Monday, 29 November, 2021

On Democratic Socialism

Parmeshwar Devkota

Some writers and politicians have regularly written on socialism and its objectives, citing the constitution. Its preamble clearly mentions that the state is committed to socialism. But, it has not obviously defined which type of socialism it is vying for. So, the questions have been raised over the aim and type of socialism. At the same time, some others have sought services and incentives for citizens.

In view of ambiguity in the nature of socialism cited in the statute, it is necessary to differentiate between two types of socialism -- democratic socialism and scientific socialism. They differ from each other politically and philosophically. To meet the political requirements, the scientific socialism system follows Marxist theories such as class struggle and surplus values, whereas the democratic socialism that is called social democracy keeps itself away from Marxism.

In the early days of modern politics, the terms ‘democratic socialism’ and ‘scientific socialism’ had interchangeably been used until 1914 by Bolsheviks, British Labour Party and other political parties in Europe. But, a division occurred in 1914 when some socialists supported World War I and others went against it. The division was further widened as the majority of social democrat supported the Bolshevik Revolution under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, but a fraction of society and politicians opposed it saying ‘seizure of power’, and a coup d’état rather than genuine revolution. They further argued that the ‘revolution’ was engineered without allowing the conditions to mature.

The groups latter identified themselves as democratic socialists and segregated themselves from the school of scientific socialism. They abandoned the revolutionary ideologies like class struggle and dictatorship of proletariats. Instead, they championed multiparty democracy, period elections, rule of law, freedom of expression, and social reformation.
It means, they supported reforms rather than revolution to transform the society. So, they confined themselves to social, democratic and constitutional reforms instead of the radical change of the existing political and economic systems.

In this way, the democratic socialism can be compared with an ocean. As an ocean receives waters from various rivers and rivulets, and keeps tunas, fishes, snakes and crocodiles at the same time. Thus, the democratic socialism gives space to grow all types of political parties and ideologies of various types in the country concomitantly.

The political parties and ideologies which identify themselves as the centrist forces are considered as democratic socialists. If we apply the above formula to identify the inclination of Nepali political parties, we find the parties such as Bibeksheel Sajha Party of Rabindra Mishra and ruling Nepali Congress following democratic socialism. The party has been practising democratic socialism since the beginning. BP Koirala was considered the first proponent of this theory in Nepal who had derived insights much from Ram Manohar Lohia of India.

Furthermore, Claude-Henri de Rouvery Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier and Robert Owen had offered new model for society. So, they are considered as pioneer of democratic socialism. But Karl Marx termed their socialism as utopian and was not based on revolutionary ideology.