MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms



Social Chauvinism

Aggressive or fanatical patriotism, particularly during time of war, in support of one's own nation versus other nation(s). During WWI, nearly every political party took a social-chauvinist stand; with few exceptions. Most Socialists gave up their beliefs in favour of "defense of the fatherland," and turned to social-chauvinism; most notably the German Social Democratic Party.

Two outstanding examples of Communists who fought against social-chauvinism during WWI were Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. They stressed that the only violence that should be used is the violence necessary to overthrow one's own government. They agitated tirelessly in their nation to show that common social relations united workers across any national boundaries and that the only blood the proletariat should shed is the blood to gain their freedom.


Social Contract

The Social Contract is a foundation myth invented by Jean-Jacques Rousseau as a legitimation for the authority of the state. According to this myth, originally human beings lived in a state of nature, free and independent of one another. The creation of private property and inequality created antagonisms which needed to be moderated. Thus free people came together and made a contract in which they all agreed to arrogate law-making power to the state.

See The Social Contract (1762).

“Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.” The Social Contract

Rousseau himself did not regard this as an historical truth, but it functions in the same way as John Rawls’ thought experiment of the “Veil of Ignorance” as a concept which can legitimate the exercise of power over supposedly free individuals. Immanuel Kant tried to put this idea on a more rational foundation by claiming that a person is properly subject to no other laws than those he lays down for himself, either alone or in conjunction with others, and that “anyone is declared to be the author or free cause of an action which is then regarded as his moral fact or deed, ... is subjected to law.” Thus Kant sought to delineate what laws could be just and obligatory for subjects, without reference to obligations incurred in a mythical past.

Hegel also rejected the myth of the social contract, responding to the myth of a voluntary contract with his master-slave narrative, in which he showed that the state arose out of slavery and domination, but the through the recognition of citizens in a just constitution, the modern state could represent progress towards freedom in which the state was an expression of the universal will, not a limitation on the freedom of individuals.

To this day, the “social contract” functions as a justification for the state and bourgeois social theorists try to justify various kinds of state intervention in terms of contracts supposed to exist between the state and its citizens, often advising states to renew the contract which was supposed to have been made in a mythical past, to establish legitimacy for its projects.

But the social contract is mythology from beginning to end: the state was founded in violence and uses all manner of myth-making to sustain the aura of legitimacy (See 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte) and the various electoral rituals are nothing more than charades aimed at lending legitimacy to the ruling class who use the state as an instrument of rule. At the very best, by means of working class organisation, the state can be transformed into an arena of struggle in which the contending classes in civil society can vie for influence.

Only the kind of immediate, practical measures of democracy which Marx described in the Paris Commune can give legitimacy to any form of rule.


Social control and Integration

“Social control” are the methods used to moderate or suppress conflicts in society, while “social integration” are the methods used to either ameliorate or remove differences, thus addressing conflicts at their source.

Every society contains class, ethnic, gender and other differences, from which arise various kinds of conflict. Naturally, some of these conflicts need to be moderated if the society is to survive, and thus in every society, individuals with various differences have to in some way be socialised and integrated into the institutions and fabric of that society. This is as true of a hypothetical post-revolutionary socialist society as it is of capitalism; to suppose that a society could exist which does not require any process of social control and integration is utopian.

The methods of social control and integration may be: regulation, commodification, education and ideology, or democratisation.

The agents of social control and integration may be: the state, the family or institutions of civil society.

Social control and integration also act in different frames, principally international, national and communal.

Methods of Social control and integration

Regulation means the application of a particular set of laws or rules, implicitly including punishment for those who violate the rules. Regulation pre-supposes the legitimacy of the law-making agent and the agent’s capacity to enforce laws (e.g. with police) within the relevant frame of application. See the Evgeny Pashukanis Archive for a Marxist approach to law and regulation.

