Socialist state

Last updated

A socialist state, socialist republic, or socialist country, sometimes referred to as a workers' state or workers' republic, is a sovereign state constitutionally dedicated to the establishment of socialism. The term "communist state" is often used interchangeably in the West specifically when referring to single-party socialist states governed by Marxist–Leninist, or Titoist in case of Yugoslavia political parties, despite these countries being officially socialist states in the process of building socialism. These countries never describe themselves as communist nor as having implemented a communist society. [1] [2] [3] Additionally, a number of countries which are not single-party states based on Marxism–Leninism make reference to socialism in their constitutions; in most cases these are constitutional references alluding to the building of a socialist society that have little to no bearing on the structure and development paths of these countries' political and economic systems.[ vague ]

Sovereign state Political organization with a centralized independent government

In international law, a sovereign state, sovereign country, or simply state, is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood that a sovereign state is neither dependent on nor subjected to any other power or state.

State (polity) Organised community living under a system of government; either a sovereign state, constituent state, or federated state

The term state refers to a form of polity that is typically characterised as a centralized organisation. There is no single, undisputed definition of what constitutes a state. A widely-used definition is a state being a polity that, within a given territory, maintains a monopoly on the use of force, but many other widely used definitions exist.

Constitution Set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed

A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity, and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed.


The idea of a socialist state stems from the broader notion of state socialism, the political perspective that the working class needs to use state power and government policy to establish a socialist economic system. The concept of a socialist state is mainly advocated by Leninists and Marxist-Leninists, and most socialist states have been established by political parties adhering to variations of these political ideologies. The concept of a socialist state is considered unnecessary or counterproductive and therefore rejected by some classical Marxists, libertarian socialists and political thinkers who view the modern state as a byproduct of capitalism which would therefore have no function in a socialist system. [4] Libertarian socialists and socialist anarchists reject the idea that the state can be used to establish a socialist society due to its hierarchical and arguably coercive nature.

State socialism is a classification for any socialist political and economic perspective advocating state ownership of the means of production either as a temporary measure in the transition from capitalism to socialism, or as characteristic of socialism itself. It is often used interchangeably with state capitalism in reference to the economic systems of Marxist–Leninist states such as the Soviet Union to highlight the role of state planning in these economies, with the critics of said system referring to it more commonly as "state capitalism". Libertarian and democratic socialists claim that these states had only a limited number of socialist characteristics. However, Marxist–Leninists maintain that workers in the Soviet Union and other Marxist–Leninist states had genuine control over the means of production through institutions such as trade unions.

Classical Marxism economic, philosophical, and sociological theories expounded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Classical Marxism refers to the economic, philosophical and sociological theories expounded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as contrasted with later developments in Marxism, especially Leninism and Marxism–Leninism.

Libertarian socialism, also referred to as anarcho-socialism or stateless socialism and socialist libertarianism, is a set of anti-authoritarian and anti-statist political philosophies within the socialist movement which rejects the conception of socialism as a form where the state retains centralized control of the economy. Libertarian socialism is seen as a synonym for anarchism and libertarianism, is close to and overlaps with left-libertarianism and criticizes wage labour relationships within the workplace, instead emphasizing workers' self-management and control of the workplace and decentralized structures of political organization.

Socialist states in the Marxist-Leninist sense are sovereign states under the control of a vanguard party which is organizing the country's economic, political and social development toward the realization of socialism. Economically this involves the development of a state capitalist economy with state-directed capital accumulation with the long-term goal of building up the country's productive forces while simultaneously promoting worldwide socialist revolution. [5] [6]

Capital accumulation is the dynamic that motivates the pursuit of profit, involving the investment of money or any financial asset with the goal of increasing the initial monetary value of said asset as a financial return whether in the form of profit, rent, interest, royalties or capital gains. The process of capital accumulation forms the basis of capitalism, and is one of the defining characteristics of a capitalist economic system.

Productive forces

Productive forces, productive powers, or forces of production is a central idea in Marxism and historical materialism.

World communism is a form of communism which has an international scope. The long-term goal of world communism is a worldwide communist society that is stateless, which may be achieved through an intermediate-term goal of either a voluntary association of sovereign states or a world government. A series of internationals have worked toward world communism and they have included the First International, the Second International, the Third International, the Fourth International, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the World Socialist Movement and variant offshoots. These are a quite heterogeneous group despite their common ultimate goal of a stateless and global communist society.

A socialist state is to be distinguished from a multi-party liberal democracy governed by a self-described socialist party, where the state is not constitutionally bound to the construction of socialism. In such cases, the political system and machinery of government is not specifically structured to pursue the development of socialism.

A multi-party system is a political system in which multiple political parties across the political spectrum run for national election, and all have the capacity to gain control of government offices, separately or in coalition. Apart from one-party-dominant and two-party systems, multi-party systems tend to be more common in parliamentary systems than presidential systems and far more common in countries that use proportional representation compared to countries that use first-past-the-post elections.

