic socialism implies an ideology that is more left wing and supportive of a fully socialist system, established either by gradually reforming capitalism from within, or by some form of revolutionary transformation. By fully socialist, this refers either to the idea of public ownership by a government that is democratically accountable to its citizens, or the idea of communism where everyone has equal power in the decision-making about the means of production.

The tension between the revolutionary and evolutionary tendencies of democratic socialism can be seen in the Socialist Party USA, which has members who advocate both types of positions (although the party statement of principles includes the word "revolution"). Revolutionary democratic socialists accuse those who favor evolution of supporting socialism from above, which does not abolish the capitalist system. Revolutionary democratic socialists believe that the political structures within existing capitalist societies serve as an impediment to full democracy, which they believe can only be achieved by establishing a new political structure built from the bottom up. Evolutionary democratic socialists accuse supporters of revolution of being impractical.

Evolutionary (reformist) democratic socialists and social democrats both typically advocate at least a welfare state, although some social democrats, being influenced by the Third Way, would be willing to consider other means of delivering a social safety net for the poorest in society. Revolutionary democratic socialists support a welfare state not as a means of achieving socialism, but as a temporary method of relief, and as a means of mobilizing the populace towards revolutionary ideals. Democratic socialists usually support re-distribution of wealth and power, social ownership of major industries, and a planned economy. Social democrats have largely abandoned these concepts. Many democratic socialists retain a Marxist (although often reformist) analysis, while social democrats might entirely reject Marxism.

Democratic socialists often believe not only in public ownership by a democratically-elected government but also in workplace democracy. Essentially this is a form of syndicalism, in which workers of a particular industry get to vote on major industrial decisions, the logic being that since such decisions affect them the most, they should have the largest voice in these matters.

Democratic socialist parties appeared before World War I when no country could be described as democratic in the full modern use of the term, because of electoral discrimination on the basis of gender, race and wealth. What distinguished these democratic socialists from revolutionary socialists was a willingness to work within a parliamentary democracy (even if large groups of people were disenfranchised), to improve the lives of working classes and win the vote. Revolutionary Democratic Socialism attracted greater support a few decades later, when many democratic socialists became disillusioned because social democracy had failed to abolish capitalism and had in many cases abandoned the goal of building a socialist society.

[edit] History

Many early varieties of socialism, particularly those stemming from the sans-culotte branch of French Revolutionary politics, took for granted democratic characteristics such as universal suffrage and equality before the law. Notable among such currents are the egalitarian Jacobinism of Babeuf, the humanistic revolutionary spirit of Louis Blanc, Robert Owen's utopian socialism, and the communism of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Those types of socialism might in retrospect be labelled as democratic socialist. The late nineteenth century and early twentieth century socialist industrial unionism of Daniel DeLeon in the United States represented another strain of early democratic socialism — which favored a form of government based on industrial unions, but which also sought to establish this government after winning at the ballot box.

The Austromarxists were major representatives of democratic socialism between the two world wars. The guild socialism of G. D. H. Cole in the early 1920s was a conscious attempt to envision a socialist alternative to Soviet-style authoritarianism. During the 1920s, Council communism anticipated democratic socialist positions in several respects, notably through renouncing the vanguard role of the revolutionary party and holding that the system of the Soviet Union was not authentically socialist. Council communism has generally tended towards the anarchist positions, and cannot be considered as a democratic-socialist theory.

During India's freedom movement, many figures on the left of the Indian National Congress organized themselves as the Congress Socialist Party. The leading lights of Democratic Socialism in India have been Acharya Narendra Dev, Basawon Singh (Sinha), Jayaprakash Narayan, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan, Nath Pai, Madhu Dandavate and others. Their politics, and those of the early and intermediate periods of JP Narayan's career, combined a commitment to the socialist transformation of society with a principled opposition to the one-party authoritarianism they perceived in the Stalinist revolutionary model. The folkesocialisme or people's socialism that emerged as a vital current of the left in Scandinavia beginning in the 1950s could be characterized as a democratic socialism in the same vein.

There was a strong current of democratic socialism in the politics of the New Left in much of Europe and North America during the 1960s. The classic Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society combined a stringent critique of the Communist model with calls for a democratic socialist reconstruction of society. In western Europe, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the situationists, and various groups taking to the streets in May 1968 articulated similar positions. The New Left legacy of democratic socialism may be clearly seen in the post-Marxist positions of a wide range of intellectuals (sometimes identified with post-modernism or post-structuralism), including Chantal Mouffe in Europe to Cornel West in the United States. Simultaneously in Eastern Europe (particularly Czechoslovakia), there was a tendency towards socialism with a human face meant to endow a Marxist-Leninist political establishment with more authentically democratic credentials.

Even before the 1960s, democratic socialism became a prominent labor movement in the early 1900's. Eugene Debs, one of the most famous American socialists, led a movement centered around democratic socialism and syndicalism and made five bids for President, once in 1900 under the Social Democratic Party and then four more times under the Socialist Party of America.

Since the end of the Cold War, many traditionally Marxist-Leninist groups and parties have evolved positions more closely resembling democratic socialism. The parties of the European United Left often include both a conservative Marxist-Leninist wing and a liberal democratic socialist tendency.

The boundaries of what might be categorized as democratic socialism are fluid. On the right, democratic socialism shades seamlessly into social democracy; on the left, it passes into various hybrids and permutations of Leninism. It also shades off into a variety of radical progressive groups not specifically identifying with the history or symbolism of socialism. Since the 1990s, much of the political activity of the democratic Left has fed into the international Anti-globalization movement led by figures such as Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and Tony Benn. Many anti-globalist groups describe themselves as anti-capitalist without self-identifying as socialist, despite sharing a great many positions and analyses with democratic socialism.

[edit] Characteristics

Democratic socialists have normally defended the role of the public sector, particularly as regards the provision of key services such as health care, education, utilities, mass transit, and sometimes banking, mining, and fuel extraction. For evolutionary democratic socialists, their economic vision has often included a mixed economy with a greater emphasis on worker and consumer co-operatives, credit unions, family farms and small businesses. In India, democratic socialists have seen the traditional village-based peasant economy as a model to be supported and enhanced.

Revolutionary democratic socialists usually distinguish between the role of the public sector within parliamentary democracies and the role of social ownership in a post-revolutionary society. They see pre-revolutionary public ownership, not as a means of achieving socialism, but as a means of ameliorating the worst effects of capitalism until a transition to socialism can be made. Many revolutionary democratic socialists prefer the term "social ownership" rather than "nationalization" when describing the means of production, because the latter is often associated with bureacracratic social-democratic state ownership. Social ownership conveys a sense of a broadly based democratic control of the means of production at the level of the workplace.

Some democratic socialists advocate nonviolent resistance against capitalism, and others support anti-capitalist reforms through parliamentary means (see evolutionary socialism and Fabianism). Democratic socialists advocating direct action may share positions with anarcho-syndicalism, although democratic socialists characteristically do not regard the state as an entity to be abolished.

[edit] Democratic socialist parties and organizations

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Donald F. Busky, Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey

[edit] External links

es:Socialismo democrático eo:Demokrata Socialismo lt:Demokratinis socializmas mk:Демократски социјализам nl:Democratisch socialisme ja:民主社会主義 nn:Demokratisk sosialisme pl:Socjaldemokracja ru:Демократический социализм sv:Demokratisk socialism zh:民主社会主义

Democratic socialism

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