Commodification, or “user-pays,” means the use of the market to regulate a practice, with things so arranged that over-use of a practice will incur an increasing cost for the user — for example, instead of a public utility distributing water according to needs, water supply can be privatised and water sold on the market, forcing users to economise on water-usage. Alternatively, the market may require an element of regulation to make it work, for example, pollution may be controlled by applying a tax to the sale, production or use of polluting materials. The Greenhouse Gas Coupon system, whereby countries have to pay for the greenhouse gases they produce, or get paid for reductions, is a prime example of this method of social control. These “coupons” are bought and sold, and companies are paid by governments for reducing greenhouse gas production, and in short, greenhouse gas reduction has been turned into a profitable industry. Capitalism prefers this to the alternative, for example, of regulating greenhouse gas production, legally mandating companies to reduce production, and jailing the bosses of comapnies which do not comply. See Comments on James Mill and The Communist Manifesto for Marx’s analysis of commodification.

Ideology, or “education,” means instilling habits or beliefs in people such that unwanted or anti-social practices are not chosen, and providing the capacities needed for the maintenance of the culture and its institutions. Among the most important tools for using ideology for Social Control are the school system (attendance at which is compulsory), religion, and mass media. See the Marxism and Education subject archive for more on this, and chapter one of Capital for more on bourgeois ideology.

Democratisation means extending the forms of social decision-making so that dissenting or conflicting sections of society are included in the process of decision-making, and either consensus is arrived at, or a minority is reconciled to the decision due to having participated in making the decision. See the entry on Democracy for more on this.

Agents of Social control and integration

The state is the institution with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a society. The state also delegates some functions of social control and integration to other agents, such as professional associations, NGOs, charities, and so on.. See Lenin’s State and Revolution.

By the family is meant the spontaneously self-reproducing social formations which care for and raise children and provide loving relationships. The family is the primary institution for social integration, imparting language, ethical disposition and primary social ties, in short, socialising individuals. See Engels’ Origin of the Family Private Property and the State for more on the family.

Civil society encompasses both the wide range of organisations outside of the state and the family. These include cultural and religious bodies, voluntary organisations of all kinds and organisations arising out of economic entities, such as professional or industry organisations. See the entry on Civil Society for more on this.

Frames of Social Control and Integration

The nation-state is the most significant frame of social control and integration, with national governments bearing the principal responsibility for its implementation. However, it can be seen that all the same processes are at work on the international level, with “rogue nations” being subject to blockade or invasion to control them; bodies like the WTO regulating the economy in order to force nations into compliance while integrating them into the “global community” of nations; churches, political parties, etc., fighting ideological battles on a world scale and the United Nations providing an opportunity for nations to democratically participate in deciding upon policies.

At the local level, these kinds of responsibilities are carried out sometimes by individuals, sometimes by municipal authorities.

Marxists and Social control and integration

The objective of Marxists is ultimately the abolition of the state and the formation of communist society; in the shorter term, Marxists aim to critique existing social arrangements and strengthen the working class in opposition to capital. Consequently, Marxists favour democratisation as the most historically significant and progressive method of social control and integration.

The former Stalinist governments and to a lesser extent the Social-Democratic governments of the post-WW2 period, heavily relied on regulation as the principal method of social control, and ideology as the principal method of social integration; contrariwise, neo-liberal governments, especially after the mid-1980s, have heavily relied on commodification as the principal means of social control and integration.

The “multiculturalism” of many modern societies means that governments can no longer rely on regulatory or ideological means to achieve social integration, but must rather rely on democratisation and commodification to allow different communities to reach mutual understanding. Thus, modern society pre-supposes that social integration is inclusive of ideological differences and a diversity of institutions for social integration.

Marxists recognize that commodification (such as privatisation, user-pays, etc.) as a method of social control, invariably undermines the social fabric, supports capital, and fosters individualism. The need for the use of the market as an instrument of social integration and control remains however, insofar as other means are ineffective in effecting social integration. The point is that the principal instrument of social integration has always been cooperative social labour: so long as people are working together, they will learn to get on with each other. Thus the expansion of cooperative social activity is a priority for Marxists. Education is also an important component of social integration, but for Marxists this means fostering the critical capacities of people, rather than the instillation of habits of obedience, etc.

