How the WSM Is Different From Other Groups

The World Socialist Movement

  • claims that socialism will, and must, be a wageless, moneyless, worldwide society of common (not state) ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution.
  • claims that socialism will be a sharp break with capitalism with no "transition period" or gradual implementation of socialism (although socialism will be a dynamic, changing society once it is established).
  • claims that there can be no state in a socialist society.
  • claims that there can be no classes in a socialist society.
  • promotes only socialism, and as an immediate goal.
  • claims that only the vast majority, acting consciously in its own interests, for itself, by itself, can create socialism.
  • opposes any vanguardist approach, minority-led movements, and leadership, as inherently undemocratic (among other negative things).
  • promotes a peaceful democratic revolution, achieved through force of numbers and understanding.
  • neither promotes, nor opposes, reforms to capitalism.
  • claims that there is one working class, worldwide.
  • lays out the fundamentals of what a socialist society must be, but does not presume to tell the future socialist society how to go about its business.
  • promotes an historical materialist approach—real understanding.
  • claims that religion is a social, not personal, matter and that religion is incompatible with socialist understanding.
  • seeks election to facilitate the elimination of capitalism by the vast majority of socialists, not to govern capitalism.
  • claims that Leninism is a distortion of Marxian analysis.
  • opposes all war and claims that socialism will inherently end war, including the "war" between classes.
  • noted, in 1918, that the Bolshevik Revolution was not socialist. Had earlier, long noted that Russia was not ready for a socialist revolution.
  • was the first to recognize that the former USSR, China, Cuba and other so-called "socialist countries" were not socialist, but instead, state capitalist.
  • claims a very accurate, consistent analysis since 1904 when the first Companion Party was founded.

Other "socialist" parties and groups

We don't want to go into a long rant against these groups, but we are occasionally asked what makes the World Socialist Movement (WSM) different from them. The intent here is to list some organizations of which we are aware, and the reasons we oppose them.

Some members of the organizations we criticize have the best of intentions, but good intentions do not change the nature of those organizations, and membership carries the responsibility for the actions of those organizations.

First we list some specific points which we think are important and differentiate the World Socialist Movement from the others listed. Our ideas are listed, and under each point some comments on the other "socialist" parties and groups. After this we list, in four categories, some parties and groups which claim to be socialist, with some specific comments on the parties and groups in each category.

Clearly this is a "broad brush" approach. If this results in minor errors in our assignment of ideas to these groups, we apologize and are willing to make corrections. Overall, however, the comments will give a good perspective of how they differ from the World Socialist Movement (WSM):

  1. We believe that socialism will be a wageless, moneyless, free-access society.
    • None agree with this.
    • Most support a market system. Some suggest that a non-capitalist market is possible. These suggestions show a lack of understanding of market economics. While non-capitalist market systems have existed, they are impractical in a modern world. If a "non-capitalist" market system was established it would eventually become a capitalist market system.
  2. We believe that leaders are inherently undemocratic; socialists oppose leadership.
    • All support leadership.
  3. We believe that socialists shouldn't work for reforms to capitalism, because only a movement for socialism itself can establish socialism.
    • Those which work for reforms hold either that reforms to capitalism will eventually result in socialism, or that supporting reforms is an appropriate way to convince workers to support socialism.
    • Some put forward a reasonable analysis of capitalism, but then work to give capitalism a "human face". Some claim that they want to end capitalism. Their bottom line is, however, just capitalism with reforms. Democratic Socialists of America is a good example of this.
  4. We believe that socialism will be a cooperative, world wide system, and it has clearly not yet been established.
    • Most, perhaps all, of them support nationalism, which is closely akin to racism (which they explicitly claim to oppose), and in any case hinders worldwide working class solidarity. Nationalism is a concept only useful to separate people, and is therefore anti-working class.
  5. We believe that a scientific approach and understanding by the working class are necessary to establish socialism.
    • Generally support emotionalistic campaigns, in which logic and rational analysis are ignored.
    • Any group which wants people to follow their leadership is unlikely to promote real understanding. What needs to be understood if one is just following the leader and doing what one is told?
  6. We believe that democratically capturing the state through parliamentary elections is the safest, surest method for the working class to enable itself to establish socialism.
    • Most seem to support this, parliamentary, approach at some level. But their commitment varies so that some support both parliamentarism and anti-parliamentarism at the same time.

This list is by no means complete. It is only intended to put some real names to parties claiming to be "socialist". If you have a specific interest in one not on the list, send us some of their literature, or preferably a few issues of their journal, and we'll consider adding them—and our critique.

