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For us, there is no valid definition of socialism other than the abolition of the exploitation of one human being by another." ~ Che Guevara


The Oxford English Dictionary defines socialism as a theory or policy that aims at or advocates the ownership or control of the means of production—capital, land, property, etc.—by the community as a whole and their administration in the interests of all.

Schumpeter's Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) where is defined as:

that organization of society in which the means of production are controlled, and the decisions on how and what to produce and on who is to get what, are made by public authority instead of by privately-owned and privately-managed firms.

Socialism is an economic system in which the major instruments of social production (that is, the instruments through which production for consumption by the larger society is carried out) are placed under the ownership and control of the state in order to ensure that they are used properly to advance the public interest. It is predicated on the premise that political liberty and equality offered to citizens would remain mere promises unless they are supported by a rearrangement of society's economic activity to translate them into meaningful rights for citizens.

“Socialism is like a hat that has lost its shape because everybody wears it.”C.E.M. Joad

Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country of all God's children." ~ Martin Luther King Jr

Evolutionary and Revolutionary Socialism

'Evolutionary socialism' is a term that refers to socialism that is attained by evolutionary processes or in stages, rather than through total change of society in a single stroke. Evolutionary socialism is distinct from revolutionary socialism, which attempts to implement socialism in its entirety in order to eventually supplant capitalism with a socialist regime.

In other words, revolutionary socialism aspires to fundamentally restructure the social system rather than making minor concessions to the disadvantaged. Indeed, evolutionary socialism admits to a 'compromise' approach toward capitalism and socialism, allowing the capitalist system to continue with little tweaks in the socialist direction. As such, it is a part of the liberal tradition. It aims to accommodate or reconcile the interests of the working classes with the interests of other groups. As a result, it accepts the conception of harmony or equilibrium as the guiding principle of social relationships.

On the other hand, revolutionary socialism is a direct attack on the social order's prevailing contradictions. As such, it is associated with the Marxist tradition. While evolutionary socialism is sometimes referred to as 'liberal socialism,' revolutionary socialism is sometimes referred to as 'Marxian socialism.' Evolutionary socialism is predicated on the democratic method, legislative reform, and even economic planning in order to ensure that the interests of the poor, particularly the working classes, are represented and protected by their representatives and leadership.

As such, it is synonymous with 'democratic socialism.' On the other hand, revolutionary socialism is adamant about mobilising the working classes for the purpose of battling capitalism and establishing complete socialised of the tools of production and distribution through revolution.

Fabian Socialism (Evolutionary)

This was the first comprehensive ideology of 'evolutionary socialism' as a replacement for Marxian'revolutionary socialism.' Fabian socialists attempted to alter Marxian notions in a variety of ways:

  1. rather than the labour theory of value, they built their economics on the Ricardian rule of rent.

  2. They did not rely solely on the working class to effect social change, but instead set out to "permeate" the middle class with the socialist message, and finally,

  3. They sought to introduce socialism gradually, through state and cooperative ownership of industry, increasing labour-power in legislative and executive offices, the growth of trade unions and educational movements, and the development of social consciousness.

The term 'Fabian' was adopted after the name of a great Roman General, Quintus Fabius (275-203 B.C.), whose tactics in the fight against Hannibal served as a guide for the Society. Thus its motto read: "For the right moment you must wait, as Fabius did, most patiently, when warring against Hannibal, though many censured his delays; but when the time comes you must strike hard, as Fabius did, or your waiting will be in vain and fruitless."

It should be remembered that Marxian socialism, which emerged in the late 1940s, saw revolution as a necessary medium of transition from capitalism to socialism. However, Fabian socialism saw the transition from capitalism to socialism as a progressive process, looking forward to the socialised of industry through the peaceful use of existing economic and political institutions.

Objectives of Fabianism

  • Emancipation of land and industrial capital from individual and class ownership, and vesting them in the community for the general benefit.

  • Equality of Opportunity

  • Universal education as an essential means of emancipation of the working class.

Critical Evaluation

Milton Friedman, an economist, contended that socialism, defined as state control of the means of production, stifles technological development by stifling competition. Some socialist critics say that income-sharing lowers individual incentives to labour; salaries should be as individual as possible. Socialist critics have claimed that in any society where everyone has equal income, there can be no material incentive to labour because there are no rewards for a job well done.

In his book The Road to Serfdom, the philosopher Friedrich Hayek claimed that the more equitable distribution of wealth advocated by certain socialists through nationalisation of the means of production cannot be realised without a loss of political, economic, and human rights. According to Hayek, in order to gain control over the means of production and the distribution of wealth, such socialists must acquire strong coercive capabilities. He contended that the path to socialism leads to totalitarianism.

Milton Friedman claimed that the absence of spontaneous economic activity allows authoritarian political leaders to award themselves coercive powers far too easily. Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes, both of whom thought that capitalism is necessary for freedom to live and develop, agreed with Friedman.

"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." ~ Winston Churchill


In spite of some shortcomings, evolutionary socialism is an effective instrument for mitigating the rigours of capitalism. It is unquestionably better than the most basic type of capitalism—a free market economy with the unlimited competition. Evolutionary socialism allows ordinary people to oppose and soften the harshness of the capitalist class inside the capitalist society itself.

It fails to reform capitalism precisely because of a lack of sufficient, organised, and continuous public pressure. The capitalist class manages to create the illusion of 'common welfare' by offering little concessions and reliefs to exploited and underprivileged groups. In such a situation, social contradictions grow. When the exploited sections become aware of these contradictions and decide to oppose them, the groundwork is laid for the capitalist system to be transformed.


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