Liberal democracy form of government

Liberal democracy is a liberal political ideology and a form of government in which representative democracy operates under the principles of classical liberalism. Also called Western democracy, it is characterised by elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into different branches of government, the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, a market economy with private property and the equal protection of human rights, civil rights, civil liberties and political freedoms for all people. To define the system in practice, liberal democracies often draw upon a constitution, either formally written or uncodified, to delineate the powers of government and enshrine the social contract. After a period of sustained expansion throughout the 20th century, liberal democracy became the predominant political system in the world.

In geopolitics, a political system defines the process for making official government decisions. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems. However, this is a very simplified view of a much more complex system of categories involving the questions of who should have authority and what the government influence on its people and economy should.


The term "Socialist state" is widely used by Marxist-Leninist parties, theorists, and governments to mean a state under the control of a vanguard party that is organizing the economic, social, and political affairs of said state toward the construction of socialism. States run by Communist parties that adhere to Marxism–Leninism, or some variation thereof, refer to themselves as "Socialist states" or "workers' states". They involve the direction of economic development toward the building up of the productive forces to underpin the establishment of a socialist economy, and usually include that at least the commanding heights of the economy are nationalized and under state ownership. [7] [6] This may or may not include the existence of a socialist economy, depending on the specific terminology adopted and level of development in specific countries. For example, the Leninist definition of a socialist state is a state representing the interests of the working class which presides over a state capitalist economy structured upon state-directed accumulation of capital, with the goal of building up the country's productive forces and promoting worldwide socialist revolution, with the realization of a socialist economy as the long-term goal. [6]

The commanding heights of the economy refers to existing private industry essential to the economy like public utilities, natural resources, heavy industry and transport as well as control over foreign and domestic trade. This phrase emerged from a branch of modern political philosophy concerned with organising society and can be traced back to Karl Marx's idea on socialism which stresses the commanding heights and advocates for government control of it. This should not be confused with complete socialism or communism.

State ownership

State ownership is the ownership of an industry, asset, or enterprise by the state or a public body representing a community as opposed to an individual or private party. Public ownership specifically refers to industries selling goods and services to consumers and differs from public goods and government services financed out of a government’s general budget. Public ownership can take place at the national, regional, local, or municipal levels of government; or can refer to non-governmental public ownership vested in autonomous public enterprises. Public ownership is one of the three major forms of property ownership, differentiated from private, collective/cooperative, and common ownership.

Because all socialist states operated along Marxist-Leninist principles of governance, the term "Marxist-Leninist state" or "Marxist-Leninist regime" is also used by scholars, particularly when focusing on the political systems of these countries. [8]

In the Western world, particularly in mass media, journalism and politics, these states and countries are often called "Communist states" (though they do not use this term to refer to themselves), despite the fact that these countries never claimed to have achieved communism in their countries—rather, they claim to be building and working toward the establishment of socialism (and the development towards communism thereafter) in their countries.

Political theories

Marxist theory of the state

Karl Marx and subsequent thinkers in the Marxist tradition conceive of the state as representing the interests of the ruling class, partially out of material necessity for the smooth operation of the modes of production it presides over. Marxists trace the formation of the contemporary form of the sovereign state to the emergence of capitalism as a dominant mode of production, with its organizational precepts and functions designed specifically to manage and regulate the affairs of a capitalist economy. Because this involves governance and laws passed in the interest of the bourgeoisie as a whole and because government officials either come from the bourgeoisie or are dependent upon their interests, Marx characterized the capitalist state as a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Extrapolating from this, Marx described a post-revolutionary government on the part of the working class or proletariat as a dictatorship of the proletariat because the economic interests of the proletariat would have to guide state affairs and policy during a transitional state. Alluding further to the establishment of a socialist and communist economy where social ownership displaces private ownership, and thus class distinctions on the basis of private property ownership are eliminated, the modern state would have no function and would gradually "whither away" or be transformed into a new form of governance.

Influenced by the pre-Marxist utopian socialist philosopher Henri de Saint-Simon, Friedrich Engels theorized the nature of the state would change during the transition to socialism. Both Saint-Simon and Engels described a transformation of the state from an entity primarily concerned with political rule over people (via coercion and law creation) to a scientific "administration of things" that would be concerned with directing processes of production in a socialist society, essentially ceasing to be a state. [9] [10]

Although Marx never referred to a "Socialist state", he argued that the working class would have to take control of the state apparatus and machinery of government in order to transition out of capitalism and to socialism. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" would represent this transitional state and would involve working class interests dominating government policy in the same manner that capitalist class interests dominate government policy under capitalism (the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie). Engels argued that as socialism developed, the state would change in form and function: under socialism it is not a "government of people, but the administration of things", thereby ceasing to be a state by the traditional definition.

