Liberal Socialism

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Not to be confused with Libertarian Socialism or Social Liberalism.

"If what you have done yesterday still looks big to you, you haven't done much today."

Liberal Socialism is an economically centre-left to left-wing political theory and ideology that believes that Socialism is compatible with Liberalism. There is no one conception of what Liberal Socialism is, but rather, many different (sometimes contradictory) definitions.


As Liberal Mixed Economy

Liberal Socialism can sometimes mean liberalism which operates through a robust mixed economy, without intentions of transferring to a fully socialist system. This often pans out as a slightly more left wing version of what is otherwise indistinguishable from Social Liberalism or Social Democracy.

As Socialist Liberal Democracy

Alternatively, Liberal Socialism can mean a Liberal Democracy that would have a Market Socialist economy, or a Democratic Socialist society that would have free markets, minimal regulations, and very few (if any) planning.

As Liberal/Socialist Reform

Another way of looking at liberal socialism is as an attempt to reform a liberal economy into a fully socialist one, or alternatively, as the liberalization of a centralized State Socialist government.

As Historiography

Liberal Socialism can be seen as a view of history as going from Feudalism to Liberalism, and then Finally to Socialism. This conception tends to view Socialism as the best way carry on the Classical Liberal principles of Equality and Liberty.

Liberalism as Socialism

Liberal socialism can also be seen as using the Liberal philosophy that the liberty of man should not be offended and that a person should not be treated as means but as ends, extended to the economy, combined to prove socialist standpoints.



Main article: Bernsteinism

In Germany, liberal socialist ideals can be said to originate with the development of revisionist Marxism of Eduard Bernstein who defined the term 'socialism' as 'Organized Liberalism'.

United Kingdom

In Great Britain, the development of Liberal Socialism can be traced back to a number of sources of liberal and socialist origin. Liberal Socialism of liberal origin can be found in the theories of the political economist John Stuart Mill, who greatly influenced the political ideology of Social Liberalism which is a type of liberalism that believes that economic freedom can be only achieved through an extensive social state. Although, Mill is noted as going a step further, favoring collectivized workplaces. He theorized that capitalist societies shall experience a gradual process of socialization with worker cooperatives slowly replacing private enterprises.

John Mill's liberal socialism did not completely abolish capitalism and replace it with socialism, but it supported a mixed economy based on market socialism, including social ownership of private property and capital. Liberal socialists generally do not support centralism or socialism in the form of the state, but support the realization of property collectivization through market socialism of individual workers' cooperatives. This form of workers' community cooperatives can be seen as a manifestation of Liberalism: everyone can join according to their own free will, but if it is not conducive to their own self-development, individuals can leave at any time. Liberal socialists believe that the introduction of collective property eliminates the dependence on workers and employers, thus bringing real freedom to workers. English liberal socialists believe that freedom and equality are mutually compatible and interdependent, and regard the material inequality produced by capitalism as one of the main reasons for the increasingly lack of freedom. Free socialists also generally support the free market, and believe that market monopoly is the inevitable result of capitalism, and only through market socialism can the real free market be achieved.

Liberal socialism of socialist origin in Britain can be found in the theories of the Christian Socialist historian and activist Richard Henry Tawney, who developed a theory of 'Ethical Socialism'. Ethical socialism as a movement saw to justify socialism on ethical and moral grounds, as opposed to material grounds.

Tawney later joined, influenced, and became an executive of the socialist think tank of the Fabian Society which was a group that wanted to achieve Socialism through reformist means in democracies ( Democratic Socialism.) The ideology of the Fabian Society (Fabianism) may, in turn, be characterized as a form of liberal socialism.

The term 'Liberal Socialism' was later used by the British economist John Maynard Keynes to describe his political ideology:[5]

The question is whether we are prepared to move out of the nineteen-century laissez-faire state into an era of liberal socialism, by which I mean a system where we can act as an organized community for common purposes and to promote economic and social justice, whilst respecting and protecting the individual – his freedom of choice, his faith, his mind and its expression, his enterprise, and his property.

John Maynard Keynes, Collected Writings, volume 2, page 500

The British novelist George Orwell, known for works like Animal Farm and 1984, was a proponent of liberal socialism. According to Orwell, every work of literature of his after 1936 written "directly or indirectly against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism" as he understood it. More radical socialists have criticized Orwell for his conservative leanings such as his homophobic and antisemitic views, as well as his collaboration for the British government in writing lists of authors who were notably sympathetic to the Soviet Union.


The term 'Liberal Socialism' was popularized by the Jewish-Italian political leader Carlo Rosselli who was influenced both by Eduard Bernstein and by the British Labor movement. Carlo Rosselli rejected the political theories of Marx and favored non-Marxist socialism. He believed that liberal democracy is not just important for socialist construction, but also for its realization. Additionally, Carlo Rosseli founded Justice and Liberty (Italian: Giustizia e Libertà) which was a resistance movement against the Fascist government of Italy.

