THE dominating ideology in the international labor movement in the West is still Socialist, but a Socialism with a new look. Marxism has been discarded, although more by force of circumstances than conscious design, and the movement is still influenced by some Marxian reasoning; but, in general, Western Socialism has ceased to be class conscious and become reformist. It seeks the welfare state, but not revolution. The growing Christian (predominantly Catholic) labor movement in Western Europe has also arrived at maturity, and its social philosophy is likewise oriented toward the welfare state.

The old controversy over the interpretation of Marx was not revived in the labor movements in continental Europe after this war, as it was after World War I. This tacit abandonment of Marxism became fully apparent when the Socialist International was revived as a permanent organization in Frankfurt during the summer of 1951. The program and pronouncements of the convention used none of the Marxian terminology so characteristic of prewar Socialist literature, and this momentous omission was not challenged in the discussions there. The 1952 Milan Conference of the Socialist International followed the precedent established at Frankfurt, and at the 1953 Stockholm Conference it was repeated. Such clichés as the materialistic or economic conception of history, exploitation of the workers, expropriating the expropriators, the class struggle, are no longer mentioned. The former sacred tenet that the workers are the class chosen to fulfill the holy mission of bringing about the inevitable capitulation of capitalism has fallen into limbo. The central theme of the new official pronouncements revolves about problems of social justice, economic planning, full employment, democracy and human rights. Emphasis is placed on the need to avoid deflation with its consequent depression and unemployment, and, of course, on the rôle of the trade union movement in promoting social justice.

To be sure, differences exist on policy, with the British Socialists still clinging to nationalization, the Germans featuring "codetermination" in industry and the Scandinavians empirically emphasizing efficiency and production, with better distribution of the proceeds. But the Communists are the only group within the Western democracies still consistently quoting Marx--albeit hyphenated to Lenin and Stalin--and talking revolution, often obfuscated by their need to adapt their pronouncements and activities to the changing tactics of Soviet foreign policy.

In Asia and other underdeveloped areas, however, the situation is different. A deep schism seems to be developing in the world Socialist movement, led by the Asian Socialist parties. The separatist group revealed itself at the 1951 congress of the Socialist International in Frankfurt; and at the succeeding Milan Congress this group announced the intention of organizing an independent Asian Socialist movement. Its Congress convened in Rangoon in January 1953. European Socialist notables, including Clement R. Attlee, attended as fraternal delegates and urged the conference to remain an organic part of the Socialist International, arguing strongly against the formation of a separate Asian Socialist Conference. Notwithstanding the prominence of these fraternal delegates from the Socialist Parties of the Western democracies and the eloquence of their appeal, their advice was not heeded. A separate and independent Asian Socialist Conference was formed. The only concession made to the Socialist International was the proviso that the affiliates with the Asian Socialist Conference could retain affiliation with the Socialist International if they desired. It was further announced that the Asian organization would undertake to maintain close contact with the Socialist International, but it was emphatically stipulated that the Asian Conference would have no organic connection with the International.

The new Asian organization differs basically from the Western-oriented Socialists, although its thinking has not yet been clarified. Many of its adherents, like the left-wing Socialist Party of Japan, feature revolutionary radicalism and hail Marx as their true prophet. With mild reservations they regard Russia as the Socialist fatherland, uncritically accepting its claims of accomplishments and looking to it for inspiration. Such left-wing elements point to the United States and the capitalist world as the enemy; Soviet interpretations of events and accusations against the Western democracies are unquestioningly supported. Similarly, this faction supports all proposals made by the Communists for ostensibly improving relations between the East and the West.

However, such left-wing Socialists have resisted the Communist efforts to take over their parties, and, so far, have maintained their independence. They have no open relations with the Cominform and its affiliates, differing in this respect from the Nenni Socialists in Italy, for example. On the other hand, they are devout champions of revolutionary radicalism, seeking the overthrow of the present social order and its replacement by a Socialist society. In Japan, the right-wing Socialist Party reflects the prevailing national sentiment which believes in a strong domestic police force, but it opposed Japanese rearmament and does not want the government to lean toward the United States and the other Western democracies.

