MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Workers Party/Independent Socialist League: Neither Capitalism nor Socialism

Workers Party/Independent Socialist League

E. Haberkern & Arthur Lipow (eds.)

Neither Capitalism nor Socialism


Hal Draper

The New Social-Democratic Reformism


Neither Capitalism nor Socialism, pp. 271–294.
New Politics, 1963.


The thesis of this article is that the ideology of the dominant wing of the European social-democracy has, since the end of World War II, visibly become something different from the traditional reformism of the Second International; it has entered a new stage and demands a new analysis, a tentative sketch of which is offered here.

“New” is always relative, of course; there is no doubt that the new ideology is an organic outgrowth of the old, as it claims to be; but it continues so far along the lines implicit in the old that a qualitative change must be registered.

By traditional reformism I mean the political ideology which assumed clearest self-consciousness in the form of Fabianism in England and Bernstein’s “revisionism” in Germany. It looked to the gradual transformation, or metamorphosis, of capitalism into socialism by an inherent process working out through patchwork changes, however minute but cumulative in effect, which would eventually mean that capitalism itself grows into socialism, without any visible break in the continuum of change. Capitalism would not be “abolished,” let alone “overthrown”; it would become socialism. The movement toward socialism was simply the sum of collectivist tendencies immanent in the present system. Reformism’s perspective was the inevitable collectivization of capitalism itself, its self-socialization from above, rather than its change by action from below.

Hence the reformists’ equation was: collectivized capitalism equals socialism. To the extent that statification was one important form of such collectivization, though not the only one, they had a second equation: statification equals socialism. (There is a generation of socialists today who associate this formula only with the Stalinist ideology: this deprives the old reformists of their proper historical credit.) The reformists, both Fabian and Bernstein varieties, left little room for the idea that workers’ democracy, in the sense of some type of democratic control of production from below, was a sine qua non of socialism.

Before 1914 the lively conflict in the Second International between the revisionists and the “orthodox Marxists” was in large part fought out over ideology; in practice, it is notorious that there was considerable agreement on what to do from day to day (except in crises). Ignoring what this reflected about the “orthodox.” I point out only that today, on the contrary, what has been conspicuously new about the new reformists has in many cases been their practice, above all.

The most spectacular case has been the practice of the Socialist Party of France under Guy Mollet, undoubtedly one of the blackest chapters in the history of the international socialist movement. On August 4, 1914 the German Social-Democrats made history by voting for the Kaiser’s war credits; and the Second International collapsed. That was traditional reformism. But let us imagine that instead of simply going along with the patriotic current, a Social-Democratic government had been in charge of the famous “rape of Belgium,” and moreover had modernized it with concentration camps, torture of prisoners, organized massacres ... This gets nearer the difference between Philip Scheidemann, who was an old-fashioned type, and the modern Guy Mollet, who as Premier of France and leader of the French Socialists, stubbornly carried on the “dirty war” against Algerian liberation, by a regime and by methods which revolted even half-decent French liberals, not to speak of Senator John F. Kennedy.

The Molletist regime organized – not tolerated; it organized – a brutal fascist-like repression in Algeria, not under the personal direction of some reactionary assigned to do the dirty job while the government held its nose and pretended not to look, but under the personal direction of a close “socialist comrade” of Mollet’s acting as his political right hand man and obdurately defended by him. This social-democratic regime organized McCarthy-like crackdowns on dissidents within France; the leading McCarthyite was Mollet himself. Naturally it also brought about a whole series of expulsions from the SP itself. The most noted expulsion was not of a left-winger but of an old-line reformist, Andre Philip; and the most vicious expulsions and persecutions were directed against the young socialists and student socialists.

This led to a rather unusual type of split in the Party, precipitated not only by the Algerian policy but more immediately by Mollet’s role in bringing de Gaulle into power.

The break was not a left-right split, though of course all leftist elements went along with the new Party formed (Parti Socialiste Autonome, now merged into the present Parti Socialiste Unifié). What characterized the leaders of the minority that split, such as Depreux and Mayer, was that they were largely traditional reformists, who could not live with Molletism.

Finally, the Mollet party produced another startling phenomenon: a proto-fascist wing, around the figures of Lacoste and Lejeune – a wing so seen not simply by Mollet’s opponents in the party but even by Le Monde.

