Definition of Collectivism:
Collectivism is also called state socialism. In the Encyclopaedia Britannica Collectivism has been defined as under: “Collectivism is that policy or theory which aims at securing by the action of central democratic authority a better distribution and in due subordination thereto, a better production of wealth”. Collectivism is a branch of socialism. It developed in Europe as a reaction against Individualism.
Development of State Socialism:
In England, collectivism rose in the name of Fabian Socialism. In 1884, Fabian Society was established in England. George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Sidney Webb and his wife Beatrice Webb, Mrs. Anni Besant and Ramsay MacDonald became its members. Later on Graham Wallas, Tawney, Laski and G.D.H. Cole preached its principles in their books.
Today the Labour Party of England has its faith in state socialism. In Germany, Roberts (1805-1875), Ferdinard Lassalle (1825-1864) and Edward Burnstine (1850-1932) played an eminent role in its development. In India, Mr. Nehru was an ardent supporter of Democratic Socialism.
Principles or Characteristics of the Collectivism:
1. Opposition to capitalism and imperialism and full support for democratic socialism:
Collectivists are severe opponents of capitalism, because it creates economic inequality in society and the labourers are exploited. Maximum national income is concentrated in the hands of a few persons and common people starve. The Collectivists are also against imperialism.
2. Attitude towards state:
They do not want to abolish the state, but they want to change its form. So far the state has been a capitalist institution. They want to control the government by winning elections and then make such laws for the benefit of the labourers as may help in putting an end to their exploitation.
In short, instead of abolishing the state, they want to utilise it for the establishment of a socialistic system and for the abolition of the capitalist system. For this purpose, they want to nationalize the production of many things and limit the investment of private capital.
The Collectivists do not agree with the view of the individualists that state is a necessary evil. They also do not agree with the Anarchists that the state is an unnecessary evil. They consider the state a good institution and want to increase its functions for the welfare of the people.
They want to make the state a welfare institution and they want to increase its functions to the maximum. On the other hand, they also want to safeguard maximum freedom of the individual. The Collectivists are not in favour of the centralisation of the powers of the state. They maintain that there should be decentralisation of the powers of the state.
It means that except those functions which are absolutely essential for the Central Government the rest of the functions should be performed either by the provincial governments or by the local institutions. They say that local governments should be given maximum autonomy in the administration of their affairs.
3. Abiding faith in Democracy:
The collectivists have full faith in democracy. They were in favour of giving voting rights to all men and women. A complete explanation of the programme and aim of the Collectivists was given in the England Labour Party’s pamphlet ‘Labour and New Social Order’ published in 1919.
The Collectivists would nationalize big industries from the point of view of people’s welfare. The government would pay compensation for the factories taken over by it. Besides, the private ownership of small industries would remain intact, but laws would be made to improve the condition of the workers in these industries.
The Collectivists are also supporters of social security. They want to give aid to unemployed, invalid, old and ailing persons. They are also in favour of fret education so that every individual should get equal opportunity of advancement.
4. Opposition to Individualism:
The Collectivists condemn Individualism and say that open competition between the capitalist and the worker is not desirable. They say that an individual cannot achieve real freedom by starving himself. Poverty is a great hindrance to freedom. Man can achieve real freedom only in socialism, which, after abolishing capitalism, gives opportunity to the workers for their progress.
5. Opposition to Marxism or difference between Communism and Socialism:
The Collectivists are not uncritical followers of Marx. Besides, Marx, they have also been influenced by T.H. Green, Rousseau and Kant. They agree with Marx that capitalism is a bad thing and it exploits the labourers. Therefore, it must be abolished.
As the manner of its abolition, both hold different views. Marxists want to abolish capitalism by violent and revolutionary means while the Collectivists want to abolish it by parliamentary means, i.e. by winning elections against the Capitalists and by making laws to abolish capitalism.
They want to bring about socialism by slow degrees and through peaceful means. They do not want to give power into the hands of labourers but to the entire society. They also do not agree with Marx’s Theory of Surplus Value.
They are of the belief that wealth is produced not by the labourers only, but by the entire society. They also do not agree with Marx’s Theory of Class-struggle, because it creates conflicts in the society and destroys its unity. They also do riot agree with Marx’s theory of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the withering away of the State.
Another difference between the Marxists and the democratic socialists is that Marx completely ignored democracy, religion and nationalism, while state socialists are staunch supporters of nationalism and democracy and they are neutral in religious matters.
Criticism of Collectivism (State Socialism or Democratic Socialism):
Collectivism has been criticised as under:
(1) With the socialisation of industries individual incentive and inspiration will die.
(2) Each individual works for his own interest. There is no individual interest in socialism and thus the production will fall.
(3) The Opponents of Socialism, Particularly Mill and Spencer, were of the view that individual liberty is curtailed in socialism.
(4) Mellock was of the view that in the absence of individual interest of ‘he collecting personal property, the people will have to be coerced to do work, which will bring about the downfall of the individual character.
(5) Sir Irkson has said that natural influence of socialistic theory has resulted in the suppression of the powers of human race.
(6) The Communists have bitterly criticised collectivism. They say that collectivism ignores the scientific principles of Marxism, therefore, socialism cannot be brought about by the constitutional means. Socialism has been established in Soviet Russia, China and countries of Eastern Europe through revolution.
There is no country in the world where socialism has come through peaceful means. Though the Communist Party remained in power in Australia for many years and Congress is in power in India since 1947, yet they have not been able to bring about socialism. Several times labour government was established in England, but socialism has not come any nearer there.
(7) It will be difficult to nationalise the industries by payment of compensation.
(8) The functions of the state will increase manifold, and it will result in inefficiency.
Importance of Collectivism:
Though Collectivism has also been criticised like other isms, yet there is no truth in this criticism. It is difficult, no doubt, to bring about socialism by constitutional means, and this ideal has not been given a practical shape in any country, yet it is true that according to the ideals of collectivism, a welfare state has been established in India, England and in many other countries.
Efforts have been made to control the profit of the capitalists and condition of the workers has been improved through laws. Many important industries have been nationalised in England and India. The abolition of zamindari system and fixation of the limit of agricultural land has taken place in a peaceful manner in India. Therefore, though constitutional method may cause some delay in bringing about socialism, yet bloodshed is not at all desirable. It is desirable to abolish capitalism by constitutional means, even if it causes delay.