As I Please

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My Kind of Socialism III

Anthony Crosland (1918-77) is perhaps best remembered now as the author of The Future of Socialism (1956), which called for the reformulation of the UK Labour Party's policies and principles in modern social democratic terms, though he was also a leading member of the party and held several cabinet positions in Labour administrations until his sudden death. Whatever one might think of his revisionist views, it seems to me he had the essentials of democratic socialism right, as I believe the following quotation shows. Any individual, group, or government that claims to be democratic socialist, or social democratic in the sense of moderate democratic socialism (as opposed to simply welfare capitalism or liberalism) should have their words and actions measured and judged by the standards Crosland set out four years after his most famous book was published. This is not only my kind of socialism; I agree with Mr. Crosland's conclusion:
I start with three assumptions. First, while British socialists may differ about particular policy issues (for example, the exact form and extent of future public ownership), they would all subscribe to the following basic socialist values:
(1) An overriding concern with social welfare, and a determination to accord a first priority to the relief not merely of material poverty, but of social distress or misfortune from whatever cause.
(2) A much more equal distribution of wealth, and in particular a compression of that part of the total which derives from property income and inheritance.
(3) A socially 'classless' society, and in particular a non-elite system of education which offers equal opportunities to all children.
(4) The primacy of social over private interests, and an allocation of resources (notably in the fields of social investment and town and country planning) determined by the public need and not solely by profit considerations.
(5) The diffusion of economic power, and in particular a transfer of power from the large corporation (whether public or private) both to workers (either directly or through their unions) and consumers (through the co-operative movement).
(6) Generally, the substitution of co-operative for competitive, and other-regarding for self-regarding, social and economic relations.
(7) In foreign affairs, the substitution of disarmament, international action and the rule of law for nationalism and power politics.
(8) Racial equality (both at home and abroad), the right of colonial peoples to freedom and self-government, and the duty of richer nations to give aid and support to poorer ones.
(9) An increase in the rate of economic growth, both for the sake of a higher standard of living and as a pre-condition of achieving other objectives.
(10) A belief, not merely in parliamentary democracy, but in the rights and liberty of the individual as against the State, the police, private or public bureaucracy, and organised intolerance of any kind.
These ten values, or aspirations, constitute the basic principles of democratic socialism. There may be legitimate disagreement about their precise interpretation, and about the exact means - the particular institutional changes or forms of economic organisation - through which they can best be realised in our society. But no one can call himself [or herself] a socialist who does not assent to the basic values.
From Can Labour Win (Fabian Tract no. 324, 1960)


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