Aims and Tasks of Democratic Socialism (1951)


This is the founding document of the reconstituted Socialist International. The document was adopted by the first post-war congress held in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, between 30th June and 3rd July 1951. The Congress chair was Morgan Phillips who was general secretary of the British Labour Party. Phillips’ memoirs of his time in both roles was published recently by Spokesman and reviewed in Chartist. It was drafted by Denis Healey, who was at that time International Secretary of the British Labour Party.

Healey had been an active member of the Communist Party while a student at Oxford University in the late 1930s. He served during the second world war, rising to the rank of major and acting as beachmaster for the landings at Anzio in central Italy. In his Labour Party role, Healey had responsibility for liaison with European socialist parties exiled in London and for supporting socialist parties in Eastern Europe, which was falling increasingly under Soviet domination. Healey became an anti-communist and vigorous advocate of democratic socialism. In 1947 he published a pamphlet for the Labour Party attacking communism – Cards on the Table. In 1951, Healey edited a book, The Curtain Falls, which told the story of the elimination of the socialist parties in Eastern Europe. The book included a foreword by Aneurin Bevan and contributions from socialists in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Entering parliament in 1952, Healey became Minister of Defence in Wilson’s 1964 Government, Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1974-79 and deputy leader of the Labour Party 1980-1983, having defeated Tony Benn. Healey was a leading advocate of NATO, nuclear defence and a joint Anglo-American foreign policy. Healey received a life peerage in 1992, and died in 2017 at the age of 98.

The Aims and Tasks statement includes an extensive Preamble and sections on Political Democracy, Economic Democracy, Social Democracy and Cultural Progress and International Democracy. The full statement is published as an appendix in the third volume of Julius Braunthal’s History of the International: World Socialism 1943-1968 (Gollanz, 1980).


  1. Socialists strive to build a new society in freedom and by democratic means
  2. Without freedom there can be no Socialism. Socialism can be achieved only through democracy. Democracy can be fully realized only through Socialism.
  3. Democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people.
    It must secure:
    a) The right of every human being to a private life, protected from arbitrary invasion by the state;
    b) Political liberties, like freedom of thought, expression, education, organization and religion;
    c) The representation of the people through free elections, under universal, equal and secret franchise;
    e) The equality before the law of all citizens, whatever their birth, sex, language, creed and colour;
    f) Right to cultural autonomy for groups with their own language;
    g) An independent judiciary system; every an must have the right to a public trial before an impartial tribunal by due process of law.
  4. Socialists have always fought for the rights of man. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man which has been adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations must be made effective in every country.
  5. Democracy requires the right of more than one party to exist and the right of opposition. But democracy has the right and duty to protect itself against those who exploit its opportunities only to destroy it. The defence of political democracy is a vital interest of the people. Its preservation is a condition of realizing economic and social democracy.
  6. Policies based on the protection of capitalist interests cannot develop the strength and unity needed to defend democracy from totalitarian attack. Democracy can only be defended with the active help of the workers, whose fate depends on its survival.
  7. Socialists express their solidarity with all peoples suffering under dictatorship, whether Fascist or Communist, in their efforts to win freedom.
  8. Every dictatorship, wherever it may be, is a danger to the freedom of all nations and thereby to the peace of the world. Wherever there is unrestrained exploitation of forced labour, whether under private profit or under political dictatorship, there is a danger to the living and moral standards of all the peoples.”

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