In terms of agents of social control and integration, Marxists have tended to favour the institutions of civil society (trade unions, voluntary groups, political parties, etc.) rather than the state or the family. The state acts as an agent of social integration and control only in the last instance — for example, the control of infectious diseases or organised crime requires decisive coordinated action, which at a certain point may not be attainable by cooperative action; the family will always remain a vital agent of social control and integration, but the family is a spontaneously arising social formation which should never be a subject of political and social engineering.

There is a great imbalance in the strength of mechanisms of social control and integration across different frames: while the nation-state is currently the main agent for social control, it is powerless to deal with rogue states like the USA, and stronger means of social control, especially democratisation, is needed at the international level.

Neo-liberal policies have also weakened social control at the local level to near-collapse in most countries, and there is a great need to improve the mechanisms for social integration at the local level, where the mass of people have an opportunity to participate.


Social Democracy

The term "Social-Democracy" has been used by Marxists since the time of the First International of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The term is both an organizational appellation, meaning it describes a particular political affiliation within a political culture and an adjective describing a "kind" of politics within the broader socialist movement. Simply put, a social-democrat was for democratic socialism. That is, the extension of political democracy to the economic level, the elimination of capitalism and the institution of a broad based workers democracy.

Chronologically "Social-Democracy" described both the adherents of the First and Second Internationals through 1914-1919. Everyone in the various socialist movements who were at all affiliated with these internationals were described as being "social-democrats", whether they represented the staid reformism of US socialist Morris Hilquit to the revolutionary Marxism of V.I. Lenin. They were all "social-democrats."

With the failure of the Second International to rally the international working class against the onslaught of the First World War the social-democracy split, eventually culminating in the Communist, or 3rd International in 1919, which was based, in large part, of the left wing of the Russian social-democracy, the Bolsheviks, in assuming power in October of 1917, the first successful socialist revolution in the world. At this point, most supporters of the Communist International ceased calling themselves "social-democrats" and simply called themselves "Communists." Thus, social-democracy became the purview of the remnants of the Second International, who eventually reconstituted themselves into the early 1920s. The term social-democracy therefore became largely synonymous with the pale reformism of these now established socialist parties, such as the German Social-Democrats and the British Labour Party.

Submitted by David Walters,
January, 2002


Social fascism

Theory made famous by Stalin from 1928 to 1934. Stalin's theory held that social democracy and fascism were one in the same. Social Fascism became a charge Stalin frequently used against Bolsheviks, whose party had once been a part of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.


Social Imperialism

Social Imperialism was the term used by the Chinese to describe the Soviet Union after the Sino-Soviet Split.

Lenin had described imperialism in terms of the concentration of capital in monopolies, the creation of “finance capital”, the export of capital rather than commodities, the formation of international monopolistic capitalist associations, and the complete division of the world among the capitalist powers. These terms had little to do with the Soviet Union, however it could be described.

However, according to Mao, Khrushchev was turning the USSR into a capitalist country and on this basis, Mao held that such terms could be applied to the USSR.

See On Khrushchev’s Phoney Communism and Its Historical Lessons for the World (1964)


Social Movement

By Social Movement is meant an autonomous and self-conscious movement of people united by support of some ideal, rather than by pursuit of the material self-interest of its members (though material interests are generally not too far under the surface).

The four decades after the Second World War was a time in which the social movements figured prominently on the political arena, with the Peace and Nuclear Disarmament Movements, the Civil Rights Movement, the Womens Liberation Movement, the Environmental Movement being the classic examples from this period. It is frequently difficult to draw a line between a social movement and other classic types of social formation, based on class, race, nationality or religion which have dominated politics since time immemorial. Those social struggles which arise on the basis of irreconcilable conflicts within a society or which strike at the very basis of society have to be distinguished from social movements, which on the whole, aim to achieve their goals within the bounds of existing society.

“Social movement” cannot be formally defined according to structure or lack of structure; social movements are dynamic entities which essenitally go through all sorts of stages and transformations.

