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Socialist demonstration on May 1, 1912 in Union Square , New York City

The socialism (of Latin Socialis , matey ') is one of the created in the 19th century three major political ideologies besides the liberalism and conservatism . There is no clear definition of the term. It encompasses a wide range of political orientations. These range from (fighting) movements and parties that see themselves as revolutionary and want to overcome capitalism quickly and forcibly, to reformatory lines that accept parliamentarism and democracy ( democratic socialism ). As a result, a rough distinction is made between the orientations of communism , social democracy or anarchism . Socialists generally emphasize the basic values ​​of equality , justice , solidarity and in some currents also the realization of negative and positive freedom . They often emphasize the close interrelationship between practical social movements and theoretical social criticism, with the aim of reconciling the two with a view to a socially just economic and social order.

Historically, systems have existed and have existed in many countries which - partly as a self-designation - are referred to as real socialism , but also as state socialism and can basically be classified as authoritarian or totalitarian systems; to name are u. a. the Soviet Union , People's Republic of China , North Korea , the GDR or Cuba .


Concept history

The representatives of modern natural law in the manner of Hugo Grotius and Samuel von Pufendorf were polemically named as socialistae (Latin) or socialisti (Italian) in the 18th century by Roman Catholic theologians who were critical or even hostile to the Enlightenment . In 1762 Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote his work Du contrat social , in which the state is based on the contract (contract) of free individuals. Since 1793, the legal-philosophical term "socialists" has been used in Germany for supporters of the Pufendorf principle of solidarity.

The word socialism is found for the first time in 1803 in the Italian form socialismo . Giacomo Giuliani uses this term in his criticism of Rousseau positively on the social order, although he considered it the divine will that society should be characterized by hierarchies between people. However, such a religious reinterpretation was heavily criticized because the term was seen in a causal connection with the liberalism of the Enlightenment.

The first evidence of the use of the word socialist in English was found in 1824, the real French socialisme for the first time in 1832, coined by Joncières, more widely used by Leroux and Reybaud.

A transfer of the original term adjective socially into today's German society language is near together , meet , or about socially acceptable , the Community conducive to search.

The adjective socialist, on the other hand, was understood politically from the start . From a social point of view, it is a further development of the social ideas of the Enlightenment insofar as this equality is to be granted not only to law but also to property.

Definition problem

What is meant by socialism has long been a matter of dispute. As early as the 1920s, the sociologist Werner Sombart collected 260 definitions of socialism.

There is no generally recognized, scientifically valid definition. Rather, the use of words is characterized by a large amount of meaning and conceptual fuzziness and is subject to constant change in meaning. That is why the term is often preceded by adjectives (proletarian, scientific, democratic, Christian, cooperative, conservative, utopian) for more precise definition. Further examples of such specifications are for example agricultural socialism, state socialism or reform socialism.

The following definitions can give a lowest common denominator of the term :

"Socialism refers to a wide range of economic theories of social organization, which have set collective ownership and political administration as the goal of creating an egalitarian society ."

"Socialism refers to ideologies that propagate the overcoming of capitalism and the liberation of the working class from poverty and oppression ( social question ) in favor of a social order oriented towards equality, solidarity and emancipation."

"It can be defined as a political doctrine developed as a counter-model to capitalism that wants to change existing social conditions with the aim of social equality and justice, and a social order organized according to these principles and a political movement that strives for this social order."

The variety of meanings is additionally increased because the term socialism can denote methods and objectives, socio-political movements as well as historical-societal phases and existing social systems:

  • a socio- economic , political, philosophical, educational or ethical teaching aimed at the interpretation, analysis, criticism, ideals or practical shaping of certain social conditions ;
  • a political movement that tries to put into practice the demands and goals established by socialism ;
  • the state of society or the social order that embodies socialism in economic modes of production and forms of life;
  • In the context of Marxism-Leninism, a world historical development phase in the transition from the capitalist to the communist social formation .
  • the term " real socialism ", which was used to describe those states that had been ruled by a communist party since 1917, usually in a one-party system.

According to the political scientist Günter Rieger, socialist ideologies can be distinguished on the one hand by their attitude towards the state (state socialism versus anarchism ), on the other hand according to the way in which the desired transformation of society is to be achieved (revolution versus reform ), and thirdly, which one The different social and economic interests of those involved are given priority ( class antagonism versus pluralism ).

Historical overview

An explicitly socialist movement only developed as a result of the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution between the end of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century. It was closely interwoven with the emergence of the labor movement . As with all -isms , socialism appeared historically in a variety of forms: from the cooperative ideas of the early socialists to party-political organization in social-democratic, socialist and then communist parties, which often took on different forms in the course of the 20th century.

