The Impossibility of Socialist Pluralism without State Institutions

  • Boris Frankel
Part of the Contemporary Social Theory book series


Socialist pluralism has developed from socialists’ desire to avoid the horrors of Stalinism and also from the need to placate the fears of electorates in capitalist countries worried about the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and the Stalinist implications of other policies of ‘Euro-communist’ and ‘Eurosocialist’ parties. On the one hand we have a concept of socialist pluralism which is put forward by radicals as the basic organisational principle of a socialist society. On the other hand we have the concept of socialist pluralism as a political process, as a constituent element of ‘alternative programmes’ designed for the slow transition from capitalism to socialism within the framework of a ‘mixed economy’. In rescuing the concept of pluralism from its ideological use by American pluralists and other Cold War warriors — who used the term to cover up the class-divided social inequalities existing in capitalist countries — contemporary socialists have yet to agree on the character or vital aspects of socialist pluralism in theory and practice. In recent years many socialists have agreed that economic equality does not equal political equality (Bobbio),1 or as Habermas puts it: ‘Liberation from hunger and misery does not necessarily converge with liberation from servitude and degradation’.2 The widespread critique of the idea that the nationalisation of private property and simple material redistribution was synonomous with socialism, grew out of the experiences of women, ethnic minorities and millions of workers discriminated against and oppressed by the new ‘masters’ — who supposedly administered the peoples’ nationalised property in a ‘socialist’ manner.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 2.
    J. Habermas, Theory and Practice, trans. J. Viertel (London: Heinemann, 1974) p. 169.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    L. Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects (New York: Merit Publishers, 1969) p. 279.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    This is Glyn and Harrison’s alternative to ‘import controls’; see A. Glyn and J. Harrison, The British Economic Disaster (London: Pluto Press, 1980) p. 162.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    See A. Heller, ‘Marxist Ethics and the Future of Eastern Europe’, Telos, no. 38, 1978–9, pp. 153–74; P. Hirst, ‘Law, Socialism and Rights’, in P. Carlen and M. Collison (eds), Radical Issues in Criminology (Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1980) pp. 58–105; and N. Poulantzas (interviewed by H. Weber), ‘The State and the Transition to Socialism’, Socialist Review, no. 38, 1978, pp. 9–36.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    A. Gorz, Farewell to the Working Class, trans. M. Sonenscher (London: Pluto Press, 1982) pp. 90–1.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    G. Ruffolo, ‘Project for Socialist Planning’, in S. Holland (ed.), Beyond Capitalist Planning (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978) p. 81.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    See, for example, S. Rowbotham, L. Segal and H. Wainwright, Beyond the Fragments (London: Merlin Press, 1979).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Boris Frankel 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Boris Frankel

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations