Democratic socialism arose from struggles against capitalist society, against exploitation, oppression and war. It calls for freedom, equality and solidarity for each and every one of us. According to Karl Marx, the categorical imperative of socialism is to “overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being”. Socialism is formed as a universal human rights movement in solidarity from below. It joined forces with the movement of wage-earners, women and oppressed people in their struggle for liberation. Its goal is a society in which people exercise shared control over the economy and take their affairs into their own hands.
The 20th century saw a deep split in the socialist movement. On one side, a communist wing developed which, under the impact of war and fascism, was prepared to implement a radical break with capitalism even by means of dictatorship and the suppression of dissent. In 1989, mass protests by workers and civil rights activists, as well as democratic reforms, led to the collapse of socialist states in Europe. Centralised state ownership in the end had proved to be an obstacle to its development. The social achievements could not be maintained in the long term. On the other side, social-democratic forces wanted extensive social reforms and a democratization of society. However, they were unable to overcome the dominance of profit in order to control the economy effectively. It thus proved impossible to prevent a neo-liberal relapse into unfettered capitalism. The socialist Left in turn supported the formation of councils, workers’ autonomy, economic democracy and cooperatives, but could not implement a comprehensive alternative.
The current crisis of capitalism and human civilisation is giving rise to new socialist movements. Their basic position is that another world is not just possible, it is also urgently needed. This socialism of the 21st century fights capitalist exploitation, patriarchy, racism and environmental destruction. The objective is a world in which many different worlds can exist together, in which the free development of each and every individual becomes the condition of the development of all. Subordinating property and power relations to this objective, a socio-ecological transformation of production and ways of life, a comprehensive democratisation, a new internationalism, and an active peace policy are the basic elements of this new socialism.
With DIE LINKE (The Left Party), a political force has arisen in Germany that is committed to democratic socialism. The representation of the interests of wage-earners, the socially vulnerable, and broad sections of society is linked to a policy that seeks to comprehensively transform and overcome capitalism. It stands in the tradition of Rosa Luxemburg: equality without freedom is oppression; freedom without equality is exploitation. Solidarity is the basis for liberty and equality. The human exploitation of humans as well as nature must be brought to an end collectively.