Generally speaking, a social movement begins from a condition of latency where people are becoming concerned about an issue and there is a social basis for the movement, but there is as yet no movement or organisation; then there is a period of anomie, when demonstrations or actions take place in an isolated way until, usually, someone, possibly a famous personality, writer or public figure, puts forward the principle in a form which enables the movement to give itself a name and begin to formulate a program; at first social movements are generally unstructured and lack formal rules and programs, but in time these grow up and in direct proportion as a social movement develops its program, within its ranks there develops various ‘party-lines’; a social movement has completed its mission when its defining principle has been accepted by all and written into the programs of all political parties and all aspects of social life, and at the same time, the principle has grown from being a “single issue” to constituting one aspect of the “world views” of the various parties. Thus social movements tend to have a finite life-cycle; social movements invariably find themselves fragmenting “along party lines” just as they become all-powerful.

During the “Cold War” period, the Social Movements mentioned above eclipsed the political parties in determining the political terrain. Even though only political parties, with their roots in social classes, were capable of running the country and holding government, the political parties had to adapt themselves to the social movements in order to survive. This situation is in sharp contrast, for example, with the situation before the War, when great political parties dominated the political scene, with memberships numbering by the millions, and which themselves ran social movements in the service of party ends.

The dominance of the social movements in political life has frequently caused people to conclude that “class politics” or “party politics” was “out of date”, but this is really only tenable if one denies the very existence of class. Nevertheless, the dominance of social movements promoting issues - like global warming for example - which affect people of all classes, and moral issues which appeal to all classes, mark a significant and irreversible change from the days when political leaders openly championed the interests social classes or nations.

Marxism is clearly identified with the view that “The same men who establish their social relations in conformity with the material productivity, produce also principles, ideas, and categories, in conformity with their social relations” [Poverty of Philosophy] and “that all past history, with the exception of its primitive stages, was the history of class struggles” [Anti-Dühring], and it remains as true as ever that all social movements have their origin in changes in the forces of production and the labour process generally, and express in one way or another the interests of definite social strata likewise having their foundations in the social relations of production.

As Marx and Engels put it in the German Ideology:

“For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones. The class making a revolution appears from the very start, if only because it is opposed to a class, not as a class but as the representative of the whole of society; it appears as the whole mass of society confronting the one ruling class.”.

In this context, it is possible to understand why Marx saw Socialism as both a social movement and as politics expressing the interests of the working class.

Consider the Trade Union Movement for example: each union explicitly represents the material interests of a narrowly defined group of workers. The Union Movement could only have become such an historic force, however, because it is the vehicle of the principles of solidarity and community.

So the politics of Social Movements is by no means mutually exclusive with the politics of material interests.


Social Patriot

Another name for Social-Chauvinist.



Socialisation is the process by which activity and relationships move out of a private, or in general more restricted, domain into a broader sphere of action. In particular, “socialisation” is used in reference to the transformation of private businesses into public enterprises, or on the other hand, moving labour which is taking place within a closed, domestic domain into the general economic sphere.

One of the most important instances of socialisation has been the socialisation of women’s labour. From time immemorial, women have carried out certain kinds of labour within a system of kinship relationships, and more recently, in the industrialised countries, within very small family groups. Beginning from around the time of the Second World War, domestic appliances produced by the manufacturing industry began to become effective as labour saving devices; later on, with the establishment of the “welfare state” in many countries and the growth of the service sector, women more and more found employment in the broader economy, while labour-saving devices, manufactured foodstuffs, and services like health and education began meet needs formerly met by their domestic labour. That is, the system of needs and labour, which was formerly confined to the domestic sphere, was shifted out into the broader social arena. The socialisation of women’s labour was equally the feminisation of the economy.

Another important instance of socialisation of recent decades was the building up the major national infrastructures – railways, telephones, roads, coal mines and so on – by government investment. This process occurred at different times in different countries, but the New Deal in the U.S., and the immediate post-war period in Britain, are examples. Private enterprise proved incapable of making a profit building infrastructure in such capital-intensive industries, but the infrastructure was essential for the further development of the national capital. The solution was to assign the role of infrastructure building to the government, as a shared cost to capital. Subsequently, as capitalism had further developed, these same public enterprises were then privatised, and ironically, this second stage actually constituted a further socialisation of labour. In both cases it was a question of the form of organisation which best facilitated the participation of the whole social division of labour in meeting the given need.

