“Democratic socialism” in point of fact is the official ideology of the social-democratic parties, some of which are actually in power in the developed capitalist countries or share that power while some others find themselves at present in opposition. But the concept “democratic socialism” is intensively utilized by many political and ideological trends as offering supposedly the only alternative to capitalism and to existing socialism. But the ideology of “democratic socialism’’ is used to oppose not so much capitalist ideology as the ideology of scientific communism and. in the same way, government by the right Social Democrats is designed to oppose government by the working people in existing socialist society.
“Democratic socialism” has frequently adapted itself to changing conditions and each time has become increasingly less socialist in content. Today we are once again witnessing a new outbreak of so-called theoretical activity occasioned by this concept, for the social-reformist parties of the West and the leadership of the Socialist International have in recent years been faced with the necessity of improving their manifestoes, which in their traditional form no longer exert their former influence on the masses.
“Democratic socialism” has now become an extremely heterogenous mixture of ideas and is propagated by the representatives of numerous political currents. Primarily it is a concept advanced by social-democratic theoreticians either in the form of traditional “democratic socialism” as put forward by the right Social Democrats or in a somewhat modified form of “democratic socialism” as propagated by other social-democratic currents, which lay stress on what they refer to as “system-changing reforms”. However, we also come across “democratic socialism” in the form of the “socialist models” of such ideologists as Garaudy, Fischer and Sik, who have split with their communist parties and are now advancing their own revisionist views in opposition to the actual record of the socialist construction. Yet another form of “democratic socialism” is that which appears as a flirtation with socialism on the part of the left-liberal bourgeois ideologists who attempt to find their own “socialist” alternative solution to the problems facing society’. “Democratic socialism” is also rooted in the reformist ideas of the left Catholics, who are sharply critical of the vices of modem bourgeois society. It is seen again in that section of the youth in the capitalist world, which within the framework of the so-called New Left movement attempts to make up for its lack of theoretical grounding and its lack of clarity as to class positions with a purely emotional approach to the problems of society. Finally “democratic socialism” is widely exploited by proponents of Japanese, African and Latin American socialism as well as the advocates of so-called Zionist socialism, or Kibbutisism as it is termed and of various other trends and currents.
But whatever its colouring “democratic socialism” is a weapon in the arsenal of the revisionist and bourgeois ideologists. It is an ideology that is socialist in phraseology, but reformist and revisionist in essence, an ideology that seeks to oust the working class and the communist parties from their leading role in history and drown real socialism in a morass of empty bourgeois-liberal discussion on socialist transformations. “Democratic socialism”, whatever its guise, is nothing more than a reformist and bourgeois alternative to existing socialism, which historically speaking is the only possible form of socialism.
For all the kaleidoscopic variation in the theoretical concepts and practical programmes which make appeal to “democratic socialism” they all have one characteristic in common—a denial of scientific socialism and its basic ideas on the necessity for the radical, revolutionary transformation of capitalist society, the abolition of private ownership of the means of production and the whole system of capitalist social relations, and the leading role of the working class in eliminating the exploitation of man by man. In their attempts to distort the successes achieved by existing socialism in the socialist countries, the theoreticians of “democratic socialism” lay great stress on trying to show that the communist parties pay insufficient attention to developing democratic institutions whereas they advocate the unrestricted development of democracy.
But in reality, these concepts of unrestricted democracy are nothing more than empty, abstract theoretical postulations based on a false, supra-class understanding of the nature of democracy. They take no account of the objective dependence of democracy on the concrete conditions and level of development of a given society. The basic formula for “democratic socialism” despite its name is not “socialism plus democracy”, but “democracy minus socialism” or “democracy for the sake of democracy”. It is an abstract democracy divorced from the concrete conditions which is propagated by the adherents of “democratic socialism”.
“Democratic socialism” as an ideology is designed to draw the working class away from the struggle for the radical transformation of capitalist society, the struggle that is waged under the banner of socialism, and fight instead under the banner of abstract democracy for the gradual reform of capitalism which leaves the foundations of the capitalist system untouched. It is an ideology which is aimed at splitting the ranks of the international workers’ movement by opposing the struggle for socialism to the struggle for the democratization, which to all intents and purposes amounts to separating democracy from socialism entirely.
The theoreticians of “democratic socialism” represent it as a kind of “third way” which allegedly avoids the “extremes” of either capitalism or communism and gives rise to a new system of social democracy.
“Democratic socialism” as a political concept appears as a motley of reformist, revisionist and liberal-bourgeois ideas.
But although “democratic socialism” is a theoretically amorphous concept, which runs contrary to the laws of the real world, it nevertheless carries the hopes of many rank-and-file Social Democrats as well as many young Socialists and anticapitalist members of the intelligentsia who see it as the means to the realization of their socialist ideals. This is explained first of all by the fact that under the influence of a furious campaign launched by monopoly capital against the communist parties and existing socialism part of the socialistically-minded strata of the working people are inclined to seek out “new models of socialism”, and second by the increased propaganda spread throughout the socialist and social-democratic parties which puts forward purely formal and unsubstantiated repudiations of scientific socialism and declares “democratic socialism” as the only alternative to capitalism.
To show that the concept of “democratic socialism” has no basis in science will surely help to solidify the ranks of the international working-class movement, to fortify the unity of the workers, and contribute to the victory of socialism.