The roads to power: capitalist democracy and socialist strategy

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This article comes from an abortive book project that I was working on about five years ago. The questions that it raises about political strategy for the radical left now appear far more pressing than they did when I wrote it, in the light of events in southern Europe and especially Greece. It sets out two alternative strategies for left-wing parties in capitalist democracies—one passing through the established parliamentary institutions, the other going beyond them—by summarizing the views of two important Marxist thinkers, Ralph Miliband and Ernest Mandel. It was originally published in Spirit of Contradicition on the 1st of July.

On the eve of the global economic crisis, the French socialist writer Daniel Bensaid announced the ‘return of strategy’ as a topic for discussion among progressive and radical forces. According to Bensaid, a long defensive period was drawing to a close: ‘We are coming to the end of the phase of the big refusal and of stoical resistance . . . [characterized by] slogans like ‘The world is not a commodity’ or ‘Our world is not for sale’. We need to be specific about what the ‘possible’ world is and, above all, we need to explore how to get there.’[1] Bensaid argued for renewed discussion, not of ‘models’ for radical change, but of ‘strategic hypotheses’: ‘Models are something to be copied; they are instructions for use. A hypothesis is a guide to action that starts from past experience but is open and can be modified in the light of new experience or unexpected circumstances.’[2] 

Labour and socialist movements in the industrialized North have been dealing with the challenges posed by bourgeois or capitalist democracy for many years. These questions are now of equally pressing interest beyond Europe and North America, as various forms of capitalist democracy take root from Brazil to South Africa. A ‘strategic hypothesis’ of the sort called for by Daniel Bensaid must address the opportunities and difficulties which such political systems present for the Left. 

Classical perspectives 

The body of thought known as ‘classical Marxism’ can be of limited use for any survey of capitalist democracy, and for obvious reasons. Marx and Engels died at a time when absolute monarchies still dominated European politics and universal suffrage was a rare phenomenon. The leading thinkers associated with the Russian revolution and the Communist International witnessed a period when parliamentary democracy appeared to be in danger of extinction. As Eric Hobsbawm recalls: ‘The twenty years between Mussolini’s so-called ‘March on Rome’ and the peak of the Axis success in the Second World War saw an accelerating, increasingly catastrophic, retreat of liberal political institutions . . . the only European countries with adequately democratic political institutions that functioned without a break during the entire inter-war period were Britain, Finland (only just), the Irish Free State, Sweden and Switzerland.’[3] 

Karl Marx himself expressed contrasting views on the possibilities which universal suffrage and parliamentary government might open up for working-class movements. In a much-quoted speech, he suggested that ‘there are countries, such as America or England, and if I was familiar with its institutions, I might include Holland, where the workers may attain their goal by peaceful means. That being the case, we must recognize that in most continental countries the lever of the revolution will be force.’[4] On another occasion, he responded sceptically to a reporter’s suggestion that the British political system made violent revolution unnecessary, predicting that any attempt made by an elected government to uproot capitalism would encounter the same ferocious opposition met by Abraham Lincoln in the southern states of the USA: ‘The English middle class has always shown itself willing enough to accept the verdict of the majority so long as it enjoyed the monopoly of the voting power. But mark me, as soon as it finds itself out-voted on what it considers vital questions we shall see here a new slave-owners’ war.’[5] 

By the time of the Russian revolution, matters had become a little clearer, and Lenin devoted a good deal of time to analyzing the parliamentary systems of Western Europe. But his writings were marked by a strong reaction against the tendency of his social-democratic rivals to take the claims made on behalf of bourgeois democracy at face value. As a highly sympathetic critic puts it: ‘All too often, Lenin used the term ‘formal’ in the sense of illusory, unreal and ‘purely formal’, presenting democratic rights and liberties under capitalist regimes not as partial, truncated and manipulated rights, but as straightforward ‘lures’, ‘swindles’ and ‘hollow phrases’.’[6] 

Lenin’s ally Leon Trotsky went on to consider these questions at much greater length and depth in a remarkable series of pamphlets and articles inspired by the pressing need for German workers to organize against Nazism before it could seize power.[7] Trotsky made short work of the argument, put forward by the leadership of the German Communist Party, that there was no difference between capitalist democracy and fascist dictatorship, and his analysis is still of great value. However, the conditions of terminal economic and political meltdown endured by Germany’s Weimar Republic between 1929 and 1933 have proved to be exceptional, and cannot be used as the basis for a theory of capitalist democracy under more typical circumstances without taking this into account. 

Two socialist leaders and theorists whose work became highly influential in the 1960s and 1970s, Rosa Luxemburg and Antonio Gramsci, also have their limitations for the task at hand. Luxemburg showed a peerless understanding of the importance of democracy for the working class and its organizations. Her writings are very much a product of their time, though, ‘a period in which bourgeois democracy, where it survived, was subject to severe strain and pressure and, where it did not, made way for the most murderous variant of capitalist rule . . . she did not see beyond this grim and extended reality to the era of renewed capitalist stabilization and expansion which followed it and in which bourgeois democracy was better able to prove its capacity for survival and renewal.’[8] Luxemburg did not anticipate the lengthy co-existence between capitalism and a certain form of democracy in the states of Europe and North America—still less its spread to what was then the colonial periphery. 

Antonio Gramsci, the leader of the Italian Communist Party in its early years, has been almost universally acclaimed as one of the great Marxist intellectuals of the twentieth century. In particular, his writings have been credited with offering the basis for a socialist strategy appropriate for Western Europe (this was a popular theme among supporters of the Euro-communist project in the 1970s). But as Richard Bellamy notes, ‘there was always a certain incongruity about the fact that the supposed champion of a revised Marxism suited to the advanced economies and political systems of the West came from a peripheral region of one of the West’s least industrialized nations and most fragile liberal democracies.’[9] Gramsci could hardly have been expected to chart a course through the new political conditions prevailing after the collapse of Europe’s main fascist dictatorships (including the one that hounded him to his death). 

Since 1945, capitalist democracy has become the dominant political order in the developed world, gradually integrating the whole European continent as the fascist and communist regimes which held sway in southern and eastern Europe have been dismantled. It has been equally predominant in North America, Japan and Australasia. As noted already, bourgeois-democratic systems have also taken root in the global South to a greater extent than ever before. During this period, labour, socialist and communist parties have held government office, on their own or as part of broader coalitions, and a large stock of practical experience has been accumulated. This experience badly needs analysis of the sort necessarily lacking in the classical Marxist tradition. 

Miliband and Mandel 

There is no shortage of such analysis: many gifted political thinkers have devoted their attention to the subject. But such work has not received the same attention as the Marxist ‘classics’—even though it has the potential to shed a great deal more light on these vital questions. This essay will concentrate on two socialist intellectuals, Ralph Miliband and Ernest Mandel, summarizing their views of capitalist democracy, the ways in which it has been or might be approached by labour movements, and the likely political architecture of a socialist society. 

The choice of Miliband and Mandel is not arbitrary. They share a number of biographical coincidences. Both men were Belgian Jews who narrowly escaped the Holocaust and took part in the struggle against Nazism—Miliband as a sailor in the British navy, Mandel as a partisan of the Belgian resistance. Both were distinguished scholar-activists who nourished the work of political militants while gaining broad respect within the academy. And both found that their radicalism put them at odds with the main working-class parties of the countries where they made their home: Miliband, who settled in Britain for most of his adult life, became a fierce critic of the Labour Party after a brief spell as a member in the 1950s; Mandel was expelled from the Belgian social-democratic movement when its leadership found his criticisms of their policy too irksome. 

For our purposes, the main value to be found in a comparative examination of the two writers is their powerful advocacy of two contrasting approaches to capitalist democracy. Ralph Miliband himself elaborated on this choice of perspectives as he reflected on the terminal decay of Soviet Communism: 

Marxists and other revolutionary socialists have always insisted that bourgeois democracy is fundamentally vitiated by the class context in which it functions, and by the degree to which the whole democratic process is undermined by the visible and the invisible power which capitalist interests and conservative forces are able to deploy vis-à-vis society and the state. Bourgeois democracy, in a context of class domination, is more often than not turned into an instrument of that domination . . . there is, however, a different critique, which complements the first one, and which is, in some ways, even more fundamental. This is that the kind of representative and parliamentary system which is an essential part of bourgeois democracy is in any case, and whatever its context, undemocratic, and that socialism requires more direct forms of expression of popular sovereignty and democratic power.[10]

As we shall see, Miliband and Mandel shared a great deal of common ground: their views of the bourgeois-democratic state and of the main tendencies in the European labour movements converge in many respects. But a crucial distinction remains between the two positions. A survey of two left-wing thinkers can thus illustrate one of the key questions for progressive movements operating within a capitalist-democratic order. 

Father and sons 

Many political commentators in Britain have noted the ironic parentage of David and Ed Miliband, two bright stars of New Labour who rose under the benevolent watch of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Some articles have teased out the contrast between the Marxist father and his ‘post-socialist’ off-spring in an illuminating manner.[11] But more typical has been the comment of one journalist, who assured readers that ‘for all his skills as a sociologist, it’s unlikely Miliband ever imagined that his boys would grow up to assume key roles at the very heart of the democratic state of which he was such an implacable critic.’[12] Miliband might have relished the irony: having devoted much of his work to identifying the barriers to genuine democratic control embedded in the British political order, he now finds himself posthumously caricatured as the opponent of a ‘democratic state’ whose virtues are presumed to be self-evident. The writer would perhaps have responded with the same terse rebuttal of the merits ascribed to such political systems that he addressed to Francis Fukuyama, prophet of the ‘end of history’: 

Capitalist democracy is a contradiction in terms, for it encapsulates two opposed systems. On the one hand there is capitalism, a system of economic organization that demands the existence of a relatively small class of people who own and control the main means of industrial, commercial, and financial activity, as well as a major part of the means of communication; these people thereby exercise a totally disproportionate amount of influence on politics and society both in their own countries and in lands far beyond their own borders. On the other hand there is democracy, which is based on the denial of such preponderance, and which requires a rough equality of condition that capitalism, as Fukuyama acknowledges, repudiates by its very nature. Domination and exploitation are ugly words that do not figure in Fukuyama’s vocabulary, but they are at the very core of capitalist democracy, and are inextricably linked to it.[13]

The conflict between political freedom and economic autocracy is seen by Miliband as the most compelling deficiency of this political form. Against those who present the typical capitalist economy ‘as if it consisted of a vast scatter of small and medium firms, all fiercely competing with each other, and none of them with much influence and power beyond the confines of their own narrow domain’, he insists that ‘contemporary capitalism is on the contrary dominated by giant conglomerates and trans-national firms, and the people who control them are able to make decisions which are of the greatest importance not only to the firms themselves, but also to their city, region, country, and, in many cases, to people and economies far beyond their own borders. A crucial feature of these decisions is that the people most affected by them have little or no control over them.’[14] 

Defenders of capitalist democracy will argue that the unequal distribution of economic power created by a free-market economy is compensated for by the existence of political equality. All citizens have the same right to vote, whether they are poor or wealthy, and the government will thus reflect the desires of the population as a whole. If the workings of a capitalist economy create social problems that require the mitigating impact of government intervention, such intervention will become public policy if the majority supports it. If, on the other hand, the majority view is that the benefits of a laissez-faire approach outweigh the costs, the capitalist economy will be allowed to function with little or no interruption. 

