The history of socialism has been a retreat from its principles. Discuss.

Socialism is a political ideology based on a political and economic theory of social organisation
which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or
regulated by the community as a whole. It has been argued that since its birth, socialism has
retreated far from its original core principles, becoming gradually more centrist through democratic
socialism, social democracy and the ‘3rd way’.
The main principle of socialism is its focus on equality. Marx’s theory was entirely based around
the idea of equality of outcome, to prevent from the working class from being exploited and
alienated by their employers. If everyone was given the same standard of living, the basis of
competition, and ‘survival of the fittest’ theory would be ridden of. Marx believed that the only
reason people were obsessed by capital, profit and greed was because of the capitalist superstructure we live in. Ultimately, Marx thought that equality was the end goal and main focus of his
ideology. However, as socialism became more modernised and democratic by thinkers like
Bernstein, the idea of socialism was not to achieve complete equality of outcome, but greater,
relative equality - through state intervention scheme such as income tax and benefits for those in
need. This is clearly a slightly more realistic method of socialism, through the gradualist theory of
creating a party for the working class and then being elected by the working class majority and
implementing democratic socialism. An example of this being actioned would be Clement Attlee in
1945, who nationalised 20% of the economy in order to restore Britain after WW2. It could be
argued that the democratisation of socialism slightly diluted its main principle of equality of
outcome, yet it could also be argued that a true socialist revolution and complete equality has
proven to be an unrealistic ambition.
Another main principle of socialism is its focus on the idea of class identity. Marx and Engels
believed that the only reason the was such a sense of class division in the 19th century was
because of the super structure of capitalist and feudalist societies creating an environment that
encourages class conflict warfare. In The Communist Manifesto, they both proposed that if there
were to be a revolution of the proletariat, and eventually a communist society, people would be
united by their similar class identity. Moving on to democratic socialism, it could be argued that
there was no retreat from the focus on class identity, as before democratic socialism was
introduced, the working class were not allowed to vote in elections and therefore not given the
option to introduce socialism through democratic or political means. Thinkers such as Tony Benn
were very focused on the importance of the working class, and it could be argued that true
democratic socialists focused too much on class identity, as it creates a sense of tribalism between
different classes - yet it still incorporates the working class and is almost certainly an improvement
on the political system before socialism existed. However, when socialism was further modernised
and centralised into the ‘3rd way’, the sense of class identity had almost completely been nullified.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, completely centralised the Labour Party to the extent that it was no
longer a working class party, but a middle class party, with the elimination of Clause IV from
Labour’s manifesto. Blair almost completely rejects the original principle of socialism which is for all
of society to be united into 1 singular class, and therefore is an example of how socialism retreated
from its original principles over the course of time. On the other hand, Blair focused on the
importance of the welfare state and aiding the socially excluded, yet never strengthened the trade
Another main principle of socialism is its focus on the idea of co-operation. The idea of cooperation originally, was a rejection of competition and the hallmark of capitalism. This would be
exemplified by someone such as Chairman Mao, Joseph Stalin or Vladimir Lenin. Both of these
leaders overthrew their own nation’s capitalist/monarchist governments in order to implement
socialism, or as Lenin called it, ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’. These dictators whole
philosophy was a reaction to the feudalist, exploitative societies they had endured, and therefore
their economic policies were completely co-operative and based on people working with and for
each other instead of for themselves. However, many more modern socialists would argue that
these dictators policies led to barbaric killing of people and defending it as the necessity of

that socialism has been forced to retreat from its principles because the working class of western states live in Eastern countries such as China and Taiwan. originally being a democratic socialist group created by intellectuals that aimed to benefit the working class through democratic means. A counter argument to the idea that modern socialist parties have completely rejected the idea of cooperation would be that they have merely accepted that true communism will never happen.‘stamping out’ counter-revolutionaries. Although. Furthermore. appeasement of the middle class and the ‘contented majority’. The means of co-operation have since been changed within socialism. and an acceptance of capitalism began to become part of modern socialist thinking. since their founding the party has become more centrist as the Labour party has too. some people believe that the working class is so minimal in western civilisation. it could also be argued that modern socialist parties have merely become pragmatic and adjusted to a more realistic and modern outlook on the original core principles of Socialism. with the Fabian Society recently not offering their full support to newly elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The Fabian society is a perfect example of this. it is clear to see that socialism has retreated from its original core values. and that their aim is to work in the best interests of the ‘contented majority’ of the working class. In conclusion. However. through the acceptance of inequality. .