From: Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, No. 60, 1998.|
Years of Reformism
(A review of Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism)
At the end
of 1996, the new leader of Britain's Labour Party, Tony Blair (in May 1997 he became prime minister after
victory in the general election), having defeated the left opposition within his own party, became the
country's most fashionable political figure. At the same time, Donald Sassoon's book, One Hundred Years
of Socialism,(1) appeared on the shelves of London's book shops. The aim of this substantial work,
with its wide-ranging commentaries and tables, is to provide a historical survey of the development of
the West European Left from its Marxist origins to Blairite pragmatism. The author displays little interest,
however, in Communist parties and has written basically a history of social democracy. Only the Italian
Communists are honoured with a separate chapter but even this exception confirms the rule: it is precisely
the Italian Communist Party which has transformed itself in the 1990s into the Democratic Party of the
Left (PDS) and become one of the strongest and most moderate social-democratic organisations in Europe.
In Sassoon's opinion, European socialism has been in a profound crisis and unable to achieve its original
goal: the creation of a new society qualitatively different from bourgeois society. Moreover, in Sassoon's
opinion, such a society is not desired by 'anyone, anywhere'. But, nevertheless, socialist organisations
'modified the trajectory of European society' (2). It is thanks to socialists that the institutions of
the welfare state have arisen and the lives of working people improved.
Almost simultaneously with
Sassoon's book, there appeared the work by the British historian Willie Thompson, The Left in History:
Revolution and Reform in Twentieth-Century Politics.(3) This book is permeated with even greater pessimism.
Describing the history of the main left-wing currents, the author comes to the conclusion that they will
all have suffered defeat by the end of the century. During the greater part of the century the Left constantly
defined the political agenda, and the Right 'seemed to be permanently on the defensive'.(4) At the end
of the century, however, traditional notions of progress, and with them left-wing ideology, have collapsed.
Capitalism cannot cope with contemporary problems but the traditional left-wing project is also dead.
Postmodernism and other new currents do not appear to be a real alternative for, in rejecting 'universalism'
and proposing in its place a programme for the liberation of separate groups, they cannot provide an
intelligible perspective for society as a whole. It only remains to hope for some sort of 'new project'.(5)
Sassoon is not so pessimistic. From its very beginning the movement has simultaneously pursued two goals:
on the one hand, it has attempted to improve the position of working people under capitalism, and on
the other, to liquidate capitalism itself. These goals were not initially in contradiction with one another,
but as ever greater success was achieved on the path of reform, the more socialism linked its future
to that of capitalism. In Sassoon's opinion, socialism's problem has always consisted in the fact that
its successes have only been possible on the basis of and thanks to the successes of capitalism. And
this also applies the other way round: wherever capitalism has been a failure, socialism has found itself
This thesis seems highly convincing: it was not by accident that the rise of radicalism
in Western countries after the Second World War led not to the crisis-ridden seventies, but to the prosperous
sixties. The author seems unaware, however, that this very thesis undermines his own assertion concerning
the outcome of preceding reforms. Recurring capitalist crises are evidence of the fact that reforms have
been unable to 'remove' the fundamental contradictions engendering the socialist opposition to capitalism.
Future prospects are, however, of little concern to Sassoon, for whom the history of socialism is complete.
Consciously or unconsciously, he follows the layout of Leszek Kolakowski's Fundamental Currents in
Marxism. Dividing his investigation into three volumes (origins, 'golden age', decline), the Polish author
finally came to the conclusion that the sooner his own investigation was complete, the sooner Marxism
itself would come to an end. Sassoon does not draw such categorical conclusions but they somehow flow
from the structure of his book. The history is divided into three parts: 'expansion', 'consolidation'
and 'crisis', creating a kind of Hegelian completeness. West European socialism represents a distinctive
'thing in itself'. The Russian revolution and events in the USSR are referred to only as background,
and their influence on Western socialism is reduced to the split with social-democracy which gave rise
to the Comintern (the political and ideological significance of which is limited to a discussion of the
21 conditions of membership proposed by Lenin). Paradoxically, Lenin is quoted on a number of occasions
when the author refers to his ideas for confirmation of his own opinions. The Third World exists throughout
as an external background, undeserving of attention. Formally the author is correct to do this insofar
as this is not what the book is about. Moreover, he emphasises that he is concerned exclusively with
the history of parties, and is not interested in the history of the left-wing movement and socialist
ideas. But in so doing, the history of parties is reduced in the final analysis to the history of the
political apparatus of social democracy.