This ‘pluralist’ theory of politics is viewed by Miliband as a mystification of reality: ‘Pluralism means a lot more than the existence and recognition of a plurality of groups, interests and associations in society; it also means, and is intended to mean, the existence of a rough equilibrium of power between contending interests and social forces. This is precisely what is not present in the configuration of power in advanced capitalist societies.’[15] The resources on which big capital can draw in the struggle to influence state power are vastly greater than those available to its rivals. Those who seek to constrain the power of capital, or abolish it altogether, enter the field of parliamentary democracy at a great disadvantage. 

The defence of the status quo is conducted within ‘civil society’ by a well-disciplined alliance of opinion-formers. With the decline of organized religion (a force which ‘tended to preach acceptance and obedience rather than questioning and rebellion’[16]) in most developed societies, the slack has generally been taken up by the print and electronic media, whose private organs are overwhelmingly under the ownership of large-scale capitalist interests: ‘Whatever else the immense output of the mass media is intended to achieve, it is also intended to help prevent the development of class-consciousness in the working class, and to reduce as much as possible any hankering it might have for a radical alternative to capitalism.’[17] Owners expect their staff to operate within ‘a well-understood ideological spectrum of thought, which stretches from mild social democracy at one end to far-right conservatism at the other’.[18] This tacit censorship of opinion within the mass media takes place largely without the threat of imprisonment or similar measures. The carrot is deployed as much as the stick: ‘There are considerable rewards to be had for remaining within the frame-work of acceptable opinion . . . within that framework, there are jobs, grants, promotion, travel, prestige, even fame. Outside it, there is likely to be trouble, discrimination, harassment, even persecution.’[19] 

According to Miliband, the dominance of capitalist interests over state policy is not simply a product of the unrivalled megaphone which those interests possess in the form of the mass media, or indeed of their huge expenditure on lobbying and donations to political parties—important as those factors undoubtedly are. The nature of the state itself is crucial. The summit of the class structure in advanced capitalist societies is crowned by a ‘power elite’, made up of two distinct fractions: on the one hand, those who control the major firms which dominate economic activity; on the other, those who control the institutions of the state. As he elaborates: 

State power is controlled by the people who occupy the command posts of the state system—presidents, prime ministers and their immediate ministerial and other colleagues and advisors; top civil servants; senior officers in the armed forces, the police and the surveillance and intelligence agencies; senior judges; and the people in charge of state enterprises, regulatory commissions and similar agencies.[20]

These individuals must all be considered among those ‘who have done very well out of the existing social order and who quite naturally have every intention of continuing to do very well out of it, for themselves and their off-spring’.[21] By income and status, if not by social origin—and the latter qualification is very often unnecessary—they belong to the upper classes, and will thus lean heavily towards a certain way of looking at the world: ‘A common social background and origin, education, connections, kinship, and friendship, a similar way of life, result in a cluster of common ideological and political positions and attitudes, common values and perspectives.’[22] These ‘common values and perspectives’ are likely to include a strong attachment to the existing social system and a hostile view of those who seek to transform it. Differences can and do occur among those who share this broad out-look, of course—but those differences are almost certain to melt away in the face of a serious challenge from those who do not share the assumptions of the power elite. 

This does not mean that the bourgeois-democratic state is simply a ‘tool’ of the capitalist class. In fact, ‘its agents absolutely need a measure of freedom in deciding how best to serve the existing social order . . . what to concede and when to concede—the two being closely related—are matters of some delicacy, which a ruling class, with its eyes fixed on immediate interests and demands, cannot be expected to handle properly.’[23] 

Welfare state and police state

Against this radical critique of capitalist democracy, two related arguments are likely to be made. One is the fact that labour and socialist parties which base themselves on the support of working-class people have been elected to office on many occasions in bourgeois-democratic states. The other is that governments of this type (or indeed conservative ones, in certain situations) have often introduced welfare programmes of one kind or another which improve the living conditions of the working classes. 

The first point will be addressed at greater length in the next section, which discusses Miliband’s view of social democracy. For now, let us note his argument that ‘the ideological distance which separates most social democratic leaders and ministers from their conservative opponents must not be exaggerated . . . the presence of social democrats in the state system has not been nearly as damaging to the cohesion of the power elite as rhetoric might suggest.’[24] Regarding the emergence of the ‘welfare state’, Miliband is not inclined to dismiss its positive effects: ‘Such services and benefits raise expectations; they enhance the notion of state responsibility and social rights against the notion of individual competition and striving; they render their beneficiaries in the working class less vulnerable to the rigours of the market and to the dictates of employers.’[25] But he makes a number of critical points. 

Firstly, ‘the working class itself mostly pays in direct and indirect taxes for the services and benefits which accrue to it. What occurs is very largely a redistribution of income within the working class itself.’[26] Secondly, the adoption of such reforms, while it may bring welcome benefits to many workers and their dependents, does not eliminate the systemic exploitation vital to capitalism: ‘These measures do in some degree affect the ways in which exploitation and domination are experienced, but do not destroy or threaten the system of which exploitation and domination are the essence. What the state does in this area is a response to promptings and pressures upon which it is alone empowered to act, and upon which it acts in the conviction that its response serves to strengthen, not to undermine, the system.’[27] 

Above all, the social reforms adopted by the bourgeois-democratic state in response to mass pressure ‘from below’ have to be compatible with the demands of economic elites: ‘Whatever the state does by way of provision and management of services and economic intervention has to run the gauntlet of the economic imperatives dictated by the requirements of the system—and what emerges as a result is always very battered.’[28] 

If the ‘welfare state’ is thus less significant than the conventional view would maintain, that view also greatly under-estimates the role of the state as a check on political dissent: 

In periods of serious social conflict, this repressive aspect of the bourgeois-democratic state is very quickly deployed; and there are large sections of people to whom this aspect . . . is very familiar at all times, including times of relative social peace. To these people—the poor, the unemployed, the migrant workers, the non-whites, and large parts of the working class in general—the bourgeois-democratic state does not appear in anything like the same guises as it appears to the well-established and well-to-do.[29] 

The repressive functions of the state are directed against those who step outside the ruling consensus: ‘Left activists do get arrested, beaten up, and killed by police and military or paramilitary forces in demonstrations, on picket-lines, in police stations or barracks; and repressive action is almost always ‘covered’ by ministers.’[30] This does not mean that capitalist democracies are indistinguishable from police states, but ‘they are certainly very highly policed states, in which phone-tapping, mail-opening, surveillance, and internal spying, as well as direct and physical repression by state agencies, have become a familiar, habitual, and increasingly accepted part of the political scene and culture.’[31] 

The use of physical force against social movements by the state is justified on the grounds that it is required to uphold ‘the rule of law’. Miliband’s observation about the unequal resources available to different social groups supplies one answer to this point: the particular law whose ‘rule’ is being upheld may itself contain a crude class bias. But equally to the point, ‘what is, and what is not, within the law is precisely the subject of a great deal of discretion, so that what is legal is very often what the police or magistrates or judges choose to consider legal . . . these decisions are inevitably laden with powerful ideological assumptions and prejudices.’[32] 

There always remains the danger that, if the dominant class perceives a threat to its fundamental interests, it will choose to set aside the real if limited constraints which bourgeois democracy imposes on political repression[33] and support an openly authoritarian regime—as happened in many European states between the two world wars. Such developments have been rare in European politics since 1945, but ‘this absence of an authoritarian threat to bourgeois democracy cannot unfortunately be taken to mean that the propensity to authoritarianism of traditional elites has been finally subdued. It means rather that there has been no need for them to give serious thought to an authoritarian alternative.’[34] 

The Left should always be aware of this ‘propensity to authoritarianism’. In the wake of the miners’ strike in Britain and the mobilization of the police and secret service by Thatcher’s government which it prompted, Miliband argued that ‘Mrs Thatcher is the first British Prime Minister to convey the very strong impression that she could, in suitably fraught circumstances, very comfortably play the role of a Pinochet.’[35] 

The failings of social democracy 

The dominant form of working-class politics in the advanced industrial states has been social democracy, and Ralph Miliband offers one of the most comprehensive and penetrating critiques of the political strategies adopted by social-democratic movements. This critique does not claim that social democracy has delivered nothing of any merit: ‘It would be quite wrong to ignore or undervalue the reforms which social democracy has helped to achieve in capitalist societies over the years, or the important role which its presence and pressure have played in forcing issues and policies on the political agenda which otherwise would have been ignored or differently handled.’[36] But these achievements cannot obscure the many negative features of its record. 

Miliband argues that, rhetoric aside, social democracy has never seriously attempted to replace capitalism with an alternative system based on social ownership and control of the economy: ‘The most it has ever striven to achieve is capitalism with a more human face: the record is consistent across time and countries and continents—from Attlee to Wilson and Callaghan in Britain, from Leon Blum to Guy Mollet to Mitterand in France, from Ebert to Brandt to Schmidt in Germany etc.’[37] This approach imposes serious limitations on the reforms which can be achieved by social-democratic governments. 