Nothing like the Mollet phenomenon can be ascribed to the practice of the reborn German Social-Democracy; here we point first to an ideological development. After the death of Kurt Schumacher and with growing Cold War prosperity in Germany, the German party moved simply to dump socialism from its program. Now I do not want to get this statement involved in a terminological dispute over the word, for of course the new reformists maintain stoutly that what they propose is still “socialism.” What is important for present purposes is the safe statement that what was dumped from the new reformist program was that which the traditional reformists would have accepted as elementary socialism. They eliminate all connection between socialism and any conception of advance toward the social ownership of the means of production; they make protection of private enterprise one of the key features of the new reformism’s economic policy on the same grounds as they make allowance for any state interference with private enterprise. [1]

Since the formalization of its new politics in the Bad Godesberg program of 1959, the German party under the practical leadership of Willy Brandt, has deliberately set out to become as indistinguishable in political program as possible from Adenauer’s Christian Democrats, on the model of the American two-party bi-partisan system. Only incidental to this has been its throttling of elements in the party aspiring to anti-war action or its suppression of the socialist student organization.

The change in Germany has been the most noteworthy but not the only one, nor the first, among the Western European social-democracies. The Austrian Socialist Party disembarrassed itself of socialism in its new program in 1958. This party has been in a permanent government-sharing coalition with the Catholic party (People’s party) since 1945: a whole generation has never seen a wholly independent action by its socialist party. Here, in a sense which the old social-democracy never knew, the social-democrats have integrated their whole party existence with the state structure. It probably also has, incidentally, the most bureaucratized and monolithic party structure in the International. [2]

Here and there, another question about these parties forces itself on the attention: unusual social composition. The traditional social-democracy was not only indisputably a workers’ party, but also (what is not always the same thing) the party of the working class in the country. It still is in West Germany, Austria, and other countries as far as mass membership is concerned. But in the two countries where the Communist Party has mass workers’ support and membership, France and Italy, where therefore the social-democratic leadership is relatively freed of the social weight of the working class, and where those workers who do stay with it in spite of all tend to be a self-selected kind, visible internal social changes have taken place.

It has been reported that one quarter of the membership of Mollet’s SP are state employees (petty functionaries in nationalized industry, government bureaus, municipal offices, etc.) [3] Shortly before he died Marceau Pivert described to me how the Mollet party leadership had finally succeeded in winning a majority in the traditionally left-wing Paris region of the party: he detailed it in terms of the mobilization of the functionaries concentrated in Paris, who were or became members of the SP, as against the traditional working-class population of the party region who were predominantly “Pivertists.” In Italy, Saragat’s Social-Democratic party is notoriously lacking in working-class support. Virtually the entire working class of the country is divided between the Communist Party and the Socialist Party led by Nenni (the latter also containing the traditional-reformist wing of the movement) with a more conservative labor wing adhering to the Christian Democrats. [A]

This aspect of Mollet’s French party, combined with its extreme political record, has more than once caused a big question mark to be placed over its basic character. It was put perhaps most directly by Maurice Dufour in Pivert’s Correspondence Socialiste International (March 1958 – i.e., at the lowest depth of Molletism):

Certain passages of Djilas’s book [The New Class] give food for thought. Let us put the question brutally: has not the French Socialist Party become the nursery of this new class? The French nationalizations supply a valuable example: the heads of the nationalized enterprises, many of whom hold a party card, behave like the old bosses: same attitudes, the same reactions. Perhaps there is this difference: the new bosses claim to be of the proletariat! So, the French SP has not colonized the bourgeois state; the other way round is nearer the truth.

Along with the other statifications desired by the reformists, the reformist party itself gets statified ...

All of this is intended to raise the same question about the new European social-democratic reformism which I have already raised in New Politics about certain currents in American liberalism: viz., relationship to the burgeoning of various types of bureaucratic-collectivist ideologies. To repeat briefly: “By ‘bureaucratic-collectivist’ I mean in this connection the ideological reflection or anticipation of a new social order ... which is based on the control of both economy and government by an elite bureaucracy-forming a new exploitive ruling class – which runs the fused economic-political structure not for the private-profit gains of any individual or groups, but for its own collective aggrandizement in power, prestige, and revenue, by administrative planning-from-above.” This entails the view that the particular type of totalitarian statified economy developed under Stalinism in Russia, and now elsewhere, is only one form of bureaucratic collectivism. We are concerned with others.

I have reviewed some phenomena of the post-war social-democracy only in order to indicate, inconclusively at this point, how the question of the bureaucratic-collectivization of social-democratic reformism is posed not only by the writings of certain reformist theoreticians, but also in life, in the political arena. The rest of this article will be devoted to analyzing, from this standpoint, the theoretical formulations of the new reformism by its leading ideologue, who otherwise might too easily be written off.