It must be said that the author does not idealise socialists.
He recounts in detail the most unsavoury episodes in the history of social democracy, in particular the
social democrats' collaboration with the Nazis in Denmark during the occupation and in Finland during
the war against the USSR, and also the transition to collaborationist positions of several of the leading
members of the socialist parties of Belgium, Holland and France.
The golden age of social democracy
arrived in the post-war years simultaneously with the rise of regulated capitalism. This period came
to an end with the oil crisis of 1973. The achievements of the 'golden age' were considerable. Now they
must be defended.
"However, West European socialism, evolutionary "welfare" socialism, pioneered
by Bernstein, developed in Britain, Germany and Sweden, based on strong unions, state intervention and
a growing public sector was, by the 1980s, unmistakably in crisis. By the 1990s, it even proved difficult
to defend the gains thus far achieved: the welfare state, full employment and trade union rights; the
first was in danger, the second had become a thing of the past, and the third was severely curtailed."
Even worse, the Left had no means of overcoming the situation.
"Socialists had run out of
ideas. In the 1960s they had abandoned the idea of abolishing capitalism; in the 1970s and 1980s they
proclaimed that they were the ideal managers of it. By 1989, when the Berlin Wall collapsed, the conventional
reformist idea that it was necessary to possess a large public sector to countervail the negative tendencies
of the private sector had evaporated from the programmes of all socialist parties. The privatisation
of the public sector, previously unthinkable even among most conservatives, came to be accepted by many
The social base of the movement has also changed. It is becoming ever more eroded.
Representatives of the middle class are replacing organised workers, who in turn are becoming depoliticised.
Wage-labourers have themselves changed: they are no longer just white, Christian males, but also young
women or immigrant Muslims. The culture and traditions of labour are changing. Ecological and feminist
ideas are becoming more prominent in society but, despite their attractiveness for the Left, they are
not, unlike the ideology of socialism, its exclusive 'property'.
How does Sassoon propose to overcome
this crisis? In the book he demonstratively declines to answer. He does, however, provide a partial answer
in an article published in the Observer soon after his book appeared. This article, titled 'Reformers
... Supporters of renewal ... New realists ... New labourites ...' does not simply repeat word for word
a few pages from the book, but sets itself the goal of providing an historical justification for the
correctness of the policies of the new Labour leader, Tony Blair. In Sassoon's opinion, if Britain is
different in many ways from continental Europe, and the British Tories are extremely provincial, then
New Labour on the other hand is in step with social democracy on the continent.
Sassoon remarks that:
"Those who do not like New Labour will have to come up with a better explanation of its origins than
the one currently doing the rounds, namely that the party has been hijacked by a pinko-Thatcherite Christian
fundamentalist, surrounded by a clique of assorted dark forces and teenagers on the make, equipped with
the historical memory of a goldfish. Throughout Europe democratic socialists and / or social democrats
have abandoned what Willy Brandt called "the theology of the final goal." (8)
None of them adheres
to the idea that socialism is a state of affairs following on from capitalism, or that it encompasses
the expansion of state ownership.
British New Labour, Sassoon continues, is on a par with the 'renovadores'
in the Spanish PSOE, and tendencies referred to as 'riformisti' in Italy and 'nouveaux realistes' in
Belgium, which in the last analysis
"have built on the so-called revisionist tradition initiated
by Eduard Bernstein at the end of the last century and continued in the late Fifties by Anthony Crosland
and the drafters of the Bad Godesberg programme of the German SPD. Over the years, they have abandoned
the idea that a single class - the traditional male factory proletariat - was somehow endowed by history
with the task of embodying the hopes and aspiration of the whole of humanity. This loss - if it is a
loss - has effectively delivered socialists of a utopian albatross. Capitalism is not a particular transitory
phase in historical development but a mode of production. The task of socialists lies in devising a political
framework which enables the advancement of certain values, such as justice and equality, while ensuring
that the regulatory system imposed does not seriously impair the viability of capitalism. Thriving capitalism
does not guarantee socialist successes, but capitalist failures and decay have never provided the Left
with an opportunity for progress."(9)
Here Sassoon undeniably encounters a serious methodological
problem which for a historian should not remain undetected. If the theoretical and ideological bases
of the new revisionism were laid by Bernstein and were evidently triumphant back at the turn of the century
then what is 'new' in 'new realism' and why it has become necessary seems incomprehensible. In other
words, what is crucial is not new realism's continuity with Bernstein but the manner in which it breaks
with or modifies the traditions of European revisionism. Sassoon declines to tackle this problem. A solution
is, however, contained in his article, albeit in a concealed form.
