The Pattern of Normal Politics, 1870-1914: An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century, 1870-2016"
Left-wing avowedly socialist—parties in pre-World War I Europe wanted, for the present, only weak tea. The Socialist Party of Germany’s Erfurt and Gotha programs seek things like: universal male and female suffrage; the secret ballot, proportional representation and an end to gerrymandering; annual government budgets; elected local administrators and judges; the right to bear arms; free public schools and colleges; free legal assistance; abolition of the death penalty; free medical care including midwifery; public burial insurance; progressive income and property taxes; a progressive inheritance tax; a 36-hour minimum weekend; an occupational safety and health administration; equal status for domestic and agricultural workers; and a national takeover of unemployment and disability insurance “with decisive participation by the workers in its administration”. Rather white bread, no? Even their declared intention that:
the German Social Democratic Party… fights… every manner of exploitation and oppression, whether directed against a class, party, sex, or race...
would raise few eyebrows today, in western Europe at least.
But there was also:
- “By every lawful means to bring about a free state and a socialistic society, to effect the destruction of the iron law of wages by doing away with the system of wage labor…”
- “The transformation of the capitalist private ownership of the means of production—land and soil, pits and mines, raw materials, tools, machines, means of transportation—into social property and the transformation of the production of goods into socialist production carried on by and for society…”
- “This… emancipation… [is] of the entire human race…. But it can only be the work of the working class, because all other classes… have as their common goal the preservation of the foundations of contemporary society…”
There was a tension here.