Democratic Socialism: The Challenge of the Eighties and Beyond


264 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-919573-44-4





Edited by Donna Wilson
Reviewed by J. Frank Harrison

J. Frank Harrison taught at St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia.


Here we have a collection of presentations made by social democrats at a conference organized in 1983 in Vancouver by the Boag Foundation. They reflect well the concerns of socialists today, broaching questions of technology, unemployment, exploitation and sexism in the workplace, and many others. Pervading all of the discussion, however, is the sense of ideological and political crisis brought on by the rise of the New Right, and the attack of these neo-conservatives upon that product of capitalist development which usually goes under the nomenclature of “welfare state.”

To the extent that free-marketeers have been successful in influencing government policies in both Europe and North America (their ideological presumptions of trickle-down effect, supply-side stimulus, and the danger of creeping communism through welfarism), the socialist as well as the liberal must regard them as a threat. However, where the liberals wish only to protect the welfare state, the socialists are beginning to rethink their whole attitude, suggesting perhaps that it is no longer a vehicle of development toward socialist goals. Democratic Socialism recognizes this and attempts to point out some directions that must now be taken. The discussion is improved further by the inclusion of audience comments as addenda to the papers of academics, politicos, and unionists.

We are invited here to broaden our critical imaginations and become critical of past practices. Instead of merely bargaining for labour’s portion of the capitalist pie, advocating public corporations, safeguarding wages against inflation and jobs against technology, perceptions are broadened into a reaffirmation of democratic control of human and material resources. This democracy is democracy in the workplace and in the community, decentralized, and as such a necessary contradiction to corporate and government hierarchies, which now demonstrate themselves as neither capable of nor concerned with changing the status quo.

Not only is this revolutionary in the proper sense of the word, but it is also persuasive. There are no utopian pictures here, mere directions suggested. There is much soul-searching concern about the role of trade unions, the role of the state, the implications of transnational corporations, militarization, and the global character of economic and social problems. Socialism, it seems, must still be international if it is to maintain its moral and intellectual integrity.


“Democratic Socialism: The Challenge of the Eighties and Beyond,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023,