intended to snuff out reform communists, and Western communists influenced by
social democratic and liberal ideas called themselves ‘Eurocommunists’ so as to
distance themselves from the Soviet system.
It is interesting that Bernard Crick, in his book In Defence of Politics, which
originally appeared in 1963 (Crick, 1992), saw conservatives, social democrats and
liberals as exponents of politics – which Crick defined as an activity which seeks
to conciliate and compromise. He contrasted them with nationalists, communists
and extremists of various kinds. Nevertheless despite their differences, we shall locate
the common features of all socialists in terms of the following:
(a) An optimistic view of human natureA view that human nature is either
changeable or does not constitute a barrier to social regulation or ownership.
The notion that humans are too selfish to cooperate and have common interests
contradicts socialist doctrine.
(b) A stress on cooperationAll socialists hold that people can and should work
together so that the market and capitalism need at the very least some
adjustment in order to facilitate cooperation. Competition may be seen as an
aid to, or wholly incompatible with, cooperation, but the latter is the guiding
(c) A positive view of freedomA notion that the question of freedom must be
examined in a social context and therefore in the context of resources of a
material kind. The right to read and write, for example, requires the provision
of schooling if such a right is to be meaningful.
(d) Support for equalitySocialists define equality in dramatically different ways,
but all, it seems to us, must subscribe to equality in some form or other. This,
Crick argues, is ‘the basic value in any imaginable or feasible socialist society’
These characteristics explain why socialism, though a broad church, is not
infinitely elastic. Dr Hendrik Verwoerd (1901–66), the architect of apartheid, was
sometimes accused by his free-market critics of being a socialist, and the Nazi Party
described itself as a ‘national socialist’ organisation. We want to argue that although
socialism stretches from Pol Pot to Tony Blair, it cannot incorporate those who
specifically and deliberately reject the notion of equality.
There is a further characteristic of socialism that is more contentious.
The problem of Utopia
All socialists are vulnerable to the charge of utopianism – of trying to realise a
society that is contrary to human experience and historical development. Socialists
disagree as to whether utopianism is a good thing or a bad thing. Thomas More,
in his famous book on the subject, Utopia (1516), created the notion of a good
Chapter 10 Socialism 215