Early socialism

Charles Fourier (1772–1837) is one of the most important early socialists

Early socialists such as François Noël Babeuf , Claude-Henri Comte de Saint-Simon , Louis-Auguste Blanqui , Charles Fourier , Pierre-Joseph Proudhon , William Godwin , Robert Owen and Moses Hess laid political concepts ranging from quasi-absolutist dictatorships to anarchist federalism in front. They were united on the one hand in a defensive reaction against the effects of early capitalism and in the hope of a society that would overcome medieval class differences as well as newer class antagonisms. Often times they argued very morally. An analysis inspired by social science, such as that carried out by Marx, did not yet exist.

From a social structural point of view, early socialism was not supported by the working class , but by craftsmen and the petty bourgeoisie . They were already beginning to feel the upheavals of the industrial revolution, without the formation of an industrial proletariat.

Some like Robert Owen tried to build self-contained socialist communities in what was perceived to be a hostile environment. Most socialists aimed for a fundamental change in the whole of society.

Socialist-inspired activists took part in the French Revolution from 1789 to 1799 and in the essentially bourgeois European revolutions up to 1848/1849 (see July Revolution 1830, February Revolution 1848 and March Revolution 1848/1849); These early socialist movements had their last high point in the 19th century in the Paris Commune of 1871, which is considered the first proletarian revolution and which was bloodily suppressed after a short time.

Due to the historical development, the lines of discussion became clearer afterwards: The diverse approaches of early socialism split into three main lines, anarchism and the communist and social democratic movements inspired by Marxism . Occasionally, as in the 20th century with the Russian revolutions of 1905 and the February revolution in 1917 ( only to a limited extent with the October revolution in 1917), the Munich Soviet Republic in 1919 or the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, the three groups worked together. However, this was only short-term, mostly characterized by violent internal disputes and ended in the victory of one group or the defeat of all.


Louise Michel (1830–1905) was a major exponent of anarchism

The anarchists also understood themselves in the socialist tradition:

“What was defeated in June 1848 was not socialism in general, only state socialism, authoritarian and regulatory socialism, which had believed and hoped that the state would give full satisfaction to the needs and legitimate desires of the working class and, with its omnipotence, a new one want to and can introduce social order. "

The theory of anarchism therefore rejects state structures as an instrument of rule . Anarchism builds on the voluntary association of individuals in collectives , councils, and communes to achieve the same goals. Anarchism strives for a synthesis between individual freedom and collective responsibility and differs from authoritarian currents. For example, instead of the state, Bakunin proposes:

"To organize society in such a way that every male or female being born finds roughly the same means to develop his abilities and to make them usable through work ..."

Religiously motivated socialists

Wilhelm Weitling (1805–1871) established socialist positions with reference to the Christian ideal of equality

The movement of religious socialism emerged with the strengthening of the workers' movement in Central Europe since the 19th century, especially among socially committed Christians , and in some cases also Jews .

The fact that socialism, which superseded the democratic radicalism of German craftsmen, workers and intellectuals, constituted itself as religious socialism can be traced back to the tailor's journeyman Wilhelm Weitling , the head of the movement at the beginning of the 1840s. Weitling founded his socialist utopia of society, based on the ideal of community of goods, in the text Humanity as it is and should be in 1839/40, but also in his Gospel of a Poor Sinner in 1843, predominantly Christian-religious.

Especially since the experience of the First World War won among Jews the conviction on the ground that lasting peace in accordance with the Torah and the Gospel could only be realized if the on selfishness , competition and exploitation founded capitalism will overcome.

Hermann Samuel Reimarus , Karl Kautsky , R. Eisler, Samuel George Frederick Brandon , and others referred to the person and actions of Jesus in their “social and political struggle against existing orders” and emphasized his closeness to the Zealot movement.

Others such as B. the theologian Hans Küng , consider a claim of Jesus for social revolutionary endeavors to be constructed.

Marxist socialism

Karl Marx , 1875

According to Friedrich Engels , socialism still meant a bourgeois movement in 1847, while communism meant a workers' movement ( Cabet , Weitling ), which is why Karl Marx and Engels preferred the term “communists” at that time. It was not until 1887 that even the English trade unions committed themselves to socialism.

The Marxism had long been the prerogative of interpretation in the socialist movement. After the decline of the First International in 1876 ​​and for most of the entire 20th century, discussions within and about socialism were predominantly carried out using the terms coined by Marx and Engels.