Capitalism cannot manage certain kinds of labour until it reaches a sufficient level of development. For example, in the early days after the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks tried to introduce public laundries and child-care, but clothes were lost and damaged in the laundries and children neglected or got ill in the nurseries. The overall level of development of the forces of production was simply not sufficient to supplant private, domestic labour in these areas. It was the same with early attempts to introduce labour-saving domestic appliances in the U.S. in the inter-war years – the devices just didn’t save labour and usually damaged things.

Since the construction of the major elements of modern infrastructure was completed in the post-world war two period in many countries, “socialisation” has generally taken the form of commodification. Apart from the movement of labour out of the domestic sphere into the economy, this has also entailed the out-sourcing of functions formerly carried out within capitalist enterprises and the privatisation of public services. These processes entail moving the meeting of certain needs into a situation where the whole social division of labour is brought to bear, rather than by means of a controlled or directed labour process. The movement of labour from manufacture to the “service sector” is another instances of socialisation of the same kind.

In a capitalist economy, such socialisation inevitably entails commodification. However, commodification is still a restricted kind of socialisation, because no labour can be carried out, no commodity produced, unless there is someone willing and able to pay for it. Only “productive labour” is supported in bourgeois society. So, for example, many functions are either not carried out at all or are confined to meeting the needs of a small class of wealthy people. When capitalism falls down, the needs are met either by the state or by the “Third Sector” – voluntary labour.




"The organisation of society in such a manner that any individual, man or woman, finds at birth equal means for the development of their respective faculties and the utilisation of their labour. The organisation of society in such a manner that the exploitation by one person of the labour of his neighbour would be impossible, and where everyone will be allowed to enjoy the social wealth only to the extent of their contribution to the production of that wealth."

August Bebel
Die Frau und der Sozialismus

"Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lie not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by Modern Industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes.


"The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage labor. Wage labor rests exclusively on competition between the laborers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the laborers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.


"And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at.

("These measures will, of course, be different in different countries. Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be generally applicable.")

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels
The Communist Manifesto
Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

"The question then arises: What transformation will the state undergo in communist society? In other words, what social functions will remain in existence there that are analogous to present state functions?

"Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

Karl Marx
Critique of the Gotah Programme
Part IV: On Democracy

"The dictatorship of a single class is necessary not only for every class society in general, not only for the proletariat which has overthrown the bourgeoisie, but also for the entire historical period which separates capitalism from "classless society", from communism. Bourgeois states are most varied in form, but their essence is the same: all these states, whatever their form, in the final analysis are inevitably the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The transition from capitalism to communism is certainly bound to yield a tremendous abundance and variety of political forms, but the essence will inevitably be the same: the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Vladimir Lenin
The State and Revolution
Chpt 2.

"What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.

"Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society – after the deductions have been made – exactly what he gives to it..."

"But one man is superior to another physically, or mentally, and supplies more labor in the same time, or can labor for a longer time; and labor, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement...

"Right, by its very nature, can consist only in the application of an equal standard; but unequal individuals (and they would not be different individuals if they were not unequal) are measurable only by an equal standard insofar as they are brought under an equal point of view, are taken from one definite side only – for instance... one worker is married, another is not; one has more children than another, and so on and so forth. Thus, with an equal performance of labor, and hence an equal in the social consumption fund, one will in fact receive more than another, one will be richer than another, and so on. To avoid all these defects, right, instead of being equal, would have to be unequal."

Karl Marx
Critique of the Gotha Programme
Part 1

"The first phase of communism, therefore, cannot yet provide justice and equality; differences, and unjust differences in wealth will still persist, but the exploitation of man by man will have become impossible because it will be impossible to seize the means of production – the factories, machines, land, etc. – and make them private property.... Marx shows the course of development of communist society....which [firstly] consists in the distribution of consumer goods "according to the amount of labor performed" (and not [yet] according to needs)."

