The Idea of Socialism: From 1968 to the Present-day Crisis

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In 2008 the 40th anniversary of that iconic year, 1968, was celebrated in the media in relation to student uprisings and cultural revolts, largely neglecting the very significant movements of workers and peasants who were challenging power structures around the world at that time. This omission reflects the failures of socialism in the twentieth century, which are explored in this essay. Beginning from a more complete picture of 1968, the essay examines the history of socialism, identifying the main sources of failure in its theory and practice, in particular that of the revolutionary left. If the failure lies in the elite character of socialist politics and its focus on distribution rather than production, it is to be remedied by a firm focus on the politics of the workplace and the goal of substantive equality. The concluding section reviews the prospects for such an alternative in the current circumstances of global crisis.

Keywords: Leninism; class; equality; global crisis; socialist politics; workplace democracy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Life Fellow, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, UK, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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