C.A.R. Crosland, the British Labor Party M.P. has systematically set out to formulate the ideology of the new reformism (which he calls “revisionism”); in doing it, he has set himself forth as the theoretical champion of the continental social-democracies, which he counterposes to the “extremist” British; and the continental social-democrats, insofar as they are interested in theoretics, perforce look upon him in this light. It is interesting that when an International Socialist Conference of reformist theoreticians, mainly from the Low Countries, met in Holland in early 1960 to discuss the new social-democratic programs, Crosland was the only Briton present; and, in his introduction to its published papers, J.M. den Uyl (of the Netherlands) cold think of only two books which “might be regarded as a renewing of socialist theory” – Crosland’s Future of Socialism and Jules Moch’s Confrontations. [B]

Crosland has this further distinction, as compared with his “revisionist” friends and co-thinkers like (say) Douglas Jay or Roy Jenkins: he has gone farthest in putting the new politics bluntly, frankly and uninhibitedly. For all these reasons, it is from him that we can best learn what is happening.

Nothing in the following discussion is intended to refute Crosland’s views; the sole aim is to exhibit their internal logic.

The first distinctive feature of Crosland’s revisionism” is its enthusiastic satisfaction with the social system which others call Western capitalism. He was of course delighted with the Labor Party’s Gaitskellite statement in 1958 that “under increasingly professional managements, large firms are as a whole serving the nation well.” In the essay which he contributed to The Corporation in Modern Society (ed. E.S. Mason) he used this for all it was worth as his peroration. But this is mild. For as lyrical and uncritical an account of the operation of the present economic system as one can find anywhere left of Nelson Rockefeller, one must read Crosland’s paper at the Dutch conference, keeping in mind that he is presumably not writing only about Britain:

There is no shadow over permanent full employment; “even Right-Wing government,” will maintain it without question; there is.”a general feeling of contentment.”standard of living has risen gratifyingly especially for the poorer; the benefits of the system are distributed.”more equally and more justly”; there is no.”suffering from oppression or capitalist exploitation”; the employers have in good part assume.” the social responsibilities of industry”; “feelings of social justice” are now a big problem only among.”socialist idealists.” not the people. And:

Aggressive individualism gives way to a suave and sophisticated sociability; and the traditional capitalist ruthlessness is replaced by a belief in modern, enlightened methods of personnel management. Large-scale industry has become humanized ...

Much more of this, and that’s all; there is no other side; there are no other aspects to the economic picture.

A comparison with the Bernsteinians, such as Crosland insists on, would be entirely beside the point. The traditional “revisionists” were mild, pinkish, tepid critics of the system; Crosland is one of the most eulogistic defenders of the system known to economic science today. It gives pause.

One of the more unusual aspects of Crosland’s lack of inhibition about justifying virtually everything about the economic status quo is his insistence on fiercely defending even the advertising industry, as it exists not only in Britain but also in the U.S., against the kind of far-from-basic strictures made by (say) Vance Packard’s books. He counterposes the hoary myth of “consumer sovereignty.” The present set-up permits the consumer “libertarian judgment.” because the individual decides for himself what he wants and registers his opinion by buying it ...” [4]

I am trying to underline that there is something new here. All previous differences among socialists have been over differing degrees and forms of hostility to the economic system. Crosland is the first socialist theoretician in history, as far as I know, to take his stand on complete identification with the going system. Insofar as this is accepted as socialism at all, there could scarcely be any more finished exemplar of a socialism-from-above.

It should not be supposed that Crosland’s contentment with the economic system is simply founded on the character of the British situation, where the Labor movement and Labor governments have had a special impact. Another one of Crosland’s sides that brings one up sharp is his insistence on specifically extending his eulogies to the U.S. He sometimes verges on representing the United States as being the country nearest the socialist ideal, with the possible exception of Sweden. “In the U.S.A. the Trade Unions have invaded the prerogatives of management in such a way that we might almost speak of industrial democracy there,” he said in Holland. After claiming that in Britain the trade unions “remain effective masters of the industrial scene” even under the Tories, he has the amazing fortitude to add the note: “This is increasingly true in the U.S. also.” The leaders of the AFL-CIO will be glad to learn about their master over.”the citadels of capitalist power.” [5] But then they will be happy to know, also, that Crosland considers the American labor movement a model in another respect:

Workers who take managerial posts are not condemned as traitors to their class. Trade Union leaders are not thought to be in danger of contamination if they have large cars, and smoke cigars, and draw huge salaries. The Unions are not thought guilty of treachery if they cooperate with management to boost sales or raise productivity, or even accept a wage-cut to save a firm from bankruptcy ... [6]

Lucky American workers to have such modern type leaders! Crosland should explain why these American paragons, shored up by their huge salaries and rejoicing in mastery over the citadels of capitalist power, have not been able to get even a feeble medicare program, let alone socialized medicine.

