Front Page Titles (by Subject) 4: Democracy and Social-Democracy - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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4: Democracy and Social-Democracy - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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Democracy and Social-Democracy
The view that democracy and Socialism are inwardly related spread far and wide in the decades which preceded the Bolshevist revolution. Many came to believe that democracy and Socialism meant the same thing, and that democracy without Socialism or Socialism without democracy would not be possible.
This notion sprang principally from a combination of two chains of thought, both of which sprang originally from the Hegelian philosophy of history. For Hegel world history is “progress in the consciousness of freedom.” Progress takes place in this way: “... the Orientals only knew that one is free, the Greek and Roman world that some are free, but we know that all men are free as such, that man is free as man.”48 There is no doubt that the freedom of which Hegel spoke was different from that for which the radical politicians of his day were fighting. Hegel took ideas which were common to the political doctrines of the epoch of enlightenment and intellectualized them. But the radical young Hegelians read into his words what appealed to them. For them it was certain that the evolution to Democracy was a necessity in the Hegelian sense of this term. The historians follow suit. Gervinus sees “by and large in the history of humanity,” as “in the internal evolution of the states,” “a regular progress ... from the spiritual and civil freedom of the single individual to that of the Several and the Many.”49
The materialist conception of history provides the idea of the “liberty of the many” with a different content. The Many are the proletarians; they must necessarily become socialists because consciousness is determined by the social conditions. Thus evolution to democracy and evolution to Socialism are one and the same thing. Democracy is the means towards the realization of Socialism, but at the same time Socialism is the means towards the realization of democracy. The party title, “Social Democracy,” most clearly expresses this co-ordination of Socialism and democracy. With the name democracy the socialist workers’ party took over the spiritual inheritance of the movements of Young Europe. All the slogans of the pre-March50 radicalism are to be found in the Social-Democratic Party programmes. They recruit, for the party, supporters who feel indifferent to or are even repulsed by the demands of Socialism.
The relation of Marxist Socialism to the demand for democracy was determined by the fact that it was the Socialism of the Germans, the Russians, and the smaller nations which lived under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the empire of the Tsars. Every opposition party in these more or less autocratic states had to demand democracy first of all, so as to create the conditions that must precede the development of political activity. For the Social Democrats this practically excluded democracy from discussion; it would never have done to cast a doubt on the democratic ideology pro foro externo.
But the question of the relation between the two ideas expressed in its double name could not be completely suppressed within the party. People began by dividing the problem into two parts. When they spoke of the coming socialist paradise they continued to maintain the interdependence of the terms and even went a little farther and said that they were ultimately one. Since one continued to regard democracy as in itself a good thing, one could not—as a faithful socialist awaiting absolute salvation in the paradise-to-be—arrive at any other conclusion. There would be something wrong with the land of promise if it were not the best imaginable from a political point of view. Thus socialist writers did not cease to proclaim that only in a socialist society could true democracy exist. What passed for democracy in the capitalist states was a caricature designed to cover the machinations of exploiters.
But although it was seen that Socialism and democracy must meet at the goal, nobody was quite certain whether they were to take the same road. People argued over the problem whether the realization of Socialism—and therefore, according to the views just discussed, of democracy too—was to be attempted through the instrumentality of democracy or whether in the struggle one should deviate from the principles of democracy. This was the celebrated controversy about the dictatorship of the proletariat; it was the subject of academic discussion in Marxist literature up to the time of the Bolshevist revolution and has since become a great political problem.
Like all other differences of opinion which divide Marxists into groups, the quarrel arose from the dualism which cuts right through that bundle of dogmas called the Marxist system. In Marxism there are always two ways at least of looking at anything and everything, and the reconciliation of these views is attained only by dialectic artificialities. The commonest device is to use, according to the needs of the moment, a word to which more than one meaning may be attached. With these words, which at the same time serve as political slogans to hypnotize the mass psyche, a cult suggestive of fetishism is carried on. The Marxist dialectic is essentially word-fetishism. Every article of the faith is embodied in a word fetish whose double or even multiple meaning makes it possible to unite incompatible ideas and demands. The interpretation of these words, as intentionally ambiguous as the words of the Delphic Pythia, eventually brings the different parties to blows, and everyone quotes in his favour passages from the writings of Marx and Engels to which authoritative importance is attached.
“Revolution” is one of these words. By “industrial revolution” Marxism means the gradual transformation of the pre-capitalist way of production into the capitalist. “Revolution” here means the same as “development,” and the contrast between the terms “evolution” and “revolution” is almost extinguished. Thus the Marxist is able, when it pleases him, to speak of the revolutionary spirit as contemptible “putschism” (“insurrectionism”). The revisionists were quite right when they called many passages in Marx and Engels to their support. But when Marx calls the workers’ movement a revolutionary movement and says that the working class is the only true revolutionary class, he is using the term in the sense that suggests barricades and street fights. Thus syndicalism is also right when it appeals to Marx.