Describing the achievements of
the 'new realists', Sassoon enumerates chiefly the withdrawn slogans, the discarded promises and rejected
principles. The list of victories is exclusively negative despite the fact that they had prevailed over
their own past.
"New Labour has rewritten Clause Four, but other parties of the Left have preceded
it; they dumped traditionalist symbols and images, discarded a utopian vision of a socialist society
and reconstructed themselves. Some had much further to go: the Italian Communist Party turned itself
into the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), jettisoned the hammer and sickle and adopted an oak tree
as its new symbol. It is now a member of the Socialist International and the backbone of Italy's new
left-of-centre government, the first in the country's history.
The new PDS advocated a state which
"would do less but enable more" and "would step back from directly managing economic activities and develop
instead a role in regulating the market". It accepted the principle that "in the present historical circumstances
there are no alternatives to the market economy"; that it was not possible to return to "traditional
recipes of sustaining employment through global demand management"; and that privatisation "can provide
the opportunity to restructure the national economy on a more modern foundation".
The Spanish socialists
started out by dumping Marxism in the late Seventies; they proceeded to rule Spain for more than 14 years,
during which they helped the private sector to modernise itself while constructing the first welfare
state in their country's history. It has not been a history of unmitigated successes - unemployment is
still at an intolerable level - but their achievements should not be dismissed.
In France, the socialists
eventually accepted that markets should be regulated by legislation and not through state ownership.
The Left, throughout Europe, now accepts that the object of socialism is not the abolition of capitalism
but its coexistence with social justice, and that the trade unions are to be regarded as representing
workers' interests with no presumptive claim to have a greater say in politics than other interest groups.
It means giving a far greater priority to the concerns of consumers and having the political courage
to accept aspects of the liberal critique of socialism - including the association between collective
provision and bureaucratic inertia."(10)
One cannot fail to notice that he is dealing in a majority
of cases not with parties with a revolutionary ideology but with thoroughly reformist organisations,
with a long tradition of theoretical and programmatic thinking in the spirit of revisionism. And it is
precisely these which have felt the need to reject their former ideas.
Sassoon observes that
early as 1988, Peter Glotz, then general secretary of the German SPD, warned that "the Left must shelve
its centralist megalomania and drop the obsessive conviction that the state can effectively manage the
whole economy ... As part of its plans for exerting control over the market economy, the Left must stand
up for consumer rights, free investment decisions, the free disposal of assets and a decentralised decision-making
In 1969, the Norwegian Labour Party still declared its goal to be "a socialist society".
By 1981, it had replaced this aim with values such as freedom, democracy and equality. In 1989, it emphasised
individualism and collective freedom and accepted that the state had become too burdensome, and the public
sector had grown too large. It said that the state regulation of markets should be in the interests of
consumers and not only of producers.
In 1991, the Austrian Socialist Party renamed itself the Social
Democratic Party. Its new programme emphasised social-democratic economic policies drawn out of a competitive
economy and using market mechanisms restrained by a network of social safeguards and the principle of
Nor did Greece remain an exception. In 1996,
"the Greek socialist government
of Costas Simitis won the election on a platform repudiating the rigid labour market and the corporatist
and statist mentality of the past. Simitis argued that efficiency and privatisation were not by-words
which could be left to the Right; they had to be used to defend a new concept of social justice and building
a welfare state for the next century.
Socialists are increasingly concerned with a fairer tax system:
for example, in Germany in May 1994 the new SPD leader, Rudolf Scharping, proposed a new tax plan with
tax cuts for the lower paid.
In Holland, the Labour Party - which fought (and lost) the 1986 election
on an intransigent defence of the welfare state - embarked on a wide-ranging reappraisal of its ideology."
The new party leaders came to the conclusion that '"when the market actually works" it is "better
able than any other mechanism to chart reliably the economic performances of companies and cater for
the preferences of consumers"'. It was also agreed that
"capitalism was a condition of democracy,
and that the welfare state had to be reformed in order to strike a new balance between efficiency and
justice. In 1994, the Dutch Labour Party was leading the first government in modern Dutch history without
the Christian Democrats.
In Finland, the leader of the Finnish Social Democratic Party, Paavo Lipponen,
having lost the general election in 1991, embraced market reforms declaring that "... we need a real
paradigm change... We have to get more flexibility and reduce labour costs and social security costs".
