Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equality for all individuals, with a fair or egalitarian method of compensation. Modern socialism originated in the late 19th-century intellectual and working class political movement that criticized the effects of industrialization and private ownership on society. Though often conflated with the thought of Karl Marx, Marx merely saw socialism as a stage in the ineluctable transition from capitalism to communism.
The utopian socialists, including Robert Owen, tried to found socialist factories and other structures within a capitalist society. Henri de Saint Simon, the first individual to coin the term socialism, was the originator of technocracy and industrial planning. The first socialists predicted a world improved by harnessing technology and combining it with better social organization, and many contemporary socialists share this belief. Early socialist thinkers tended to favor more authentic meritocracy, while many modern socialists have a more egalitarian approach.
Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital, creates an unequal society, and does not provide equal opportunities for everyone in society. Therefore socialists advocate the creation of a society in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly based on the amount of work expended in production, although there is considerable disagreement among socialists over how, and to what extent this could be achieved.
Socialism is not a concrete philosophy of fixed doctrine and program; its branches advocate a degree of social interventionism and economic rationalization, sometimes opposing each other. Another dividing feature of the socialist movement is the split between reformists and the revolutionaries on how a socialist economy should be established. Some socialists advocate complete nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange; others advocate state control of capital within the framework of a market economy. Socialists inspired by the Soviet model of economic development have advocated the creation of centrally planned economies directed by a state that owns all the means of production. Others, including Yugoslavian, Hungarian, Polish and Chinese Communists in the 1970s and 1980s, instituted various forms of market socialism, combining co-operative and state ownership models with the free market exchange and free price system (but not prices for the means of production). Social democrats propose selective nationalization of key national industries in mixed economies, where small-business which can turn a profit and privately owned houses, cars, etc. can still exist. Social Democrats also promote, tax-funded welfare programs and the regulation of markets. Libertarian socialism (including social anarchism and libertarian Marxism) rejects state control and ownership of the economy altogether and advocates direct collective ownership of the means of production via co-operative workers' councils and workplace democracy.
Revolutions of 1917–1923
Vladimir Lenin (background) and Joseph Stalin.By the year 1917, the patriotism propelling the First World War metamorphosed to political radicalism in most of Europe, the United States (cf. Socialism in the United States), and Australia. In February, popular revolution exploded in Russia when workers, soldiers, and peasants established 'soviets (councils) wielding executive power in a Provisional Government valid until convocation of a Constituent Assembly. In April, Lenin arrived in Russia from Switzerland, calling for "All power to the soviets." In October, his party (the Bolsheviks) won support of most soviets while he and Trotsky simultaneously led the October Revolution. On 25 January 1918, at the Petrograd Soviet, Lenin declared "Long live the world socialist revolution!"
On 26 January, the day after assuming executive power, Lenin wrote Draft Regulations on Workers' Control, which granted workers control of businesses with more than five workers and office employees, and access to all books, documents, and stocks, and whose decisions were to be "binding upon the owners of the enterprises". Immediately, the Bolshevik Government nationalised banks, most industry, and disavowed the national debts of the deposed Romanov royal régime; it governed via elected soviets; and it sued for peace and withdrew from the First World War. Despite that, the peasant Socialist-Revolutionary (SR) Party won the Constituent Assembly against the Bolshevik Party, who then acted resolutely the next day.
The Constituent Assembly convened for 13 hours (16.00 hrs 5 Jan – 4.40 hrs 6 Jan 1918). Socialist-revolutionary leader Victor Chernov was elected President of a Russian republic and the next day, the Bolsheviks dissolved the Constituent Assembly. The Bolshevik Russian Revolution of January 1918 engendered Communist parties worldwide, and their concomitant revolutions of 1917-23. Few Communists doubted that the Russian success of socialism depended upon successful, working-class socialist revolutions effected in developed capitalist-economy countries. In 1919, Lenin and Trotsky organised the world's Communist parties into a new international association of workers – the Communist International, (Comintern), also denominated the Third International.