It is inevitable that Crosland should enthuse also over the.”convergence of political attitudes” of the contending parties both in the U.S. and England; i.e., in the U.S., the absence of political differences between the Democrats and Republicans. He specifically complements the “mature, educated voter” in the U.S. for making his choice in the 1960 election “on the basis of such issues as ... simply the complacency of the existing [Eisenhower] regime.”

We, not the Tories, have the right to claim American society for our own, says Crosland:

It is in fact a complete illusion that British Conservatives really want a mobile equal-opportunity society on the American pattern ... Their true ideology is poles apart from the restless, egalitarian ideology of contemporary America. This indeed comes much closer, though this is not always understood in England, to the egalitarian ideas of the Left than to the more static, conservative instincts of the Right. [7]

Crosland, of course, would be a heartfelt charter-member of the club which is now raising a banner with a strange device paraphrased from Earl Browder’s old slogan: “Americanism Is Twentieth-Century Socialism.” In the United States, he finds, “there is little trace of a elite psychology,” a claim which can be understood – not accepted but just understood – if we assume that Crosland is thinking only of the peculiar British forms of institutionalized status symbols such as the “public” schools and accent-snobbery.

Crosland not only identifies himself with the going economic system, but also strives heroically to identify himself as completely as possible with all of American bourgeois society – viz., the only society left on earth where capitalism is still entirely self-confident and feels the bloom of health. There are, of course, far more numerous elements in British society with which one can identify, and in that country various positive features can be ascribed to the impact of the socialist movement; but in the United States this interpretation is impossible. Crosland draws the inevitable conclusion: he would not be a socialist in the United States; or, in other words, there is no need fora socialist movement in this blessed land – not even a “revisionist” one. This seems to be the plain sense of his rather tortuous statement that in the U.S.

... a Leftist, who was a socialist in Britain, would be much less concerned to promote more social equality of material welfare, of which plenty exists already, than with reforms lying outside the field of socialist-capitalist controversy ... [8]

At this point we get a peculiar inversion of the Bernsteinian “revisionism” of which Crosland thinks he is merely the continuator. Bernstein became notorious for saying, “The movement is everything, the goal nothing.” Crosland now envisions the full transformation of the U.S. into a socialist society, apparently, without any socialists at work, without any socialist movement at all. As far as I know, he is (another record) the first socialist theoretician in history to have stared this thought in the face. What it sets down without any equivocation is, for one thing, the perspective of socialization-from-above in full-blown form. The system is going to have to socialize itself, for sure.

For another thing, this makes it very difficult for Crosland to have American disciples, since their first duty on agreeing with him fully is to commit hari-kari (politically speaking). As a matter of fact, this is more or less what has happened periodically in the later history of American socialism: there has been little or no room for reformist socialism to take root, and right-wing developments have tended to propel themselves, in the course of finding self-awareness, outside the socialist movement.

However, the system with which Crosland identifies himself is no longer to be called “capitalism,” naturally; it is a new and better one. At his most definite, he dates this after the Second World War; when – he is a little more vague, it is something that is in process of happening, or is “almost” true. It would be unprofitable to make anything of his varying formulations, for the underlying thought is both clear enough and inevitable for him: capitalism effectively no longer exists.

Now it is very important to understand that he is not and cannot be merely talking about “Socialist Britain.” He must apply this just as much not only to the U.S., as we have seen, but also to Western Europe, since it is the theoretical basis of his prescriptions for the new “revisionism,” and since it is the continental social-democracies that have taken up this new “revisionism” most favorably. Croslandism, therefore, must literally claim that Adenauer’s Germany and de Gaulle’s France have also left capitalism behind in their ascent to the new progressive order, but I am not aware that Crosland has ever specifically faced this picture.

The theoretical dilemma is deep-going: the German Social-Democratic Party is perhaps his favorite party and there is no question about his admiration for its “post capitalist” politics; but if post-war Germany abolished capitalism, this happy event actually took place under the aegis of a right-wing government, which was being roundly denounced by the Social Democracy all the time the “revolution” was going on. If, in the U.S., he looks forward to the full blossoming of a “socialism” without any socialist movement, in Germany he implicitly sees the abolition of capitalism by a right-wing government with the socialists in opposition. [C]

It is no part of this article’s restricted task to discuss the way in which he “abolishes” capitalism from today’s world. It has to do with a demonstration that there is no special connection between capitalism and profit (production for profit, profit system, or what-have-you), nor anything to do with the ownership of the means of production. His simplest approach was in his contribution to New Fabian Essays [9], where it was done by defining capitalism as laissez-faire, right through the ’30s. [10] I do not comprehend how he could do this without being hooted out of at least the Fabian Society; but at any rate it is clear that if capitalism means laissez-faire, then it certainly was abolished, if it ever existed at all. But then this happened long before Attlee and Gaitskell’s administrations, and so even in England we find Crosland’s theory (but not Crosland) detaching the demise of capitalism from the device of socialism. [11]