One of the most influential modern visions of a transitional state representing proletarian interests was based on the Paris Commune in which the workers and working poor took control of the city of Paris in 1871 in reaction to the Franco-Prussian War. Marx described the Paris Commune as the prototype for a revolutionary government of the future, "the form at last discovered" for the emancipation of the proletariat. [11] Engels noted that "all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers. [...] In this way an effective barrier to place-hunting and careerism was set up". [12] Commenting on the nature of the state, Engels continued: "From the outset the Commune was compelled to recognize that the working class, once come to power, could not manage with the old state machine". In order not to be overthrown once having conquered power, Engels argues that the working class "must, on the one hand, do away with all the old repressive machinery previously used against it itself, and, on the other, safeguard itself against its own deputies and officials, by declaring them all, without exception, subject to recall at any moment". [13] Engels argued such a state would be a temporary affair and suggested a new generation brought up in "new and free social conditions" will be able to "throw the entire lumber of the state on the scrap-heap".

Reform and revolution

Socialists that embraced reformism, exemplified by Eduard Bernstein, took the view that both socialism and a socialist state will gradually evolve out of political reforms won in the organized socialist political parties and unions: "The socialist movement is everything to me while what people commonly call the goal of Socialism is nothing". [14] These views are considered a "revision" of Marxist thought.

Following Marx, revolutionary socialists take the view that the working class grows stronger through its battle for reforms (such as in Marx's time the ten-hours bill):

Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. [...] [I]t ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. It compels legislative recognition of particular interests of the workers, by taking advantage of the divisions among the bourgeoisie itself. Thus, the ten-hours' bill in England was carried.

According to the orthodox Marxist conception, these battles eventually reach a point where a revolutionary movement arises. A revolutionary movement is required in the view of Marxists to sweep away the capitalist state and the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie", which must be abolished and replaced with a "dictatorship of the proletariat" in order to being constructing a socialist society:

In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto [15]

In this view, only through revolution can a socialist state be established.

Marxist–Leninism theory


Whereas Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and classical Marxist thinkers had little to say about the organization of the state in a socialist society, presuming the modern state to be specific to the capitalist mode of production, Vladimir Lenin pioneered the idea of a revolutionary state based on his theory of the revolutionary Vanguard party and organizational principles of democratic centralism. Adapted to the conditions of semi-feudal Russia, Lenin's concept of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" involved a revolutionary vanguard party acting as representatives of the proletariat and its interests. According to Lenin's April Theses, the goal of the revolution and vanguard party is not the introduction of socialism, which could only be established on a worldwide scale, but to bring production and the state under the control of the soviets of workers' deputies. Following the October Revolution in Russia, the Bolsheviks consolidated their power and sought to control and direct the social and economic affairs of the state and broader Russian society in order to safeguard against counterrevolutionary insurrection, foreign invasion and to promote socialist consciousness among the Russian population while simultaneously promoting economic development. [5]

These ideas were adopted by Lenin in 1917 just prior to the October Revolution in Russia and published in The State and Revolution . With the failure of the worldwide revolution, or at least European revolution, envisaged by Lenin and Leon Trotsky, the Russian Civil War and finally Lenin's death, war measures that were deemed to be temporary, such as forced requisition of food and the lack of democratic control, became permanent and a tool to boost Joseph Stalin's power,[ citation needed ] leading to the emergence of Marxism–Leninism and Stalinism as well as the notion that socialism can be created and exist in a single state.

Lenin argued that as socialism is replaced by communism, the state would "wither away" [16] as strong centralized control progressively reduces as local communities gain more empowerment. As he put succinctly, "[s]o long as the state exists there is no freedom. When there is freedom, there will be no state".


Following Joseph Stalin's consolidation of power in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and centralization of political power, Leon Trotsky condemned the Soviet government's policies for lacking widespread democratic participation on the part of the population and for suppressing workers' democratic participation in the management of the economy. Because these authoritarian political measures were inconsistent with the organizational precepts of socialism, Trotsky characterized the Soviet Union as a "deformed workers' state" that would not be able to effectively transition to socialism.

Ostensibly socialist states where democracy is lacking, yet the economy is largely in the hands of the state, are termed by orthodox Trotskyist theories as "workers' states" and not Socialist states, [17] using the terms "degenerated" or "deformed" workers' states.


The political systems of Marxist-Leninist states revolve around the central role of the party which holds ultimate authority. Internally the party practices a form of democracy called democratic centralism. [18]


The first socialist state was the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, established in 1917. [19] In 1922, it merged with the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, and Transcaucasian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic into a single federal union - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Soviet Union proclaimed itself a socialist state and proclaimed its commitment to building a socialist economy in its 1936 Constitution and a subsequent 1977 Constitution. It was governed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as a single-party state ostensibly with a democratic centralism organization, with Marxism-Leninism remaining its official guiding ideology until the Soviet Union's dissolution on December 26, 1991. During the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1961, Nikita Khrushchev announced the completion of socialist construction and declared the optimistic goal of achieving communism in 20 years. The Eastern Bloc was a political and economic bloc of Soviet-aligned socialist states in Eastern and Central Europe which adhered to Marxism-Leninism, Soviet-style governance and a Soviet-style command economy.