In November 1918, the German Revolution deposed the monarchy; as in Russia, the councils of workers and soldiers were comprised mostly of SPD and USPD (Independent Social Democrats) revolutionaries installed to office as the Weimar republic; the SPD were in power, led by Friedrich Ebert. In January 1919. the left-wing Spartacist Putsch challenged the SPD government, and President Ebert ordered the army and Freikorps mercenaries to violently suppress the workers' and soldiers' councils. Communist leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were captured and summarilly executed. Also that year, in Bavaria, the Communist régime of Kurt Eisner was suppressed. In Hungary, Béla Kun briefly headed a Hungarian Communist government. Throughout, popular socialist revolutions in Vienna, Italy's northern industrial cities, the German Ruhr (1920) and Saxony (1923) all failed in spreading revolutionary socialism to Europe's advanced, capitalist countries.
In Russia in August 1918, assassin Fanya Kaplan shot Lenin in the neck, leaving him with wounds from which he never fully recovered. Earlier, in June, the Soviet government had implemented War Communism to manage the foreign economic boycott of Russia and invasions by Imperial Germany, Imperial Britain, the United States and France (interfering in the Russian Civil War beside royalist White Russians). Under war communism, private business was outlawed, strikers could be shot, the white collar classes were forced to work manually, and peasants could be forced to provide to workers in cities.
By 1920, as Red Army commander, Trotsky had mostly defeated the royalist White Armies. In 1921, War Communism was ended, and, under the New Economic Policy (NEP), private ownership was allowed for small and medium peasant enterprises; industry remained State-controlled, Lenin acknowledged that the NEP was a necessary capitalist measure for a country mostly unripe for socialism, thus the existence of NEP businessmen and NEP women (NEP Men) flourished and the Kulaks gained capitalist power as rich peasants.
In 1923, on seeing the Soviet State's greatly coercive power, the dying Lenin said Russia had reverted to "a bourgeois tsarist machine... barely varnished with socialism." After Lenin's death (January 1924), the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – then controlled by Joseph Stalin – rejected the theory that socialism could not be built solely in the Soviet Union, and declared the Socialism in One Country policy. Despite the marginal Left Opposition's demanding restoration of Soviet democracy, Stalin developed a bureaucratic, authoritarian government, that was condemned by democratic socialists, anarchists and Trotskyists for undermining the initial socialist ideals of the Bolshevik Russian Revolution.
Inter-war era and World War II
The Russian Revolution of October 1917 brought about the definitive ideological division between Communists as denoted with a capital "С" on the one hand and other communist and socialist trends such as anarcho-communists and social democrats, on the other. The Left Opposition in the Soviet Union gave rise to Trotskyism which was to remain isolated and insignificant for another fifty years, except in Sri Lanka where Trotskyism gained the majority and the pro-Moscow wing was expelled from the Communist Party.
In 1922, the fourth congress of the Communist International took up the policy of the United Front, urging Communists to work with rank and file Social Democrats while remaining critical of their leaders, who they criticized for "betraying" the working class by supporting the war efforts of their respective capitalist classes. For their part, the social democrats pointed to the dislocation caused by revolution, and later, the growing authoritarianism of the Communist Parties. When the Communist Party of Great Britain applied to affiliate to the Labour Party in 1920 it was turned down.
After World War II
In 1945, the world’s three great powers met at the Yalta Conference to negotiate an amicable and stable peace. UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill joined USA President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee. With the relative decline of Britain compared to the two superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union, however, many viewed the world as "bi-polar" – a world with two irreconcilable and antagonistic political and economic systems. Many termed the Soviet Union "socialist", not least the Soviet Union itself, but also commonly in the USA, China, Eastern Europe, and many parts of the world where Communist Parties had gained a mass base. In addition, scholarly critics of the Soviet Union, such as economist Friedrich Hayek were commonly cited as critics of socialism. This view was not universally shared, particularly in Europe, and especially in Britain, where the Communist Party was very weak. In 1951, British Health Minister Aneurin Bevan expressed the view that, "It is probably true that Western Europe would have gone socialist after the war if Soviet behaviour had not given it too grim a visage. Soviet Communism and Socialism are not yet sufficiently distinguished in many minds."
In 1951, the Socialist International was refounded by the European social democratic parties. It declared: "Communism has split the International Labour Movement and has set back the realization of Socialism in many countries for decades... Communism falsely claims a share in the Socialist tradition. In fact it has distorted that tradition beyond recognition. It has built up a rigid theology which is incompatible with the critical spirit of Marxism."
