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50 Years Ago: A Rose by Any Other Name

We are all “socialists” now. Let us witness the parade: The Churchill Tory socialists, the French Radical Socialists, the totalitarian “socialist” governments including the black, brown and red shirts, the New-Deal – Fair-Deal creeping “socialists”, the Labour Parties of Europe, the Asiatic “socialist” and “communist” governments as well as those in Africa and South America, the colonial “socialist” groups, the various alleged socialist organisations throughout the world such as the Social Democrats, Trotzkyites, the Communists parties, syndicalists, I.W.W., Socialist Labour Party and the Companion Parties for Socialism in Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand. Then there are the anarchists, Christian “socialists”, pacifists and a whole host of others. By no means have we exhausted the list of marchers in the “socialist” parade.

No wonder M. Rubel in his dilemma: “The Uses of the Word ‘Socialism’” in the Winter, 1954, issue of the American magazine Dissent, would prefer “to abandon the word socialism” and would substitute some other word for it that would “save the conceptual content once attached to this term.”

It is significant of the times we live in to see every strata of society and the entire gamut of conflicting and opposing interests express themselves in terms of socialism. They must in order to rally support. Even though socialism is NOT accepted by the world, it has become recognized and established as the hope of mankind.

M. Rubel describes very well the general nature of socialism that stirs and inspires everyone: “A society from which exploitation would be banished and in which the unfolding of each individual would be the condition of the freedom of all.”  This is the basic appeal of socialism as an ultimate objective which serves as a rallying cry to muster support for the various groups marching in the parade of “socialism.”

Let us suppose that some other word came into use to express the very essence of socialism, its “conceptual concept.” This new word would then be subjected to the very same difficulties. The old word “socialism” would lose its meaning and significance. The new word would become abused in the same manner as the old one. Changing the name would not solve any problem for it doesn’t come to grips with the real situation.

(From an article by I. Rab, Socialist Standard, August 1954)