Even in the same book, his latest, in which he has most thoroughly ”abolishes”capitalism, statements like this keep creeping in. “Post-war full employment appeared to demonstrate that capitalism had solved its inner contradictions.” [12] Now it is very difficult for a system which has been abolished to solve contradictions; but Crosland does not mind admitting the existence of capitalism if he can say something nice about it. His way of being nice to the system involves being very contemptuous of the men whom the old-fashioned leftists, in their deplorable dogmatism, consider to be the business rulers. Referring to the very summits of business power in both the U.S. and Britain, Crosland scorns them as “impotent” where yesterday’s Morgans and Rockefellers used to have overweening power. Directly referring to the “organization men of Shell and I.C.I. [the British chemical trust.” Crosland informs us that they are only “jelly-fish where their predecessors were masterful ... slaves to their public relations departments, constantly nervous ... Suburban ... Apologetic ...” [13]

At any rate this system, which seems to superficial people to be run on the economic side by the impotent jellyfish slaves, is not the old capitalism; and Crosland does not label it socialism as yet. It is merely a new, progressive social order in which all our economic problems have been essentially solved. Crosland once played with the problem of giving it a name: shall it be.”the Welfare State, the Mixed Economy, the Managerial State, Progressive Capitalism, Fair Dealism, State Capitalism, the First Stage of Socialism.” he asked? “Differences of opinion about the right nomenclature will partly reflect merely ideological differences.” he mused. To show how true this is, he chose a name which reflected uninhibitedly the nature of his ideological inclination: Statism. [14]

He was not unaware of the tactical embarrassment:

The name is ugly, and has too unfavorable a ring. But the most fundamental change from capitalism is the change from laissez-faire to state control, and it is well to have a name which spotlights this crucial change.

Given the triumph of the new progressive social order Statism (if we may continue to use the label properly understood), what is left of the socialist program, and why is something to be called “socialism” still to be pursued at all?

Crosland admits that Statism already puts into effect “a very large part of [socialism’s] traditional programme” and himself asks “what (if anything) there is of socialism which statism does not already give.” Of the 1951 Frankfurt programmatic declaration of the re-established Socialist International, he says, “Now what is significant about this declaration is that socialism, as here defined, already largely obtains under statism.” [15] In five different writings from this date (1952) on, Crosland has listed what is left of socialism in his view. The five different formulations pretty much add up to the same thing [D], though there is difference in detail. For convenience only, I take up this briefest version, from an article in Confluence (Summer 1958). It has four items:

  1. “... altering, not the structure of society in our own country, but the balance of wealth and privilege between advanced and backward countries.” – There is no indication why this is so specifically socialistic, in his opinion, that Statism cannot do it handily, particularly the U.S. variety. In any case the crux is the negative clause.
  2. More welfare, to take care of “residual social distress,” by which means (he explains) “the misfortunes of small or exceptional group,” like backward children rather than “large categories,” no problems existing about the latter. There is no indication why the wonderfully progressive society of Statism would not be sufficient to clean up these corners. (Besides, in his 1960 pamphlet Can Labor Win? Crosland rendered the judgment that “full employment and the Welfare State” are now obsolete as issues.)
  3. Getting rid of the special British “obvious social stratifications,” especially the elite educational system peculiar to the island. – This is so far from being a distinctively socialist issue that, as Crosland often stresses quite rightly, it does not even exist in other countries.
  4. “A number of socio-cultural reforms” such as an amelioration of divorce laws, abortion laws, sex-perversion laws, urban sprawl, censorship, amount of art patronage, and the like.

“It is therefore an illusion to suppose, so far as Great Britain is concerned, that the advent of the full-employment Welfare State has denuded the Left of causes to fight for,” concludes Crosland. No doubt: after Crosland’s list is exhausted, there will also be the struggle for Mental Health, an international language, anti-smog laws, more bird sanctuaries, and other worthy causes the value of which I would not derogate. But the puzzling question is this: why would Crosland insist on bringing about another “social revolution” and transforming society all over again, from its present gratifying progressive and advancing New Social Order, to still another one which he calls socialism?

Or to put it another way: if Crosland were not already saddled for purely historical reasons with a party and movement whose members insist on calling it “socialism” and advocating a society called “socialism” would it ever occur to him that the amiable objectives he now sets forth need still another new social system, and have to be advocated by a sectarianly separate party which arouses antagonism by calling itself “Labor” or “socialist” and has the unpleasant habit of singing The Red Flag? If he could get rid of the old rubbish any other way, he would not have to bother to write long rationalizations, directed to these historically pointless nuisances, designed to prove that they ought to act as if it were all a mistake to begin with. In this case, why should he ever dream of creating a socialist movement in Britain any more than he sees any need for a socialist movement in America?