The People's Republic of China was founded on September 24, 1949, and proclaims itself to be a "Socialist state" in its 1982 constitution.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) used to be a Marxist–Leninist state. In 1972, the country adopted a new Constitution which changed the official state ideology to Juche , which is held to be a distinct Korean re-interpretation of the former ideology. [20] Similarly in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, direct references to communism are not included in its founding documents even though it gives direct power to the governing ruling party, the Marxist-Leninist Lao People's Revolutionary Party.

The preamble to the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam states that Vietnam only entered a transition stage between capitalism and socialism after the country was re-unified under the Communist party in 1976 [21] and the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Cuba states that the role of the Communist Party is to "guide the common effort toward the goals and construction of socialism (and the progress toward a communist society)". [22]

Constitutional references to socialism

A number of countries make reference to socialism in their constitutions that are not single-party states embracing Marxism-Leninism and planned economies. In most cases these are constitutional references to the building of a socialist society and political principles that have little to no bearing on the structure and guidance of these country's machinery of government and economic system.

The preamble to the 1976 Constitution of Portugal states that the Portuguese state has as one of its goals opening "the way to socialist society". [23]

India, Algeria, Congo Brazaville and Sri Lanka have directly used the term "socialist" in their official constitution and name, respectively.

Poland and Hungary directly denounce "Communism" in their founding documents in reference to their past regimes. [24] [25]

In these cases, the intended meaning of "socialism" can vary widely and sometimes the constitutional references to socialism are left over from a previous period in the country's history. In the case of many Middle Eastern states, "socialism" was often used in reference to an Arab socialist/nationalist philosophy adopted by specific regimes, such as that of Gamal Abdel Nasser and that of the various Ba'ath Parties.

Examples of countries directly using the word "socialist" in their names include the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam while a number of countries make references to socialism in their constitutions, but not in their names. These include India [26] and Portugal. In the constitutions of Hungary, Poland and Croatia, direct condemnation is made to the respective, past socialist regimes. The autonomous region of Rojava, which operates under the principles of democratic confederalism, has been described as a socialist state. [27]

Other uses

In the post-war period when nationalisation of large industries was relatively widespread, it was not uncommon for commentators to describe some European countries as "Socialist states" seeking to move their countries toward a socialist economy.

In 1956, for example, leading British Labour Party politician and author Anthony Crosland claimed that capitalism had been abolished in Britain, although others—such as Welshman Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health in the first post-war Labour government—disputed the claim that Britain was a socialist state. [28] [29] For Crosland and others who supported his views, Britain was a socialist state. For Bevan, Britain had a socialist National Health Service which stood in opposition to the hedonism of Britain's capitalist society. He stated:

The National Health service and the Welfare State have come to be used as interchangeable terms, and in the mouths of some people as terms of reproach. Why this is so it is not difficult to understand, if you view everything from the angle of a strictly individualistic competitive society. A free health service is pure Socialism and as such it is opposed to the hedonism of capitalist society.

When the Socialist Party was in power in France in the post-war period, some commentators[ who? ] claimed that France was a socialist country, although as in the rest of Europe the laws of capitalism still operated fully and private enterprises dominated the economy. In the 1980s, the François Mitterrand government aimed to expand dirigism and scheduled to nationalize all banks, but this attempt faced opposition of the European Economic Community. The same is now applied to Nordic countries with the Nordic model.

In France and the United Kingdom during the height of nationalization in the 1960s and 1970s, public ownership never accounted for more than 15–20% of capital formation, which dropped to 8% in the 1980s in the developed non-socialist countries of the world. [31]

List of current socialist states


CountrySinceDurationPartyHead of partyHead of stateHead of government
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  People's Republic of China [note 1] 1 October 194969 years, 311 days Communist Party of China Xi Jinping
(since 2012)
Li Keqiang
(since 2012)
Flag of Cuba.svg  Republic of Cuba 1 July 196653 years, 38 days Communist Party of Cuba Raúl Castro
(since 2006)
Miguel Díaz-Canel
(since 2018)
Flag of Laos.svg  Lao People's Democratic Republic 2 December 197543 years, 249 days Lao People's Revolutionary Party Bounnhang Vorachith
(since 2016)
Thongloun Sisoulith
(since 2016)
Flag of Vietnam.svg  Socialist Republic of Vietnam 2 September 1945 (North)
2 July 1976 (reunification)
73 years, 340 days total
43 years, 37 days since reunification
Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyễn Phú Trọng
(since 2011)
Nguyễn Xuân Phúc
(since 2016)


CountrySinceDuration Form of government Constitutional
Flag of Algeria.svg  People's Democratic Republic of Algeria 28 November 199622 years, 253 days Multi-party system Preamble: "Gathered in the national movement and later within the National Front of Liberation, the Algerian people have made great sacrifices in order to assume their collective destiny in the framework of recovered freedom and cultural identity and to build authentic people’s democratic constitutional institutions.

