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They also saw human societies as displaying an underlying constancy of human nature in the midst of flux, wealth as an agency of change and economic structures as underlying historical movement.
Watson delineates false convictions about socialism that have become orthodoxy—that socialism is always left-wing and can never be conservative; that it was always about class and never about race (so can never have advocated genocide).
And related convictions—that Left means radical, that revolution means radical change.
Indeed, as he points out, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a conservative revolution (against the modernising secularism of the Shah). He wants to define revolution as any violent seizure of power and he tries to maintain that revolution was only conceived of in conservative terms.
The first strikes me as too broad a definition and the second goes beyond his evidence.
But if all endorsers of genocide for a century called themselves socialists, and if socialists introduced the notion as a systematic program into secular political thought, then something is going on. But the socialist provenance of genocide has gone down the memory hole.
As has quite a lot of ideas from socialism’s history, a forgetting that is also the subject of George Watson’s The Lost Literature of Socialism.
Like most of the sins of materialist politics, killing people by category had religious precursors.
The Islamic injunction that polytheists and animists had to become Muslim or die and Christian endorsement of extermination of "sodomites", not to mention of "witches" and the odd heretic, obviously well pre-date the secular versions of killing by category.
Nevertheless, genocide in secular politics—including extermination of people by race, ethnic or class category—is a socialist idea whose only significant public advocates from the 1840s to the 1940s all called themselves socialists.
So George Watson tells us in his slim but revealing volume The Lost Literature of Socialism.
So Max Hirsch, a radical and disciple of Henry George, published in Australia in 1901 his Democracy versus Socialism warning of socialism creating an “all-pervading despotism” under the rule of a new managerial class (as, of course, happened in all the Leninist states).