Reformism Yesterday and Social Democracy Today

Source: Maecel Liebman, Jacobin, August 22, 2018

We shouldn’t try to resurrect the social-democratic politics of the past. What we need is a socialist movement that pairs radical demands with mass, militant action. ….

…. Marcel Liebman didn’t live to see Tony Blair lead the British Labour Party. But in the mid-1980s, the Belgian Marxist had already witnessed enough: social democracy, he proclaimed, was dead. “The new-style reformism means reformism without reforms,” he wrote…..

….In “Reformism Yesterday and Social Democracy Today” — first published in the 1985–86 edition of Socialist Register and reprinted below in a slightly abridged form — Liebman traces this history, from the heady days before World War I, when socialism seemed inevitable, to the descent into a more straightforwardly technocratic, uninspired reform politics.

While Liebman arguably understates the obstacles that any socialist project faces in a capitalist democracy — focusing on party machinations instead of the structural power of business  — his essay is an important read as the socialist left regains its footing today. It is only by revisiting the pitfalls of the past that we can chart a more viable path in the present…..