In some Asian countries--Burma and India, for example--Socialists tend to blend their doctrine with the prevailing religious or social philosophies, most of them steering clear of Marxism and revolutionary radicalism and advocating an advanced program of social reform, stimulated by the existing feudalism. Thus they emphasize land reform, anti-imperialism and national independence, to be attained through moderate means. Like the more extreme faction, however, they too are friendly toward Russia. Even the more moderate elements, influenced by Communist anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist propaganda, which is reinforced by their own suspicion of the motives of the West (particularly the United States) and by their fear of offending their Communist neighbor, China, are inclined to equate Russia with the United States. Neutralism in international affairs is their watchword. The Asian Conference disapproved of Communist totalitarian policies, such as the use of force, denial of freedom and negation of human rights, but the tendency is to regard these features as transitory and incidental. Even the moderates tend to accept the professions of accomplishment by the Communist countries at face value, hoping that they themselves can achieve their objectives without resort to brutality.

Thus both wings of the Socialist movement in Asia are neutralist. Some, as in Burma, are primarily influenced by their juxtaposition to Communist countries; others in India are still operating under the spell of Gandhi. Their conceptions of neutrality sometimes transcend normal understanding. Recently the Socialist Government of Burma refused economic aid from the United States so that its neutrality would not be compromised. However, it proposes to negotiate an economic treaty with Soviet Russia. This same Government has deported deserting Chinese Communist army personnel that claimed political asylum in Burma, justifying this inhuman action by the contention that its neutral policy forced it to deny political asylum to offenders against "a friendly nation," notwithstanding that these soldiers were returned to certain death. But such neutralists were horrified at the execution of the Rosenberg atom spies in the United States.

Such states of mind can be only temporary, although it is clear that the Asian Socialist Parties of both right and left are determined to separate themselves from the movement dominated by the Western democratic Socialists. The left wing, which clings to the doctrine of the overthrow of capitalism, by revolutionary means if need be, predicates its doctrine on Marxist reasoning and tempers its neutralism by being "neutral against" the United States in favor of Russia. The right wing sponsors moderate procedures and immediate social reform with emphasis on particular Asian problems. It is not critical of Russia and is more readily attracted by Soviet claims than is its Western Socialist counterpart. However, it favors accepting Western economic and technological assistance, with no military or diplomatic alliances. It considers itself a firm adherent of democracy.

The Communists are using the Asian neutralist Socialists to their advantage, but whether they will capture them is questionable. They seem to be making headway in Japan, both with the left-wing Socialists and the principal trade union organizations; the Sohyo trade-union group shifted from "neutralism" to "world-wide collaboration of peace forces," the line now advocated by the Communists, and some of its leaders even declared that Soviet Russia and China were the forces making for peace. However, when leaders of the left-wing Socialist Party criticized this attitude as contrary to neutralism, the Sohyo spokesman retreated. On the whole, it does not seem likely that the Communists will capture the Asian Socialist Conference.

The determination to maintain a separate organization is rationalized by the Asian Socialists on the ground that Asia is confronted with problems which differ from those of the rest of the world. They point out that Asia is primarily agricultural and underdeveloped, that it still suffers from imperialism and colonialism, and that these are problems which the Western World does not understand: only by separate organization, the Asians say, can they cope with the particular problems of the Far East.

This rationale, as well as many of the current demands of the Asian Socialist Conference, highlight the contrast with the conditions that generated the Western Socialist movement in its earlier stages. Socialism in the Western countries was founded on an emerging industrialism, and it adapted its principles, policies and tactics to the expansion and growing stability of capitalism. On the other hand, most of Asia and the other underdeveloped countries of the world still operate under feudalistic customs and régimes. Insofar as there is an emerging industrialism, it is based primarily on plantation and extractive industries closely allied to agriculture. Nevertheless, the thinking of Socialists in these countries is complicated by their desire to seek salvation through industrialism. Some of these countries have enacted most advanced social legislation, as recommended in I.L.O. conventions, but little effort is made to enforce these laws.

