George Walford: On Defining Socialism

Many of the important words have more than one meaning, and socialism is no exception. One definition gives it as common ownership and democratic control. At the lowest it means redistribution of income in favour of the poor, and Neil Kinnock has now repudiated even this minimal version, committing the Labour Party against any massive redistribution of wealth by “an extra great slab of taxation.” [1] At the Labour Party Conference of 1988 he declared that the party’s task was to run capitalism more efficiently, and this latest declaration shows he meant what he said. The Labour movement still contains socialists – Tony Benn for example – but they exercise a minor influence. Labour stands as one of the procapitalist parties, an alternative to the Conservative Party, and the amount of support it receives is irrelevant when considering the proposition, derived from systematic ideology, that socialism is among the smaller movements.

[1] Quoted by Brian Walden in Sunday Times 20 May.

from Ideological Commentary 46, July 1990.