The last quarter of the twentieth century marked a period of major crisis for Communists in the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, where the growing shortages of housing and consumer goods, combined with the lack of individual rights to assembly and speech, began to disillusion more and more Communist party members. With the rapid collapse of Communist party rule in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe between 1989 and 1991, the Soviet version of socialism has effectively disappeared as a worldwide political force.
In the postwar years, socialism became increasingly influential throughout the so-called Third World. Countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America frequently adopted socialist economic programs. In many instances, these nations nationalized industries held by foreign owners. The Soviet Union had become a superpower through its adoption of a planned economy, albeit at enormous human cost. This achievement seemed hugely impressive from the outside, and convinced many nationalists in the former colonies, not necessarily communists or even socialists, of the virtues of state planning and state-guided models of social development. This was later to have important consequences in countries like China, India and Egypt, which tried to import some aspects of the Soviet model.
In 1949, the Chinese Revolution established a Communist state in China. Criticizing the invasion and trade embargo of the young Soviet state, Bevan wrote "At the moment it looks as though the United States is going to repeat the same folly in China... You cannot starve a national revolution into submission. You can starve it into a repressive dictatorship; you can starve it to the point where the hellish logic of the police state takes charge."
Social Democracy in power
Clement Attlee, U.K. Prime Minister, Labour Party government, 1945–51In 1945, the British Labour Party, led by Clement Attlee, was elected to office based upon a radical, socialist programme. Socialist and Communist parties dominated the post-war French, Italian, Czechoslovakian, Belgian, Norwegian, and other, governments. In Sweden, the Social Democratic Party held power from 1936 to 1976 and then again from 1982 to 1991 and from 1994 to 2006. Labour parties governed Australia and New Zealand. In Germany, the Social Democrats lost in 1949. In Eastern Europe, the war-resistance unity, between 'Social Democrats and Communists, continued in the immediate postwar years, until Stalin imposed Communist régimes.
At first, Social Democracy held the view of having begun a serious assault against want, disease, ignorance, squalor, and idleness, the five "Giant Evils" afflicting the working class, identified by the British social reformer William Beveridge. However, from the Labour Party's left wing, Aneurin Bevan, who had introduced the Labour Party’s National Health Service in 1948, criticised the Attlee Government for not progressing further, demanding that the "main streams of economic activity are brought under public direction" with economic planning, criticising the implementation of nationalization for not empowering the workers, in the nationalised industries, with democratic control of operations.
In Place of Fear, the most widely read socialist book of the period, Bevan begins: "A young miner in a South Wales colliery, my concern was with one practical question: Where does the power lie in this particular state of Great Britain, and how can it be attained by the workers?"  The Frankfurt Declaration of the re-founded Socialist International stated:
1. From the nineteenth century onwards, Capitalism has developed immense productive forces. It has done so at the cost of excluding the great majority of citizens from influence over production. It put the rights of ownership before the rights of Man. It created a new class of wage-earners without property or social rights. It sharpened the struggle between the classes.
Although the world contains resources, which could be made to provide a decent life for everyone, Capitalism has been incapable of satisfying the elementary needs of the world’s population. It proved unable to function without devastating crises and mass unemployment. It produced social insecurity and glaring contrasts between rich and poor. It resorted to imperialist expansion and colonial exploitation, thus making conflicts, between nations and races, more bitter. In some countries, powerful capitalist groups helped the barbarism of the past to raise its head again in the form of Fascism and Nazism.| The Frankfurt Declaration 1951.
The post-war social democratic governments introduced social reform and wealth redistribution via state welfare and taxation. The new U.K. Labour Government effected the nationalizations of major public utilities such as mines, gas, coal, electricity, rail, iron, steel, and the Bank of England. To wit, France claimed to be the world's most State-controlled, capitalist country.
In the UK, the National Health Service provided free health care to all of the British population. Working-class housing was provided in council housing estates, and university education available via a school grant system. Ellen Wilkinson, Minister for Education, introduced free milk in schools, saying, in a 1946 Labor Party conference: Free milk will be provided in Hoxton and Shoreditch, in Eton and Harrow. What more social equality can you have than that? To wit, Clement Attlee's biographer says this contributed enormously to the defeat of childhood illnesses resulting from bad diet. Generations of poor children grew up stronger and healthier, because of this one, small, and inexpensive act of generosity, by the Attlee government.