Marx and Engels viewed early socialism as utopian socialism and contrasted it with scientific socialism . According to the theory of Marx and Engels, the capitalist class (private owners of the means of production ) and the working class ( proletariat ) face each other as opponents in the epoch of capitalism . The workers are forced to sell their labor to the capitalists. The respective capitalist employs the workers as wage earners and benefits from their work, because he only pays the workers a part of the money earned through their work, the rest he keeps to himself. Accordingly, exploitation arises. The different interests of the two classes would be in constant conflict, that is, in a class struggle . The worsening of this conflict would, according to Marx and Engels, require the organized working class to seize power in order to liberate itself. According to Marx, the dictatorship of the proletariat, with its task of abolishing private ownership of the means of production, is the prerequisite for a classless society (communism). According to Friedrich Engels, this dictatorship will be a democratic rule of the majority over the remnants of the exploiting class. He and Marx called for the nationalization of all means of production, for example in the Communist Party's manifesto :

“The proletariat will use its political rule to gradually wrest all capital from the bourgeoisie, all instruments of production in the hands of the state; H. of the proletariat organized as the ruling class to centralize and to increase the mass of the productive forces as quickly as possible. "

How the form of society would look more precisely after the development from socialism to communism, i.e. the classless society, was deliberately not elaborated more precisely by Marx and Engels and will be shown following the theory on the basis of concrete social developments and contradictions.

Two well-known quotes that revolve around the development to the higher phase of communist society:

“In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaved subordination of individuals to the division of labor, so that the opposition between mental and physical labor has also disappeared; after work has become not only a means to life but itself the first necessity of life; After the all-round development of individuals, their productive forces have grown and all the springs of the cooperative wealth flow more fully - only then can the narrow bourgeois legal horizon be completely exceeded and society can write on its banner: everyone according to their abilities, everyone according to their needs! "

“As soon as there is no longer any social class to be kept in oppression, as soon as the resulting collisions and excesses with class rule and the struggle for individual existence based on the previous anarchy of production have been eliminated, there is nothing left to repress that particular force of repression , a state, made necessary. The first act in which the state really appears as the representative of society as a whole - taking possession of the means of production in the name of society - is at the same time its last independent act as a state. The intervention of a state authority in social relations becomes superfluous in one area after the other and then falls asleep by itself. The administration of things and the management of production processes take the place of government over people. The state is not 'abolished', it is dying. "

The phase of dictatorship was understood by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as an independent social formation, which he called socialism. In it, the proletarians would change the relations of production by socializing the means of production in such a way that the class antagonisms themselves would ultimately be abolished. The state, conceived by Marx as an instrument for the oppression of one class by the other, thus becomes superfluous and withers away, from which the last social formation in human history becomes possible, communism.

In the so-called revisionism controversy within German social democracy, Marxists who wanted a revolution distinguished themselves from those who wanted to bring about socialism through reforms. Rosa Luxemburg emphasized the inevitability of the revolution by writing, for example:

"For social democracy, there is an inseparable connection between social reform and social revolution, in that the struggle for social reform is the means, while social upheaval is the end."

Your internal party opponent Eduard Bernstein took the view that social democracy could achieve the desired fundamental renewal of society through a constant reform process. He questioned the necessity of the proletarian revolution and advocated participation in the political system of the empire. This differentiation was maintained in the Weimar Republic and the first twenty years of the Federal Republic.

Real socialism

Those states that had been ruled by a communist party , usually in a one-party system, since 1917, described themselves as actually existing socialism : especially the Soviet Union with the CPSU and the states of the European " Eastern Bloc, which were aligned with their system from 1945" ", Including: Poland , ČSSR , Hungary , Bulgaria , Romania , German Democratic Republic and the Mongolian People's Republic . Furthermore, there are still some more very different, partly contradictory by some as a real socialist designated systems such as the People's Republic of China (since 1949), in accordance with the Vietnam War united Vietnam (since 1975 at the latest), Laos (since 1975), Cuba (since 1959) or North Korea (since 1948).

With the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 , the ideas of socialism were to be put into practice for the first time in a large state. The concept of real socialism should explain why many of the predictions of Marxian theory such as the world revolution and the rapid development of greater prosperity in the socialist states did not materialize and why these states continued to develop towards communism, although they had to struggle with realpolitik problems .

After Lenin's death, Stalin advocated the theory of a possible “ socialism in one country ” that could establish and maintain itself independently of the world revolution. Trotsky , on the other hand, put forward his theory of permanent revolution in order to prevent a bureaucratic solidification of a social revolution through renewed domestic political upheavals and revolutionization of other countries. After Stalin had prevailed against Trotsky, the Communist Party, which he ruled, gave up the original goals of the Bolsheviks, too, which had promised democratization after the successful establishment of socialist relations of production. Stalin's rigorous coercive measures for forced industrialization, collectivization of agriculture, ethnic homogenization and elimination of all possible opposition - summarized as Stalinism - but also the similar policies of his successors and the constant serious violations of human rights in real socialist states have discredited these systems worldwide. In the view of many critics, the de facto national, dictatorial-technocratic power politics and the imperialist hegemony of such states endangered all further attempts at a socialism independent of the Soviet Union or China. Real socialism is criticized either as a logical consequence of the Marxian model of socialism or as its reversal into the opposite, so that many critics denied these states the right to call themselves socialist.