United States

In the United States, the term 'Liberal Socialism' was used by the political theorist John Rawls to describe his political ideology.

In the United States a type of Liberal Socialism was espoused by the anarcho-syndicalist thinker Noam Chomsky. In his book On Anarchism claiming that libertarian socialism to be conclusion of classical liberal principles:[6]

These ideas grow out of the Enlightenment Thought; their roots are in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality, Humboldt’s Limits of State Action, Kant’s insistence, in his defense of the French Revolution, that freedom is the precondition for acquiring the maturity for freedom, not a gift to be granted when such maturity is achieved. With the development of industrial capitalism, a new and unanticipated system of injustice, it is libertarian socialism that has preserved and extended the radical humanist message of the Enlightenment and the classical liberal ideals that were perverted into an ideology to sustain the emerging social order. In fact, on the very same assumptions that led classical liberalism to oppose the intervention of the state in social life, capitalist social relations are also intolerable. This is clear, for example, from the classic work of Humboldt, The Limits of State Action, which anticipated and perhaps inspired Mill and to which we return below. This classic of liberal thought, completed in 1792, is in its essence profoundly, though prematurely, anticapitalist. Its ideas must be attenuated beyond recognition to be transmuted into an ideology of industrial capitalism.

Humboldt’s vision of a society in which social fetters are replaced by social bonds and labor is freely undertaken suggests the early Marx, with his discussion of the “alienation of labor when work is external to the worker ... not part of his nature ... [so that] he does not fulfill himself in his work but denies himself ... [and is] physically exhausted and mentally debased,” alienated labor that “casts some of the workers back into a barbarous kind of work and turns others into machines,” thus depriving man of his “species character” of “free conscious activity” and “productive life.” Similarly, Marx conceives of “a new type of human being who needs his fellow-men.... [The workers’ association becomes] the real constructive effort to create the social texture of future human relations.” It is true that classical libertarian thought is opposed to state intervention in social life, as a consequence of deeper assumptions about the human need for liberty, diversity, and free association. On the same assumptions, capitalist relations of production, wage labor, competitiveness, the ideology of “possessive individualism”—all must be regarded as fundamentally antihuman. Libertarian socialism is properly to be regarded as the inheritor of the liberal ideals of the Enlightenment.

Rudolf Rocker describes modern anarchism as “the confluence of the two great currents which during and since the French revolution have found such characteristic expression in the intellectual life of Europe: Socialism and Liberalism.” The classical liberal ideals, he argues, were wrecked on the realities of capitalist economic forms. Anarchism is necessarily anti-capitalist in that it “opposes the exploitation of man by man.” But anarchism also opposes “the dominion of man over man.” It insists that “socialism will be free or it will not be at all. In its recognition of this lies the genuine and profound justification for the existence of anarchism.” From this point of view, anarchism may be regarded as the libertarian wing of socialism. It is in this spirit that Daniel Guérin has approached the study of anarchism in Anarchism and other works.

Noam Chomsky, On Anarchism

A similar view has been espoused by the American BreadTuber VaushV.[7] Leading to liberal socialism to be sarcastically called Vaushism within the Polcompball community.

When Marx and following theorists wrote on capitalism they weren't writing 'capitalism and liberalism are worst things to ever happen to humanity, they are the greatest oppression of workers'. No. Marxism is supposed to be an extension of liberalism not a rejection of it, a true promotion of unity, fraternity, and freedom, and liberty, and shit. That's what Marxism and that's what leftism is about, it's about bringing the messaging of the liberal movement forward, to make it better, to make it get stronger, to make it true to its principles.



Soviet Union/Russia

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last general secretary of the USSR who oversaw the demise of the Soviet Empire. Gorbachev was a compromised general secretary who rose to power when the USSR was on the brink of collapse, already suffering economic stagnation, supply shortages, sing the mounting costs of Brezhnev’s Afghan war. In his tenure, he implemented a series of reforms, including perestroika, glasnost, new political thinking, withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the abandonment of the Brezhnev Doctrine. Much of his political career was spent trying to balance the needs of various inner-factions between hardliners, moderate/reformist communists, and nationalists. Out of desperation, and from a sheer lack of efficiency from the state-planned model, he made an attempt to reform the country that drew from the experiences of market socialist economies such as the SFRY, Hungary, and China, despite his desperate attempt to re-form the soviet system, because of various complicated factors, his efforts to radically restructure the soviet system failed miserably to prevent a complete collapse of the Soviet Union.

The pullout of troops from Afghanistan and Eastern Europe was also mishandled. This led to the collapse of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Revolutions of 1989, along with the Islamist takeover of Afghanistan. In 1991, the Soviet hardliners who opposed his reforms saw his proposal to change the USSR into a confederation as undesirable and “treason.” They launched the infamous “August Coup,” which tried to restore the Soviet Empire, which effectively made Gorbachev powerless since then. This gave the rise of Boris Yeltsin, who subsequently declared the end of the USSR, along with other separatist nationalist leaders.