Marxism is equally obscure in the use of the word State. According to Marxism, the State is merely an instrument of class domination. By acquiring political power the proletariat abolishes class conflict and the State ceases to exist. “As soon as there is no longer any social class to be kept in suppression, and as soon as class domination and the struggle for individual existence based on the hitherto existing anarchy of production are removed, along with the conflicts and excesses which arise from them, then there will be nothing more to repress and nothing that would make necessary a special repressive power, a state. The first act in which the State really appears as representative of the whole society—the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society—is simultaneously its last independent act as a state. The intervention of state power in social affairs becomes superfluous in one field after another until at last it falls asleep of its own accord.”51 However obscure or badly thought out may be its view of the essence of political organization, this statement is so positive in what it says of the proletarian rule that it would seem to leave no room for doubt. But it seems much less positive when we remember Marx’s assertion that between the capitalist and the communist societies must lie a period of revolutionary transformation, in addition to which there will be a corresponding “political period of transition whose state can be no other than the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”52 If we assume, with Lenin, that this period is to endure until that “higher phase of communist society” is reached, in which “the enslaving subordination of individuals under the division of labour has vanished, and with it the contrast of mental and physical work,” in which “work will have become not only a means to life but itself the first necessity of life,” then of course we come to a very different conclusion with regard to Marxism’s attitude to democracy.53 Obviously the socialist community will have no room for democracy for centuries to come.
Although it occasionally comments on the historical achievements of Liberalism, Marxism entirely overlooks the importance of liberal ideas. It is at a loss when it comes to deal with the liberal demands for liberty of conscience and expression of opinion, for the recognition on principle of every opposition party and the equal rights of all parties. Wherever it is not in power, Marxism claims all the basic liberal rights, for they alone can give it the freedom which its propaganda urgently needs. But it can never understand their spirit and will never grant them to its opponents when it comes into power itself. In this respect it resembles the Churches and other institutions which rest on the principle of violence. These, too, exploit the democratic liberties when they are fighting their battle, but once in power they deny their adversaries such rights. So, plainly, the democracy of Socialism exposes its deceit. “The party of the communists,” says Bukharin, “demands no sort of liberties for the bourgeois enemies of the people. On the contrary.” And with remarkable cynicism he boasts that the communists, before they were in power, advocated the liberty of expression of opinion merely because it would have been “ridiculous” to demand from the capitalists liberty for the workers’ movement in any other way than by demanding liberty in general.54
Always and everywhere Liberalism demands democracy at once, for it believes that the function which it has to fulfil in society permits of no postponement. Without democracy the peaceful development of the state is impossible. The demand for democracy is not the result of a policy of compromise or of a pandering to relativism in questions of world-philosophy,55 for Liberalism asserts the absolute validity of its doctrine. Rather, it is the consequence of the Liberal belief that power depends upon a mastery over mind alone and that to gain such a mastery only spiritual weapons are effective. Even where for an indefinite time to come it may expect to reap only disadvantages from democracy, Liberalism still advocates democracy. Liberalism believes that it cannot maintain itself against the will of the majority; and that in any case the advantages which might accrue from a liberal regime maintained artificially and against the feeling of the people would be infinitesimal compared to the disturbances that would stay the quiet course of state development if the people’s will were violated.
The Social Democrats would certainly have continued to juggle with the catchword democracy, but, by an historical accident, the Bolshevist revolution has compelled them prematurely to discard their mask, and to reveal the violence which their doctrine implies.
[48. ]Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte, ed. Lasson (Leipzig, 1917), vol. l, p. 40.
[49. ]Gervinus, Einleitung in die Geschichte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1853), p. 13.
[50. ]i.e., German radicalism before the revolution of 1848 (Trans.).
[51. ]Engels, Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, 7th ed. (Stuttgart, 1910), p. 302. Publisher’s Note: in English, see Anti-Dühring: Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1954), p. 389.
[52. ]Marx, Zur Kritik des sozialdemokratischen Parteiprogramms von Gotha, ed. Kreibich (Reichenberg, 1920), p. 23. Publisher’s Note: In English, see Critique of the Gotha Programme, rev. trans. (New York: International Publishers, 1938), p. 18, or in Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings, ed. and introd. Max Eastman (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1932). p. 355.
[53. ]Ibid., p. 17; also V. I. Lenin, Staat und Revolution (Berlin, 1918), p. 89. Publisher’s Note: In English, see Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, p. 10. or p. 7 in the Eastman anthology; also Lenin, “The State and Revolution,” in Selected Work in Two Volumes (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1952), vol. 2, pt. 1, pp. 199-325. The reference cited here is p. 290 in this English translation.
[54. ]Bukharin, Das Programm der Kommunisten (Bolschewiki) (Zurich, 1918), pp. 24 ff. Publisher’s Note: For an English translation, see Program of the Communists, Bolshevists, 1918.
[55. ]As is the opinion of Kelsen, “Vom Wesen und Wert der Demokratie,” in Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, vol. 47, P. 84; also Menzel, “Demokratie und Weltanschauung,” in Zeitschrift für öffentliches Recht, vol. 2, pp. 701 ff.