Far from recognizing those limitations, most social-democratic leaders have tended to argue that ‘capitalist society (in so far as the existence of capitalism is acknowledged at all) is not a battlefield on which opposed classes are engaged in a permanent conflict, now more acute, now less, and in which they are firmly on one side, but a community, no doubt quarrelsome, but a community nonetheless.’[38] Armed with this perspective, they have usually ignored the structural bias of the bourgeois-democratic state in favour of the dominant class and rejected the only effective means of countering that bias: mass mobilization of their supporters outside the normal routines of parliamentary politics. In fact, the leaders of such parties have greatly encouraged de-mobilization of their supporters: 

Social democracy has generally been deeply concerned to narrow the scope of political activity, to confine it as far as possible to carefully controlled party and parliamentary channels, to restrict and stifle grassroots activism except in the service of the party’s electoral interests. Much of the energy of social-democratic leaders has been devoted to the containment and channelling of the energies of their rank and file, and to the control of that rank and file by the party apparatus; and much the same concern has been evident among trade union leaders as well.[39]

As a result of this approach, ‘social-democratic organizations have been both major agencies for the advancement of demands from below, and also major agencies for the containment of those demands.’[40] The grand hopes which their advances raised have been repeatedly dashed: ‘Again and again, social-democratic governments have been elected with substantial, sometimes sweeping, parliamentary and popular majorities, on programmes of extensive reform and renewal, in a climate of genuine enthusiasm and support, and have very soon flagged and dissipated that enthusiasm and support.’[41]

When reform has been achieved, Miliband insists, it is largely because of pressure from the supporters of left-wing parties—despite the best efforts of such parties to minimize that pressure. Sometimes mass action can force the passage of major reforms by the state even without the mediation of a left party in office: ‘The degree to which the key factor is the intensity of pressure from below is well illustrated by the experience of the Sixties in the United States, where no social-democratic party of any consequence exists, save in the very weak (and unacknowledged) version constituted by the Democratic Party.’[42] If the US anti-racist movement had confined itself to seeking the election of candidates sympathetic to its agenda, abstaining from marches, boycotts and other forms of civil disobedience, its achievements would have been a great deal less significant than they were. 

The belief that it was sufficient to win a majority in parliament in order for a reform programme to be successful, and the failure to make the crucial distinction between finding oneself in office and actually exercising power, crippled the efforts of reforming governments: ‘Even when circumstances were most favourable, for instance in the years after World War II in such countries as Britain and France, when popular readiness and support for radical change was very high, it was timidity rather than boldness, submission to convention rather than innovative zeal which characterized social-democratic reforming measures.’[43] The evolution of social democracy saw its ambitions become more and more limited, until those parties discarded ‘any interest in transcending capitalist social relations, and marginalized in the 1980s even those within them who had always sought to re-establish socialist ideals and practices’.[44] 

Defenders of social democracy would probably offer a number of arguments in response. Foremost might be the claim that any more radical course of action would have led to violent confrontation between conservative and socialist forces, raising the grim prospect of civil war. Social democrats have often presented commitment to non-violence as a dividing line between themselves and rival tendencies in the labour movement. However, Miliband notes that ‘social-democratic recoil from violence and bloodshed has been extremely selective. Social democracy everywhere has not felt the same qualms when a ‘national’ struggle, as distinct from a class struggle, was at issue.’[45] 

This forms another part of the indictment of social democracy drawn up by the writer. Famously, the social-democratic parties of Europe lined up behind their own ruling classes when the Great War began in 1914, providing valuable political cover for imperialist policies which they had repeatedly condemned during peace-time. This complicity with imperialism was a recurrent feature of European social democracy: the British Labour Party and the French socialists presided over bloody colonial wars against nationalist movements in Africa and Asia. Social democracy also took the side of Washington during the Cold War, endorsing ‘the global counter-revolutionary crusade which capitalist governments have been waging since World War II under the leadership of the United States’.[46] It should have been possible for social-democratic parties to oppose the anti-democratic policies of the USSR in Eastern Europe, without giving its blessing to equally harmful US interventions in Asia or Latin America. 

So far as domestic political conflicts are concerned, Miliband does not consider the selective ‘recoil from violence’ of social democracy to be entirely admirable. Not that he ridicules aversion to civil war, arguing that ‘it is only people morally and politically crippled in their sensitivities who would scoff’ at such a feeling.[47] But it can sometimes pave the way for exactly what it is meant to avoid: ‘There are circumstances when the best—even the only way—to avoid civil war is to mobilize all available forces for the struggle, and thus compel the Right to pause and possibly to retreat; and preparing for struggle is also a condition for winning, if a confrontation becomes inevitable.’[48] 

Radical alternatives 

Social democrats have often argued that whether or not it would require violence to bring about a socialist alternative to capitalism is academic: popular support for such an alternative is lacking in the developed capitalist societies, and those who remain intransigent opponents of capitalism will also remain trapped on the margins of political life. Against this view (now very much part of the ‘common sense’ which underpins mainstream political debate), Miliband insists that the historical record tells a different story: ‘The notion that very large parts of ‘the electorate’, and notably the working class, are bound to reject radical programmes is a convenient alibi, but little else.’[49] 

This claim is certain to be contested, and requires clarification. First of all, Miliband argues that it would be wrong to identify support for radical change with the desire to carry out an armed insurrection against the state: ‘It may well be that class-consciousness and revolutionary consciousness must eventually come to encompass a will to insurrection . . . but the will to insurrection which this would entail must be seen as the ultimate extension of revolutionary consciousness, as its final strategic manifestation, produced by specific and for the most part unforeseeable circumstances.’[50] To insist that workers must be willing to mount barricades if their support for socialist goals is to be assumed sets the bar much too high, and does not get to the heart of the matter: 

The real issue has mostly been the more humane management of capitalism on the one hand, or radical reform on the other. On this issue, it cannot be said that ‘the electorate’ has spoken with an unequivocal voice. In fact, a majority of voters has quite often, especially since WWII, given electoral support to parties precisely committed to programmes of radical reform. The problem does not lie with the voters, but with leaders who do not themselves believe in the radical programmes they find themselves saddled with; and they are therefore all the less likely to defend them with the vigour and conviction which the advocacy of such programmes requires.[51]

This is not a simplistic tale of ‘bad leaders’ betraying the working class. As we have seen, Miliband identifies the structural features of the bourgeois-democratic state which make it such an unreliable tool for programmes of radical reform. Social-democratic parties which are committed to playing the game of capitalist democracy by its rules, and make no attempt to mobilize their mass support once electoral victory has been secured, will sooner or later be forced to abandon such programmes.  

If support for radical reform has been available (not at all times, of course, but frequently enough to be counted on), why have leaders of staunchly ‘moderate’ leanings remained in charge of social-democratic parties? The immersion of these parties in the established political structures is one important factor, as ‘bourgeois democracy greatly fosters ‘moderation’, both in trade union leaders and in parliamentarians of social-democratic disposition.’[52] Those leaders come under intense pressure to abandon radical objectives: ‘For those who submit to it, there is advancement, praise, honour; for those who resist it, there is denunciation, often of great virulence, from a multitude of sources.’[53]

The same hierarchical structure which gives parliamentary leaders a commanding position of authority over their supporters has often been replicated inside the social-democratic parties. Miliband disagrees with the view that all mass organizations are bound to undergo this process, thanks to the so-called ‘iron law of oligarchy’. In the working-class parties of Europe, the development of ‘oligarchy’ has largely been driven by the need for moderate leaders to prevent radical supporters from influencing key decisions: ‘It is easy to see why leaders want and need more power: that power is required in order to contain and defeat the pressure exercised by left activists and others of similar disposition.’[54] 

When left activists attempt to challenge these barriers in a determined manner, the leaders of social-democratic parties have another trump card to play: support from the mass media. Right-wing and establishment media outlets will invariably take the side of the ‘moderate’ leadership against their grassroots opponents: ‘While they may not support with any enthusiasm social-democratic leaders in struggle with left opponents, they can be relied upon to attack left critics with great violence. A climate of opinion is thus created which is highly favourable to leaders, and this is likely to have an effect on large numbers of activists.’[55] This goes a long way towards explaining why social democracy has remained under the control of leaders who sometimes pay lip service to programmes of radical reform, while lacking the will or the means to put them into practice. 

We have not yet mentioned what may be the most significant reason for the dominance of ‘moderate’ currents within the labour movements of the developed world: namely, the evolution of the Communist parties (CPs) which had been founded to challenge social democracy. The authoritarian nature of the Soviet state, and the subordination of the Communist movement to that state, did much to discredit the whole idea of socialism: ‘One of the great triumphs of dominant classes in the West has been their appropriation of democracy, at least in rhetoric and propaganda; and it can hardly be doubted that Communist practices, from elections with 99.9 per cent majorities to the brutal suppression of dissent, have been of the greatest help in the achievement of this appropriation.’[56] 

Regarding the CPs themselves, Miliband identifies two key deformities, ‘their total subservience to Stalin’s policies and purposes . . . [and] closely related to this, their mode of organization . . . the combination of sectarianism and opportunism which characterized Stalinism, together with sudden changes of policy imposed from Moscow, blighted their politics and blunted their political effectiveness.’[57] While the CPs of Western Europe began to distance themselves from Moscow after Stalin’s death, and could no longer be described as ‘subservient’, their internal structures remained deeply marked by the Stalinist era. Whatever liberalization did take place was strictly circumscribed: 

There was a time, not so long ago, when the need for discipline was invoked to silence all criticism inside Communist parties, and to expel the critics. This is no longer the common practice. Criticism is tolerated, so long as the critics do not try to render themselves effective by seeking to come together, and by together pressing their views upon the party . . . the contradiction is blatant between Euro-communist protestations of commitment to democracy on the one hand, and commitment to undemocratic practices inside Communist parties on the other.[58]

The association of Communism with the most repulsive features of the Soviet dictatorship, and the tight regimentation imposed by CPs on their own members, proved to be extremely damaging in the contest with social democracy that spanned much of the twentieth century. Countless people who might have found a radical alternative to the social-democratic parties attractive were alienated by the actually existing Communist movement. 