Lipponen is now his country's Prime Minister..."(12)
This list should convince the reader that repudiating
one's principles is the most reliable road to power. True, the left Labour reviewer of Sassoon's book,
Jim Mortimer, notes that the facts provided in his own book contradict such a conclusion. If one takes
a rather longer period than the last 5-7 years, it turns out that over the past 25 years the Left's biggest
electoral victories have been achieved 'on the basis of radical programmes'. This applies even to the
model 'realist' parties of Spain, France and Greece, which initially forced their way to power precisely
with radical slogans. In 1974, when the Labour Party won the election in Britain, they also conducted
a very radical campaign. 'Not one of these governments subsequently carried out its promises, but this
does not alter the fact that the electorate liked their original radical programmes'.(13)
history does not always teach the present a lesson. Let us assume that Sassoon is correct and the electorate
rejects left-wing ideas. If this is the major lesson drawn by European socialists from one hundred years
of their history then the British Labourites are undoubtedly 'swimming with the current'. Consequently,
everything is going well for them, the more so as moderate socialists are in power, either on their own
or in coalition with other parties, in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Australia,
Italy, Greece, Portugal and Luxemburg, and since the beginning of 1997 also in Britain and France. Now
the Left must find a common language with other forces adhering to the idea of a 'social' Europe. These
forces, in Sassoon's opinion, include continental conservatives, who speak the language of social solidarity
- from Jacques Chirac's Gaullists to Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats. True, in Germany and France themselves
they view the situation differently. While Chirac's social conservatism is being discussed in Britain,
his popularity in his home country is falling rapidly and his policies are considered anti-social as
the results of the June 1997 elections confirmed. And even in Germany, the invincible Helmut Kohl is
losing support. The reason is the same - mass social dissatisfaction. The standard of living is falling,
although this is not the main reason. Rather, the quality of life is declining, as insecurity, bitterness
and stress are increasing, If such a society is becoming the norm across Europe, should one be striving
for it? The American journalist, Daniel Singer, has incidentally written an excellent article in 'The
Nation'. In his opinion, more and more people are arguing that if what is proposed is our future, it
would be better not to have any future at all.
But back to the question: where is the novelty in 'new
realism'? Is it really in its capacity to find a common language with social-conservatives or enlightened
liberals? But this is not quite so new. From the very first stages of its development, the modern workers'
movement has been confronted with the question: is its goal the replacement of capitalism with a new,
better and more just society or is it a matter of improving capitalism. None other than Karl Marx in
Volume I of Capital (in the section devoted to English factory legislation) wrote of the possibility
of improving capitalism through social regulation. Sassoon is convinced that today these disputes are
pointless and that an answer has been found: socialism must improve capitalism.
Acceptance or non-acceptance
of this thesis is a matter of taste. Let us assume for a moment that Sassoon is right and that humanity
cannot in principle create anything better than capitalism, and we have only to concern ourselves with
its improvement (as they earlier improved Soviet 'developed socialism'). The question is could New Labour,
Tony Blair and other representatives of 'new realism', to whom Sassoon links the future of the Western
Left, cope with this task.
One is immediately struck by the fact that, while discussing in general
terms social capitalism and the creation of a new version of the welfare state, the author could not
name a single concrete reform carried out or at least promised by the 'new realists'. But to make up
for it he notes the patent convergence of the 'new realists' positions with those of left-wing and 'socially
oriented' conservatives - Chirac's neo-Gaullists in France and Kohl's Christian Democrats in Germany.
But if the Left cannot be distinguished from the Right, what use is the Left? The notion of an evolutionary
improvement of capitalism is incompatible in principle with reformism. An evolutionary improvement of
the system requires not social reformers but thoughtful conservatives, intelligently deployed by the
government of the day. Reform is needed precisely when natural evolution, structural improvement and
routine corrections of course prove insufficient and the accumulated contradictions threaten more serious
crises. The reformist movement begins from the premise that the system is bad. It is another matter that
the reformists are not inclined to raze it to the ground, but desire only to replace important elements.
A harsh critique of capitalism was the starting point not just of revolutionary Marxism but also of social-democratic
'revisionism'. It was precisely for this reason that social democrats succeeded with reforms in the Forties
and Fifties. The starting-point of Roosevelt's 'New Deal' in the USA was also that the system had to
be changed, that society was in profound crisis and that a social explosion could only be averted through
serious changes. 'New realism' in Europe, on the other hand, starts from approval and acceptance of existing
society. It is not a question of whether this society in itself is good or bad (for some it's good, for
others not so). The problem is that alternatives cannot be elaborated on this basis.