The National Front of Liberation crowned the sacrifices of the best sons of Algeria during the people’s war of liberation with independence and built a modern and full sovereign State." [32] The National Liberation Front is a political party based on Arab Socialism. [33]

Flag of Bangladesh.svg  People's Republic of Bangladesh 11 April 197148 years, 119 days Multi-party parliamentary republic Preamble: "Further pledging that it shall be a fundamental aim of the State to realise through the democratic process, a socialist society free from exploitation, a society in which the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedoms, equality and justice, political, economic and social, will be secured for all citizens" [34]
Flag of Guyana.svg  Co-operative Republic of Guyana 6 October 198038 years, 306 days Multi-party presidential republic Preamble: "Convinced that the organisation of the State and society on socialist principles is the only means of ensuring social and economic justice for all of the people of Guyana; and, therefore, being motivated and guided by the principles of socialism" [35]
Flag of India.svg  Republic of India 18 December 1976 [36] 42 years, 233 days Multi-party federal parliamentary republic Preamble: "We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens" [37]
Flag of Myanmar.svg  Republic of the Union of Myanmar 18 December 197645 years, 159 days Multi-party system Preamble: "In order to gain independence speedily, the Constitution was hastily drafted, and it was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 24th September 1947. After attaining independence, Parliamentary Democracy System was practised in the State in accord with the Constitution of the Union of Myanmar. However, as democratic system could not be effectively materialized, the new Constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Myanmar was drafted based on the single party system, and after holding a National Referendum, a socialist democratic State was set up in 1974. [38]
Flag of North Korea.svg Democratic People's Republic of Korea 19 February 199270 years, 333 days total
27 years, 170 days since revision
Unitary one-party republic Preamble: "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the socialist motherland of Juche , which has applied the idea and leadership of Kim Il-sung" [39]
Flag of Nepal.svg    Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal 20 September 20153 years, 322 days Multi-party federal parliamentary republic Section 1, Article 4: "Nepal is an independent, indivisible, sovereign, secular, inclusive democratic, socialism-oriented federal democratic republican state"
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Republic of Nicaragua 1 January 198732 years, 219 days Multi-party presidential republic Section 1, Article 5: "Liberty, justice, respect for the dignity of the human person, political and social pluralism, the recognition of the distinct identity of the indigenous peoples and those of African descent within the framework of a unitary and indivisible state, the recognition of different forms of property, free international cooperation and respect for the free self-determination of peoples, Christian values, socialist ideals, and practices based on solidarity, and the values and ideals of the Nicaraguan culture and identity, are the principles of the Nicaraguan nation.[...] The socialist ideals promote the common good over individual egoism, seeking to create an ever more inclusive, just and fair society, promoting an economic democracy which redistributes national wealth and eliminates exploitation among human beings."
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portuguese Republic 2 April 197643 years, 128 days Multi-party semi-presidential republic Preamble: "The Constituent Assembly affirms the Portuguese people's decision to [...] open up a path towards a socialist society" [40]
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg  Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka 7 September 197840 years, 335 days Multi-party semi-presidential republic Preamble: "[...] to constitute Sri Lanka into a democratic socialist republic whilst ratifying the immutable republican principles of representative democracy, and assuring to all peoples freedom, equality, justice, fundamental human rights and the independence of the judiciary" [41]
Flag of Tanzania.svg  United Republic of Tanzania 26 April 196455 years, 104 days Dominant-party semi-presidential republic Section 1, Article 3: "The United Republic is a democratic, secular and socialist state which adheres to multi-party democracy" [42]

Controversy with the term

A variety of non-state socialist positions—such as social anarchism, libertarian socialism and council communism—reject the concept of a "Socialist state" altogether, believing that the modern state is a byproduct of capitalism and cannot be used for the establishment of a socialist system. They reason that a "Socialist state" is antithetical to socialism and that socialism will emerge spontaneously from the grassroots level in an evolutionary manner, developing its own unique political and economic institutions for a highly organized stateless society. Anarcho-communists likewise reject the concept of a "Socialist state" for being antithetical to socialism, but they believe that socialism—and thus communism—can only be established through revolution and dissolving the existence of the state.[ citation needed ]

Within the socialist movement, a number of criticisms are maintained towards the use of the term "Socialist states" in relation to countries such as China and previously of Soviet Union and Eastern and Central European states before what some term the "collapse of Stalinism" in 1989. Democratic socialists, left communists, [43] anarchists and some Trotskyists [44] claim that the so-called "Socialist states" or "people's states" actually presided over state capitalist economies and thus cannot be called "socialist".[ citation needed ]

Other Trotskyists, while agreeing that these states could not be described as socialist, deny that they were state capitalist. [45] They support Trotsky's analysis of (pre-restoration) Soviet Union as a workers' state that had degenerated into a "monstrous" bureaucratic dictatorship which rested on a largely nationalized industry run according to a plan of production and claimed that the former Stalinist states of Central and Eastern Europe were deformed workers' states based on the same relations of production as the Soviet Union.[ citation needed ]

See also


  1. Not including Hong Kong and Macau, under official policy. See One country, two systems.

Related Research Articles

Leninism political, social, and economic theory developed by Vladimir Lenin

Leninism is the political theory for the organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party and the achievement of a dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism. Developed by and named for the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Leninism comprises socialist political and economic theories, developed from Marxism and Lenin's interpretations of Marxist theories, for practical application to the socio-political conditions of the Russian Empire of the early 20th century.