Since the turning point and peaceful revolution of 1989, real socialism has been considered to have historically failed, despite some systems of this type still in existence. Many see the following developments as the main causes for the failure of real socialism:

  • Contrary to the predictions of Marxism, the capitalist industrial states of Europe, North America and East Asia developed a more or less pronounced social security system in a welfare state under pressure from the workers' movement and the competition of real socialism , which and thus cushioned the worst social differences and poverty in these countries also significantly minimized the revolutionary potential there.
  • The state apparatus of most real socialist states turned out to be increasingly inflexible due to a lack of democratic participation, and due to ideological and other obstacles hardly able to deal with the degree of complexity of modern Western societies .
  • The states of real socialism based themselves on a usually capitalist model of modernization, only they could hardly catch up with the degree of modernization of these states, with a few technological exceptions. Nevertheless, they tried - for example through subsidies in many areas (health care, public transport, basic food production, housing construction, etc.) - to surpass the research achievements of the capitalist states, which was summarized in the slogan “overtaking without catching up”.
  • The political systems of real socialist states were seldom supported in the long term by the majority of the respective population, especially not where the corresponding system (without its own revolution) was imposed from outside (especially in Hungary, the ČSSR, Romania, Poland, the GDR and Bulgaria). These systems were kept alive in the long run against a growing opposition by the ruling socialist or communist parties, also by an increasingly rampant police state (spying, repression, censorship ). The unwilling part of the population, some of which would have preferred to emigrate, was often prevented from leaving the state by barriers and strict visa regulations. Real socialist states also employed means under which the advocates of socialism suffered in the 19th century, an example of which is the political persecution of Trotskyists .
  • The state and centrally controlled planned economy implemented in most real socialist states often lacked an overview of the conditions and local needs. Long-term economic planning without feedback from producers and consumers often lost the flexibility to react to complex economic processes at short notice. The result was that production was often inadequate, economically necessary investments were not made, resources were used inappropriately and innovations were not implemented. Another economic reason for the failure of real socialism was the high indebtedness of the corresponding states, which increased in particular during the Cold War , for example in order to keep up with the military development of the USA and NATO in terms of arms production (see arms race ).

Social democracy

Eduard Bernstein (1850–1932) representative of social democratic reformism

In European social democracy , reformism prevailed from around 1900 , which believes it can achieve socialism not through a social revolution but through democratic reforms. Thus, social democratic founding programs that expected socialism according to the Marxian theory of class struggle as the result of critical escalation of social contradictions and revolutionary transformations, were first abandoned in practical everyday politics and then theoretically.

In Germany, the debate about a revolutionary or reformist path to socialism began with publications by Eduard Bernstein , which sparked the revisionism debate in 1896 . Bernstein's position in the SPD did not find a majority at first, but after the death of party chairman August Bebel in 1913, under his successor Friedrich Ebert, it became more and more popular. From this and from the consent of the SPD parliamentary group in the Reichstag to the war loans to finance the First World War in 1914, in which the Socialist International collapsed, ideological disputes within the social democracy became manifest, which ultimately led to the division of the SPD into USPD and MSPD . They have intensified in Russia since the October Revolution in 1917. A split developed between socialists and communists, who founded their own communist parties . The break between the two camps was particularly evident in the relationship to so-called real socialism with Soviet characteristics. The Communist Party of Germany (KPD), founded in early 1919, as the successor to the Spartakusbund , claimed to preserve the best social democratic traditions with proletarian internationalism . With the assassination of the Spartacus leaders and KPD founders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht , the split of the German labor movement into the reform-oriented SPD and the Marxist-revolutionary KPD became irreversible, while the USPD was crushed between these two poles until 1922 and thereafter no significant role in the Weimar Republic played more.

In Russia, as early as 1903, social democracy split into the reform-oriented Mensheviks (= minority groups) and the Marxist-revolutionary Bolsheviks (= majority members), the opposition of which became final in 1912 after temporary renewed cooperation. Under Kerensky , the Mensheviks succeeded in overthrowing the tsar and forming a government with the February Revolution of 1917 , but they continued the war against Germany for territorial gains. Lenin took over the theoretical leadership of the Bolsheviks, and after his return from exile in 1917, the practical leadership . By offering an immediate peace, he won a majority in the council, which he used for a new revolution - this time against the Russian parliament in Petersburg. After the five-year Russian civil war against various "white troops" loyal to the Tsar (see White Army ), the Bolsheviks founded the USSR with the sovereign state party, known as the CPSU since 1952 . With this, the defeated Russian Social Democrats lost all power-political importance almost until the end of the Soviet Union in 1990.