It must be acknowledged
that Sassoon treats 'new revisionism' rather more strictly in his book than in his article. He remarks
that 'To know that it is necessary to innovate, without knowing how to do it or in which direction to
proceed, is not necessarily an intellectually vacuous position to hold'.(14) Nevertheless, the demands
of political 'expediency' triumph over intellectual needs. Historical research leads to the conclusion
that the entire previous path was followed simply to reach the point at which we are today. The goal
is nothing but the movement has ceased. The end of history ...
Meanwhile socialism can play a major
role in improving capitalism precisely on the strength of its anticapitalist essence. Reform of the system
requires an internal ideological impulse. Moreover, capitalism has throughout its history required stabilisation
from within. Precisely because of its own dynamism, the capitalist system is subject to constant crises
and shocks. It is for this reason that capitalism required at first Christian traditions, monarchy and
aristocracy, then the socialist institutions of the welfare state in the West or Confucian feudal clan
structures in the East. The periods of most 'pure' capitalism were the most bloody and unstable times
Sassoon repeats Keynes' words to the effect that capitalism must be tamed. But if socialist
ideology ceases to be a principled alternative to capitalism, if the workers' movement loses its capacity
for aggressive behaviour and is incapable of decisive struggle against the bourgeoisie, then it will
not be able to tame anyone or anything. Without class hatred you cannot have any social reforms or social
partnership. On the whole partnership is generated not by the partners' mutual sympathies but by an understanding
that a rejection of collaboration could lead to catastrophic consequences.
From Sassoon's point of
view, 'new realism's biggest trump-card is the ability of people equipped with such ideas to come to
power. He admits, incidentally, that this was the main aim of the ideological reforms carried out by
New Labour. 'The long period in opposition had united the party round a single objective: to regain power
at virtually any cost', remarks the historian in the conclusion to his book.(15)
The aim of course
is worthy, but what next? Describing the successes of the continental parties, along whose route the
British are travelling, Sassoon has very little to say about the concrete results of government by 'realists'.
This is understandable - there is nothing to write about. However surprising this may seem, Sassoon believes
that coming to power is itself an achievement. For politicians dreaming about their seats, such a thought
would be normal. But for an intellectual! But at last we have arrived at an answer to our main question:
what is new in 'new realism'? Here is its principled philosophical and political foundation: electoral
victory, the gaining of power, and obtaining ministerial positions in and of themselves constitute the
meaning and only goal of political activity. Power is no longer a means but has become a goal in itself
and the supreme value. There is nothing Nietzschean in this. To accuse such an approach of being totalitarian
would be unjustified for the notions of power in this instance are very modest. Power does not mean the
capacity to act, command and transform, as the great reformers, liberators, heroes and tyrants understood
it, only a simple, peaceful term in office.
Here we have the quintessence of the functionary's world
view in the circumstances of contemporary Western democracy. The art of politics involves maximising
the number of ministerial portfolios and positions for one's own group. Democracy consists in the competition
between a few groups for a limited number of seats.
The political successes of 'new realism' in this
sphere are indisputable but it is precisely here that a problem arises. The quicker 'new realists' come
to power, the quicker they lose it. Even worse, having lost it once, they probably cannot win it back
again. The Spanish Socialist Party, which is undoubtedly a model both for Sassoon and for politicians
like Blair, has already lost power. The Lithuanian Democratic Labour Party (LDLP) became the first left-wing
party in Eastern Europe to come to power in order to carry out a right-wing programme, initiating the
region's 'left-wing' wave. Lithuania has also initiated the return of the Right. The LDLP's catastrophic
defeat at the 1996 elections is the completely logical outcome of its government.