In 1956, Anthony Crosland said that 25 per cent of British industry was nationalized, and that public employees, including those in nationalised industries, constituted a like percentage of the country's total employed population. Yet Labour did not seek ending capitalism; national outlook and dedication to the "post-war order" prevented nationalization of the industrial commanding heights, as Lenin put it. In 1945, they were denominated socialist, but, in the UK, Labour were the parliamentary majority, The government had not the smallest intention of bringing in the ‘common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange’ as written in Clause 4 of the Labour Party Constitution; nevertheless, Crosland said Capitalism had ended: To the question, ‘Is this still capitalism?’, I would answer ‘No’. In 1959, the German Social Democratic Party adopted the Godesberg Program, rejecting class struggle and Marxism.
In 1980, with the rise of conservative neoliberal politicians such as Ronald Reagan in the U.S., Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Brian Mulroney, in Canada, the Western, welfare state was attacked from within. As education secretary of the Conservative Government, 1970–1974, Margaret Thatcher abolished free milk for school children. Monetarists and neoliberals attacked social welfare systems as impediments to private entrepreneurship at public expense.
In the 1980s and 1990s, western European socialists were pressured to reconcile their socialist economic programmes with a free-market-based communal European economy. In the UK, the Labour Party struggled much; Neil Kinnock’s made a passionate and public attack against the Party's Militant Tendency at a Labour Party conference, and repudiated the demands of the defeated striking miners after a year-long strike against pit closures. In the 1990s, released from the Left's progressive pressure, the Labour Party, under Tony Blair, posited policies based upon the free market economy to deliver public services via private contractors.
In 1989, at Stockholm, the 18th Congress of the Socialist International adopted a Declaration of Principles, saying that
Democratic socialism is an international movement for freedom, social justice, and solidarity. Its goal is to achieve a peaceful world where these basic values can be enhanced and where each individual can live a meaningful life with the full development of his or her personality and talents, and with the guarantee of human and civil rights in a democratic framework of society.
The objectives of the Party of European Socialists, the European Parliament's socialist bloc, are "to pursue international aims in respect of the principles on which the European Union is based, namely principles of freedom, equality, solidarity, democracy, respect of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and respect for the Rule of Law." Today, the rallying cry of the French Revolution – "Equality, Liberty, and Fraternity" – now constitute essential socialist values.
In 1995, the British Labour Party revised its political aims: "The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that, by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create, for each of us, the means to realise our true potential, and, for all of us, a community in which power, wealth, and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few." Cabinet minister Herbert Morrison said, "Socialism is what the Labour Government does."
Hugo ChávezIn some Latin American countries, socialism has re-emerged in recent years, with an anti-imperialist stance, the rejection of the policies of neo-liberalism and the nationalisation or part nationalisation of oil production, land and other assets. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Bolivian President Evo Morales, for instance, refer to their political programs as socialist. Chávez has coined the term "21st century socialism" (sometimes translated more literally as "Socialism of the 21st century"). After winning re-election in December 2006, President Chávez said, "Now more than ever, I am obliged to move Venezuela's path towards socialism."
In the developing world, some elected socialist parties and communist parties remain prominent, particularly in India and Nepal. The Communist Party of Nepal in particular calls for multi-party democracy, social equality, and economic prosperity. In China, the Chinese Communist Party has led a transition from the command economy of the Mao period to an economic program they term the socialist market economy or "socialism with Chinese characteristics." Under Deng Xiaoping, the leadership of China embarked upon a program of market-based reform that was more sweeping than had been Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika program of the late 1980s. Deng's program, however, maintained state ownership rights over land, state or cooperative ownership of much of the heavy industrial and manufacturing sectors and state influence in the banking and financial sectors. In South Africa the ANC abandoned its partial socialist allegiances on taking power and followed a standard neo-liberal route. But from 2005 through to 2007 the country was wracked by many thousands of protests from poor communities. One of these gave rise to a mass movement of shack dwellers, Abahlali baseMjondolo that, despite major police suppression, continues to advocate for popular people's planning and against the marketization of land and housing. Communist candidate Dimitris Christofias won a crucial presidential runoff in Cyprus, defeating his conservative rival with a majority of 53%. The Left Party in Germany has also grown in popularity.
African socialism continues to be a major ideology around the continent. The People's Republic of China, Cuba, North Korea, Laos and Vietnam are states remaining from the first wave of socialism in the 20th century.