What were the Socialist Initiatives Outside the Soviet Bloc?

Attempts to rein in capitalism were common in a number of countries where socialists were powerful during the inter-war and post-Second World War period.

In France, for instance, under Leon Blum and the Popular Front (1936-38), attempts were made to control capital transfers out of the country, and important steps were taken to establish state control over the munitions’ industry.

Major reforms were introduced in the factories – where employers were compelled to give workers a minimum paid holiday each year, and where working hours were strictly limited.


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In Britain, after the Second World War, the Labour government nationalized the coal and steel industries and introduced the ‘welfare state’ (i.e. the National Health Scheme, which reduced health costs dramatically, as well as the introduction of unemployment benefit to the out-of-work).

The Labour governments of Harold Wilson (1964-70), extended cheap housing for the population through the agency of local government, while socialist governments on the Continent introduced their own version of the ‘welfare state’ through systems of insurance.

Much of this initiative was in imitation of the state-led model prevalent in the USSR (and Eastern Europe). But in developing their own focus on ‘insurance’ (where the state, the employer and the employee contributed to a common fund), countries such as France, Germany and Italy developed their own variety of ‘welfare’ which involved a smaller role for the state.

This dimension to socialism outside the Soviet bloc is what made it unique. Accepting capitalist enterprise and a limited place for state initiative, it was strictly non-Leninist.

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