The inner-socialist contradictions in the “system question”, which had turned out in Germany in favor of the reformists and in Russia in favor of the Leninists, deepened the division between social democrats and communists after the shift to the right of the Weimar Republic from 1923 and thus weakened the future prospects of socialism worldwide. Although the SPD stuck to the goal of replacing the capitalist with a socialist economic order until its Heidelberg program of 1925, in everyday political life it followed the path of a reform party that gradually enforced its goals in parliament through compromises and coalitions - also with opposing forces in society sought. Although it remained one of the largest democratic parties in the first German republic and supported most of the governments, it soon found itself on the political defensive against German national and right-wing parties, until in 1933, shortly after the KPD, it was joined by the new regime of the Nazi Party with all other parties except the NSDAP National Socialism was banned, its executives were persecuted and their structures were smashed.

After the end of the Nazi dictatorship , the SPD was able to regenerate itself and now resorted to socialist goals that were supposed to prevent fascism from regaining its strength through energetic interventions in monopoly capitalism . But it was only after the transition to a market economy in the Godesberg program in 1959 that it became a people 's party . In doing so, she defined “socialism” as “democratic socialism”, expressly differentiating it from Soviet communism in order to show her recognition of the pluralistic system of Western democracies. The SPD gradually freed itself from its role in the opposition and in 1969 appointed Willy Brandt as Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany for the first time . Its government declaration promised “more democracy”, but no longer socialism in the sense of the old SPD programs.

In the Soviet occupation zone , under Soviet influence, the SPD was forced to unite with the dominant KPD to form the SED , which remained in power in the GDR from 1949 until its fall in 1989/1990 and was based on the CPSU and the political system of the USSR . There, socialism continued to be seen as the opposite of western capitalism and a preliminary stage to communism.

Since the failure of real socialism, social democratic governments in Europe have increasingly opened up to the “new center”. In the SPD this process began around 1999 with the " Schröder-Blair Paper ", a joint declaration by SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair of the Labor Party at the time , and led through the Hartz IV laws from 2002 to on the debate on the removal of democratic socialism from the party platform.

Critics of globalization like Attac and former SPD leftists like Oskar Lafontaine see it as a turning away from basic social democratic values ​​and a turn to neoliberalism , which for them is a particularly aggressive increase in international capitalism .

However, the SPD still sees itself as a socialist party, is a member of the Socialist International and in its Hamburg party program (2007) expressly acknowledges democratic socialism in the tradition of "Marxist social analysis" .

National socialism

The philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte already moved away from the liberal state model in his later writings and replaced it with a socialist one, which he charged with nationalist ideas in the course of the anti-Napoleonic wars of freedom . He now propagated a national socialism that should form a middle between a pure night watchman state and a pure welfare state . His national socialism was based on a pre-capitalist economy. The economy should be a state- organized, state-run economy.

National Socialism

Otto Strasser (1897–1974) represented anti-Marxist socialism within the NSDAP

The relationship between socialism and national socialism is controversial among scholars, which is mainly due to the different uses of the term socialism. The strong anti-liberal tendency of National Socialism is sometimes referred to as “socialist”. An essential part of the propaganda of National Socialism were economic and socio-political promises. National Socialism pretended to be a “socialism of action” in contrast to the unfulfilled promises of socialism and in view of the misery of the global economic crisis. He distinguished himself sharply from Marxism, whose followers were persecuted and murdered during the Nazi era .

The legal scholar Johann Braun writes:

“National Socialism is also based on a socialist utopia. It is true that this does not aim at socialism for all, that is, not at international, but at national socialism; but the logic of utopian legal thought also prevails here. "

The SPD politician Rudolf Breitscheid said at the Leipzig party congress in 1931 that “even National Socialism was forced to give itself a socialist figurehead”. This shows "that in the end the idea of ​​socialism marches."

The socialist groups in the NSDAP, such as the social revolutionary wing around Otto Strasser , left the party before the seizure of power. The Otto Strasser Group wrote in 1930 under the title "The Socialists Are Leaving the NSDAP":

“For us, socialism means the nation's needs economy with the participation of all creators in the ownership, management and profit of the entire economy of this nation, i. H. thus breaking the monopoly of ownership of today's capitalist system and, above all, breaking the monopoly of management that is tied to ownership today. "

For others, National Socialism drew a substantial part of its ideological impact from the merging of nationalism and socialism. According to Götz Aly is socialism going Nazism to be regarded not only as a propaganda formula, rather Nazism belong to the great egalitarian basic trend of the 20th century.