"But the scientific distinction between socialism and communism is clear. What is usually called socialism was termed by marx the "first", or lower, phase of communist society. Insofar as the means of production becomes common property, the word "communism" is also applicable here, providing we do not forget that this is not complete communism."

Vladimir Lenin
The State and Revolution
Chpt. 5: The first phase of Communist Society

See also: Communism and Proletarian Democracy .


Socialism in one country

A foundation of the Stalinist political theory, introduced for the first time in 1924, after Lenin's death. The theory was in direct opposition to the Bolshevik theory that the success of the Russian Revolution depended on proletarian revolutions in Europe. The Stalinist theory stipulated that a socialist society could be achieved inside a single country. Later, when it was incorporated into the program and tactics of the Comintern, it became the justification for the domination of Russia in the proletarian revolution: claiming that the Soviet Union was the leader of the International proletariat.

Further Reading: Russian critiques of this theory: Vladimir Lenin, Question on Nationalities; Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin .)


Socialist Democracy

See: Proletarian Democracy


Socialist Competition (or Emulation)

The notion of “Socialist Competition” was first raised by Lenin in the earliest days after the Revolution to deal with the problem of the motivation of work in the absence of the profit motive. Lenin's approach was the call to “organise competition” which meant that: “All communes must compete with each other as practical organisers of accounting and control of labour and distribution of products,” emphasising this process in contrast to the imposition from above of uniform approaches and standards. Underlying Lenin’s proposal was the conviction that so long as workers saw the firm as their own property by virtue of their participation in the Soviet government, then workers would be responsive to such a call.

See Lenin’s article How to Organise Competition?, written on December 24 1917, but not published until January 1929.

In his article Emulation and Labour Enthusiasm of the Masses, Stalin made pains to distinguish “socialist emulation” from the notion of “competition” as the aim was one of cooperation with other workers, not their annihilation. This speech coincided with the ultimate failure of the “turn to the peasants” and reliance on the Kulaks, and the beginning of forced collectivization.

The later Stakhanovite campaign was successful in achieving superlative feats of labour on the part of individual workers and in promoting “socialist emulation” to force other workers to aim for these often-impossible work rates. The campaign was less successful, however, in inspiring “practical organisers of accounting and control of labour and distribution of products,” leading more frequently to a habit of misrepresenting production and targets and undermining planning efforts.

Nonetheless, it is worth recognizing that the conception of workers of working “working for themselves” may not always and everywhere be sufficient, and some means of motivating individual performance was and is always necessary to supplement motivation based on a commitment to the communal interest.


Socialist Ministerialism

Opportunist tactics of socialists' who participate in bourgeois governments. The term arose from Millerandism


Social Wage

That part of workers’ means of subsistence which is provided as a free public service rather than purchased. In March 1969, the British Daily Telegraph said: ‘The social wage in plain English means government hand-outs, the exact opposite of a wage.’

Social democrats often say that the most effective way of defending and improving workers’ living standards is not to award pay rises, but to increase the benefits that workers receive via state services. This, it is said, will moderate industrial conflict entailed in wage bargaining, reduce inequalities among workers and provide a “safety net” for the poor, provide services more efficiently and foster an ethos of collectivism rather than Individualism.

Promotion of the concept of social wage invariably means arguing against fighting for pay rises, and is based on the assumption that class struggle is a bad thing; better to use the democratic process to elect social democrats to government and legislate improvements in the social wage.

“Social wage” fell out of use in the latter part of the 20th century, as social democratic parties around the world were engaged in running down health services and pensions while unions were bargaining for employer contributions to health insurance and superannuation funds.



Society is a vague term which expresses the interconnectedness of all human life and the social nature of human beings, but should never be used as if it were an entity capable of having will or opinion, or counterposed to its institutions.

See Poverty of Philosophy.



Solidarity means giving support to a stranger on their own terms; so solidarity differs from community because it is extended to strangers, and differs from philanthropy because it is given on the stranger’s own terms, not that of the giver.

Solidarity is the fundamental ethic of the workers’ movement, obliging workers to support the struggles of all other oppressed people.

