After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the USSR along with the communist states, the communism has been observed as the failed system upon the capitalism-liberal democracy. However, the legacy of communism still lies on the current political culture as well as the political culture in various parts of the world, as the legacy of the socialism.
That is because the school of socialism produced the diverse range of thoughts, such as the communism to the social democracy. The discussion, focusing on the evolution and influence of the socialism in the government and politics, is important and useful to observe the influence of the capitalism, as it stands, almost, opposite to the capitalism and classic liberalism.
However, the socialists faced on the reality that their opposition gained popularity and supports by various regions in the world; also regulating the economic sector has never been realized under the dominant capitalist system. Thus, the socialists reached the new approach to compromise to stay as the major-live-political ideology, or we can also say, the socialists accomplished the evolution of their ideology applicable to the current global situation.
Accordingly, in my opinion, the socialism still remains as the ideology practically reinforced in the national politics, with evolution and compromise so that it will fit to the current realities on politics and societies. This essay will argue this point from three points: first, the classic socialism, secondly, the evolution and fall of Marxism, and finally the school of democratic socialist’s arguments on governing under the capitalist-liberal democratic political/ economic structure.
The Classic Socialism
The characteristic features of socialism: The emphasis on the “public ownership of the means of the production” along with the democratic political decision making (Sargent, 90:2003) and specific belief in “community, cooperation, equity and common ownership (Heywood, 431:2002)”, have caused both development and decline of the socialism. The socialism has six basic elements:
- Community: The vision of human beings as social creatures.
- Fraternity: Belief on human beings sharing common humanity which enables the cooperation with one another.
- Social equality: Essential feature for social stability and cohesion.
- Need: Sympathy for equality yet the need should be demanded with a proper moral standard, such as the needs for housing and foods to keep the basic standard of living.
- Social class: As the class divisions has created unfair wealth distribution for a particular social class – the working class.
- Common ownership: Such as nationalization of the economic sphere, yet this element has been the controversial one with the market economy (Heywood:51-52).
The emphasis on the public ownership has been one of the most important features of the socialism, as the counter-ideology and practice against the capitalism,: the common (public) ownership of the means of production, which also means the restriction over the private property, the focus on the socialism had been the improvements of the political-economic situation that the artisan was facing by the emergence of the industrialization, but the focus had been gradually shifted, by the changes of the society, into growing industrial working class (Heywood: 51).
In the 20th century the attempt to enhance the position of the workers took the much organized path, formation of the labor unions and political parties-reformists; at the same time, revisionists took another path to create the Marxism, then later revolutionary socialism has been developed such as by Lenin and Bolsheviks (51:2002).
Sargent points out that some classic socialists had identified their ideologies as the production of the Christian political context, from the New Testament (90:2003). Yet it has been formed as the distinctive political ideology since the 19th century and the first object of the Socialism was “abolish the capitalist economy based on market exchange and replace with a qualitatively different society…on the principles of common ownership” (Heywood, 51:2003). Yet it should be reminded that one of the most influential productions, by the emergence of the socialism, was the works and discovery by Karl Marx to develop his theory which had been the one of the two major political ideologies in the 20th century.
Orthodox Marxism, conducted by Lenin and Stalin, claimed the establishment of the socialism in the one country, against proletarian domination of the society. Nevertheless, the political leadership by, “Bolshevik party” later renamed the Communist Party, had inherited the dictating ways of governing a nation from the political culture of proletariats. Heywood argues that Stalin turned USSR into a totalitarian dictatorship operating through systematic intimidation, repression and terror (55-56).
Also, “The economic Stalinism”, state collectivization and central planning, has failed and accelerated the end of the communist regimes. Thus, as the Marxism has the political feature, but importantly the Orthodox Marxist approach in economy failed in economic success, that is the crucial negativity on the practical use of the theory.
Marxism emphasize on historical materialism, dialectical change, alienation-depersonalization, class struggle, surplus value, proletarian revolution, and communism (53-54). Thus the Marxism ideology concentrated the socialism into the class struggle against the proletarian domination of the wealth and exploitation of the labors. They attempted the anti-capitalistic method to overcome the class systems so that it will achieve the society which socialism attempts to realize.
On the other hand of the criticism and the actual historical case of the falls of the communist regimes in the end of the cold war, for instance, kibbutz community in Israel, can be identified as, still existing, the pure socialistic, also “full communist” community where the community member does not own any private ownership, no means of the materialism, no money in the community, means of the production is publicly owned, the members does not attain income individually but the wealth is distributed by the community governed by the community members. However, the communism could not sustain its regime and structure of the society by the corruption of the political authorities as well as the difficulties in the planned economic system.
The Democratic Socialism: New Face of the Socialism?
Some argues that social democracy from traditional principles, indistinguishable from modern liberalism, more sympathetic attitude, than the support to the small government, towards state intervention (Heywood: 45-51).