Democratic Socialism

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Democratic Socialism


a reformist theory according to which socialism in the modern period, having lost its class-proletarian character, is transformed into a “general democratic” trend based upon a “reconciliation” of the classes. According to this theory, Marxism-Leninism in its implementation of socialist or communist construction and the revolutionary struggle of the working class has become a “branch torn away from socialism.” In its class content, democratic socialism acts as a consistent expression of the anticommunist tendencies of right opportunism and revisionism and as the logical development of the ideological principles of the right-wing social democracy, which broke away from the traditional socialist programs of the workers’ movement.

The concept of democratic socialism was already being used in the reformist literature of the late 19th century. It was designated as one of the trends of state socialism, which preferred a bourgeois-democratic state to a monarchy. Since the beginning of the 20th century, right-wing leaders of the social democracy have been proposing a concept of socialism that is in contrast to communism. Democratic socialism argues against the dictatorship of the proletariat, depicting the latter as a kind of authoritarian state communism that tramples on personal freedom and whittles away the individual’s personal needs and abilities. Representatives of democratic socialism have carried out a revision of the Marxist-Leninist views of capitalist society. New phenomena in the development of state-monopoly capitalism after World War II, especially those brought about by the scientific and technical revolution, have been interpreted as bearing witness to the “transformation” of capitalism. By the 1950’s, the modern doctrine of democratic socialism had taken shape, proclaiming a so-called pure socialist society in which there would be no public ownership of the means of production, no toiling people’s power in the leading role of the working class and its political vanguard, and no ideology of Marxism-Leninism.

According to the theoreticians of democratic socialism—B. Kautsky (Austria); H. Gaitskell, G. Cole, A. Crosland, H. Laski, H. Morrison, J. Strachey, and M. Phillips (Great Britain); N. Thomas (USA); and F. Sternberg (Federal Republic of Germany)—socialism, interpreted as a social and moral ideal applicable in all spheres of public and private life, is establishing itself as the result of reformist measures. These measures are called upon at any given moment to ensure the “increasingly complete class harmony,” the “maximum possible general welfare,” and the “most just distribution of the national income,” and thereby to facilitate the “socialization of the economy” on the base and within the framework of the bourgeois system. Instead of public, state ownership of the means of production, democratic socialism claims that state control over a “mixed economy” is an adequate basis for socialism (partial and indirect regulation of economic development by means of setting up programs, imposing taxes, sharing in the profits, and so forth). This claim would assume, along with state capitalist enterprises, the retention of private-enterprise capitalism and competition under the domination of monopolies. According to the doctrine of democratic socialism, the bourgeois state’s control over the economy represents a socialist measure in combination with the “democratic procedure” of this control. And working this out does not even depend so much on winning a majority in the parliament as it does on an “ethical renewal” and on achieving a “general consensus” in carrying out reforms while retaining differences in world views and tolerance of all opinions (except for communism).

In its Frankfurt Declaration (July 1951) the Socialist International, which had broken away not only in essence but also formally from Marxism, proclaimed democratic socialism as its official doctrine and deemed it appropriate to provide the only possible solution to the social problems of countries, primarily those with highly developed economies. The parties of the Socialist International have posed the attainment of “social democracy” as their task for the 1970’s. The ideas of democratic socialism are widely used to defend capitalism in countries controlled by monopoly capital, to attack the practice of socialist construction, and to mask attempts to restore capitalism in socialist countries.

The term “democratic socialism” is unscientific, inasmuch as it assumes a system of bourgeois democracy as the superstructure of socialism and, on the other hand, allows for the possibility of an undemocratic organizational structure within socialism. But, in fact, socialist construction is possible only under conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat and a socialist democracy; these are the inalienable criteria and the necessary factors in the realization of its principles.


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