Revolutionary reformism 

The deficiencies of the Communist parties prevented them from playing the role desired by Miliband as the agents of ‘revolutionary reformism’. This apparently paradoxical term calls for explanation. While Miliband firmly insists that mass support has been available for radical change in the developed capitalist world, he is careful not to exaggerate the revolutionary character of this backing: ‘It is undoubtedly futile to expect any large measure of popular support for programmes whose central premise is that a clean sweep must be made of everything to do with the existing social and political order, so that it may be replaced by a totally new social order whose shape and character tend to be only very loosely and vaguely sketched out.’[59] 

For Miliband, account must be taken of ‘the extremely strong attraction which legality, constitutionalism and representative institutions of the parliamentary type have had for the overwhelming majority of people in the working-class movements of capitalist societies’.[60] He describes the ‘rejection of insurrectionism’ as ‘the largest and most important fact about the working class in advanced capitalist countries since 1918’.[61] This does not mean that the working class has been uncritically supportive of the existing political regime in those countries:

The rejection of insurrectionism must not be taken to signify an enthusiastic endorsement of bourgeois democracy, parliamentarism and representative institutions. On the contrary, there is very deep and widespread scepticism about all of this, and the chances are that it has always been so. For the working class in general, it is probably the case that ‘politics’ has been a term charged with many negative and suspect connotations. But this scepticism about bourgeois politics has never meant any kind of commitment to its obverse, namely the politics of insurrection and violent revolution.[62]

It was this popular rejection, rather than the dictates of Moscow, which drove the Communist parties of Western Europe to abandon insurrectionary politics. To be sure, the Soviet leadership encouraged this turn for its own reasons, but ‘if it had not corresponded to very powerful and compelling tendencies in the countries concerned, the abandonment of the strategy would have encountered much greater resistance in revolutionary movements, notwithstanding Moscow’s prestige and pressure and repression.’[63] If insurrectionism is off the agenda, what, then, is the nature of the alternative suggested by Miliband? 

‘Revolutionary reformism’, he argues, will involve ‘intervention in class struggle at all point of conflict in society, and pre-eminently at the site of work. It also involves electoral struggles at all levels and conceives these struggles as an intrinsic part of class struggle, without allowing itself to be absorbed into electoralism and parliamentarism’.[64] A full engagement with electoral politics is required: ‘The alternative, amply demonstrated by long experience, is for parties intent upon radical change to remain confined in a very narrow political space.’[65] The belief that it is possible to by-pass the representative structures which already exist, or to engage with them in a marginal and tokenistic manner, is illusory. Radical socialists must take those structures very seriously and build up support within them, while conducting ‘a permanent critique of the limitations and shortcomings of bourgeois democracy, of its narrowness and formalism, of its authoritarian tendencies and practices’.[66]  

Is this not simply a re-packaged version of the ‘parliamentary road to socialism’ which dominated social-democratic perspectives in the early years of the movement? Not quite. Miliband is keenly aware of the danger that such electoral engagement will lead to ‘unprincipled compromise, the opportunistic dilution of programme and purpose’ but argues that such perils ‘may at least be greatly attenuated by a democratic, open, responsive party life, with leaders and representatives truly accountable to the members of the organizations which had made their election possible’.[67] Nor does his strategy rule out extra-parliamentary struggles—in fact, they are to play a critical role in socialist advance.

Perhaps the most crucial difference is that Miliband’s favoured course ‘does not postulate a smooth and uneventful transition to socialism by way of electoral support and parliamentary majorities. It acknowledges that, in the context of capitalist democracy, such a transition requires a massive degree of popular support and commitment . . . ‘revolutionary reformism’ is also bound to be very conscious of the fact that any serious challenge to dominant classes must inevitably evoke resistance, and will be determined to meet that resistance with every weapon that this requires.’[68] 

The starting-point for a transition to socialism, in this perspective, must be an electoral victory and the formation of a government committed to radical reform. A radical commitment of this nature is essential, as ‘minority participation by the Left in an essentially conservative government is most likely to have as its main result the compromising of those on the Left who enter into it.’[69] Any radical government elected in one of the advanced capitalist states would most likely be a coalition, which would need ‘a core, a solid centre; and this would have to be provided by the representatives of a socialist party able to exercise a major influence in the coalition, without any presumption of a privileged position.’[70] 

The goal of socialists should be to establish an economic system ‘where the commanding heights of the economy, including its strategic industrial, financial and commercial enterprises, and some of the lesser heights as well, come under one form or another of public or social ownership, under the scrutiny and regulation of a democratic state, itself strictly accountable’.[71] This model would be clearly distinguished from the East European version of a planned economy by its democratic character, but also by the fact that ‘state ownership need not be thought of in terms of single, monopolistic corporations, but rather as areas of economic activity ruled wherever possible on the principle that more-than-one is better than one.’[72] Social ownership could assume different forms, and the system as a whole might be termed a ‘mixed economy’—but one in which the balance between public and private ownership was reversed. 

As the new government moves towards this goal, initiating far-reaching anti-capitalist reforms that undermine the power of economic elites, it will have to expect ferocious opposition. Crucially, this opposition will come from within as well as outside the state system: ‘By far the larger part of the state personnel at the higher levels, and at least a very large number in the lower ones as well, are much more likely to be ideologically, politically, and emotionally on the side of the conservative forces than of the government.’[73] There can be no illusion that the machinery of the state will lend itself to radical purposes as readily as if it was called upon to act in defence of the social order. The new government and its supporters must recognize that ‘to achieve office by electoral means involves moving into a house long occupied by people of very different dispositions—indeed it involves moving into a house many rooms of which continue to be occupied by such people.’[74] 

One of the most urgent tasks, then, will be to change the personnel administering the state: 

It is not realistic to believe that the project can be advanced if people in key positions in the state apparatus—most of whom could be expected to be ranged in a spectrum encompassing bitter hostility at one end and lack of enthusiasm at the other—were not replaced with people who believed wholeheartedly in it, and who were willing to bend all their energies and intelligence to its success.[75]

But merely re-shuffling the personnel at the top levels of the state is not nearly enough. Against a powerful alliance of conservative, anti-socialist forces, whose class power will not have been liquidated by an electoral defeat, a radical government can only prevail if it is able to rely on strong popular support. Even that will not be enough, however, if such backing is not mobilized effectively—hence Miliband’s call for a strong partnership between the government and new structures that will give its supporters real decision-making power. A transition to socialism must involve ‘radical changes in the structure, modes of operation, and personnel of the existing state, as well as the creation of a network of organs of popular participation’.[76] 

Miliband uses the term ‘dual power’ when referring to the relationship between these new structures and the state. This is a departure from the original understanding of the term by Marxists in the early twentieth century, who had in mind a situation which saw new organs of working-class power confronting a parliament dominated by conservative forces and seeking to overthrow it. Miliband argues instead that the new structures will be ‘intended not to replace the state but to complement it . . . the organs of popular participation do not challenge the government but act as a defensive-offensive and generally supportive element in what is a semi-revolutionary and exceedingly fraught state of affairs.’[77] Despite their pragmatic origins, the structures of ‘dual power’ should become a permanent feature of the new political order taking shape. 

The ‘semi-revolutionary and exceedingly fraught’ conditions which the new government is likely to encounter deserve some attention. We have already noted Miliband’s argument that ‘there are circumstances when the best—even the only way—to avoid civil war is to mobilize all available forces for the struggle.’ He does not believe that civil war is the inevitable outcome of any attempt to uproot capitalist social relations. But he considers it very likely that there will be at least some violent clashes during the transition. Against those who see this as sufficient argument against any project of radical change, Miliband would doubtless point to the routine violence of the status quo, even in the most stable bourgeois-democratic states, which his work carefully itemises. To accept the capitalist order is to accept this violence. 

Not that Miliband is one of those radicals who likes to remark that ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’, as if that disposed of the question of violence. His views on the subject are closer to the maxim ‘those who wish for peace prepare for war’. In the aftermath of the bloody coup against the radical Popular Unity government in Chile, Miliband noted that the pacific strategy of its leaders had in fact made the disaster more likely: 

Considering the manner of Salvador Allende’s death, a certain reticence is very much in order. Yet, it is impossible not to attribute to him at least some of the responsibility for what ultimately occurred . . . Allende believed in conciliation because he feared the result of a confrontation. But because he believed that the Left was bound to be defeated in any such confrontation, he had to pursue with ever-greater desperation his policy of conciliation; but the more he pursued that policy, the greater grew the assurance and boldness of his opponents.[78]

Radicals must be ready to take decisive measures against violent opposition to their project, and ‘it is a typical class logic which denies to a government committed to radical change the powers which all capitalist governments have assumed to prevent radical change and to defend the status quo.’[79] Such measures will have to be kept under tight control, however, and peaceful opposition to a socialist government should be tolerated without question: ‘The suppression of all opposition and the stifling of all civic freedoms must be taken to represent a disastrous regression, in political terms, from bourgeois democracy.’[80] 

As it takes shape, socialist democracy must ‘embody many of the features of liberal democracy, including the rule of law, the separation of powers, civil liberties, political pluralism and a vibrant civil society, but it would give them more effective meaning’.[81] This will involve ‘the fostering of many centres of power outside the state, in a system of autonomous and independent associations, groupings, parties and lobbies of every kind and description, expressing a multitude of concerns and aspirations woven in the tissue of society’.[82] Socialist democracy is bound to assume different forms from one country to the next, just as capitalist democracy does today. 

