As I Please

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Kind of Socialism IV

G. D. H. (George Douglas Howard) Cole (1889-1959) was perhaps the foremost British representative of what has been called libertarian or decentralist socialism, as opposed to state or centralist socialism. A remarkably prolific writer, he was the author among other distinguished works, of the monumental five-volume History of Socialist Thought (1953-60). At the end of it he states in conclusion what has been called his personal credo with which I would agree to a large extent:

I am neither a Communist nor a Social Democrat, because I regard both as creeds of centralisation and bureaucracy, whereas I feel sure that a Socialist society that is to be true to its equalitarian principles of human brotherhood must rest on the widest possible diffusion of power and responsibility, so as to enlist the active participation of as many as possible of its citizens in the tasks of democratic self-government.

From A History of Socialist Thought, Vol. V: Socialism and Fascism, 1960.

I have only two disagreements. First, with his characterization of social democrats. While Communism as Cole means it here (i.e. Marxist-Leninist) is certainly a creed of "centralisation and bureaucracy" I do not see that that should necessarily be the case with Social Democracy (i.e. moderate socialism), which is centralized and bureaucratic because modern democratic government is centralized and bureaucratic. My second disagreement is not with what he says but with what he means. Cole sees socialist society in near anarchist if not anarchist terms, what is called libertarian socialism, while I believe we should work to achieve democratic self-government through the government institutions we have. He was a utopian (although without utopian expectations), I am not.


Post a Comment

<< Home