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14 February 2018

Carlisle debate - socialism or social democracy?

Robert Charlesworth, Carlisle Socialist Party

At a well-attended public debate speakers from the Socialist Party and Labour discussed: 'The way forward: socialism or social democracy?' Members of the Socialist Party, Momentum, the Green Party and others were present on 7 February.

Robert Rynn, political education officer of Carlisle Labour Party (personal capacity), claimed that bringing about socialism would require "violent revolution", and that the best system is a "mixed economy" with the state controlling basic services such as energy and the railways, while private industry was left to "innovate" in other areas.

Brent Kennedy, Carlisle Socialist Party, recalled the Mitterrand government in France in 1981 which lasted only 100 days before being forced to retreat by big business sabotaging the economy.

It subsequently abandoned significant reforms for the working class, and Brent argued that only a programme of nationalising the banks and top monopolies would allow a Corbyn-led Labour government to carry through improvements for the working class.


The only other option would be to retreat under capitalist pressure, which would result in the party going the same way as the French Socialist Party, the German Social Democratic Party, Syriza in Greece, and all the other centre-left parties whose vote has fallen or collapsed in recent years.

We explained why Labour's James Callaghan and Denis Healey declared in 1976 that "Keynesianism is dead", and that the post-war boom period to which so many people fondly look back - with almost full employment, high levels of investment and higher wages - was something that can't be repeated.

Since then capitalism has abandoned industrial growth, productivity and wages for financial speculation and plundering the state through privatisation.

We answered criticisms of the centrally planned economies of the Soviet Union and other Stalinist countries by explaining what could be achieved in the production of consumer goods with workers' control and management instead of bureaucratic dictatorship.

We challenged members of the Labour Party to put these ideas to the test under the next Labour government by demanding workers' control in nationalised sectors of the economy.

Our ideas were well received, and we contributed substantially to the political education of all those present. The debate closed with an appeal to Labour Party members to support our calls to readmit all socialists expelled during 1980s and 1990s.

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