Miliband departs from the view of many anti-capitalist radicals in arguing that the state (albeit a radically transformed one) will not be abolished or ‘wither away’ once capitalism has been eliminated: 

The building and consolidating of socialist democracy will long require a state to carry out essential tasks which the state alone can accomplish: for instance, the decisions which must ultimately be made about priorities regarding the allocation of scare and essential resources; the adjudication of a diversity of competing claims in societies where division and conflict, though greatly attenuated, would continue to occur; the ultimate guarantee of civic, political, and social rights which give much of its force to the notion of socialist pluralism; and so on . . . just as society would check state power, so too would the state, democratically invested with the capacity to do so, constitute a check on the power of popular institutions and agencies.[83]

Finally, Miliband rejects the claim that any socialist experiment in a single country is bound to fail, due to the globalized nature of the world economy and the pressure which capitalist states can bring to bear against any departure from the established rules of the game. Without denying the existence of a very real problem, he insists that a radical government could overcome economic sabotage ‘if it adopted drastic measures, worked out well in advance of the assumption of office, to protect the currency and the economy from the de-stabilizing operations of financial markets and hostile governments and institutions’.[84] While the other capitalist powers would be sure to oppose the agenda of the new government, they do not form a monolithic bloc with a unified strategy: real divisions of interest among those powers could be exploited to create some breathing space. 

Moreover, ‘a radical government, confronted with national and international capitalist hostility, would attract a good deal of support from labour and socialist forces in other countries . . . this support would find translation into pressure upon governments at least to desist from hostile policies and actions.’[85] In the period before the assumption of power, it would be essential to establish close bonds with progressive forces in other states, making it easier to organize solidarity action across national boundaries. The problems raised by the global nature of capitalism ‘are not insuperable, provided that the government has the will to overcome them. Will alone is not enough: but it is the absolutely indispensable point of departure.’[86] 

Capitalism or freedom 

After Ernest Mandel’s death in 1994, Robin Blackburn recalled the last time he saw the Belgian revolutionary speak in public, at a debate with Felipe Gonzalez three years earlier: 

The Spanish Prime Minister unwisely elected to lecture Mandel on the virtues of constitutionalism and respect for human rights. Mandel drew a stark picture of the plight of Europe’s thirty million unemployed and attacked social democracy for its capitulation to the deflationary dictates of the Bundesbank. He also drew attention to the contradiction between Gonzalez’s oration and the fact that several thousand young pacifists were languishing in Spain’s jails as he spoke. There can have been very few in the hall, or watching on TV, who did not see the frail, seventy-year-old Ernest Mandel as the vigorous and principled defender of socialism and Gonzalez as the miserable, compromised prisoner of power.[87]

Having narrowly escaped death in the Nazi camp system during the Second World War, Mandel was hardly likely to under-estimate the differences between bourgeois democracy and the worst forms of authoritarian rule—indeed, he was always careful to reproach socialists who failed to appreciate such differences.[88] But Mandel never ceased to maintain that ‘private property and capitalist exploitation . . . result in the violent restriction of the practical application of democratic rights and the practical enjoyment of democratic freedoms by the big majority of the toiling masses, even in the most democratic bourgeois regimes’.[89] 

The control over economic production exercised by the big capitalist firms is itself an affront to democracy, and greatly limits the power of citizens to influence the state through the ballot box: ‘In the face of so-high powered a concentration . . . the relationships between parliament and government officials, police commissioners and those multi-millionaires is a relationship burdened very little by theory. It is a very immediate and practical relationship: and the connecting link is the pay-off.’[90] Like Ralph Miliband, however, Mandel does not see the disproportionate influence of the capitalist class over state policy merely as a reflection of its much greater resources. The bias is firmly rooted in the character of the state itself: 

The power of the state is a permanent power. This power is exercised by a certain number of institutions that are isolated from and independent of so changeable and unstable an influence as universal suffrage . . . the state is, above all, these permanent institutions: the army (the permanent part of the army—the general staff, special troops), the police, special police, secret police, the top administrators of government departments (‘key’ civil servants), the national security bodies, the judges, etc.—everything that is ‘free’ of the influence of universal suffrage.[91]

The selection process ensures that people in the top ranks of the state system are likely to come from a narrow social background. This is true even when entry to the civil service is determined by apparently ‘meritocratic’ examinations: ‘There’s a progression in these examinations that gives them a selective character. You have to have certain degrees, you have to have taken certain courses, to apply for certain positions, especially important positions. Such a system excludes a huge number of people who were not able to get a university education or its equivalent, because equality of educational opportunity doesn’t really exist.’[92] 

Even if men or women from a humble background are able to clear these hurdles, they will ultimately be ‘absorbed and integrated into the bourgeois class, even if only through the size of their incomes and the inevitable accumulation of capital to which they lead’.[93] The ideological conformity of the state elite will also be ensured by the simple fact that they have to perform roles that are difficult to reconcile with a progressive or socialist outlook: ‘One cannot be an effective prison guard desirous of promotion if one systematically organizes escapes of prisoners; history has never known a convinced and practising pacifist chief of staff.’[94] 

The bourgeois-democratic state can be seen as an arbiter between different social interests, but ‘the arbiter is not neutral . . . the top men in the state apparatus are part and parcel of the big bourgeoisie. Arbitration thus does not take place in a vacuum; it takes place in the framework of maintaining existing class society. Of course, concessions to the exploited can be made by arbitrators; that depends essentially on the relationship of forces.’[95] Welfare reforms should thus be seen as tactical moves intended to preserve the social order, which do not change the class nature of the state, and may be retracted when the balance of power shifts once more in favour of capital. 

So far, Mandel’s critique of bourgeois democracy is very similar to that of Ralph Miliband. But he introduces another element, arguing that the nature of parliamentary democracy itself helps the capitalist class to maintain its position: ‘The characteristic feature of bourgeois democracy is the tendency towards atomization of the working class—it is individual voters who are counted, and not social groups or classes who are consulted.’[96] As Mandel elaborates: ‘Within indirect representative democracy the ‘citizen’—including the wage-earning citizen—is an atomized and alienated individual, subject to the thousand and one pressures not only of bourgeois ideology but also and more important of patterns of labour and consumption which are fashioned by capital and dominate his entire existence.’[97] 

In the course of the struggle for socialist democracy, this atomization will be transformed by the growth of new political structures: 

Once the self-organization of the masses is set in motion, and varied mechanisms of direct democracy are created, the ‘citizen’—and primarily the wage-earning citizen—is no longer isolated and is less and less alienated. He becomes conscious of his strength through force of numbers. He transcends his individual prejudices by participating in collective decision-making. He is not content merely to drop a slip into a ballot box. He participates in processes of decision-making, in the application of these decisions, and the verification of their application.[98]

Mandel’s argument for ‘council democracy’ will be explored further in the final section summarizing his views on the transition to socialism. It forms a critical part of his arguments against bourgeois democracy—from Mandel’s perspective, it is not just the uneasy co-existence of an elected government with the power of big capital that compromises parliamentary democracy. Its structure is inherently flawed, quite apart from the class context in which it has to function. 

The illusions of reformism 

Mandel describes reformism as ‘the illusion that a gradual dismantling of the power of capital is possible. First of all you nationalize 20 per cent, then 30 per cent, then 50 per cent, then 60 per cent of capitalist property. In this way the economic power of capital is dissolved little by little.’[99] This perspective is entirely lacking in realism, because the capitalist class will react furiously to ‘any real shift of economic power away from the banks and the big monopolies . . . such a reaction generally takes the form of massive capital flight, investment strikes, sabotage of production, and organized runaway inflation; and it takes the form of preparation for a violent overthrow of the political regime’.[100] In the face of such militant opposition, a left government must either radicalize its programme, taking swift action to break the power of capital altogether, or retreat. The normal course followed by social democracy has been one of compromise and accommodation to the capitalist order. 

If the permanence of the capitalist system is accepted by left-wing parties, this inevitably limits the scope for reform. The best opportunities for social democracy have opened up at a time when dominant classes feared that their power might be broken altogether unless they made concessions. This explains why the period immediately after 1945 saw extensive reforms adopted in Western Europe: ‘The war had exacerbated social contradictions and radicalized the popular masses. The bourgeoisie and its power structures emerged discredited by the whole of their conduct during the war. Radical reforms were the minimum price to pay to avoid revolution.’[101] Even at such a promising moment, social democracy had to pay a heavy toll in return for the acceptance of reform, lining up behind US capitalism in its clash with Moscow and sharing the responsibility for colonial wars: 

There was a way open for the social-democratic leaders to refuse to take on joint responsibility for the Cold War in Europe, while avoiding the Stalinist model: to opt for a workers’ state based on the widest pluralist socialist democracy, maintaining and extending democratic political freedoms. They deliberately rejected this choice. They accordingly bear the responsibility, except in the neutral countries, of having supported the imperialist Cold War.[102]

The Cold War itself was another factor prompting greater openness to reform, as the western capitalist powers wished to reduce the attraction of the Soviet model: no return to the conditions of the Great Depression could be tolerated. The long period of economic growth that followed the war provided the necessary space for increases in wage rates and social spending. 

At one time or another, capital and labour may strike political bargains that involve concessions to the latter. But there can be no permanent ‘social contract’, still less social peace: ‘Periodically—not permanently, not at the same time in all countries—a sudden sharpening of the class struggle is unavoidable under contemporary capitalism. It results from the combination of many factors, which do not necessarily coincide with economic depressions, although the decline of the rate of profit and the sharper economic contradictions make new reforms unacceptable to the system as such and force it to retract some gained in ‘better times’.’[103] If economic expansion creates more space for reform, the contraction which must eventually follow does the opposite: 

Historically, the development of those public services in bourgeois society from which the toilers primarily benefit is always linked to periods of rapid expansion of production, incomes, and capitalist profits . . . the capitalists can make these concessions only when the economic situation is good. To hope for such increases of social services in an atmosphere of economic crisis and decline in the rate of profit is an idle illusion. The only sort of public spending the bourgeoisie seeks to increase in such an atmosphere is direct and indirect subsidies to capitalist companies.[104]

Having retreated from any ambition to replace capitalism with a socialist economic system during the post-war ‘Golden Age’, social democracy was caught unawares by the global recession of the 1970s and forced to abandon reforming goals that clashed with the need to restore profitability: ‘Imprisoned by their desire to run the economy in a purely ‘technical’ way, the socialist leaders approached the depression without any overall economic project that was fundamentally different from the project of big capital. Indeed for a long time, they obstinately denied the reality of the depression, or minimized its extent. This led them to endorse the austerity policies advocated by the bourgeoisie. In the countries where they were in power, they took the initiative themselves in implementing these policies.’[105] Social-democratic parties have now become complicit in the erosion of reforms which they helped bring about themselves at an earlier stage. 