Politically, the Asian Socialists, in common with the rest of the population in Asia, are still thinking in colonial and semi-colonial terms; their reactions are chiefly based on past experience, influenced by resentment at the fact that they are either still linked to Western countries, or obligated to them. They know that they are economically dependent on Western capital, equipment, technological know-how and supervisory skill, but psychologically they are disturbed at having to accept such assistance. Hence, in emphasizing immediate demands for social improvements, the Asian Socialist Parties have nationalistic, racial, economic and political issues uppermost in their minds. Their pragmatic demands are limited primarily to the solution of agrarian problems and those related to agriculture, such as stimulation and regulation of cottage industries, use of small machines in manufacturing as well as in agriculture, cheap power development. Even the few that look to industrialism for ultimate salvation find it necessary to fall in line with those who stress these immediate demands in order to alleviate pressing social evils.

In contrast, the Socialist parties of the Western democracies, with a rationale stimulated by an emerging industrialism, called for social and labor legislation that would promote the interests of the new wage-earning class--demands for sanitary working conditions, proper light in the factories, accident prevention, workmen's compensation, maximum hours of labor and minimum wages, abolition of child labor, special protection for women workers and social insurance. They also sought to promote better living conditions through housing programs, price controls and food subsidies, and consumer cooperative movements. In time the Asian Socialists will probably adjust their program accordingly.

There is little or no prospect for the old-fashioned revolutionary radicalism in countries and areas with a highly stabilized social structure and a mature industrialization, where workers enjoy "status" and a feeling of belonging. In the viable Western democracies, the small residue of Socialists still attracted by the siren-call of revolution will gravitate, if they have not already done so, toward the Communist movement. It should be noted that the Communist movement has been rapidly losing ground in the countries enjoying a relatively stable social structure--Western Europe (except France and Italy), Australasia, North America. In Italy and France, the Communists seem to be gaining in the political field, and, judging from elections of representatives to works councils, are either retaining their strength or gaining in the industrial field. Outside of these exceptions there are few regions where the Communists have succeeded in maintaining their position. In general their strength has so receded that they are a minor element in the labor movement.

Even in Japan in the recent election the Communists polled only 700,000 votes and elected only one member to the Lower House of Parliament; but there they are growing stronger in the unions. They made a more formidable showing in the first election in India and are a considerable threat to the Congress Party in many areas--a development that has alerted the dominant political organization to the necessity of seeking alliances with other non-Communist elements. On the whole, open Communist strength is receding in effectiveness in the democratic world. It is naturally more difficult to gauge its conspiratorial and surreptitious activities. Since the Catholic trade-union movement, in common with the Canadian and American labor movements, is clearly committed to an advanced program of social reform and some form of the welfare state, the labor movements of the Western democracies are drawing closer together ideologically.

Thus three political internationals operating in the labor movement are likely to emerge as a result of the new developments--the Western group, the Communists and the Asian neutralists. The last-named, in a sense a "third-force" group, will probably have a strong appeal to the people in other underdeveloped countries, such as Africa and Latin America. It should prove to be a rival of the Communists, in that it will appeal to the outspoken anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, race-conscious elements, who shy away from aligning themselves with either the Western-oriented movements or the totalitarian forces behind the Iron Curtain. Though there seems little danger that it will be captured by the Communists, it might be tempted to collaborate with them, and it may experience defections. It will, however, be playing the Communist game indirectly, and will thereby render a serious disservice to the democratic world. It will no doubt prosper in underdeveloped areas, particularly among peoples who are still laboring under the shell-shock of colonialism and imperialism, and who have suffered from discrimination because of color. The ultra-radical element which used to be temperamentally attracted to syndicalism in the West, and which thrived in the countries with the most unstable social structures, might also gravitate toward this group.

Eventually, the relations of the Communists to this neutralist group are certain to become strained. At present, Asian Socialism is an obstacle to the strengthening of democratic forces; but it is also a barrier between the Communists and the masses. If the Communists come to believe that the neutralism of the Asian Socialists is hindering them more than it is helping them, they are bound to turn on it, as they have on other movements which they have failed to direct or control.

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  • DAVID J. SAPOSS, Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor; formerly Special Advisor in the European Labor Division, E.C.A., Paris
  • More By David J. Saposs