In political science, Marxism–Leninism was the official state ideology of the Soviet Union (USSR), of the parties of the Communist International, after Bolshevisation; and is the ideology of Stalinist political parties. The purpose of Marxism–Leninism is the revolutionary transformation of a capitalist state into a socialist state, by way of two-stage revolution, which is led by a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries, drawn from the proletariat. To realise the two-stage transformation of the state, the vanguard party establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat, which determines policy through democratic centralism.

State capitalism is an economic system in which the state undertakes commercial economic activity and where the means of production are organized and managed as state-owned business enterprises, or where there is otherwise a dominance of corporatized government agencies or of publicly listed corporations in which the state has controlling shares. Marxist literature defines state capitalism as a social system combining capitalism with ownership or control by a state—by this definition, a state capitalist country is one where the government controls the economy and essentially acts like a single huge corporation, extracting the surplus value from the workforce in order to invest it in further production. This designation applies regardless of the political aims of the state, and some people argue that the modern People's Republic of China constitutes a form of state capitalism.

Communist state State that aims to achieve socialism and then communism

A Communist state is a state that is administered and governed by a single party, guided by Marxist–Leninist philosophy.

Amadeo Bordiga Italian politician

Amadeo Bordiga was an Italian Marxist, a contributor to communist theory, the founder of the Communist Party of Italy (CPd'I), a leader of the Communist International (Comintern) and later a leading figure of the International Communist Party. Bordiga was originally associated with the CPd'I, but he was expelled in 1930 after being accused of Trotskyism.

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working-class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Bordigism current of left communism influenced by the thought of Amadeo Bordiga

Bordigism is a variant of left communism espoused by Marxist Amadeo Bordiga, who was a founder of the Communist Party of Italy and a prominent figure in the International Communist Party. Bordigists in the Italian Socialist Party would be the first to refuse on principle any participation in parliamentary elections.

Democracy in Marxism

While Marxists propose replacing the bourgeois state with a proletarian semi-state through revolution, which would eventually wither away, anarchists warn that the state must be abolished along with capitalism. Nonetheless, the desired end results, a stateless, communal society, are the same.

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

The ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was Marxism–Leninism, an ideology of a centralised, planned economy and a vanguardist one-party state, which was the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Soviet Union's ideological commitment to achieving communism included the development socialism in one country and peaceful coexistence with capitalist countries while engaging in anti-imperialism to defend the international proletariat, combat capitalism and promote the goals of communism. The state ideology of the Soviet Union—and thus Marxism–Leninism—derived and developed from the theories, policies and political praxis of Lenin and Stalin.

The theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is a broad term for political theories and policies that are seen by their proponents as representing Marxism–Leninism adapted to Chinese circumstances and specific time periods. For instance, in this view Xi Jinping Thought is considered to represent Marxist–Leninist policies suited for China's present condition while Deng Xiaoping Theory was considered relevant for the period when it was formulated.

Socialist mode of production

In Marxist theory, the socialist mode of production, also referred to as lower-stage of communism or simply socialism as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably, refers to a specific historical phase of economic development and its corresponding set of social relations that emerge from capitalism in the schema of historical materialism. The Marxist definition of socialism is an economic transition where the sole criterion for production is use-value and therefore the law of value no longer directs economic activity. Marxist production for use is coordinated through conscious economic planning while distribution of products is based on the principle of "to each according to his contribution". The social relations of socialism are characterized by the proletariat effectively controlling the means of production, either through cooperative enterprises or by public ownership or private artisanal tools and self-management so that social surplus goes to the working class and hence society as a whole.

Revolutionary socialism is the socialist doctrine that social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. Revolutionary socialists believe such a state of affairs is a precondition for establishing socialism and orthodox Marxists believe that it is inevitable but not predetermined.

Dictatorship of the proletariat Marxist political concept

In Marxist philosophy, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a state of affairs in which the working class hold political power. Proletarian dictatorship is the intermediate stage between a capitalist economy and a communist economy, whereby the government nationalises ownership of the means of production from private to collective ownership. The socialist revolutionary Joseph Weydemeyer coined the term "dictatorship of the proletariat", which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels adopted to their philosophy and economics. The Paris Commune (1871), which controlled the capital city for two months, before being suppressed, was an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In Marxist philosophy, the term "Dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" is the antonym to "dictatorship of the proletariat".

