Nowadays a left winger can look upon the world and see a near apocalypse for global socialism, with the collapse of Eastern Communism now near 20years behind us one would have expected a new approach to socialist thought and possibly even a revival in a neo-socialist format. However, none of these have occurred, why is this? Could it simply be that the Working Class is now sedated with technological advancement which has brought along with it better conditions for the common man, or woman?Or has 20th Century radicalism fermented into an ideologically sedate 20th Century?All these questions, however vague, surely must have an answer, and that is exactly what i desire to give you.
Firstly, I deny the fact that the 21st century is one of ideological stagnation and sedation. The zeal for political change is still deeply inset within the less privileged individuals mindset; in Britain the meritocracy has been harshly curbed and given way to a Berlin Wall of elitist politicians, adequately absorbed into the imperialism of ‘the establishment’. Quite frankly, the approaches of the 20th Century have matured to near naught. Every time ‘the establishment‘ seemed threatened they would drug our political senses with social reforms and welfare schemes. I do not advocate against these reforms, within the short term they are vital to the common man, or womans, well being and assure the supremacy of Western ‘enlightened’ thought. Theoretically this would lead to a vast increase in education, spread equally – due to the combination of educational advancement with that of welfare expansion – which would then lead to a breaking down of the establishment and political equality. However, nothing near this has happened, we were so close, but yet so far.
The election of a landslide Labour government in 1997, whilst ending the hap hazard rule of the Thatcherite Tories, signaled an end of the advancement of the Proletariat. Led by a young Public schoolboy with little experience of life, let alone political supremacy. Fresh from the politician breeding grounds of Oxford, disguised under the banner of Labour, he crushed the hopes of meritocrats who could see a new future in which political equality was expressed even within the hallowed halls of the House of Commons. Once again i do not deny that the move of Labour to New Labour, and the manouevring from left to centre was an good one. It reflected a skill that all politicians and political institutions should harbour, that of pragmatism. If we look upon it from a distance we can see the history of Labour as a battle between pragmatism and ideology, ideology taking the fore – mainly due to the fact that the Labour Party developed from the labour movement, which was a realistic ideological advocation of socialist thought within the Capitalist dominated institutions of Government.
We can view the downfall of socialism from yet another perceptive. If we look back to the end of the 19th century and the dawn of the 20th century we can observe a time when socialist thought was utterly dominated by that of Marxism and the undeniably colossal labour-union movement was advocating primarily those beliefs. This symbolizes the time when socialism – in its pure form – was at its most powerful, and the Working Classes were united in oppression from various authoritarian and highly undemocratic regimes. However (and its a big one), this honeymoon period of socialist thought would not last for long, and the outbreak of the First World War showed the absolute dominance of Capitalism and its puppet regimes, and the collapse of united socialist thought. The pledge of the Second International, stating that if a major European war would break out the Working Classes would unite globally and overthrow the Capitalist regimes which were the real enemy, was broken as fellow socialists slaughtered each other in the trenches. Soon after this the distinct polarisation of socialist thought led to a fierce authoritarian regimes which claimed they were Communist – The USSR and its Republics. This disgrace to world socialist instantly evaporated all old style Marxian socialism and also led to the slow depletion of socialism as the dominant populist ideology. The only realistic alternative was that of Social Democracy, dominant still in Scandinavia and formerly potent in central European countries such as Germany, which is quite basically an acceptance that Capitalism is triumphant and our only hope is to twist Capitalism in the respective country to achieve some of the ends of socialism. This suitably developed into an ideology which worked exceptionally well, raising the standards of living, healthcare and education – amongst others – to triumphant heights in latter 20th century Scandinavia.
So, is out conclusion that socialism was in fact triumphant?Did Scandinavian Social Democracy inspire awe in all nations which looked upon it?The simple answer is no. The main reason, if you are of my persuasion, is that national ideals and the language barriers which lead to the mass individual patriotism of nations has often been too diluted by the greed and selfishness of Capitalist advancement to allow socialism, or a modern form, to really take a leading role within the country. The best example of this would of course be the United States of America. Where the words of the American dream climax as follows: ‘with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement’. Undeniably we can see an almost Fascist tint of natural selection within the human race, the very embodiment of Capitalist inspired competition and greed, which despite economic advances and some short term social advancements which cause incessant elitism and the neglection of the Working Classes.