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Aims And Tasks Of Democratic Socialism

Summary:
Socialist and coomunist parties have formed various internationals over the course of centuries. I consider a declaration of the Socialist International, adopted at its First Congress held in Frankfort-on-Main on 30 June-3 July 1951 an authoritative statement of "The Aims and Tasks of Democratic Socialism". This declaration was re-affirmed in 1962. The declaration starts as follows: 1. From the nineteenth century onwards, capitalism has developed immense productive forces. It has done so at the cost of excluding the great majority of citizens from influence over production. It put the rights of ownership before the rights of man. It created a new class of wage-earners without property or social rights. It sharpened the struggle between the classes. Although the world contains

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Socialist and coomunist parties have formed various internationals over the course of centuries. I consider a declaration of the Socialist International, adopted at its First Congress held in Frankfort-on-Main on 30 June-3 July 1951 an authoritative statement of "The Aims and Tasks of Democratic Socialism". This declaration was re-affirmed in 1962. The declaration starts as follows:

1. From the nineteenth century onwards, capitalism has developed immense productive forces. It has done so at the cost of excluding the great majority of citizens from influence over production. It put the rights of ownership before the rights of man. It created a new class of wage-earners without property or social rights. It sharpened the struggle between the classes.

Although the world contains resources which could be made to provide a decent life for everyone, capitalism has been incapable of satisfying the elementary needs of the world’s population. It proved unable to function without devastating crises and mass unemployment. It produced social insecurity and glaring contrasts between rich and poor. It resorted to imperialist expansion and colonial exploitation, thus making conflicts between nations and races more bitter. In some countries powerful capitalist groups helped the barbarism of the past to raise its head again in the form of Fascism and Nazism.

2. Socialism was born in Europe as a movement of protest against the diseases inherent in capitalist society. Because the wage-earners suffered most from capitalism, Socialism first developed as a movement of the wage-earners. Since then more and more citizens — professional and clerical workers, farmers and fishermen, craftsmen and retailers, artists and scientists — are coming to understand that Socialism appeals to all men who believe that the exploitation of man by man must be abolished.

3. Socialism aims to liberate the peoples from dependence on a minority which owns or controls the means of production. It aims to put economic power in the hands of the people as a whole, and to create a community in which free men work together as equals.

4. Socialism has become a major force in world affairs. It has passed from propaganda into practice. In some countries the foundations of a Socialist society have already been laid. Here the evils of capitalism are disappearing and the community has developed new vigour. The principles of Socialism are proving their worth in action.

5. In many countries uncontrolled capitalism is giving place to an economy in which state intervention and collective ownership limit the scope of private capitalists. More people are coming to recognise the need for planning. Social security, free trade unionism and industrial democracy are winning ground. This development is largely a result of long years of struggle by Socialists and trade unionists. Wherever Socialism is strong, important steps have been taken towards the creation of a new social order.

6. In recent years the peoples in the underdeveloped areas of the world have been finding Socialism a valuable aid in the struggle for national freedom and higher standards of life. Here different forms of democratic Socialism are evolving under the pressure of different circumstances. The main enemies of Socialism in these areas are parasitical exploitation by indigenous financial oligarchies and colonial exploitation by foreign capitalists. The Socialists fight for political and economic democracy, they seek to raise the standard of living for the masses through land reform and industrialisation, the extension of public ownership and the development of producers' and consumers' cooperatives.

7. Meanwhile, as Socialism advances throughout the world, new forces have arisen to threaten the movement towards freedom and social justice. Since the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Communism has split the International Labour Movement and has set back the realisation of Socialism in many countries for decades.

8. Communism falsely claims a share in the Socialist tradition. In fact it has distorted that tradition beyond recognition. It has built up a rigid theology which is incompatible with the critical spirit of Marxism.

9. Where Socialists aim to achieve freedom and justice by removing the exploitation which divides men under capitalism, Communists seek to sharpen those class divisions only in order to establish the dictatorship of a single party.

10. International Communism is the instrument of a new imperialism. Wherever it has achieved power it has destroyed freedom or the chance of gaining freedom. It is based on a militarist bureaucracy and a terrorist police. By producing glaring contrasts of wealth and privilege it has created a new class society. Forced labour plays an important part in its economic organisation.

11. Socialism is an international movement which does not demand a rigid uniformity of approach. Whether Socialists build their faith on Marxist or other methods of analysing society, whether they are inspired by religious or humanitarian principles, they all strive for the same goal — a system of social justice, better living, freedom and world peace.

12. The progress of science and technical skill has given man increased power either to improve his lot or to destroy himself. For this reason production cannot be left to the play of economic liberalism but must be planned systematically for human needs. Such planning must respect the rights of the individual personality. Socialism stands for freedom and planning in both national and international affairs.

13. The achievement of Socialism is not inevitable. It demands a personal contribution from all its followers. Unlike the totalitarian way it does not impose on the people a passive role. On the contrary, it cannot succeed without thorough-going and active participation by the people. It is democracy in its highest form.

Further sections of the declaration discuss the goals of political democracy, economic democracy, social democracy and cultural progress, and international democracy. I find non-dogmatic the section on economic democracy:

1. Socialism seeks to replace capitalism by a system in which the public interest takes precedence over the interest of private profit. The immediate economic aims of Socialist policy are full employment, higher production, a rising standard of life, social security and a fair distribution of incomes and property.

2. In order to achieve these ends production must be planned in the interest of the people as a whole.

Such planning is incompatible with the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few. It requires effective democratic control of the economy.

Democratic Socialism therefore stands in sharp contradiction both to capitalist planning and to every form of totalitarian planning; these exclude public control of production and a fair distribution of its results.

3. Socialist planning can be achieved by various means. The structure of the country concerned must decide the extent of public ownership and the forms of planning to apply.

4. Public ownership can take the form of the nationalisation of existing private concerns, municipal or regional enterprise, consumers' or producers' cooperatives.

These various forms of public ownership should be regarded not as ends in themselves but as means of controlling basic industrie and services on which the economic life and welfare of the community depend, of rationalising inefficient industries or of preventing private monopolies and cartels from exploiting the public.

5. Socialist planning does not presuppose public ownership of all the means of production. It is compatible with the existence of private ownership in important fields, for instance in agriculture, handicraft, retail trade and small and middle-sized industries. The state must prevent private owners from abusing their powers. It can and should assist them to contribute towards increased production and well-being within the framework of a planned economy.

6. Trade unions and organisations of producers and consumers are necessary elements in a democratic society; they should never be allowed to degenerate into the tools of a central bureaucracy or into a rigid corporative system. Such economic organisations should participate in shaping general economic policy without usurping the constitutional prerogatives of parliament.

7. Socialist planning does not mean that all economic decisions are placed in the hands of the Government or central authorities. Economic power should be decentralised wherever this is compatible with the aims of planning.

8. All citizens should prevent the development of bureaucracy in public and private industry by taking part in the process of production through their organisations or by individual initiative. The workers must be associated democratically with the direction of their industry.

9. Democratic Socialism aims at extending individual freedom on the basis of economic and social security and an increasing prosperity.

A lot of work is still required to fulfill these aims. I do not know how compatible detailed proposals some have put forth are with these aims.

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