There is another aspect to this, which Crosland brought out quite unawares in his first book, Britain’s Economic Problem (1953). He has a chapter of Conclusions presenting economic policies to be pursued by a Labor government to solve Britain’s trade difficulties. As always, he starts by averring that the issue of “public or private ownership” of economic wealth is irrelevant. Why then is a Labor government needed? Not for any socialist aims, he answers categorically.

But the social reform and egalitarian aspects of Labor’s programme are directly relevant to the plan. It is vital to its success that the confidence and cooperation of the workers should be won; they are asked to surrender many deeply-ingrained attitudes and practices, which they will naturally decline to do, and so frustrate the redeployment of resources, if they feel that the privileged classes are strengthening their position in the period of national strain. It is therefore of the first importance, quite apart from any considerations of socialist principle, that the economic programme should be accompanied by a programme of radical reform ...

“It is for these reasons that the leadership must come from the Left,” he continues. No substantial increase in standard of living can be expected for five years. “There can thus be no loosening of belts” since “total consumption ... must be rigidly restrained if the necessary home and foreign investment is to be secured.”

The whole program of the new reformism would, then, follow for Crosland even if there were no question of socialism – even if he were not a socialist – since only such a policy could persuade the workers to accept the rigid restraints contemplated. It should be stressed that Crosland wants to persuade them; he is an English democrat, not a totalitarian. If this were not true, we would be dealing with a different variety of bureaucratic-statist mentality; but with this not unimportant difference, we have above another member of that family of ideologies in which a kind of anti-capitalism is assigned the role of reconciling a working class to a regime of rigid restraint.

The program left for socialism, which we have already discussed, will not (he concedes) “arouse the same emotions, or evoke the same degree of devoted and militant mass support as before; this is inevitable. “Some people view this decline in political passion [note the word!] with concern.” But Crosland makes clear he is not one of these; he is unperturbed by the prospect that the people should be even more uninvolved than before in their own destinies, that fewer should participate in politics as subjects rather than mere objects. The main danger which he does see in this development underlines the point: this danger is simply that the situation may lead to lack of “a sufficient cadre of active recruits of high quality to man all the necessary full-time and part-time positions in national and local government and the party organizations.” That is, the danger is lack of competent functionaries.

“Nor is there any sign of a dangerous degree of apathy amongst the electorate as a whole,” he claims. All that has happened has “merely diminished the degree of mass emotional excitement [note the words!] attaching to the political struggle and reduced the numbers, though not necessarily the quality, of the minority of political activists and intellectuals.” The first is a healthy sign, he asserts. And he now has worked himself to the following:

The second also, in my view, is not an unhealthy development, though many politically-minded intellectuals find it so. Looking back on the nineteen-thirties, the extent to which the intelligentsia then concentrated on and was obsessed by political as opposed to artistic or cultural goals, although entirely natural and proper in the context of the time, was greater that would normally be desirable. We do not necessarily want a busy, bustling society in which everyone is politically active and suspends his evenings in group discussion and feels responsible for all the burdens of the world. [Emphasis added.]

No, the cadre of high functionaries will take care of these things for us ... Back to apathy!

Some other remarks in Crosland become less odd. He goes distinctly out of his way to deny that socialists should be concerned as such with the problem of bureaucratism:

… the issue of managerial and bureaucratic power ... has little to do either with socialism, which historically has been concerned only with the economic power of private business, or with capitalism. [17]

Now it is true that historically socialism did not use to be concerned with the issue by and large; hinc illae lacrimae. One would imagine, however, that more recent history has made it impossible for the question to be fobbed off. Three pages later comes this after discussing the Webbs:

Permeation has more than done its job. Today we are all incipient bureaucrats and practical administrators. We have all, so to speak, been trained at the L.S.E., are familiar with Blue Books and White Papers, and know our way around Whitehall.

He has a program for the cadre of functionaries and incipient bureaucrats – some modest proposals for the further bureaucratization of the Labor Party apparatus:

  1. Direct representation on the party National Committee for the parliamentary party – the MPs, who already have too much autonomous power. (It is this group, for example, that now elects the Party Leader, not the party.)
  2. “More staff at much higher salaries” at party headquarters.
  3. This point requires attention: Crosland has been complaining that the Labor Party’s image is too working-class; it should reflect an all-class People’s Party. The MPs too should be even more representative of “all social classes” than now. Hence, to implement this, “we need first more young Trade Union MPs, drawn partly from the newer industries and occupations and representing the emergent social groups discussed above ...” At first blush there appears to be a contradiction when he complains of an overly working-class composition and then propose “young Trade Union MPs” to remedy the imbalance. We must understand that he does not mean working-class candidates. By “young Trade Union MPs” he means new rising union functionaries, aspiring bureaucrats, the professional manager types for which he frequently calls in other places; and he looks on these as representing a New Class, or New Class elements.