The 'new realists'
only come to power where right-wing parties are so discredited and weakened that they cannot hold on
to power under any circumstances. In Spain after the decades of right-wing dictatorship, conservative
politicians were so compromised that they simply could not compete with the socialists, the more so as
the bourgeoisie had no objections to a 'left-wing government' implementing right-wing policies. But as
soon as a change of generation had taken place and new people, unconnected to the past, became prominent
on the Right, the socialists lost power. It has proved a common occurrence that socialists come to power
on a wave of general irritation at neo-liberal policies and continue to implement precisely the same
policies after their victory. There inevitably follows a loss of positions and authority and, eventually,
defeat. Nor is it in any sense obligatory that the defeat of left-wing 'realists' will lead to the return
to power of moderate right-wingers. Everywhere the coming to power of a 'realist' Left has been accompanied
by the rapid rise of a radical, anti-democratic Right. The Polish dissident and one-time ideologue of
Solidarity, Karel Modzelewski, gloomily predicts that, after the defeat of the moderate Left, right-wing
liberals will also fail to regain their previous influence. Society will swing even further to the right.
The 'reds' will be replaced by the 'blacks'.(16) In Britain, where the Left was out of power for many
years, there are virtually no neo-fascists. In contrast, the rapid rise of Le Pen in France is one of
the most obvious consequences of 14 years of socialist government.
The 'realists' are interested least
of all in their 'traditional' social base. They are convinced that the lower orders and the working class
will support them in any case as these social strata have nowhere else to go. The policies of the 'new
realists' are designed to win the support of the middle class. However, the lower orders, forgotten by
everyone, are unexpectedly finding their own way out. The 'Left's obvious and open betrayal of their
interests is forcing them to turn to the far Right, which not only demagogically exploits their difficulties,
but unlike the 'realist' Left, promotes demands in practice which meet the concrete interests of a significant
part of the population. These just demands are mixed up with nationalist and racist lies about immigrants
and foreigners as the source of all ills. But if we do not understand that, for example, anti-Europeanism
and the hostility of the 'new Right' to European integration correspond completely to the feelings and
needs of millions of people, we will fail to grasp the causes of the rapid success of politicians like
Le Pen. The Left says that everything is alright. The Right denies this, and the average person knows
full well who is lying. The Left says that there is no other path than tightening one's belt and joining
a united Europe but the average citizen of France, Britain or even Germany frequently has no desire to
go in that direction, let alone tighten their belt. At the end of 1996 the 'European' newspaper published
sensational opinion poll data indicating that if a referendum were held in Britain on the question of
relations with Europe, supporters of integration would lose.(17) In this sense it is precisely the right
wing of the Tories which expresses to the greatest degree the mood of the average voter. I think that
the coming to power of the Left will lead to the Conservatives shifting even further to the right, and
by doing so they will gain broad popular support.
The Left prefers not to discuss bureaucracy. The
far Right talks about it. The Left argues that international institutions are working in everyone's interests.
The far Right denies this. The masses listen and quickly realise that in the Left's propaganda there
is at least no less demagogy than in the Right's.
'New realism' long ago became programmatic for
German social democracy but its ability to come to power has proved minimal. Wherever bourgeois parties
are effective there is no demand for 'new realists'. But Germany is also interesting for another reason.
In the eastern Länder, where the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) is active and repudiates the ideas
of the 'new realists', the right-wing radical party, the Republicans, has achieved no notable success.
In the western Länder, where there are no serious forces to the left of social democracy, protest votes
are going to the neo-fascists.
Such is the reality of contemporary Europe that neo-fascism is ripening
in the shadow of 'new realism' and seeking to take its place. The Left's incapacity and crisis engender
on the one hand a distinct type of politician who tries to turn precisely the impotence, weakness and
demoralisation of their own party into an advantage in the struggle for personal power. On the other
hand, such 'realism' indicates an incapacity to implement reforms where they have become essential. It
is here that it is dangerous, for it is fraught with new crises.
'New realism' is the perfectly natural
offspring of the crisis of socialism. But it is a symptom of illness and not its cure. If the contradictions
of the system are not quickly overcome, and the discontent of the population becomes more openly displayed,
it will prove most likely only the prelude to a 'new radicalism'. It is merely a question of whether
this radicalism will be of a left-wing variety. To a significant degree this depends on left-wing politicians,
trade union figures, leaders and activists of the workers' movement themselves.
1. D. Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, London,
2. Ibid, p.xxi
3. W. Thompson, The Left in History: Revolution and Reform in Twentieth-Century
Politics, London, Pluto.
4. Ibid, p.9
5. Ibid, p.231
6. Sassoon p.648
7. Sassoon p.649
D. Sassoon, 'Why the Left lost Utopia', The Observer November 24, 1996, p.28
13. Socialist Campaign Group News January 1997, p.10
14. Sassoon p.735
16. See K. Modzelewski, Wohin von Kommunismus aus? Berlin 1996, pp.179, 188
The European 9 December 1996