The fact is it’s never had the chance to, that is beyond small communities and businesses. On the level of a nation state we’ve only ever had partial attempts that tried to co-exist with a capitalist economy or worse, as in one-party/one leader dictatorships like the USSR under Stalin or the Chinese Peoples’ Republic under Mao Zedong. Socialism does not mean nationalisation and total state control. However, like christianity, the movement was taken over by power junkies as soon as it showed promise and the term became tainted with their policies. The best description of what it could be is in the famouse Clause 4 of the Labour Party’s constitution that was dumped by ‘New Labour’: ‘To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.’ Written by Sidney Webb, one of the original right-wingers in the party, this was long regarded by most members as Labour’s ‘bucket list’ at best. ‘Common ownership of the means of production’ became nationalisation, though that’s not the only possible meaning – the co-operative movement had another, ‘workers’ control’ is another. The slogan of socialism became ‘evolution not revolution’, which overlooks the fact that evolution proceeds by revolutionary jumps and no fossils of intermediate species (ie giraffes with longer and longer necks) have ever been found. It’s also rarely mentioned that the first people to call themselves social democrats were Marx and Engels’ organisation (I bet someone corrects that) and so did Lenin, Trotsky & Co – the Communist Party came later.
RA May Day 2017