Social Movements and the New State: The Fate of Pro-Democracy Organizations When Democracy Is Won

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La Follette Sr. La Follette Jr. Debs ' presidential campaign and by extension, the Socialist Party of America , obtained 5. While Wilson's philosophy of New Freedom was largely individualistic, Wilson's actual program resembled the more paternalistic ideals of Theodore Roosevelt, such as New Nationalism , an extension of his earlier philosophy of the Square Deal , excluding the notion of reining in judges. Roosevelt's more extensive and populist Second New Deal challenged the business community. Conservative Democrats led by Roman Catholic politician and former presidential candidate Al Smith fought back along with the American Liberty League , savagely attacking Roosevelt and equating him and his policies with Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.

By contrast, already with the passage of the National Labor Relations Act of , or the Wagner Act, "the most significant and radical bill of the period", there was a upsurge in labour insurgency and radical organization, [] with labour unions that were energized by the passage of the Wagner Act signing up millions of new members and becoming a major backer of Roosevelt's presidential campaigns in , and In his Madison Square Garden speech , Roosevelt pledged to continue the New Deal and criticized those who were putting their greed, personal gain and politics over national economic recovery from the Great Depression.

Although criticized by many leftists and hailed by mainstream observers as saving capitalism from a socialist revolution, [] many socialists and Marxists have admired Roosevelt and supported his New Deal, including politicians and activists of European social democratic and socialist parties such as the Labour Party and the French Section of the Workers' International SFIO. While critical of Roosevelt, arguing that he never embraced "our essential conception of socialism", Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas viewed Roosevelt's program for reform of the economic system as far more reflective of the Socialist Party platform than of his own party's platform.

Thomas acknowledged that Roosevelt built a welfare state by adopting "ideas and proposals formerly called 'socialist' and voiced in our platforms beginning with Debs in ". This economic bill of rights was taken up as a mantle by the People's Program for the Congress of Industrial Organizations in , described as an "aggressively social-democratic platform" for the post-war era.

Harry S. Truman , Roosevelt's successor, called for universal health care with the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill , but strong conservative opposition stopped that part of the Fair Deal from being enacted.


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The Fair Deal was an ambitious set of proposals to continue and expand the New Deal. Truman later described it as the greatest disappointment of his presidency.

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It stated that "we are not suggesting that Mr. Truman is a Socialist. It is precisely because he is not that his adumbration of these policies is significant. They show that the failure of capitalism to serve the common man is not, after all, something we invented to exasperate Mr.

Kennedy has been called "the first Keynesian president" [] , and Michael Harrington along with other socialists were called to assist during the Presidency of John F. Kennedy , being directly involved in the New Frontier , and were also involved in the Johnson administration 's War on Poverty and Great Society programs during the s.

Philip Randolph , [] Bayard Rustin , [] [] [] and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Socialist Party had stopped running independent presidential candidates and consequently the party's name was changed because it had reformed itself towards social democratic centre-left Keynesianism rather than socialism, and because its previous name had confused the public. Sanders has described himself as a democratic socialist. Since his praise of the Nordic model indicated focus on social democracy as opposed to views involving social ownership of the means of production, [] [] [] Marian Tupy of the Cato Institute has argued that the term democratic socialism has become a misnomer for social democracy in American politics.

In a poll conducted by Gallup , a majority of Americans under the age of 30 in the United States stated they approved of socialism. In November , Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib , members of the Democratic Socialists of America , a democratic socialist organisation which advocates social democratic reforms that "will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people", [] were elected to the House of Representatives while eleven were elected to state legislatures.


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  • The origins of social democracy have been traced to the s, with the rise of the first major working-class party in Europe, the General German Workers' Association ADAV founded by Ferdinand Lassalle. It brought together socialists of various stances and initially occasioned a conflict between Karl Marx and the anarchists led by Mikhail Bakunin over the role of the state in socialism, with Bakunin rejecting any role for the state. Although Lassalle was not a Marxist, he was influenced by the theories of Marx and Friedrich Engels and accepted the existence and importance of class struggle.

    However, Lassalle promoted class struggle in a more moderate form which was unlike Marx's and Engels's The Communist Manifesto. Lassalle viewed the state as a means through which workers could enhance their interests and even transform the society to create an economy based on worker-run cooperatives.

    Lassalle's strategy was primarily electoral and reformist, with Lassalleans contending that the working class needed a political party that fought above all for universal adult male suffrage. Marx and Engels responded to the title Sozialdemocrat with distaste and Engels once writing: "But what a title: Sozialdemokrat! Marx agreed with Engels that Sozialdemokrat was a bad title.

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    Faced with opposition from liberal capitalists to his socialist policies, Lassalle controversially attempted to forge a tactical alliance with the conservative aristocratic Junkers due to their anti- bourgeois attitudes as well as with Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. This approach was opposed by the party's Marxists, including Liebknecht. Although the SDAP was not officially Marxist, it was the first major working-class organization to be led by Marxists and Marx and Engels had direct association with the party.

    The party adopted stances similar to those adopted by Marx at the First International. In the aftermath of the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War, revolution broke out in France, with revolutionary army members along with working-class revolutionaries founding the Paris Commune.