Anti-revisionism is a position within Marxism–Leninism which emerged in the 1950s in opposition to the reforms of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Where Khrushchev pursued an interpretation of Leninism that differed from his predecessor Joseph Stalin, the anti-revisionists within the international communist movement remained dedicated to Stalin's ideological legacy and criticized the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and his successors as state capitalist and social imperialist due largely to its hopes of achieving peace with the United States. The term Stalinism is also used to describe these positions, but it is often not used by its supporters who opine that Stalin simply synthesized and practiced Leninism. Because different political trends trace the historical roots of revisionism to different eras and leaders, there is significant disagreement today as to what constitutes anti-revisionism. As a result, modern groups which describe themselves as anti-revisionist fall into several categories. Some uphold the works of Stalin and Mao Zedong and some the works of Stalin while rejecting Mao and universally tend to oppose Trotskyism. Others reject both Stalin and Mao, tracing their ideological roots back to Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. In addition, other groups uphold various less-well-known historical leaders such as Enver Hoxha.

Socialism in One Country political theory by Joseph Stalin

Socialism in one country was a theory put forth by Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin in 1924 which was eventually adopted by the Soviet Union as state policy. The theory held that given the defeat of all the communist revolutions in Europe in 1917–1923 except Russia, the Soviet Union should begin to strengthen itself internally. This turn toward national communism was a shift from the previously held position by classical Marxism that socialism must be established globally. However, proponents of the theory argue that it contradicts neither world revolution nor world communism. The theory was in opposition to Leon Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution.

Anti-Leninism opposition to Leninism

Anti-Leninism is opposition to the political philosophy Leninism as advocated by Vladimir Lenin.

Proletarian internationalism Marxist social class concept

Proletarian internationalism, sometimes referred to as international socialism, is the perception of all communist revolutions as being part of a single global class struggle rather than separate localized events. It is based on the theory that capitalism is a world-system and therefore the working classes of all nations must act in concert if they are to replace it with communism. Proponents of proletarian internationalism often argued that the objectives of a given revolution should be global rather than local in scope—for example, triggering or perpetuating revolutions elsewhere.