Solidarity was introduced into the English language as a translation from the French at the Chartist Convention in 1848 and was popularised by the Chartist Ernest Jones in the “People's Paper.” From the founding Congress of the First International in 1864 it was adopted as the central ethic of the International and concept spread across Europe and the world through the solidarity actions of the International.

The relation of solidarity contrasts with competition between workers, which is the natural condition of the labour market. Thus solidarity only arises through the active construction of a social movement, particularly the trade union movement, not spontaneously, from the conditions of capitalist exploitation.

In particular, solidarity is necessary for the functioning of large cities where we routinely share our lives with strangers.

The importance of solidarity is that it forms the basis for trust. Trust is required by individuals to participate in a single system of activity or “subject,” be that a social movement, professional association or urban neighbourhood. Trust is the rational expectation of the cooperation of others. So in order to create the basis for the strengthening of a new radical subjectivity, trust is required. Trust in business is based on honesty; trust in struggle is based on solidarity. So solidarity is the fundamental relation which underpins the relation between radical subjects (not founded on wealth), and is the basis for the formation of new, voluntary social ties (not founded on tradition – family, locality, religion, ethnicity, etc.).

Trust and solidarity are relationships which are underpinned by certain virtues; to acquire a virtue, one must go through the relevant life-experiences. Since solidarity is necessary for the survival of the working class, and is practiced by working-class organisations, being a proletarian entails developing the virtue of solidarity. Social cohesion and trust are being eradicated by the conditions of modernity; solidarity is the only means of restoring this loss. It is the basic pre-condition not only for social progress, but for any kind of viable urban life today, outside of a fortified village.

Certain experiences are deemed necessary for successful development. Respect and esteem are the aspects of relationships in which subjects relate to each other externally. Self-respect and self-esteem grow from the weak bonds operative in the world market. They are compatible with life in an atomised society which lacks any social cohesion, while giving great scope for libertarian freedom. Solidarity, however, springs from the need to combat the effects of the loss of social cohesion and provide a real basis for mutual trust and self-confidence, for which external relation is insufficient: mutuality, or “mutual inclusion,” is required.

Solidarity, is characteristic in its proper sense only of modernity, in which the family becomes less important as a site for the building of trust and self-confidence, and one must continuously deal with strangers. This is a world in which a person must be willing to take a risk to help a complete stranger, and when in need, one looks to the solidarity of strangers for support. Solidarity differs from religious kindness (as exhibited by the priest in Les Miserables) because it has a secular basis rather than being aimed at pleasing God; solidarity differs from philanthropy in that solidarity means supporting the project of the subject receiving aid, rather than drawing them into one’s own project.

History of Solidarity

In 1840, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the founder of Anarchism, declared:

“Equality of conditions is the law of society, and universal solidarity [solidarité] is the ratification of this law.“ What is Property?

This is the earliest recorded usage of the term, which originated as a technical term in law, in its communistic sense. The communist August Blanqui described the attitudes of the young communist students and workers who put up the barricades in revolutionary Paris in the 1830s thus:

“Nothing is known of what is happening elsewhere and they do not trouble themselves further. ... They listen peaceably to the cannons and the gunfire, while drinking at the wine bar. As for sending relief to the positions under attack, there is not even the thought of it. ‘If each one defends his post, and all will be well,’ say the strongest. ... with such a system, defeat is certain.”

The word solidarité was turned at this time to indicate the virtue which working class people had to acquire to survive in the modern world which was emerging. The International Workingmen’s Association was created as a “mutual aid society” with the sole aim of fostering solidarity. The International sent money, printed leaflets, conducted agitation, banned imports, etc., in support of workers engaged in fights in countries all over Europe. Its essence was help coming out of the blue from people you'd never heard of. The International could never form itself into a party or develop a program, it was just an amorphous, ever-changing loose association of workers extending solidarity to one another.

The International declared in its Rules that the need for solidarity was one of the reasons for the founding of the International.

“All efforts aiming at the great end hitherto failed from the want of solidarity between the manifold divisions of labor in each country, and from the absence of a fraternal bond of union between the working classes of different countries; ... For these reasons – The International Working Men's Association has been founded.”