Stalinism and Euro-communism 

The Communist movement which offered an alternative to social democracy was severely compromised by its subordination to the USSR. Writing in the 1970s, Mandel referred to ‘the hideous mask the privileged and oppressive bureaucracy of the Soviet Union has clamped on socialism for decades’.[106] That ‘hideous mask’ largely determined popular views of Communism during the hey-day of Soviet power. The ruling bureaucracy in the Soviet Union ‘transformed the Communist parties from instruments of socialist revolution and defence of the world proletariat into instruments of the policies and interests of the USSR’.[107] It would be many years before they were able to function autonomously, and Communist links with Moscow were only sundered altogether by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

When discussing the turn of the European Communist parties towards a parliamentary, reformist strategy from the 1930s onwards, Mandel assigns a much higher responsibility than Ralph Miliband to the dictates of Soviet policy: ‘The CPs made the turn of 1935 out of fidelity to the Soviet Union as they understood it—in other words, loyalty to the Soviet bureaucracy, on which they increasingly depended both materially and politically.’[108] This change of direction was not simply a response to political conditions in the countries of Western Europe, but was ultimately determined by the needs of the Soviet Union. 

Mandel was a leading critic of the ‘Euro-communist’ project which emerged in the 1970s, as the CPs of Western Europe finally moved out of the shadow of the USSR and began to articulate a line of their own. He summarizes their key arguments as follows: 

The Euro-communists hope to avoid, at all costs, a head-on collision between the bourgeoisie, with its state apparatus, and the working class and the masses. According to the Euro-communists, such a head-on collision is harmful (it leads to inevitable defeat for the working class), unnecessary (there are other ways to eliminate capitalism), and contrary to the needs of a ‘democratic transition to socialism’ (it forces the labour movement on a road similar to that which led to the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet Union). Consequently, it is necessary to have a gradual transition to socialism, which respects the basic institutions of parliamentary democracy.[109]

For Mandel, the idea of a legal transition to socialism, within the boundaries of the established system, is a contradiction in terms: ‘Under the capitalist system, ‘legality’ protects capitalist private property. It conserves and sanctions hierarchy and blind discipline within the army, gendarmerie and police.’[110] To respect the law, ultimately, is to accept the continued existence of capitalism, with all that entails. The structures of the bourgeois state must be dismantled, above all its repressive bodies—otherwise they will be used to strangle the workers’ movement. 

Nor can a ‘head-on collision’ between the working class and the bourgeoisie be avoided. The Italian Communist leader Enrico Berlinguer had referred to the experience of Salvador Allende’s government as proof that any such confrontation must end in a crushing defeat. Mandel, on the contrary, insists that ‘the Chilean defeat resulted from unrealistic and treacherous attempts to avoid, brake, or fragment mass mobilization, mass self-organization, and mass armament (including organization of the soldiers and systematic attempts to disintegrate the bourgeois army) in the face of unavoidable class polarization and preparation for an armed coup by the capitalists.’[111] 

The orientation of the Euro-communists, according to Mandel, was not simply a case of misguided strategic thinking. He notes the line of continuity between their project and the Popular Front strategy adopted by the CPs at Moscow’s behest in the 1930s and 1940s (the main difference being that the Euro-communists were now prepared to assert their independence of the USSR and criticize the lack of democracy in the Eastern bloc). The explicit adoption of a ‘parliamentary road to socialism’ owed much to the fact that the West European CPs had been deeply immersed in the reigning political system for decades: ‘These powerful positions, and their length of uninterrupted tenure, inside the institutions of bourgeois democracy have led to a phenomenon identical to that which occurred during the 1910–20 period inside classical social democracy: the birth of a Euro-communist labour bureaucracy integrated into bourgeois society.’[112] 

This ‘labour bureaucracy’ was unwilling to adopt a strategy that might endanger its own status, and thus favoured gradualism. It could maintain its dominant position because of the authoritarian internal life of the CPs. At the close of the 1970s, Mandel described the features of that regime as it operated within the French CP in the following terms: 

An apparatus of full-time officials largely cut off from the working class and from civil society, which does not see any other way of making a living than within the apparatus itself. A leadership which manipulates the base, which assures its own survival by automatic co-optation of the middle ranks of this apparatus. A right to ‘discussion’ of a base strictly partitioned into cells or local sections—a partitioning powerfully reinforced by the rule of unanimity (of ‘collegial solidarity’) that the members of the leadership observe in their dealings with the base. The myth of the ‘party which is always right’ or the ‘central committee which is never mistaken’, which underpins ideologically the bureaucratic structure.[113]

A structure of this type gave massive advantages to the leadership and prevented dissenting members from effectively challenging its line. This helps explain the weakness of any challenge to Euro-communist strategies from within the CPs. 

Dual power and revolution 

Having condemned the strategies of social democracy and Euro-communism, Mandel must of course have his own answer to the obvious response: what do you propose instead? While he does not reject ‘insurrectionism’ in the same terms as Ralph Miliband, he is quite happy to acknowledge that some models of revolution are not likely to be relevant in the heartlands of advanced capitalism: ‘There are going to be no repetitions of the 1918 German revolution or the 1941–45 Yugoslav revolution . . . are these particular kinds of revolution the only ones which can achieve the overthrow of capitalism? Are ‘catastrophic’ conditions necessary? No.’[114] Mandel puts forward an alternative scenario for a radical break with the status quo: 

Workers will become more and more radicalized as the result of a whole series of social, political, economic or even military crises . . . once they are radicalized, they will launch more and more far-reaching campaigns during the course of which they will begin to link their immediate demands with a programme of anti-capitalist structural reforms, until eventually the struggle concludes with a general strike which either overthrows the regime or creates a duality of powers.[115]

The French general strikes of 1936 and 1968 are for Mandel classic instances of a working-class protest movement that could have developed along such lines. The road to social transformation does not—or at any rate need not—pass through the existing structures of bourgeois democracy. Mandel agrees that ‘during periods of the normal functioning of bourgeois society, the working class is indeed dominated by reformism . . . but capitalism has not functioned normally throughout the past sixty or seventy years. Periods of normality have been interrupted by the outbreak of crises, of pre-revolutionary and revolutionary situations.’[116] 

The role of socialists is not to stand around waiting for a major political crisis to fall from the sky like a thunder-bolt. They should be active in the battle for social reforms at all times. The difference between reformist and revolutionary socialists is not that the former believe it is important to achieve reforms, while the latter consider them insignificant. Rather, it is their approach to winning such reforms that marks revolutionaries out from the reformist currents in the workers’ movement: 

Without rejecting or marginalizing legislative initiatives, revolutionary socialists prioritize the struggle for reforms through broad, direct extra-parliamentary mass actions . . . without negating the need to take into consideration real social-political relations of forces, revolutionary socialists refuse to limit the struggle for reforms to those which are acceptable to the bourgeoisie or, worse, which don’t upset the basic social and political relations of power . . . [they] educate the masses in the inevitability of crises which will interrupt the gradual accumulation of reforms, and which will periodically lead to a threat of suppression of conquests of the past, or to their actual suppression . . . [they] will combine a struggle for reforms with constant and systematic anti-capitalist propaganda. They will educate the masses in the system’s ills, and advocate its revolutionary overthrow.[117]

Mandel favours the use of parliamentary elections as a platform to promote radical ideas. But he rejects the view that socialists must achieve a majority, or even a substantial presence, in parliament before the main struggle can begin: ‘In general a dual-power situation would imply a revolutionary socialist current strong enough to win representation in parliament, if parliamentary elections were held at that time.’[118] The qualification is vital, for ‘many parliaments are elected for terms of four or five years [and] it is quite possible for there to be great upheavals between elections, which alter the relationship of forces within the working class drastically’.[119] Under such conditions, the revolutionary left might become a major political force without having any significant foothold in parliamentary politics. 

Parliament need not remain the central battleground of political life, for ‘the legitimate attachment of the masses to democratic rights and freedom is not at all an attachment to bourgeois state institutions.’[120] The experience of fascism and Stalinism has often led workers to identify democratic freedoms with those institutions. However, in revolutionary situations, a choice can appear between two rival democratic legitimacies: the old institutions of bourgeois-parliamentary democracy, and new structures based upon workers’ councils that allow much greater scope for popular control over decision-making. Under such conditions, ‘the workers must learn that the real debate is not between democracy and dictatorship, but between the limited and repressive character of bourgeois democracy and the extension of democratic freedoms by the initiative and authority of the masses.’[121] 

When a situation of dual power arises, the goal of revolutionaries must be to out-flank the bourgeois state and promote its eventual disintegration. This will take place if the workers in the lower ranks of the state system, whose social condition is very similar to that of the working class as a whole, begin to defy the established hierarchies and command structures which hold the capitalist state together: ‘If the staff of the banks reject the orders of the Finance Minister or of the Governor of the Central Bank in favour of the workers’ council of the banking sector, then the whole administration is paralysed. It is the same with the transport sector, and so on. If the phenomenon is widely extended, to include even sectors of the police, it is clear that what is involved is a total paralysis of the bourgeois state apparatus.’[122] 

Mandel does not claim that such an outcome can be achieved rapidly, at least not in countries where parliamentary democracy has been established for a long period of time: ‘A period of six or seven months is much too short for a proletariat like that of Western Europe to progressively abandon the legitimacy of bourgeois democracy in favour of the new, higher legitimacy of proletarian democracy. A longer period of dual power will probably be needed, which may be partial and discontinuous and which may stretch over several years.’[123] One of the features of this transitional period may be the formation of a left-wing government headed by reformist parties, whose programme calls for extensive change but does not break with capitalism. If this occurs, it is likely that ‘the masses will accord the parliamentary majority or left government a relative, guarded and mistrustful trust—the contradictory formulation expresses the reality well. At the same time, they will show a tendency to break out of the limits to action laid down in advance by the reformist, class-collaborationist programme, with its avoidance of a break with the bourgeois regime.’[124] Workers may think the only ‘useful vote’ they can cast at the parliamentary level is for one of the reformist parties: at the same time, they will be prepared to take action on their own initiative. 

