Accelerationist socialism vs. Stagnant socialism?


Ad Honorem
Jul 2013
Is there a difference between many socialists thinking?

I have talked to many socialists many believe that socialism if done right, can eventually lead to a stable capitalist society, for everyone will have a good education, good access to resources, and technology will solve a lot of the problems of humanity. The second type I talked to are stagnant types of socialists, often part of the more culture camp, that believe that state must always be there to provide the welfare of society and the people will always be suffering without them.


Forum Staff
Oct 2011
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Well, when I was still studying [in the 80's] in Italy Socialism was the first kind of Socialism you mention, the second one was still Communism. At least this was the ideological vision present in Italy. In good substance in our country, in the 20's Communists left the Socialist party, just because they wanted a Communist revolution, not a socialist development of the society towards a better future. During the Cold War the differentiation became more and more visible, up to see the Socialist Party at the government [without that Italy left NATO!].

The Italian idea of Socialism involved also the conception of meritocracy. The point was about equality of opportunities and starting conditions. But then, for Italian Socialism, it wasn't correct that a lazy guy obtained what a hardworking other guy obtained. Skills, attitude and dedication should be rewarded.

This, at the end, in the Italian perspective, was the difference between Socialism and Communism.
Jan 2019
The first sound like social democrats, while I'm not sure what the second is supposed to be or how it is different from the first. I've heard the term 'accelerationist' be used to mean the desire for conditions to get worse so that the status quo can be overturned and in that sense I'd say the Bolsheviks and other communists revolutionaries were the accelerationists and social democrats would have been the other though I wouldn't call them "stagnant". Bolsheviks hated social democrats and viewed them as traitors to the revolution as the social democrats improving the conditions within capitalist societies for workers and the poor took away steam from revolutionary movements.


Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
Canary Islands-Spain
Socialism took many forms through history, you're somewhat describing statist socialist (first) and socialdemocrats (second)

Both groups you're describing root basically to classic Marxism (but Socialism is more than Marxism!). The basic principle of (classic) Marxism was that of surplus value: all the wealth the labourer produce, which is not sustracted by the company. A labourer produce, for example, 100 dollars daily. He gets as payment 30, the company retain 70. The world is basically on the move because of this concept, the more surplus value, the higher the extraction-exploitation, the higher is inequality. An extreme form of this is slavery: the labourer gets just what he or she needs to survive (and sometimes not even that!), the rest of the wealth produced is owned by the master. This create a state of alienation: the labourer feels opression and most of his effort is wasted and used by other people, which envolve into hate towards his own job and life.

Marxist Socialism is based on the next concept as well: Capitalism, private decissions, do inefficient investment of the surplus value. Wealth is expended on luxury and not necessary items and activities which aren't good for the society. Capitalism is based on inequality, which is intrinsicaly necessary to get surplus value. The state, police, army, administration, laws, are based on the productive system, and they are guarantee of the system stability. In the case of the Capitalist system, the public institutions make a service to the big capitalist companies, most crucially banks and industrial corporations.

Marx and Engels proposed two steps toward an egalitarian society: first, Socialism, then Communism. In the socialist stage, the working class must seize the public institutions, the state, army, administration, everything must be subjected to the "Proletariat Dictatorship". Once the labourers seize the state, they must use it to abolish all inequalities and forms of vicious Capitalism, and once this has achieved, the state is not needed any more. Thence, a Communist society will be born, one perfect where no inequality and unhappiness take place, no explotation. As a side note, the Anarchist path to the ideal society have a great difference: the State should not be owned, but directly destroyed by the workers, otherwise, freedom would be crushed; in this line of thinking, Anarchist became self denominated Libertarian Socialists. So two different Socialism developed: all working parties after the 1860's were called Socialist, but the word had a different meaning according to followers of Marx or Bakunin.

Lets go back to the Socialist stage in Marxist theory: in order to guarantee the rule of the proletariat, all means of production must be owned by the State. Agriculture, industry, trade, infrastructures, everything related to wealth production; not your personal items, a great difference with uthopian Socialists. The Soviet Union (USSR-Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) took this path and took far beyond: based on late Engels writings and on Russian management tradition, they introduced Central Planning. All the economic activities were controled by the state, a powerful beaurocracy was in charge of organizing the economy five years ahead, but not as inspirational objectives, they were true objectives: if 10 million tons of oil were to be produced, 10 million tons of oil had to be produced. The idea was very Marxist in this case: surplus value was took from the labourers, not for private interest, but for the building of a strong industrial and military nation, that could resist the attack of the Capitalist world and expand the Workers Revolution. Followers of this path were called (Marxist) Communist. With the adequate and accurate resources management by a central "brain", the Soviet economy should outperform all other economies of the world. This is an extrem form of what you call "accelerationist socialists", but far beyond of anything known in the US.

In Western Europe, in the 1920's, pro-Soviet communist parties split from older socialist parties. Most of these old socialist parties stuck into a transitional, not fully revolutionary state of politics. They thought the State should have a critical role in reducing inequality, they considered the surplus value should be given back, at least in part, to labourers via education and social services; the State should have a critical role promoting the economy via public loans, performing plans of economic development (3, 4, 5 or 10 years ahead), and promoting science and scientific research. However, they didn't consider seizing all the means of production was viable, or possible at all; they didn't want to destroy liberal democracy. They became adherents to a mixed way, between Capitalism and Socialism. In short, they were Socialdemocracy. This is the farther to the left one can go in these days (2019), but was the common approach in the period 1945-1985. This is probably your "accelarationist" supporters, the ruling model in Western Europe through Cold War. The model entered in crisis in the mid 1980's, when Mitterrand's France (which still retain lot of that mixed system) failed to fully implement a radical plan of state involvement in the economy.

A softer socialdemocracy was developed since the 1980's, following the Swedish model. Capitalism has proved to be the most efficient economic system, and the state must have just a regulatory role. Without the state regulation, Capitalism tend to self destruction: people must be provided with sanitary, educational and basic opportunities. But there's no need of public owning of economic sectors or a direct involvement of the state in the production stage, since public management of economic resources have proved to be inferior to the private one in a free market enviroment. Inequality must be fought via taxes, to make a nice balancing of wealth distribution in all the society; legislative regulation must exist to guarantee a fair social and economic enviroment. This is basically most of left parties today, including Democratic Party in the US, I think (a remarkable evolution toward Socialdemocracy). They probably have forgotten the concept of "surplus value" that started everything, but the basic idea maybe is still there.
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