Democratic socialism is a description used by various socialist movements and organizations, to emphasize the democratic character of their political orientation. The term is sometimes used synonymously with 'social democracy', but social democrats need not accept this label, and many self-identified democratic socialists oppose contemporary social democracy because social democracy retains the capitalist mode of production.
Democratic socialism is often used in contrast to the authoritarian movement in Communism (Leninism), opposing democratic centralism and the concept of the revolutionary vanguard, instead advocating for the creation of economic democracy by and for the working class.
Democratic socialism is difficult to define, and groups of scholars have radically different definitions for the term. Some definitions simply refer to all forms of socialism that follow an electoral, reformist or evolutionary path to socialism, rather than a revolutionary one. Often, this definition is invoked to distinguish democratic socialism from communism, as in Donald Busky's Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey, Jim Tomlinson's Democratic Socialism and Economic Policy: The Attlee Years, 1945-1951, Norman Thomas Democratic Socialism: a new appraisal or Roy Hattersley's Choose Freedom: The Future of Democratic Socialism.
But for those who use the term in this way, the scope of the term "socialism" itself can be very vague, and include forms of socialism compatible with capitalism. For example, Robert M. Page, a Reader in Democratic Socialism and Social Policy at the University of Birmingham, writes about "transformative democratic socialism" to refer to the politics of the Clement Attlee government (a strong welfare state, fiscal redistribution, some nationalisation) and "revisionist democratic socialism", as developed by Anthony Crosland and Harold Wilson:
The most influential revisionist Labour thinker, Anthony Crosland..., contended that a more 'benevolent' form of capitalism had emerged since the [Second World War]... According to Crosland, it was now possible to achieve greater equality in society without the need for 'fundamental' economic transformation. For Crosland, a more meaningful form of equality could be achieved if the growth dividend derived from effective management of the economy was invested in 'pro-poor' public services rather than through fiscal redistribution.
Full article ▸