In the 1980s, the Chinese government countered some political prisoners convicted during the Cultural Revolution, and then opened small-scale freedom of speech. The Chinese intellectuals, represented by Wei Jingsheng, immediately carried out a lot of criticism activities against the government on the west wall of Beijing, mainly focusing on greater freedom of expression, removing official corruption, adjusting prices, and preventing inflation. However, Hu Yaobang, the implementer of the reform, was forced to resign in 1986 and then triggered a large-scale democratic movement after his death in 1989. At that time, the senior officials of the CPC Central Committee were divided into two groups, one group supported the student movement for freedom, and the other group demanded to suppress the student movement. In the end, Zhao Ziyang, the then General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, lost Deng Xiaoping's support. Liberals in the party, such as Xi Zhongxun, lost power, and many people were expelled from the top of the CPC. The democratic movement in 1989 was finally bloody suppressed. Hu Yaobang's liberalization reform, as well as Hu Yaobang's ruling ideology, is considered a kind of free socialism. However, this reform has not carried out more liberalization of the economy due to the obstructions of conservatives like Chen Yun and Li Peng. Jiang Zemin later completed the task of economic liberalization. But at that time, the Chinese people did not live better, the problem of corruption was more serious, and the political oppression was more serious.

American Social Democracy

American Social Democracy refers to the American variant of social democracy. It is the left-wing version of social democracy which is left-populist.

Left Anti-Communism

Left Anti-Communism is the leftist version of anti-communism that is critical of communist regimes from a left-wing point of view. Although, not all are opposed to communism, just what they see as "state capitalism". It's also used as a pejorative term for socialists that are critical of authoritarian socialism and examples of authoritarian socialism.

Ethical Socialism

Ethical Socialism is a political philosophy that appeals to socialism on ethical and moral grounds as opposed to consumeristic, economic, and egoistic grounds. It emphasizes the need for a morally conscious economy based upon the principles of altruism, cooperation, and social justice while opposing possessive individualism. Ethical socialism has some significant overlap with Christian socialism, Fabianism, guild socialism, liberal socialism, social-democratic reformism, and utopian socialism. Under the influence of politicians like Carlo Rosselli in Italy, social democrats began disassociating themselves from orthodox Marxism altogether as represented by Marxism–Leninism, embracing an ethical liberal socialism, Keynesianism, and appealing to morality rather than any consistent systematic, scientific or materialist worldview

How to Draw

Flag of Liberal Socialism

Liberal socialism's symbol is a crossed hammer and quill, the symbol of the Czech National Social Party and of the Radical Civic Union which were historically regarded as liberal socialist parties. The symbols of the hammer and quill represent solidarity between workers and clerks.

  1. Draw a ball
  2. Draw a red hammer and a feather crossed
  3. Add the eyes and you're done!
Color Name HEX RGB
Red #D00505 208, 5, 5
White #FFFFFF 255, 255, 255




  • Liberalism - Great dad, but why capitalism?
  • Socialism - Wonderful grandmum, but why illiberalism?
  • Democratic Socialism - Too fundamentalist on socialism.
  • Social Liberalism - We're lowkey the same but I emphasize socialism and defeating capitalism you insist on making a broken system work.
  • Classical Liberalism - I needed you for my mum to be born but
  • Social Libertarianism - Civil rights, welfare, and regulation is good and all, but you're still far too capitalistic.
  • Titoism - Still too authoritarian, but you're pretty tolerable when compared to other MLs. Did you really have to lock up Djilas though?
  • Economic Liberalism - Markets are cool, but liberalism is not inherently capitalist, hope you can understand that.
  • Left-Wing Populism - You're too naïve, but we can agree on other things and work together.
  • Libertarian Socialism - We are similar; you just take things a bit too far.
  • Conservative Socialism - I like socialism, but conservatism, not so much.
  • Fabian Socialism - I'm glad you like my ideas, but what's with the Eugenics?
  • Market Socialism - Socialist entrepreneurs matter too! Think about SMEs!
  • Marxist Feminism - I like your social justice and socialism, but you are too communist and friendly with tankies.
  • Chomskyism - Idk man, you said some pretty nice things about me, but your tendency to downplay the crimes of authoritarian dictators just because they don't like the US is usually the kind of stuff I'd expect from tankies rather than a self-described left-libertarian, let alone an anarchist.
  • Pink Capitalism - Not a big fan of capitalism, but I do like your marketing.
  • Police Statism - Too authoritarian but the police are a very important responsibility of governments.
  • Neoconservatism - Murderous and racist swine! But Vaush and Kwaśniewski support military interventions. Hmm, maybe Trotsky was right all along?
  • Capitalist Communism - Me but more extreme?
  • Autonomism - Workerism is all about working within liberal democracy to enact minor improvements to workers lives. Right?


Further Information

For overlapping ideologies see:

Socialism, Social Liberalism, Liberalism, Social Democracy, Democratic Socialism, Reformist Marxism,
Market Socialism, Radicalism, Jacobinism, Keynesian School








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