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    In spite of such militant rhetoric to appeal to the working class, the Commune also received substantial support from the middle-class bourgeoisie of Paris, including shopkeepers and merchants. In part due to its sizeable number neo- Proudhonians and neo-Jacobins in the Central Committee, it declared that the Commune was not opposed to private property, but it rather hoped to create the widest distribution of it. In the aftermath of the Paris Commune collapse in , Marx praised it in his work The Civil War in France for its achievements in spite of its pro-bourgeois influences and called it an excellent model of the dictatorship of the proletariat in practice as it had dismantled the apparatus of the bourgeois state, including its huge bureaucracy, military and executive, judicial and legislative institutions, replacing it with a working-class state with broad popular support.

    You know that the institutions, mores, and traditions of various countries must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are countries—such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland—where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means.

    This being the case, we must also recognize the fact that in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force; it is force to which we must someday appeal in order to erect the rule of labor. Marx was not optimistic that Germany at the time was open to a peaceful means to achieve socialism, especially after German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had enacted Anti-Socialist Laws in If in England, for instance, or the United States, the working class were to gain a majority in Parliament or Congress, they could, by lawful means, rid themselves of such laws and institutions as impeded their development, though they could only do insofar as society had reached a sufficiently mature development.

    However, the "peaceful" movement might be transformed into a "forcible" one by resistance on the part of those interested in restoring the former state of affairs; if as in the American Civil War and French Revolution they are put down by force, it is as rebels against "lawful" force. In his study England in and in , Engels wrote a study that analysed the changes in the British class system from to in which he commended the Chartist movement for being responsible for the achievement of major breakthroughs for the working class.

    The Reform Acts of and make a near approach to 'universal suffrage,' at least such as it now exists in Germany. A major non-Marxian influence on social democracy came from the British Fabian Society founded in by Frank Podmore that emphasised the need for a gradualist evolutionary and reformist approach to the achievement of socialism. The modern social democratic movement came into being through a division within the socialist movement: this division can be described as a parting of ways between those who insisted upon political revolution as a precondition for the achievement of socialist goals and those who maintained that a gradual or evolutionary path to socialism was both possible and desirable.

    Major developments in social democracy as a whole emerged with the ascendance of Eduard Bernstein as a proponent of reformist socialism and an adherent of Marxism. He and his supporters urged the Social Democratic Party of Germany to merge Kantian ethics with Marxian political economy.

    On the role of Kantian criticism within socialism, Bernstein said:. The method of this great philosopher Kant can serve as a pointer to the satisfying solution to our problem. Of course we don't have to slavishly adhere to Kant's form, but we must match his method to the nature of our own subject [socialism], displaying the same critical spirit. Our critique must be direct against both a scepticism that undermines all theoretical thought, and a dogmatism that relies on ready-made formulas. The term revisionist was applied to Bernstein by his critics who referred to themselves as orthodox Marxists , although Bernstein claimed that his principles were consistent with Marx's and Engels' stances, especially in their later years when they advocated that socialism should be achieved through parliamentary democratic means wherever possible.

    However, Kautsky did not deny a role for democracy in the achievement of socialism as he argued that Marx's dictatorship of the proletariat was not a form of government that rejected democracy as critics had claimed it was, but rather it was a state of affairs that Marx expected would arise should the proletariat gain power and be faced with fighting a violent reactionary opposition. Bernstein had held close association to Marx and Engels, but he saw flaws in Marxian thinking and began such criticism when he investigated and challenged the Marxian materialist theory of history.

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    Bernstein declared that the massive and homogeneous working class claimed in The Communist Manifesto did not exist and that—contrary to claims of a proletarian majority emerging—the middle class was growing under capitalism and not disappearing as Marx had claimed. Bernstein noted that the working class was not homogeneous, but rather heterogeneous, with divisions and factions within it, including socialist and non-socialist trade unions. In his work Theories of Surplus Value , Marx himself later in his life acknowledged that the middle class was not disappearing, but his acknowledgement of this error is not well known due to the popularity of The Communist Manifesto and the obscurity of Theories of Surplus Value.

    Bernstein criticised Marxism's concept of "irreconciliable class conflicts" and Marxism's hostility to liberalism. According to Bernstein, unlike orthodox Marxism, social democracy did not seek to create a socialism separate from bourgeois society, but it instead sought to create a common development based on Western humanism.

    Bernstein responded to critics that he was not destroying Marxism and instead claimed he was modernising it as it was required "to separate the vital parts of Marx's theory from its outdated accessories". He asserted his support for the Marxian conception of a "scientifically based" socialist movement and said that such a movement's goals must be determined in accordance with "knowledge capable of objective proof, that is, knowledge which refers to, and conforms with, nothing but empirical knowledge and logic".

    As such, Bernstein was strongly opposed to dogmatism within the Marxist movement. Representing revolutionary socialism, Rosa Luxemburg staunchly condemned Bernstein's revisionism and reformism for being based on "opportunism in social democracy".

    Luxemburg likened Bernstein's policies to that of the dispute between Marxists and the opportunistic Praktiker "pragmatists".