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Published on March 13th, 2014 | by Jack Howlett
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‘Socialism’ – Why such a dirty word?

We currently live in a western world dominated by free market liberalism. At the forefront of western values is the primacy of the individual, the dominance of the market and the retraction of the state from our lives. However, it hasn’t always been like that. In fact, this is a fairly modern concept in the history of Britain. The post war Labour Government was very much a ‘democratic socialist’ government. It seems unthinkable in the 21st century that we could have a socialist government in power. Socialism has become a dirty word within politics, but why? I wanted to reflect on what exactly ‘socialism’ has brought to Britain. And the truth is, it brought some of our most prized and celebrated institutions.

To start, I wanted to address why I believe socialism has become such a taboo within mainstream politics. And to some degree, it is understandable why socialism seems such a scary concept in Britain. Firstly, the failings of the Soviet regime in Eastern Europe pushed a lot of people away from the idea of socialism. I mean, who would want to live in a society like that? And secondly, after the problems of the 1970’s and 11 years of a Thatcher government, the ideas of socialism were long banished, and replaced with what we would see as the ‘norm’ today. But, I don’t believe socialism should be as such a scary concept as the mainstream would want to make out. For the first time since Blair, we are starting to see Ed Miliband define the Labour Party as a ‘democratic socialist’ party. And of course, you can imagine how shocked and appalled the right wing press were on this. The idea that a ‘socialist party’ could be in government? How obscene. Well no, I don’t think this should be as such a scary concept. We don’t have to look very far into British history to see how socialism has affected us, and for me, in a very positive way.

The Attlee Government of 1945-51, however you want to define it, was a socialist government. In the 5 years in government, we saw heavy nationalisation of industry, Keynesian economics and more importantly, the greater expansion social services to create we would now call the welfare state. Included was the creation of the National Health Service, and the expansion of National Insurance within Britain. Today, these institutions seem a given. We have always had these institutions throughout our lifetime, and today they are adopted and celebrated by all parties whether conservative, liberal or socialist. But the truth is, these institutions were build upon socialist values. The values of community, cooperation and a level of equality within our society.

So, therefore, it seems a strange for me that socialism has become such a dirty word in mainstream British politics. Without socialism, Britain would not be what it is today. Socialism shouldn’t be demonized the way it is, as some evil that needs to be exiled. Socialism isn’t a dirty word. We should celebrate what socialism has brought to Britain, because without it, we’d look a whole lot different.

 

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About the Author

Currently studying Political Science at the University of Birmingham. Aiming to pursue a career in policy research within a Think tank after I graduate.



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