state socialism

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state socialism

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

State Socialism


a bourgeois-reformist, opportunist concept, according to which socialism is reduced to state intervention in the economy and in social relations. F. En-gels described the concept of state socialism as being without any true socialist content (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 35, p. 140); it arose as a result of bourgeois falsification, which called any attempts by the state to restrict free competition “socialism,” and on the other hand it was the fruit of the petit bourgeois illusions of the Utopian socialists, who awaited the “introduction” of socialism by the government and the ruling classes. As an example of such pseudosocialism existing in practice, Engels pointed to the system of state colonial exploitation created on the basis of the communal system by the Dutch government on Java (see Marx and Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 36, pp. 78–79, 96–97).

In the history of social thought, the idea of state socialism has been put forward by L. Blanc of France and K. Rodber-tus and F. Lassalle of Germany. They believed that the creator of socialism was not the proletariat but the bourgeois state. The view that any nationalization of the means of production and any increase in the role of the bourgeois state signifies in itself the negation of capitalism and the “socialist transformation” of the state were later systematized by the apologists of the Prussian bourgeois-Junker state into Kathedersozialismus. While the antisocialist laws were in force in Germany at the end of the 19th century, state socialism was the only form of “socialist” belief permitted, and even encouraged, by the Prussian government. From 1877 to 1882 the weekly State Socialist was published. The state socialism of the Prussian government was “only feudal reaction on the one hand, and a pretext for the extortion of money on the other, and its indirect aim was to transform the greatest possible number of proletarians into officials and pensioners dependent on the state, and to organize in addition to the disciplined army of soldiers and bureaucrats a similar army of workers” (Engels, ibid., vol. 35, p. 140). Marx and Engels revealed the bourgeois-reformist essence of the idea of state socialism and characterized the attempts to combine these ideas with Marxism, which were taking place in the German social democracy, as “one of the infantile diseases of proletarian socialism” (Engels, ibid., vol. 39, p. 184). V. I. Lenin pointed out a new role of the concept of state socialism in the imperialist era, as a weapon of the apologists of monopoly and state monopoly capitalism (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 33, p. 68). The concept of state socialism is used by the theoreticians of so-called democratic socialism for coloring with “socialist” phraseology the state monopoly regulation of present-day capitalist production.

The “leftist” variety of state socialism takes the form of “military-barracks” socialism, at the base of which lies the petit bourgeois illusion that the sole source of the socialist organization of labor is authority and the fulfillment of orders “from above.” The opponents of scientific socialism, especially the anarchists, continue their attempts to portray it as one of the systems of state socialism, presupposing the bureaucratic organization of production on the semimilitary model and directed by the orders of a messiah, who stands at the helm of state power. Such attempts are devoid of any foundation. Lenin emphasized that “socialism is not created by edicts from above. Its spirit is foreign to state-bureaucratic automatism; socialism is alive, creative; it is the creation of the popular masses themselves” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 35, p. 57). The experience of the development of socialist society has shown that socialism presupposes a democratic organization of the state and that it is impossible without broad democracy for the working masses, led by the working class and headed by the Marxist-Leninist party.


Marx, K. “Kritika Gotskoi programmy.” In K. Marx and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 19.
Engels, F. “Sotsializm g-na Bismarka.” Ibid., Pages 176–84.
Engels, F. Anti-Dühring. Ibid., vol. 20. Pages 288–95.
Engels, F. “[Pis’mo] E. Bernshteinu, 12 marta 1881.” Ibid., vol. 35.
Engels, F. “[Pis’mo] A. Bebeliu, 16 maia 1882.” Ibid.
Engels, F. “[Pis’mo] E. Bernshteinu, 22 avg. 1884.” Ibid., vol. 36.
Engels, F. “[Pis’mo] A. Bebeliu, 6 noiabria 1892.” Ibid., vol. 38.
Lenin, V. I. “Luiblanovshchina.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 31.
Lenin, V. I. “Gosudarstvo i revoliutsiia.” Ibid., vol. 33.
Plekhanov, G. V. “Ekonomicheskaia teoriia Karla Rodbertusa-Iagetsova.” Soch., vol. 1. Moscow-Petrograd, 1923.
Blanc, L. Organizatsiia truda. Leningrad, 1926. (Translated from French.)
Lasalle, F. “Glasnyi otvet Tsentral’nomu Komitetu, uchrezhden-nomu dlia sozyva obshchegermanskogo Rabochego Kongressa v Leiptsige.” Soch., vol. 2. Moscow, 1925.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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