According to Joachim Fest , “the discussion about the political location of National Socialism was never conducted thoroughly”. Instead, “numerous attempts have been made to deny any relationship between the Hitler movement and socialism”. Admittedly, Hitler did not nationalize any means of production , but “not unlike the socialists of all shades, he promoted social conformity”.

The historian Henry A. Turner, on the other hand, does not believe that Hitler was ever a socialist. He had always committed himself to private property and the liberal principle of competition, but not out of genuine liberalism , but on the basis of his social Darwinian basic assumptions. In the sense of the primacy of politics , he postulated that the economy must always be under the complete control of politics. National Socialism never developed a consistent economic theory. The social historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler judges that socialism lived on under National Socialism "at best in a corrupted form", namely in the ideology of the national community .

New left

Rudi Dutschke (1940–1979) spokesman for the West German New Left

From the extra-parliamentary opposition of the 1960s, on the one hand, a number of K groups and on the other hand “undogmatic” and “anti-authoritarian” groups emerged, which are summarized as the “ New Left ”. Among them, the Offenbach Socialist Office, founded in 1969, was one of the most influential organizations. Student leaders like Rudi Dutschke represented a democratic socialism, which they demarcated against both social democracy and real socialism. They remained mostly involved in various new social movements outside of political parties and had little support from the workers and unions , but gained parliamentary influence with the founding and rise of the new party, The Greens . Culturally, the German student movement of the 1960s achieved a liberalization of society and a more differentiated attitude to the ideal of socialism than in the Cold War , where this term was almost exclusively identified with the dictatorial conditions of Eastern systems.

New socialist parties

Democratic socialism , which was still decried as social fascism from a communist perspective in connection with the SPD between 1928 and 1934 , was mostly defined as a synonym for social democracy by the communist SED in the GDR and ideologically devalued as " social democracy ". After the fall of the Wall in the GDR , the overthrown SED declared this term to be its guiding principle by renaming itself to the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) in 1990 and changing its program. In 2005 the PDS renamed itself to Die Linkspartei and on June 16, 2007, it merged with the West German WASG to form the newly formed party Die Linke .

In other Western European countries , communist parties had already taken an anti- Soviet communist course towards Eurocommunism since the 1960s : for example the Communist Party of Italy , which renamed itself in 1990 to the “ Democratic Party of the Left ” ( Partito Democratico della Sinistra in Italian - PDS) or the Communist Party France (KPF, French PCF). These former communist parties rely on the one hand on expanding the welfare state and taming capitalism through legal intervention, on the other hand they want to supplement parliamentarism more with plebiscites and direct democracy .

In the run-up to the elections for the Russian president, the last president of the former USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev , founded a social democratic movement in October 2007 to counter tendencies towards a new dictatorship, dismantling of social rights and mass impoverishment in Russia.


José Mujica (* 1935) was President of Uruguay from 2010–2015 and represented socialist positions

A scientific debate about socialism as an alternative concept of society, as it existed at universities during the German student movement of the 1960s , hardly takes place today. In view of today's turbo-capitalism and the associated ways of life, only individual social scientists like Wolfgang Fritz Haug demand to learn from historical experiences and to update the socialist project. The magazine Das Argument and the edition of the Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism ( HKWM ), which is also located there , undertakes a critical inventory . Even in the face of the party Die Linke belonging Rosa Luxembourg Foundation a future alternative lifestyle is discussed with socialism.

With his work The Idea of ​​Socialism, the social philosopher Axel Honneth presented a critique of the original idea of socialism rooted in the industrial revolution and redefined “social freedom” as its core idea. Socialism today means experimental political anchoring on the way to a solidary society, which is to be striven for not only on the economic, but also on the political level and in personal relationships (especially between the sexes).

Also a new interpretation, the political sociologist Heinz Dieterich with his concept of socialism of the 21st century is, in which he tried to Marxist theory of value to link with grassroots elements, then a non-market economy, democratic determined by the immediate value creators equivalence economy underlies . Attempts to put this new theory into practice can currently be found in Venezuela ( Bolivarianism ) and Bolivia . The theory of democratic confederalism is currently being tried to implement in various Kurdish organizations and local administrations with a socialist character ( Rojava , YPG ).