At a time when the revolutionary left is too weak to take power itself, it may be a wise tactical move to demand that the reformist parties form a government that excludes bourgeois forces. Mandel argued for such an approach in the France of the 1970s, where the Socialists and Communists were by far the most important organizations in the workers’ movement. While it would be necessary to warn the working class ‘against all illusions regarding the will (and the capacity) of the reformist leaders of the PS and the PCF to truly break with the bourgeoisie, to satisfy the aspirations of the masses’, revolutionaries must also recognize that ‘the great majority of workers still have these illusions. They will only shake them off on the basis of their practical experience with a PS–PCF government, and not on the basis of our educational propaganda alone.’[125] 

The failings of such governments will only lead to a positive response from their working-class supporters if there is a strong challenge from those further to the left: 

Great expectations that prove to be unfounded can lead to great disappointment and demoralization. This is exactly why the existence of a credible left alternative is so critical. The reaction of the working class to the ineffectiveness and betrayal of a reformist government is as different as day and night depending on whether or not such an alternative exists within the labour movement.[126] 

As a prolonged situation of dual power unfolds, revolutionaries must seek to encourage and expand all attempts by workers to organize themselves outside the structures of the bourgeois-democratic state. Those experiments will bring more and more people into conflict with the existing political system, which will attempt to stifle forms of popular democracy that challenge its authority. Mandel insists that opposition to the bourgeois state does not mean opposition to the public services which it currently provides: ‘No revolutionary socialist would dream of doing away with free kindergartens or social security, just because they happen to have been publicly organized before the overthrow of capitalism. If anything, far from being characteristic of the bourgeois state, one could call them cells of a future socialist society, which we do want to preserve and expand.’[127] 

As the nuclei of direct, popular democracy spread throughout society, they will clash with the institutions of the bourgeois state: ‘This is not merely a matter of conflict with the repressive apparatus proper and the summits of the ‘state machine’. Potentially it is also a matter of a conflict—barring completely exceptional conditions—with the organs of indirect representative democracy, which will desperately defend their monopoly of ‘sovereignty’.’[128] Mandel spelled out what those ‘exceptional conditions’ might be: 

We do not rule out the possibility, improbable but not impossible, that a very high level of political consciousness among the masses, a qualitative expansion of the political influence of revolutionary organizations, and a crisis of fragmentation of the reformist parties could result, after a prolonged revolutionary period, in a coincidence between a parliamentary majority and a majority in the organs of direct democracy. All the better. But what seems to us inadmissible and contrary to the interests of the proletariat is to subordinate the realization of the revolutionary programme to a prior and durable attainment of a stable parliamentary majority, even when that programme is supported by a clearly expressed majority of citizens.[129]

If it is necessary to by-pass an established parliament on the path to socialist revolution (as long as an adequate democratic mandate has been secured from the emerging system of councils), this does not mean that a parliament elected by the population as a whole has no place in a socialist society: ‘We could calmly discuss whether or not an assembly elected by universal suffrage is necessary, alongside a congress of workers’ councils, in the framework of a socialist democracy. Once the economic power and state apparatus of the bourgeoisie are broken, this is a conjunctural question and not a matter of principle.’[130]

Encroachments on the economic power of the capitalist class should be based on a policy of ‘tit-for-tat’: as the capitalists attempt to sabotage production, the workers’ movement should steadily take over the management of the economy. This will involve ‘the occupation and take-over of factories followed by their co-ordination; working-out of a workers’ plan of economic re-conversion and revival; the extension and generalization of workers’ control in the direction of self-management; the running of a whole number of areas of social life by those directly concerned (public transport, street markets, crèches, universities, agricultural land etc.)’.[131] Such radical moves imply that the period of dual power must culminate in the overthrow of the bourgeois state, which will hardly permit experiments of that nature without a struggle. 

The repressive bodies of that state—police, army, secret police—are the nut which must be cracked if socialism is to become a reality. There must be no expectation that the officer corps will obey orders from a new socialist authority, even if it enjoys a clear parliamentary majority. While ‘the proletariat will greet with open arms all those, officers included, who come over to its side in the struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeois regime’, it should be assumed that a large number of officers, especially at the highest levels, will remain implacable opponents of revolutionary change. To prevent those officers from using the army to execute a counter-revolutionary coup, the revolutionary forces will have to encourage rank-and-file soldiers to organize themselves and defy their superior commanders:

An insurrection is only the final point of a revolutionary process, and if the relationship of forces is favourable, it can be effected practically without casualties, provided the armed apparatus of the bourgeoisie has first been morally and politically disintegrated and the legitimacy of the workers’ and peoples’ councils has been acknowledged by the immense majority of the population, including the soldiers.[132]

 Council democracy in action 

Mandel is anxious to avoid a repeat of the authoritarian systems that followed many twentieth-century revolutions, and insists that anti-socialist forces should be given freedom to organize. He argues that ‘any real constitutional or institutional defence of the multi-party principle is impossible once you start introducing criteria that are subjective . . . any party will be recognized that respects the socialist constitution in practice: it may have an anti-socialist programme and carry out anti-socialist propaganda, but it will not be permitted to throw bombs or organize civil war.’[133] The legal code of a socialist democracy will forbid ‘acts of armed insurrection, attempts at overthrowing working-class power through violence, terrorist attacks on individual representatives of workers’ power, sabotage, espionage in the service of foreign capitalist states, etc. But only proven acts of that kind or active preparation of them should be punishable, not general propaganda explicitly or implicitly favourable to a restoration of capitalism.’[134]

The need for a functioning legal system is strongly asserted by Mandel, who lists the principles on which it should be based: 

a)      The necessity of written law and the avoidance of retroactive delinquency. The burden of proof to be on the accuser, the assumption of innocence until proof of guilt

b)      The full right of all individuals to freely determine the nature of their defence; full immunity for all legal defenders from prosecution for any statements or lines of defence used in such trials

c)      Rejection of any concept of collective responsibility of social groups, families etc. for individual crimes

d)     Strict prohibition of any form of torture or forceful extortion of confessions

e)      Suppression of the death penalty outside of civil war and war situations

f)       Extension and generalization of public trial by juries of peers

g)      Democratic election of all judges, and the right for the mass of the toilers to recall elected judges

He adds finally that ‘the workers’ state can gradually eliminate a professional judiciary by drawing the masses more and more into the judicial functions beginning at the local level and for less serious crimes.’[135] 

The extension of democracy into all areas of public life is one of the key features of the new socialist order as described by Mandel: ‘It is not only members of the deliberative assemblies who should be elected. Judges, high-level functionaries, officers of the militia, supervisors of education, managers of public works, should also be elected . . . this electing of public officials must be accompanied in all cases by the right of recall, i.e. voting unsatisfactory officials out of office at any time.’[136] This must be combined with strict limits on the privileges which accrue to those holding public office: ‘No official, no member of representative and legislative bodies, no individual exercising a state power, should receive a salary higher than that of a skilled worker. That is the only valid method of preventing people from seeking public office as a way of feathering their nests and sponging on society, the only valid way to get rid of the career-hunters and parasites known to all previous societies.’[137] 

The new workers’ state which replaces the old bourgeois one will be ‘at one and the same time, a state and not a state. It becomes less and less a state. It is a state that begins to wither away at the very moment it is born.’[138] The nature of this ‘withering away’ becomes clearer as Mandel explains how the workers’ state will manage an economy now brought under social ownership: 

It should be the [national] Congress of Workers’ Councils that takes decisions concerning the allocation of national resources. For it is the working class that bears the sacrifice of not consuming a share of what it produces, so it is up to the working class to decide the extent of the sacrifice it is prepared to accept. But once it has been decided to devote 7, 10 or 12 per cent of national production to education or health, there is absolutely no need for state management of the education or health budgets. It is pointless for the Congress of Workers’ Councils to take on this task of management, which can be much better assumed at the more democratic level of school or higher educational councils, and councils of medical staff and patients.[139]

As a result, decision-making power will not remain in the hands of a small political elite, but will be exercised by large numbers of people at any given time: ‘This breaking up of the functions of the central state means that dozens of councils will be meeting at the same time and involving tens of thousands of people on a national and continental scale. And as the same kind of process will be occurring at the regional and municipal level, this ‘breaking up’ will allow hundreds of thousands or even millions of people to participate in the direct exercise of power.’[140] 

According to Mandel, this widespread diffusion of power will minimize one of the key problems of Soviet-style planned economies: their wasteful and inefficient centralization. It will require a substantial reduction in the working day, for if people ‘work eight or nine hours a day, plus two or three hours travelling time, then they will not be able to be involved in management or administration. A long working day means the division of society into those who produce and those who manage; it inevitably means the survival of ‘professional politicians’.’[141] The socialist system ‘must allocate the majority of posts (at least in bodies exercising central state power) to persons engaged in productive activity . . . this is an indispensable safeguard, because ultimately bureaucratization is based on the professionalization of management functions. The only way to check this is for a majority of those exercising central political power to continue working in production.’[142] 

As noted earlier, Mandel does not rule out the question of a parliament elected by universal suffrage taking its place in the structures of a socialist democracy: this should be accepted ‘whenever and wherever the masses clearly express their wish to have parliamentary-type power organs elected by universal franchise . . . these organs need not supersede the power of soviets insofar as the masses have learned through their own experiences that their councils can give them more democratic rights and more real power than the broadest parliamentary democracy alone.’[143] 

A system based on council democracy will need political parties, for ‘as soon as political decisions go beyond a small number of routine questions that can be taken up and solved by a restricted number of people, any form of democracy implies the need for structured and coherent options of a great number of related questions, in other words a choice between alternative political lines, platforms, and programmes . . . ten thousand people cannot vote on five hundred alternatives.’[144] But a socialist party ‘cannot struggle within the class other than with political means and not with administrative and repressive means. All power to councils and committees, and not all power to the party: such is the conclusion which imposes itself.’[145] 

Is any such experiment doomed, regardless of its initial domestic successes, because of the overwhelming power of global capitalism? Mandel argues that it would be especially hard for the international bourgeoisie to blockade a socialist revolution if it took place in one of the advanced capitalist states: ‘West Europe is not Cuba or Cambodia. It has a formidable industrial, economic, and technological potential, with the most advanced working class and technical intelligentsia in the world. It is also, from the capitalist stand-point, the second largest market in the world, after the United States.’[146] 

A great deal depends on the levels of international support and solidarity that can be mobilized. The more attractive and democratic a socialist revolution proves to be, the greater the prospect that labour and social movements in other states will take action to frustrate the efforts of their own governments: ‘That will obviously not be so easy if the revolution wears the hideous mask of Stalinist dictatorship. But if it presents instead the smiling Communist face of sovereign workers’ councils—which is ten times more attractive than the Prague Spring—then I do not think that it will be easy to mount such a blockade against European socialist countries.’[147] 

This article was originally published in Spirit of Contradicition on the 1st of July.



