There are two types of reformism: the first has no intention of bringing about socialism or fundamental economic change to society; the second type is based on the belief that while reforms are not socialist in themselves, they can help rally supporters to the cause of revolution by popularizing the cause of socialism to the working class.

The debate on the ability for social democratic reformism to lead to a socialist transformation of society is over a century old.

Reformism is criticized for being paradoxical: it seeks to overcome the existing economic system of capitalism, but at the same time it tries to improve the conditions of capitalism thereby making it appear more tolerable to society. According to Rosa Luxembourg, under reformism "…(capitalism) is not overthrown, but is on the contrary strengthened by the development of social reforms."[2]


Reformist socialism was first put forward by Eduard Bernstein, who referred to the concept as evolutionary socialism. Bernstein was a leading social democrat in Germany. Reformism was quickly targeted by revolutionary socialists, with Rosa Luxemburg condemning Bernstein’s Evolutionary Socialism in her 1900 essay Reform or Revolution?.[3] While Luxemburg died in the German Revolution, the reformists soon found themselves contending with the Bolsheviks and their satellite communist parties for the support of intellectuals and the working class.

In 1959, the Godesberg Program (signed at a party convention in the West German capital of Bad Godesberg) marked the shift of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) from a Marxist program espousing an end to capitalism to a reformist one focused on social reform.

After Josef Stalin consolidated power in the Soviet Union, the Comintern launched a campaign against the Reformist movement by denouncing them as "social fascists". According to The God that Failed by Arthur Koestler, a former member of the Communist Party of Germany, the largest communist party in Western Europe in the Interwar period, communists, aligned with the Soviet Union, continued to consider the "social fascist" Social Democratic Party of Germany to be the real enemy in Germany, even after the Nazi Party had gotten into power.[4]

In modern times, reformists are seen as centre-left. Some social democratic parties, such as the Canadian NDP and the Social Democratic Party of Germany, are still considered to be reformist

via Reformism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.