Leninists and Trotskyists

Notable past and present Leninist and Trotskyist organisations include the following:

Name Country
Communist Party of Britain UK
Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) Canada
Communist Party of Canada Canada
Communist Party of Cuba Cuba
Communist Party of the Soviet Union USSR
Communist Party of the United States of America USA
Fourth International international
International Communist League (a.k.a. Spartacist League) international
International Socialists international
Progressive Labor Party USA

These comments apply to both the Leninists and the Trotskyists.

Free access
No. Support a market economy.
Leadership
Noted for their vanguardist approach (the idea that a small group of leaders—the vanguard—will lead the working class to socialism). Lenin said that if workers were not led by a vanguard, it would take them 500 years to understand and establish socialism. This apparently justified the brutal subjugation of the Russian people (and later all of eastern Europe), because they had to be led to socialism against their will.
Reformism
Campaign explicitly for reforms.
One-country socialism
Claim that socialism was established in Russia in 1917, even though Lenin correctly noted in 1920 that state capitalism would be a step forward for Russia.
Democratic approach
When the Bolsheviks lost the first election in Russia after their 1917 revolution, they dissolved the new constituent assembly as soon as it met, in January 1918. By the middle of 1918 the Bolshevik government had arrested leaders who opposed the Bolsheviks, expelled their delegates from the Soviets, and driven the parties underground, making the Communist Party the only legal party in Russia.

For more information on Trotskyists, read Trotsky: The Prophet Debunked.

Socialist International

The Socialist International is a worldwide organization of "social democratic" parties, including the following:

Name Country
African National Congress South Africa
Australian Labor Party Australia
Democratic Socialists of America USA
Labour Party UK
New Democratic Party of Canada Canada
New Zealand Labour Party New Zealand
Social Democratic Party of Germany Germany
Social Democrats USA USA
Socialist Party France
Free access
No. Support a market economy.
Reformism
Usually do not, or cannot, distinguish between reforms and socialism. Most of them explicitly consider socialism and capitalism compatible (usually by defining "socialism" so that it means capitalism).
One-country socialism
Claim the existence (past or present) of socialism in at least one country.
Democratic approach
When the Bolsheviks lost the first election in Russia after their 1917 revolution, they dissolved the new constituent assembly as soon as it met, in January 1918. By the middle of 1918 the Bolshevik government had arrested leaders who opposed the Bolsheviks, expelled their delegates from the Soviets, and driven the parties underground, making the Communist Party the only legal party in Russia.

Some of these parties have, on occasion, been the provincial or national governments in several countries. If they do not claim to have established socialism, after apparently being elected to do so, then they have no justifiable claim to be socialists, even using their own, flawed definitions of socialism.

De Leonists

Name Country
De Leonist Society of Canada Canada
Industrial Union Party USA
New Union Party USA
Socialist Labor Party of America USA
Socialist Labour Party (1903–1980) UK
Free access
No. Support labour vouchers, which although not exactly the same as money, are very similar in some ways. Labour vouchers were supported by Marx to accommodate the real shortages that existed in 1875. Even if they were appropriate in 1875, and that is at least questionable, they are not now. For a description of labour vouchers, please see the article on Labour Vouchers.
Leadership
Appear to recognize that only a working class that understands the problems can build the solution, but there have been occasional concerns raised by ex-SLPers and others over what has been perceived as autocratic leadership in the SLP (which is the largest De Leonist organization). In fairness, these concerns may be just disagreements blown out of proportion.
One-country socialism

Vary on their position. De Leonism is generally a U.S. phenomenon, and this may be partly responsible for the tendency, by some, to talk about establishing "socialism" in the United States. Nevertheless, this approach fosters a nationalist approach which is opposed by the WSM.

The SLP says that "socialism" can be established in one country. As evidence, we quote from the SLP journal, The People (1 May 1993), in answer to an unprinted letter:

What would a socialist America do about the wages, or capitalist, system in the "third world"?

You are wrong when you say that socialism in America would leave Europe and Japan unaffected. Today, capital is increasingly international. What affects capitalism at its heart affects all its limbs.

Parliamentary approach

Support the socialist industrial union (SIU) model, which we claim is somewhat at odds with their stated support for a parliamentary approach.

The SIU model has some clear attractions. It is easy to explain and understand, it builds upon recognizable, existing structures, and it is worker oriented. However, the SIU model creates or continues as many problems as it addresses. The SIU model deserves a longer discussion than is appropriate for this immediate discussion (of differences), so if you want to review a longer article, please see the article on Socialist Industrial Unions.