Then there is a point calling for public-relations experts to be hired by the party; and more attention to youth, since youth give.”a more classless air.” (He does not mention that the party leadership regularly expels young socialist leaders and whole organizations, even periodically dissolving the youth affiliate, since the youth tend to be too left.)

The demand for putting the movement into the hands of professional managers – the accent is on “professional” – is one of the most frequent notes in Crosland’s proposals. He denounces “the snobbish anti-professionalism which permeates so much of our national life.” His remedy for the ills of the Co-operative Movement is: higher salaries for the managers; more university personnel; less “interference with management by elected lay boards” and a stronger, more professional national leadership – a platform which has the indubitable characteristic of being single-minded – and he attacks the Movement’s “supposed interest.” of “equality and democracy” which stand in the way of these changes.

Although he tends to lean heavily on “equality” when putting together definitions of socialism that will exclude social ownership, he cannot be accused of being passionate on the subject of equality of reward. He is in fact a loud advocate of bigger and better rewards for managers, in the interest of “efficiency.” He attacks the New Left because they want to bear hard on “those [inequalities] which derive from personal effort,” referring to the managers who really run the corporations, whereas he wants to bear hard on “those which derive from inheritance.” His approach is first to minimize the size of top management rewards in private industry. Then he argues that outsize rewards for managers are inevitable in any economic system.

The proof to which he appeals is the “very high bureaucratic and managerial rewards even in the closed societies of the Communist bloc.” He is not attacking this, you understand; he is accepting it as natural and proper. “The process.” he explains,, “began with Stalin’s famous speech in 1931 in which he denounced ‘equity-mongering’ and called for a new attitude of ‘solicitude’ towards the intelligentsia ... Even though the trend has been “partially reverse” under Khrushchev the goal is by no means egalitarian.”

Did this perhaps develop under Stalin because of the fact of dictatorship? This is not adequate explanation, he argues: Lenin was wrong and Stalin was right –

For the original impetus towards inequality came not from political motives of tyranny or self-aggrandizement, but from the harsh economic necessities of the First Five-Year Plan. Lenin thought that with large-scale production the functions of management have become so simplified and can be reduced to such simple operations ... that they can be easily performed by every literate person, can quite easily be performed for ordinary ‘workmen’s wages,’ and can (and must) be stripped of every shadow of privilege, of every semblance of ‘official grandeur.’ Stalin found otherwise; and the extreme inequalities of the Stalin era represented a hardheaded economic policy designed to remedy the desperate scarcity of managerial and technical personnel ... [Emphasis is added but the history is Crosland’s.]

There has been a change under Khrushchev, true –

But the Soviet rulers continue to believe that substantial differentials are a necessary condition of rapid growth; and in particular they attach a central importance to the creative role of management in fostering growth. In view of their actual growth-rate, it is hard to say they are wrong. [Emphasis added.] [18]

One rubs one’s eyes: so Stalin was right after all. If it was right for him to institute these policies under Harsh Economic Necessities, then is it easy to say he was wrong in also instituting the only political policies which could make the Russian people accept these harsh necessities – i.e., the Stalinist terror? Don’t misunderstand: Crosland himself is a democrat and a humane Englishman; it is a good thing he did not personally face Stalin’s harsh necessity.

We have seen that, to Crosland, bureaucratism is not a socialist concern. We can now add that there is little room left in his scheme for workers’ control or workers’ democracy in industry. Crosland does not reject the idea in toto; after all there are always the joint consultation schemes. An article by him on this subject comes out unusually pointless (he does usually say something), with a conclusion about leaving the question to sociologists for research.

However, the major relationship between Crosland’s program and this question does not appear in his explicit discussions. It emerges from the nature of his proposals for the extension of public ownership, in those instances where he is willing to consider such steps. He is for government share-buying:

... the object is not to acquire particular capital assets with a view to their control; it is generally to increase the area of public ownership. There is therefore no need for the compulsory purchase of entire firms or industries; it is sufficient to extend public investment in any direction ... Indeed, it would be a positive nuisance to be saddled with control ... [19]

What stands out about this method of extending “public ownership” is that it is the one which guarantees completely leaving all management rights and relations undisturbed. It is designed to leave the same bosses in control no matter what level of “public ownership” is thereby reached. Crosland is utilizing the well-known split between share-ownership and management control to introduce the same schism between public ownership and public control. His program for “extension of public ownership” is at the same time a program for maintenance of managers’ control.

If we find heavily bureaucratic-collectivized notions informing the new social-democracy of Crosland, we need not be surprised to find that he is willing to go along with the increasingly popular theory of the convergence of Western society with the bureaucratic collectivism of the East. This has not played a big role in Crosland’s writing up to now, but it is interesting that it makes its appearance in the last chapter of his last book. Douglas Jay plays it bigger. [20]

Now the perspective of convergence of the two societies does not make any sense within the framework of Crosland’s rhetoric. If we in the West are already in a new, progressive, advancing social order, with more democracy and equality than ever, and more coming, then even if Crosland swallows the tales about the coming liberalization and democratization of Russia, the picture that results is not of convergence but of a slow catching-up at the best. The real theorists of “convergence” mean, as they must, that a collectivized capitalism gets bureaucratized while a Stalinist-type bureaucratic collectivism gets.”liberalized”; the two systems move in each other’s direction.

Now this is what is actually happening not only with Crosland’s “Statism” but also with the social-democratic theory about what is happening. Hence Crosland as well as Jay can in fact accept the reality of.”convergence” perspective which makes no sense at all in terms of their theory.

It is the historical function of the new social-democratic reformism to act as the ideological formulation of one of the main processes in the bureaucratic collectivization of capitalism and its society. This is the reality behind what Crosland calls the “new progressive social order” – just as, analogously, a finished form of totalitarian bureaucratic collectivism is the reality behind the vaunted.”victory of socialism in one-fifth of the globe.”



A. Although the Saragat party is in my opinion one of the most extreme examples of reformism, I have not discussed it here because, frankly, I do not know how it can be documented. My own view was formed in the course of considerable discussion in Italy in 1957–58 with both Saragatists and others.

B. Moch’s book is pretty much a standard rehearsal of reformist tunes with Gallic bravura; it has about as much relation to Moch’s actual hatchet-wielding operations as Mollet’s Minister of Interior as the Declaration of Independence has to the activities of the D.A.R. The papers presented in this conference, including Crosland’s on Economic Backgrounds, were published in a little pamphlet entitled Orientation – Socialism Today and Tomorrow, Part 1 (Amsterdam 1959); and a report of the conference, including two interventions by Crosland, was published under the same title, Part 2 (Amsterdam 1960).

C. In passing I want to point out the close analogy between Crosland’s theoretical dilemma and that of the “orthodox Trotskyists” after the war. If Russia is a “workers’ state” because its economy is nationalized (statified), then the new East European states must have also become workers’ states as statification became complete. Now this “social revolution” must have taken place, at the time, behind the backs of the Trotskyists, who registered the fact of the.”revolution.” only some time later, after a good deal of puzzlement. They thus invented the category of a social revolution which creates a workers’ state not only without a visible revolution but without a revolutionary party and without the support or even the participation of the working class. In fact, the current theory of neo-Trotskyism is entirely based on this theory of the bureaucratic revolution-from-above, which is no easier to swallow than Adenauer’s revolution-from-above.

D. The main exception is the point in his earliest version [16] emphasizing the need.”to give the worker a sense of participation” to change “the general tone and atmosphere in industry.” True, this came to things like “joint consultation scheme” even then, but the question itself ceased to have any importance in his later versions. Completely lacking in all versions is any recognition of peace and an anti-war foreign policy as a socialist issue at all. This points to a whole sector of the new reformists’ ideology which this article does not discuss.



1. For an explanation of why the new reformists have become so tender about private enterprise, see the end of the previous chapter, where C.A.R. Crosland is briefly touched on.

2. For a rollcall on the new programs of other social-democracies in Western Europe, see Crosland’s article in Encounter, March 1960.

3. Socialist Call, Nov.–Dec. 1958, article by Leila Seigel.

4. The Conservative Enemy (London 1962), p. 67. Hereafter abbreviated CE.

5. The Future of Socialism (London, 1956), p. 94. Hereafter abbreviated FS.

6. FS, p. 250.

7. FS, p. 219.

8. FS, p. 521.

9. Edited by R.H.S. Crossman (London 1952). Hereafter abbreviated NFE.

10. NFE, pp. 33, 36, 41  55.

11. Douglas Jay’s bid for recognition as a revisionist theoretician, Socialism and the New Society (London 1962), also, in passing, defines capitalism as laissez-faire at one point, p. 58. (Hereafter abbreviated SNS.)

12. CE, p. 114.

13. CE, p. 55.

14. NFE, p. 43.

15. NFE, pp. 57–60.

16. NFE, pp. 65–66

17. FS, p. 521.

18. References are to CE, pp. 29–33.

19. CE, pp. 47–48.

20. SNS, p. 102.

Last updated on 8 November 2020