By Malcolm B. Hamilton (auth.)
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Additional resources for Democratic Socialism in Britain and Sweden
This distinction between optimistic and pessimistic relative deprivation would lead us to make predictions which run counter to the orthodox, or at least, dominant position, which explains radicalism in terms of pressure on living standards and increasing insecurity. When capitalism appears to be in decline, it is argued, the party is optimistic about the possibilities of socialism, but when prosperity prevails, it tends to take a cautious line. The attitude of the trades unions is said to be an important factor in this.
Recession, unemployment, pressure on wage levels and living standards may well promote industrial militancy. It is, however, of a defensive kind designed to protect jobs and wage levels rather than to make advances. Even then, at times of economic recession, unions and workers are just as likely to adopt a quiescent stance as a militant one. Finally, ifthe recession becomes intense and the conditions of working people deteriorate beyond a certain point, quiescence and moderation may turn into radical and even revolutionary action.
Shorter-run fluctuations in economic conditions are likely to affect party policy indirectly through the way they affect membership and resources and relative deprivation. Economic recession reduces the level of unionisation and thereby the funds and, perhaps, membership of the party. Falling levels of real income make it more difficult for the party to raise financial resources. Economic recession, generally speaking, increases relative deprivation and boom tends to reduce it. These relationships are, however, more complex than can be elucidated at this point and will be discussed further below.