Lack of economic efficiency

Since the beginning of the dispute in France between political economy and socialism, the socialist critics of the market economy have been accused of having no practical alternatives or that various experiments that have already been made have shamefully failed. Among the more recent economists, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk , a representative of the Austrian School , raised the problem of economic accounting in socialism for the first time in Capital and Capital Interest (1884–1902) against Marxism , which Ludwig von Mises's argument subsequently continued was expanded. Socialism negates the entire market process and thus there are no market prices that are signals of scarcity. If these are missing, there is no way to rationally evaluate investment alternatives, as Mises can deductively deduce from his theory of action. However, in a mixed economy with interventions, the same problem ultimately arises, only more moderately, since to the extent that the state intervenes in the free market, the formation of reasonable prices is thwarted here too and the direction of production is thus changed. The government then only has two options: either to return to a free market or to try to correct the imbalance through further interventions, which in turn disrupt the competitive structure of market prices. The economy of any interventionist state is therefore inevitably unstable.

Milton Friedman emphasizes that socialist economies generally produce lower quality products at higher prices.

Lack of individual rights and the rule of law

According to Mises' pupil Friedrich August von Hayek, the socialization of the means of production inevitably collides with individual rights and the rule of law. Preserving the rule of law would require the planning authorities to restrict themselves, which they are not able to do because otherwise they would not be able to perform their tasks.

The economist Jürgen Pätzold puts it this way: “Central planning requires collectivism in socio-political terms and the totalitarianism of the one-party system in terms of state policy. On the other hand, if a market economy is to function, it must be embedded in a system of political and economic freedoms. A comparable system of freedoms is incompatible with the central administration economy. The freedom of action and movement of individuals forms a latent disruptive factor in the centrally administered economy, which the state seeks to suppress. "

Jean Baudrillard

The post-structuralist sociologist and philosopher Jean Baudrillard criticizes in The Divine Left - Chronicle of the Years 1977-1984 with a view to the French situation what from his point of view no longer contemporary goals of socialism. While socialism still dreams of a transparent and coherent society, people hardly have such a need for connection, contact and communication. According to the philosopher Wolfgang Welsch , a Baudrillard could hardly express this criticism of socialism. Baudrillard's criticism is merely narcissistic and a vehicle to make his own antiquated diagnosis appear current.

Friedrich Nietzsche

In 1878, the contemporary of Marx and Engels pointed out that socialism was the younger brother of the almost dead despotism that he wanted to inherit. He needs an abundance of state power and strives for the annihilation of the individual. The desired Caesarian state of violence needs the most submissive prostration of all citizens and can only hope for existence through extreme terrorism. He is quietly preparing for a reign of terror and misusing the concept of justice. Socialism teaches the danger of the accumulation of state power and will provoke calls for as little state as possible.