In his History of the First International, Stekloff sees solidarity as the driving force of the International:

“In its intervention in strikes, the International had two aims: first of all, to prevent the import of foreign strikebreakers; and, secondly, to give direct aid to all the strikers by inaugurating collections and sending money. All this made the new organisation immensely popular in working-class circles, where the idea was now gaining ground that the International was a faithful champion of the proletariat, and was fighting valiantly on behalf of the workers’ interests. In this respect, the bronzeworkers’ strike in Paris (February, 1867) was of great importance. When the employers, deciding to crush the recently formed organisation of the bronzeworkers, suddenly discharged several hundred of those who had joined the union, the latter turned for help to London. The General Council, convinced that the whole question of the right of the workers to organise was at stake, conferred with the British trade unions, which hastened to give the Parisians unlimited credit. The sections of the International in other countries likewise came to the aid of the Paris comrades, and the employers were soon compelled to make concessions. In return, when there was a tailors’ strike in London lasting seven months, the Continental workers were not content with preventing the shipment of strike-breakers to England, but also gave material aid, and thus contributed to the victory of the strikers, here was an obvious testimony to the direct value of international solidarity, and to that of the “powerful association, which had in so brief a time been able to diffuse among the working masses the spirit and practice of the brotherhood of labour.”

In 1875, in a letter criticising the idea of reading Darwin’s idea of survival of the fittest into human society, Engels wrote instead:

“that to facilitate the struggle the idea of solidarity could finally... grow to a point where it will embrace all mankind and oppose it, as a society of brothers living in solidarity, to the rest of the world – the world of minerals, plants, and animals.” Engels to Lavrov, 17 November 1875

Jane Jacobs from her 1961 classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, described the necessary conditions for the development of urban life:

“In real life, only from the ordinary adults of the city sidewalks do children learn – if they learn at all – the first fundamental of successful city life: people must take a modicum of public responsibility for each other even if they have no ties to each other. This is a lesson nobody learns by being told. It is learned from the experience of having other people without ties of kinship or close friendship or formal responsibility to you take a modicum of public responsibility for you. ... This is instruction in city living that people hired to look after children cannot teach, because the essence of this responsibility is that you do it without being hired.” [p. 93-4]

This emphasises that solidarity is an attitude one extends to complete strangers, people with whom you have no material relations, neither relations of trade or employment nor relations of blood or friendship. The humanity which is fostered by the relation of solidarity and upon which solidarity relies, is acquired on the basis of formative experiences, as a child, growing up in urban neighbourhoods, where strangers look out for you; as an adult, by finding yourself the recipient of solidarity action from strangers.

Thus although both the concept and practice of solidarity emerged from the workers’ movement, it is essential for modern life altogether.

In the last decade of the 19th century, at time of escalating class struggle and economic and social crisis, solidarity, as a property of society taken as a whole, was taken up as a theme under the name of “social solidarity” by Emile Durkheim. Durkheim contrasted two types or sources of social solidarity: mechanical solidarity, based on the sharing of a common fate, common experiences or common attributes, and organic solidarity, based on mutual interdependence growing from the social division of labour. This conception resembles the concept of “community.”

Supporters of the Keynesian welfare state saw “social solidarity” as essentially the function of the state, with the institutions of workers’ mutual aid of the 19th century, necessarily being replaced by the state. It would seem however that welfare that is mediated by the state cannot express a subject’s solidarity unless the subject identifies with the action of the state. This ceased to be the case long ago. In his Philosophy of Right, Hegel saw voluntary associations of civil society as essential to the maintenance of social cohesion, and demonstrated that a state which does not express the freedom of its people cannot function to build social cohesion.

“Social solidarity” has long been an object concern as increasing commodification and exploitation by capital has eroded the social fabric. Nowadays, the term “social capital” is commonly used to indicate a conception of “social cohesion” conceived by some as a form of private property and others as a public good.



5th Century BC Greek philosophers who were professional teachers of "wisdom" and did not constitute an definite "school" of philosophy. "Sophistry" was a word coined by their detractors meaning the use of superficially plausible but flawed arguments to prove their point.

See Hegel on the Sophists.