[1] Daniel Bensaid, ‘The Return of Strategy’, International Viewpoint February 2007

[2] ibid.

[3] Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes (London, 1994) p.111

[4] Karl Marx, The First International and After (London, 1992) p.324

[5] ibid., p.400

[6] Henri Weber, ‘Euro-communism, Socialism and Democracy’ New Left Review July–August 1978

[7] Leon Trotsky, The Struggle against Fascism in Germany (New York, 1971)

[8] Norman Geras, ‘Rosa Luxemburg after 1905’, New Left Review January–February 1975

[9] Antonio Gramsci, Pre-Prison Writings (Cambridge, 1994) p.x

[10] Ralph Miliband, ‘Reflections on the Crisis of Communist Regimes’, New Left Review September–October 1989

[11] Andy Beckett, ‘In the house of the rising sons’, Guardian 28 February 2004

[12] Andrew Anthony, ‘What would the old man say now?’ Observer 1 July 2007

[13] Ralph Miliband, ‘Fukuyama and the Socialist Alternative’, New Left Review May–June 1992

[14] Ralph Miliband, ‘What comes after Communist regimes?’ Socialist Register 1991

[15] Ralph Miliband, Divided Societies (Oxford, 1989) p.29

[16] Ralph Miliband, Marxism and Politics (Oxford, 1977) p.47

[17] ibid., p.50

[18] Miliband, Divided Societies p.145

[19] ibid., p.150

[20] ibid., p.30

[21] ibid., p.34

[22] Miliband, Marxism and Politics p.69

[23] ibid., p.87

[24] Miliband, Divided Societies p.37

[25] ibid., p.133

[26] ibid., p.132

[27] Ralph Miliband, ‘The New Revisionism in Britain’, New Left Review March–April 1985

[28] Miliband, Marxism and Politics p.97

[29] ibid., p.91

[30] Miliband, Divided Societies p.165

[31] ibid., p.160

[32] ibid., p.125

[33] Miliband was always careful to warn against tendencies to ignore such constraints: ‘There is a permanent Marxist temptation to devalue the distinction between bourgeois-democratic regimes and authoritarian ones. From the view that the former are class regimes of a more or less repressive kind, which is entirely legitimate, it has always been fairly easy for Marxists to move to the inaccurate and dangerous view that what separates them from truly authoritarian regimes is of no great account.’ Miliband, Marxism and Politics p.83

[34] Miliband, Divided Societies, p.158

[35] Miliband, ‘The New Revisionism in Britain’

[36] Ralph Miliband and Marcel Liebman, ‘Beyond Social Democracy’, Socialist Register 1985–6

[37] ibid.

[38] ibid.

[39] ibid.

[40] Miliband, Divided Societies p.69

[41] Miliband and Liebman, ‘Beyond Social Democracy’

[42] Ibid., p.72

[43] ibid.

[44] Ralph Miliband and Leo Panitch, ‘The New World Order and the Socialist Agenda’, Socialist Register 1992

[45] Miliband, Divided Societies p.81

[46] Miliband and Liebman, ‘Beyond Social Democracy’

[47] Ralph Miliband, ‘The Coup in Chile’, Socialist Register 1973

[48] Miliband, Divided Societies p.81

[49] Miliband and Liebman, ‘Beyond Social Democracy’

[50] Miliband, Marxism and Politics p.39

[51] Miliband, Divided Societies p.78

[52] ibid., p.77

[53] ibid., p.77

[54] ibid., p.68

[55] ibid., p.84

[56] Miliband, ‘Reflections on the Crisis of Communist Regimes’

[57] Miliband and Liebman, ‘Beyond Social Democracy’

[58] Ralph Miliband, ‘Constitutionalism and Revolution: notes on Euro-communism’, Socialist Register 1978

[59] Miliband, Divided Societies p.217

[60] Miliband, Marxism and Politics p.172

[61] Miliband, ‘Consitutionalism and Revolution: notes on Euro-communism’

[62] ibid.

[63] Miliband, Marxism and Politics p.170

[64] Miliband and Liebman, ‘Beyond Social Democracy’

[65] Miliband, ‘Reflections on the Crisis of Communist Regimes’

[66] ibid.

[67] ibid.

[68] Miliband and Liebman, ‘Beyond Social Democracy’

[69] Miliband, ‘Constitutionalism and Revolution: notes on Euro-communism’

[70] Miliband, Divided Societies p.229

[71] Miliband, ‘What comes after Communist regimes?’

[72] ibid.

[73] Miliband, Marxism and Politics p.184

[74] Miliband, ‘The Coup in Chile’

[75] Miliband, Divided Societies p.227

[76] Miliband, Marxism and Politics p.189

[77] ibid., p.188

[78] ibid.

[79] Miliband, Divided Societies p.228

[80] Miliband, Marxism and Politics p.189

[81] Miliband, ‘Fukuyama and the Socialist Alternative’

[82] Miliband, ‘Reflections on the Crisis of Communist Regimes’

[83] Miliband, Divided Societies p.233

[84] ibid., p.230

[85] ibid., p.231

[86] ibid., p.231

[87] Robin Blackburn, ‘The Unexpected Dialectic of Structural Reforms’, in Gilbert Achcar (ed.), The Legacy of Ernest Mandel (London, 1999) p.20

[88] ‘If the bourgeois state remains fundamentally an instrument in the service of the ruling classes, does that mean that the workers should be indifferent to the particular form that this state takes—parliamentary democracy, military dictatorship, fascist dictatorship? Not at all! The more freedom the workers have to organize themselves and defend their ideas, the more will the seeds of the future socialist democracy grow within capitalist society.’ Ernest Mandel, ‘The Marxist Theory of the State’ (1969):

[89] Ernest Mandel, ‘The dictatorship of the proletariat and socialist democracy’ (1985):

[90] Mandel, ‘The Marxist Theory of the State’

[91] ibid.

[92] ibid.

[93] Ernest Mandel, From Stalinism to Eurocommunism, (London, 1978) p.155

[94] ibid., p.155

[95] Mandel, ‘The Marxist Theory of the State’

[96] Ernest Mandel, ‘Revolutionary Strategy in Europe—A Political Interview’, New Left Review November-December 1976

[97] Mandel, From Stalinism to Eurocommunism p.164

[98] ibid., p.164

[99] Ernest Mandel, ‘The nature of social-democratic reformism’ (1993):

[100] Ernest Mandel, ‘A Critique of Euro-communism’(1979):

[101] Mandel, ‘The nature of social-democratic reformism’

[102] ibid.

[103] Mandel, ‘A Critique of Euro-communism’

[104] Mandel, From Stalinism to Eurocommunism p.142

[105] Mandel, ‘The nature of social-democratic reformism’

[106] Mandel, From Stalinism to Eurocommunism p.90

[107] Mandel, ‘A Critique of Euro-communism’

[108] Mandel, From Stalinism to Eurocommunism p.19

[109] Mandel, ‘A Critique of Euro-communism’

[110] Mandel, From Stalinism to Euro-communism p.157

[111] Mandel, ‘A Critique of Euro-communism’

[112] ibid.

[113] Ernest Mandel, Reponse á Louis Althusser et Jean Ellenstein (Paris, 1979) p.17

[114] Ernest Mandel, ‘The Lessons of May’, New Left Review November–December 1968

[115] ibid.

[116] Ernest Mandel, Revolutionary Marxism Today (London, 1979) p.59

[117] Ernest Mandel, ‘The Marxist Case for Revolution Today’ (1989):

[118] Mandel, Revolutionary Marxism Today p.36

[119] ibid., p.36

[120] Mandel, ‘The Marxist Case for Revolution Today’

[121] Mandel, ‘Revolutionary Strategy in Europe—A Political Interview’

[122] ibid.

[123] ibid.

[124] ibid.

[125] Mandel, Reponse á Louis Althusser et Jean Ellenstein p.55

[126] Mandel, Revolutionary Marxism Today p.56

[127] Mandel, ‘A Critique of Euro-communism’. Elsewhere Mandel offered the following elaboration on this point: ‘We must immediately add that the content of the education guided and controlled by the bourgeois state, the hierarchical structure of the postal system, railways and public utilities, the interlacing of the administration of public works and the private capitalist interests which take charge of their realization, and even the exact placing of roads (greatly influenced by the pressure of real estate groups and industrialists representing fractions of the ruling class) will undergo profound upheavals.’ Mandel, From Stalinism to Eurocommunism p.154

[128] ibid., p.163

[129]  ibid., p.165

[130] ibid., p.169

[131] Mandel, Revolutionary Marxism Today p.40

[132] Mandel, From Stalinism to Eurocommunism p.172

[133] Mandel, ‘Revolutionary Strategy in Europe—A Political Interview’

[134] Mandel, ‘The dictatorship of the proletariat and socialist democracy’

[135] ibid.

[136] Mandel, ‘The Marxist Theory of the State’

[137] ibid.

[138] ibid.

[139] Mandel, ‘Revolutionary Strategy in Europe—A Political Interview’

[140] ibid.

[141] ibid.

[142] ibid.

[143] Mandel, ‘The dictatorship of the proletariat and socialist democracy’

[144] ibid.

[145] Mandel, Reponse á Louis Althusser et Jean Ellenstein

[146] Mandel, From Stalinism to Eurocommunism p.215

[147] Mandel, ‘Revolutionary Strategy in Europe—A Political Interview’