Scientific journals

Web links

Wiktionary: Socialism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Socialism  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Socialists  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Willi Albers: Concise Dictionary of Economics , 1980, p. 4.
  2. cf. JG Buhle: Textbook of Natural Law , Göttingen 1798 (ND Brussels 1969), 40.
  3. Hannes Leidinger , Verena Moritz : Sozialismus , 2008, p. 12.
  4. ^ Jost Müller: Socialism, Rotbuch 3000 , edited by Martin Hoffmann, Europäische Verlagsanstalt / Rotbuch Verlag Hamburg 2000, p. 6.
  5. Jedermanns Lexikon in ten volumes , Volume 8, Verlaganstalt Hermann Klemm A.-G., Berlin-Grunewald 1930, p. 417.
  6. Klaus Motschmann : Mythos Sozialismus - From the difficulties of demythologizing an ideology . MUT-Verlag , Asendorf 1990, p. 25.
  7. ^ Willi Albers: Concise dictionary of economics , sv socialism .
  8. ^ Michael Newman: Socialism - A Very Short Introduction , Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 72.
  9. ^ Günter Rieger: Socialism. In: Dieter Nohlen (Ed.): Lexikon der Politik , Vol. 7, directmedia, Berlin 2004, p. 595.
  10. ^ Die Zeit : Lexicon in 20 volumes , Zeitverlag, Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-411-17560-5 (complete works), Volume 13, p. 554.
  11. Willi Albers: Concise dictionary of economics , keyword "Socialism".
  12. ^ Günter Rieger: Socialism. In: Dieter Nohlen (Ed.): Lexikon der Politik , Vol. 7, directmedia, Berlin 2004, p. 595.
  13. Michail Bakunin : Statehood and Anarchy (1867), Ullstein, Berlin 1972, p. 68.
  14. Michail Bakunin: Statehood and Anarchy (1867), Ullstein, Berlin 1972, p. 70.
  15. ^ Sebastian Prüfer: Socialism instead of religion - The German social democracy before the religious question 1863-1890 . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2002, p. 276.
  16. Gerda Soecknick: Religious Socialism of Modern Times with Special Consideration for Germany , 1926, p. 24.
  17. Oscar Cullmann: Jesus and the revolutionaries of his time , JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1970, p. 19.
  18. Hans Küng: Christ sein , dtv, Munich 1976, p. 219: “And yet you have to twist and reinterpret all the evangelical reports, you have to select the sources completely unilaterally, operate uncontrollably and arbitrarily with isolated Jesus words and church formation and from To a large extent ignore Jesus' message as a whole [...] if one wants to turn Jesus into a guerrilla fighter, a putschist, a political agitator and revolutionary and his message of the kingdom of God into a political and social action program. [...] Like no other man in the system, he was also no social-political revolutionary. [...] You can follow him without an explicit political or socially critical commitment. "
  19. Friedrich Engels: Foreword to the German edition of 1890 (excerpt) to the “Communist Manifesto” , Marx / Engels, Selected Writings, Vol. I, Berlin 1968, pp. 21 ff.
  20. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : History of the West: From the beginnings in antiquity to the 20th century , page 758, Verlag CH Beck oHG, 2nd edition 2010.
  21. MEW 4: 481
  22. ^ Karl Marx: Critique of the Gothaer Program , MEW 19, p. 21.
  23. Friedrich Engels: The development of socialism from utopia to science . MEW 19, p. 224.
  24. ^ Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon sv Marxism-Leninism. Springer, Wiesbaden 1997, Vol. 3, p. 2561; Hans-Peter Waldrich : Socialism. In: Bernhard Schäfers (Ed.): Basic concepts of sociology , 8th edition, Opladen 2003, p. 326.
  25. ^ Rosa Luxemburg: Social Reform or Revolution , 1900; quoted from: Cordula Koepcke: Revolution - Causes and Effects , Günter Olzog Verlag, Munich 1971, p. 130.
  26. Emil Jevermann. Retrieved January 17, 2018 .
  27. Joachim Nawrocki: Ulbricht must step backwards . In: The time . November 21, 2012, ISSN  0044-2070 ( [accessed January 17, 2018]).
  28. Jan Rohls: History of Ethics , Mohr Siebeck, 1999, p. 442 f.
  29. Documentation archive of the Austrian resistance: "Sozialismus der Tat"
  30. ^ Johann Braun: Introduction to the Philosophy of Law , Mohr Siebeck, 2006, p. 147.
  31. July 4, 1930: Call of the Otto Strasser Group - "The Socialists are leaving the NSDAP" ,
  32. National Socialism ,
  33. Götz Aly: Race and Class. Frankfurt am Main 2003.
  34. Joachim Fest: Was Adolf Hitler a leftist? ,, September 27, 2003
  35. Henry Ashby Turner: The Big Entrepreneurs and the Rise of Hitler . Siedler Verlag, Berlin 1985, pp. 92-106.
  36. Hans-Ulrich Wehler: Deutsche Gesellschaftgeschichte , Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the establishment of the two German states 1914–1949 CH Beck Verlag, Munich 2003, p. 543.
  37. Ulla Plener : »Social Democratism« - instrument of the SED leadership in the Cold War against parts of the labor movement (1948–1953). UTOPIE Kreativ, H. 161 (March 2004), pp. 248–256 online (PDF; 72 kB)
  38. ^ Gorbachev founds social democratic movement , FAZ online, October 20, 2007
  39. Axel Honneth: The idea of ​​socialism. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2015.
  40. ^ "Ainsi, deux puissances se disputent le gouvernement du monde, et s'anathématisent avec la ferveur de deux cultes hostiles: l'économie politique, ou la tradition; et le socialisme, ou l'utopie ”. Translation: "So two powers quarrel over the rule of the world and curse each other with the enthusiasm of hostile faiths as heretics: political economy or tradition and socialism or utopia" Pierre-Joseph Proudhon : Système des contradictions économiques, ou philosophie de la misère, Oeuvres Complètes, Vol. I, ed. by C. Bouglé, H. Moysset, Geneva Paris 1982, p. 66 f.
  41. See Richard Ebeling in the foreword, Section III to “Money, Method, and the Market Process - Essays by Ludwig von Mises”, edited by Margit von Mises and Richard M. Ebeling (Eds.), Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1990.
  42. ^ "Socialized enterprises produce poor quality products at high prices with much conferred special benefits on small growers." Interview: Milton Friedman - Nobel Prize in Economics, January 31, 1991, Stanford, California ( Memento of the original from February 16, 2007 on the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  43. ^ Friedrich August von Hayek : The Road to Serfdom (Eng. The way to bondage )
  44. ^ Jürgen Patzold: Social market economy. In: Retrieved February 28, 2015 .
  45. ^ Wolfgang Welsch: Our Postmodern Modernism , Akademie Verlag, 2002, p. 153.
  46. Friedrich Nietzsche: Menschliches, Allzumenschliches No. 473, in KSA vol. 2 p. 307.