Is socialism inevitable? It may, or may not be, but as a matter of politics it depends heavily on belief in its inevitable growth and victory.
Marx’s “scientific” socialism promoted the idea- primarily to socialists themselves- that socialism was destined by the predictable course of history. I’m guessing this was a morale builder more than anything else- I don’t know if “Das Kapital” has previously been described as a morale builder, but I think most left wing literature falls into that category.
Remember the French Revolution was a miserable failure- quickly devolving into a revolting dictatorship, followed by a military nationalist dictatorship, followed by collapse and partial restoration of the old regime. No socialist revolutionary of that time had any reason to be optimistic.
Socialism has had much more success, although with various setbacks, since then. But the one thing the socialists need to do more than anything is convince people that their victory is inevitable. Some significant portion of the population is hard socialist by nature- 20% to 30%. They are the bureaucrats, social workers, teachers, government lawyers, and public health workers who directly benefit and get power from the system. Another 10% to 15% are socialist by sympathy- they are convinced only socialism can solve the things they see that disturb them.
The rest of the people are hostile or skeptical. Socialists try to make their victories appear inevitable to get the passive acceptance of the skeptical and the demoralization of the hostile.
The “health care” “debate” is just such an issue. Free market solutions, or reforming the malpractice law system, are simply never discussed. The horror of the lack of third party payment for medical treatment is pounded into peoples’ heads all the time until it appears there is just nothing else to be done.
Still many people ask “What’s in it for me? Why should I pay more? Why should I get less benefits?” In different circumstances they could just establish a new entitlement, with no taxes or changes in private benefits. But people are now worried about spending, so someone must pay, and socialists don’t like the idea of private benefits, so they want to restrict them at the same time. The CBO announces it will cost too much, and it is no longer inevitable.
I was listening to Obama talk about this, and he was shouting. He is getting rattled, and it looks bad. Shouting does not work for him. Obama more than any other figure I can think of needs the armor of inevitability. The crisis atmosphere of 2008 was perfect for him- people really were looking for a savior. But the skepticism about huge government programs actually started to grow before his election, with the bailout package. His ability to push a program through without too many questions peaked with the stimulus package.