  1. Wilczynski, J. (2008). The Economics of Socialism after World War Two: 1945–1990. Aldine Transaction. p. 21. ISBN   978-0202362281. Contrary to Western usage, these countries describe themselves as 'Socialist' (not 'Communist'). The second stage (Marx's 'higher phase'), or 'Communism' is to be marked by an age of plenty, distribution according to needs (not work), the absence of money and the market mechanism, the disappearance of the last vestiges of capitalism and the ultimate 'whithering away' of the State.
  2. Steele, David Ramsay (September 1999). From Marx to Mises: Post Capitalist Society and the Challenge of Economic Calculation. Open Court. p. 45. ISBN   978-0875484495. Among Western journalists the term 'Communist' came to refer exclusively to regimes and movements associated with the Communist International and its offspring: regimes which insisted that they were not communist but socialist, and movements which were barely communist in any sense at all.
  3. Rosser, Mariana V. and J Barkley Jr. (July 23, 2003). Comparative Economics in a Transforming World Economy. MIT Press. p. 14. ISBN   978-0262182348. Ironically, the ideological father of communism, Karl Marx, claimed that communism entailed the withering away of the state. The dictatorship of the proletariat was to be a strictly temporary phenomenon. Well aware of this, the Soviet Communists never claimed to have achieved communism, always labeling their own system socialist rather than communist and viewing their system as in transition to communism.
  4. Schumpeter, Joseph (2008). Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Harper Perennial. p. 169. ISBN   978-0-06-156161-0. But there are still others (concepts and institutions) which by virtue of their nature cannot stand transplantation and always carry the flavor of a particular institutional framework. It is extremely dangerous, in fact it amounts to a distortion of historical description, to use them beyond the social world or culture whose denizens they are. Now ownership or property – also, so I believe, taxation – are such denizens of the world of commercial society, exactly as knights and fiefs are denizens of the feudal world. But so is the state (a denizen of commercial society).
  5. 1 2 Richard Fleming. "Lenin's Conception of Socialism: Learning from the early experiences of the world's first socialist revolution". Forward, Vol. 9, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1989. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  6. 1 2 3 Lenin's Collected Works Vol. 27, p. 293, quoted by Aufheben Archived 2004-03-18 at the Wayback Machine .
  7. C.J. Atkins, 'The Problem of Transition: Development, Socialism and Lenin's NEP', Political Affairs Magazine, April 2009, accessed 30/7/09
  8. Furtak, Robert K. Political Systems of the Socialist States: An Introduction to Marxist-Leninist Regimes, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1986, ISBN   978-0745000480.
  9. Encyclopædia Britannica, Saint Simon; Socialism
  10. Engels, Friedrich (1880). "1". Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. Retrieved 12 January 2016. In 1816, he declares that politics is the science of production, and foretells the complete absorption of politics by economics. The knowledge that economic conditions are the basis of political institutions appears here only in embryo. Yet what is here already very plainly expressed is the idea of the future conversion of political rule over men into an administration of things and a direction of processes of production.
  11. Marx, The Civil War in France (1871)
  12. Marx, The Civil War in France (1871), 1891 Introduction by Friedrich Engels, 'On the 20th Anniversary of the Paris Commune'
  13. Engels, Friedrich (18 March 1891). "The Civil War in France (1891 Introduction)". Retrieved 2015-12-25.
  14. Steger, Manfred. Selected Writings Of Eduard Bernstein, 1920–1921. New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1996.
  15. 1 2 Chapter I. Bourgeois and Proletarians.
  16. Lenin, Vladimir, The State and Revolution, p70, cf, Chapter V, The economic basis for the withering away of the state.
  17. Leon Trotsky, The Workers’ State, Thermidor and Bonapartism, (February 1935), New International (New York), Vol.2 No.4, July 1935, ppp.116–122. Trotsky argues that the Soviet Union was, at that time, a "deformed workers' state" or degenerated workers' state, and not a socialist republic or state, because the "bureaucracy wrested the power from the hands of mass organizations," thereby necessitating only political revolution rather than a completely new social revolution, for workers' political control (i.e. state democracy) to be reclaimed. He argued that it remained, at base, a workers' state because the capitalists and landlords had been expropriated. accessed 30/7/09
  18. Furtak, Robert K. Political Systems of the Socialist States: An Introduction to Marxist-Leninist Regimes, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1986, ISBN   978-0745000480.
  19. Jones, R. J. Barry (2002). Routledge Encyclopedia of International Political Economy, Volume 3. Routledge. p. 1461. ISBN   9781136927393.
  20. "Juche is Third Position ideology built on Marx – Not Marxist-Leninism". Free Media Productions – Editorials. 2009-08-30. Retrieved 2015-12-25.
  21. VN Embassy – Constitution of 1992 Archived 2011-07-09 at the Wayback Machine Full Text. From the Preamble: "On 2 July 1976, the National Assembly of reunified Vietnam decided to change the country's name to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; the country entered a period of transition to socialism, strove for national construction, and unyieldingly defended its frontiers while fulfilling its internationalist duty."
  22. Cubanet – Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, 1992 Archived 2011-07-09 at the Wayback Machine Full Text. From Article 5: "The Communist Party of Cuba, a follower of Martí’s ideas and of Marxism–Leninism, and the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest leading force of society and of the state, which organizes and guides the common effort toward the goals of the construction of socialism and the progress toward a communist society,"
  23. The Preamble to the 1976 Constitution of Portugal stated: "The Constituent Assembly affirms the Portuguese people's decision to defend their national independence, safeguard the fundamental rights of citizens, establish the basic principles of democracy, secure the primacy of the rule of law in a democratic state, and open the way to socialist society."
  24. LL.M., Prof. Dr. Axel Tschentscher. "ICL – Poland Index".
  25. LL.M., Prof. Dr. Axel Tschentscher. "ICL – Croatia Index".
  26. The Preamble of the Constitution of India reads : "We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic..." See Preamble to the Constitution of India.
  27. Derek Wall (2014-08-25). "Rojava: a beacon of hope fighting Isis". Morning Star. Archived from the original on 2016-01-05. Retrieved 2015-12-25.
  28. "The Managerial Society Part Three — Fabian Version". Socialist Standard. The Socialist Party of Great Britain (641). January 1958. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  29. Crosland, Anthony, The Future of Socialism, pp.9, 89. Constable (2006); Bevan, Aneurin, In place of Fear.
  30. In Place of Fear, p. 106.
  31. Andrew Batson (March 2017). "The State of the State Sector". Gavekal Dragonomics. Even in the statist 1960s–70s, SOEs in France and the UK did not account for more than 15–20% of capital formation; in the 1980s the developed-nation average was around 8%, and it dropped below 5% in the 1990s.Missing or empty |url= (help)
  34. Article Preamble, Section Preamble of the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh  (4 November 1972)
  35. Article Preamble, Section Preamble of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana  (20 February 1980)
  36. "THE CONSTITUTION (AMENDMENT)". Archived from the original on 2015-03-28.
  37. Article Preamble, Section Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of India  (26 November 1949)
  39. Article Preamble, Section Preamble of the Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea  (9 September 1948)
  40. Article Preamble, Section Preamble of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic  (25 April 1976)
  41. Article Preamble, Section Preamble of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka  (7 September 1978)
  42. Article 3, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania  (25 April 1978)
  43. "4. STATE CAPITALISM – International Communist Current".
  44. Tony Cliff, for example. See Tony Cliff's Internet Archive
  45. For instance, Peter Taaffe: "The Soviet bureaucracy and Western capitalism rested on mutually antagonistic social systems", The Rise of Militant, Chapter 34, Russia, Trotsky and the Collapse of Stalinism.