Critically Assess the Political Philosophy of Socialism and Its Evolution Within the British Labour Party During the Interwar Period, 1919-1939

Topics: Socialism, Communism, Marxism Pages: 7 (2242 words) Published: March 9, 2005
Critically assess the Political Philosophy of Socialism and it's evolution within the British labour party during the interwar period, 1919-1939

It was Karl Marx (1818-1883) who said:
‘Socialism moves us to take a definite position against a structure of society in which the unjust division of wealth contradicts basic decency' .

Marx, often founded as the father of modern day socialism, saw a huge injustice in the division of wealth between the proletariat (working class/ruled class) and Bourgeoisie (middle class/capitalist/ruling class). The communist manifesto of 1848, written by Marx and his colleague Frederick Engels (1820-1895) cited guidelines towards the emancipation of the proletariat through non-violent means, i.e. through the formation of a politicised party of socialists gathered by means of a workers union, uniting to form the creation of a workers party. Socialist sceptics such as Edward F. Adams, have accused Marx of creating theories such as that of surplus value purely to reinforce his argument (and the general popular feeling of his time) that socialism is scientifically the better political philosophy: ‘Socialism is not based upon the Marxian theory of value, but the Marxian theory of value was evolved in an endeavour to fix a scientific basis for a popular movement already fully under way. Socialism is therefore not based on reason but emotion; not on reflection but desire; it is not scientific, but popular.'

Present day socialist ideology has split itself into two broad camps. The Communist approach to socialism, as adopted by Stalinist Russia, believed socialism could only be achieved through violent revolution and totalitarian dictatorship. Social Democracy sought to achieve socialism by non-violent means and turns it's back on dictatorship. The late 1970's saw the high point for communism. Almost two thirds of the worlds population lived in communist areas, these included the former Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, China; the south-east Asian nations of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam; the African nations of Angola and Mozambique; and the Latin American nations of Cuba and Nicaragua. Today only China, North Korea and Cuba practice under a communist rule. It is therefore appropriate to say the communist approach to achieving socialism has proven somewhat unsuccessful. Communist countries tend to be characterised by stagnation and a lack of innovation, this can be attributed directly to the public ownership and state control over factors of production (land, labour and capital). Businesses have little competition and often act as a monopoly in a communist country. Industry only has the task of producing a quota and cannot go out of business as they are government funded; meaning no incentive to produce goods to a high standard or keep costs down. This gives berth to inefficiency. Employment is often secure in a communist country as policies towards international trade and foreign competition are minimal as governments seek self-sufficiency. If an employee is comfortable, he/she is usually lazy; this too leads to a counter-productive output. As communist countries pursue self-sufficiency, they do not benefit from new technology products innovated abroad meaning economic growth is stunted and lags behind that of a capitalist competitor. The collapse of soviet Russia in the mid 1990's was the most recent, major political economic reform. The USSR is now a collection of fifteen republics, most of which are structured as democracies. Social Democracy is also in retreat, although not as extensively as communism. The most prominent social democratic countries over the past twenty years have been Great Britain, France, Germany, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Consistent with Marxist roots, social democratic parties (when they have been in power) have nationalised industries to be run for the "public good rather than private profit". In the UK for example, until the early...

Bibliography: · Adams E. F, A Critique of Socialism (Tomoye Press San Francisco June 1913).
· Barry E, Nationalisation in British Politics (London Macmillan 1988).
· Beer S, Modern British Politics (Faber London 1965).
· Coates D, The labour party and the struggle for socialism (Cambridge University Press 1975).
· Malthus T. R, First Essay on Population (London Macmillan 1926).
· Marx K. and Frederick E. Communist Manifesto (February 1848).
· Mckenzie R. T, British Political Parties (London Mercury Books 1963).
· Miliband R, Parliamentary Socialism (London Merlin Press 1973).
· Miliband R, and Saville J, The Socialist Register (London Merlin Press1965).
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