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Social Sci LibreTexts

16.1F: Democratic Socialism

  • Page ID
    8465
  • Democratic socialism combines the political philosophy of democracy with the economic philosophy of socialism.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Discuss democratic socialism and how it differs from other ideas held by the government about the working class

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • Democratic socialism is contrasted with political movements that resort to authoritarian means to achieve a transition to socialism. It advocates the immediate creation of decentralized economic democracy from the grassroots level.
    • Democratic socialists distinguish themselves from Leninists, who believe in an organized revolution instigated and directed by an overarching vanguard party that operates on the basis of democratic centralism.
    • Eugene V. Debs, one of the most famous American socialists, led a movement centered around democratic socialism and made five bids for president.
    • In Britain, the democratic socialist tradition was represented in particular by William Morris’ Socialist League and, in the 1880s, by the Fabian Society.
    • In Britain, the democratic socialist tradition was represented in particular by William Morris’ Socialist League and, in the 1880s, by the Fabian Society.

    Key Terms

    • Fabian Society: The Fabian Society is a British socialist organization whose purpose is to advance the principles of democratic socialism via gradualist and reformist, rather than revolutionary, means.
    • Leninism: In Marxist philosophy, Leninism is the body of political theory for the democratic organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party, and the achievement of a direct-democracy dictatorship of the proletariat, as political prelude to the establishment of socialism.
    • democratic socialism: A left-wing ideology that aims to introduce democracy into the workforce, i.e. worker cooperatives, and ensure public provision of basic human needs.

    Democratic socialism combines the political philosophy of democracy with the economic philosophy of socialism. The term can refer to a range of political and economic organizational schemes. On one end, democratic socialism may combine a democratic national political system with a national economy based on socialist principles. On the other end, democratic socialism may refer to a system that uses democratic principles to organize workers in a firm or community (for example, in worker cooperatives).

    The term is used by socialist movements and organizations to emphasize the democratic character of their political orientation. Democratic socialism contrasts with political movements that resort to authoritarian means to achieve a transition to socialism. Rather than focus on central planning, democratic socialism advocates the immediate creation of decentralized economic democracy from the grassroots level—undertaken by and for the working class itself. Specifically, it is a term used to distinguish between socialists who favor a grassroots-level, spontaneous revolution (referred to as gradualism) from those socialists who favor Leninism (organized revolution instigated and directed by an overarching vanguard party that operates on the basis of democratic centralism).

    Historical Examples

    The term has also been used by various historians to describe the ideal of economic socialism in an established political democracy. Democratic socialism became a prominent movement at the end of the 19th century. In the United States, Eugene V. Debs, one of the most famous American socialists, led a movement centered around democratic socialism. Debs made five bids for president: once in 1900 as candidate of the Social Democratic Party and then four more times on the ticket of the Socialist Party of America. In Britain, the democratic socialist tradition was represented historically by William Morris’s Socialist League and, in the 1880s, by the Fabian Society.

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    Vladimir Lenin: Leninism is based on the philosophy of Vladimir Lenin, who advocated organized revolution led by a vanguard party.

    François Hollande and France: France is an example of a democratic socialist state. In 2012, French voters elected the Socialist Party candidate, François Hollande, into office with the expectation that he will meet his campaign promises to introduce greater socialist policy.