Social Democrats v. Fabians

Actually-existing Social Democracy:

 
 1914 Sveriges socialdemokratiska arbetareparti poster: 
“The Right’s Program is The People Under Militarism”

This is a link to Marxist.org’s August Palm (1849-1922) page. Features a biography of the Swedish father of social democracy, as well as five of Palm’s works and two photos.

August Palm

Marxists.org’s presentation of the Swedish social democratic reformist Hjalmar Branting (1860-1925).

Curiously, marxists.org features no mention of Rudolf Meidner, or even Gosta Rehn.

I think that’s because they have an implicit thesis that I’m going to counter.
(And oh yes, I am going to go all Belinda Robnett on them, and see if I can drag out the Scandinavian women bridge leaders.)

1936 Sveriges socialdemokratiska arbetareparti poster:
“Women, We Build the Future”

Fabians:

Despite the alarming paucity of Scandinavian social democrat mentions or works, there are 13 distinct (British) social democrat entries in marxists.org. Additionally, here is a link to Marxist.org’s Fabians page. No wonder Anglo-American leftists imagine that social democracy is British, with all the ineffectuality–and indistinguishability from liberalism–that implies!

The Contemporary Anglo-american “Social Democrat” View

Historian Jim Livingston identifies as a social democrat. He does not conceive of social democracy in the way that I think was originally strong in the Scandinavian tradition–where socialism or Marxism is the backbone of social democracy.

Rather, in Livingston’s view, socialism emerges from and complements capitalism. My hypothesis is that for social democratic approach to work, the social democrat cannot see socialism emerging from capitalism, but rather sees socialism historically emerging in the Enlightenment alongside the bourgeois revolution, and then being repressed by the capitalist order.

So Livingston’s not a social democrat in the way that Meidner for example was. For Meidner, markets were not an ideal distribution mechanism to be supported by socialist props; rather, social democracy is a transitional phase to be overcome. The point of a political-economy for Livingston it seems is how to get markets to work, as opposed to the more human-centered Epicurean tradition–how to allocate the flows of pleasures and pains (Marxist economists may not appreciate the hypothesis that Marx’s humanistic base cannot be jettisoned). H1: Effectively, for the Anglo-american social democrat, it comes down to the welfare of markets.

Livingston has a conception of conservatives, liberals and leftists (He cites both Obama and, by inference, American organized labor as leftist) that sees them all organically recognizing the need to embrace private investment in the mid-to-late 20th century wake of declining US-centered profits, rather than conservatives winning hegemony. Same goes with “the left’s” failure to promote a decoupling of growth & distribution.

H2:
I think, like all Anglo “social democrats,” Livingston has an ad hoc, short-range, Anglo-american-centric definition of Leftist, and does not have a valid grasp of what distinguishes the Left transhistorically. He claims that Right thought and Left thought are fluid, structureless, without boundaries. (H3: As distinct from a theory of hegemony and false consciousness.)

But he seems to be a very erudite, nimble, and thorough-going Anglo-american “socdem,” and he provides a stimulating window on a sophisticated version of that perspective. I’m interested because I think Livingston’s influences and assumptions and his formulation of social problems and issues may be quite representative (except in their erudite formulation and more complete logical-causal dissection) of the Anglo-american “social democrat” approach, and studying them is going to help me make certain categorical distinctions.

Livingston has written a highly-recommended history of the Fed (1986), and an unfriendly interpretation of American turn-of-the-20th century populism (1994).

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