Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat
To give you an idea of what I believe socialism is and what it isn’t, I agree with John Judis at TNR that socialism has a couple layers, three if you include Chinese communism. But before that I want to talk about a discussion I had on Quora last week. (Of all places) Before that discussion I had absolutely no use for Quora and would even tweet or post on Google+, “why is someone following me on Quora, I’m never on Quora!” Which is true! When I would pick up a new follower. Except for last week when I responded to a question posed on Quora about socialism by someone who will go nameless simply because I don’t remember their name. And this person asked are Liberals, Socialists?
To put it simply Liberals are not since liberal democracy is very different from social democracy or communism. But I went further and said that there three separate political ideologies in this discussion. Liberalism that I believe in as a Liberal. Marxism which is essentially communism today. Which is the Un-democratic form of socialism. And social democracy/democratic socialism. The third layer of socialism would be Chinese communism.
China certainly still qualifies as a Marxist-Communist State as it relates to social policy with no free press and legal political opposition in the country. No guaranteed ability for people to speak out and express themselves, certainly about the central government. No right to privacy and people could lose their homes easily to the state if the state simply decides to take that property from them. No guaranteed right of religion and for people to make that choice to practice or not practice religion themselves.
But economically the only reason why China has boomed in the last lost forty years now is because of the privatization of their economy. You have big cities in China now like Shanghai that look like big cities in Japan, Europe, or even America. Highly developed with all sorts of private companies and business’s, with large middle classes and even rich people. That is because they’ve now become a capitalist economy with a large welfare state and still have some state-run enterprises from their previous communist regimes.
What I was trying to get through to the person on Quora I was talking to with his point being that so-called Liberals aren’t socialists because they haven’t called for economic nationalization with the state owning and running the entire economy, is that there are layers of socialism. And none of them are part of liberalism.
Yes, there are still Marxist-Communists who are Un-Democratic Socialists who do believe there should be no private sector and private ownership in the economy. But other than North Korea and someone might find some small country in Africa where this philosophy is still practiced, Marxism is a dying governing philosophy in the world. Even Cuba has opened their economy to so some private ownership and capitalism. Other than maybe Eugene Debbs (Socialist Party presidential candidate in the early 20th Century) there are really no Democratic Socialists who believe in complete state-control of the economy in society.
The mainstream wing of socialism is social democracy/democratic socialism. Which includes private ownership of the economy and even allowing for people to own their own property. But where private industry is heavily regulated for the good of society. As Democratic Socialists would put it) Highly taxed to prevent income inequality and to provide a large welfare state to provide the public services to people that Socialists believe shouldn’t be in private for-profit hands. Services like health care, health insurance, education, pensions, child care, perhaps a few other social services.
But even this wing of socialism would considered Far-Left in America, (except for Millennial’s and aging Baby Boomers like Bernie Sanders) because of the high taxation, regulation, over centralization of government especially in a federal republic like America where we tend not to trust big centralized government and like to see more power with the states, localities, and individuals themselves. But still a very mainstream not just political philosophy, but governing philosophy in Europe. Especially in Scandinavia.
I disagree with John Judis and his TNR column about another thing. I don’t believe America needs any form of socialism. You would almost have to rewrite or at least seriously reform our U.S. Constitution and take away our federal form of government for any socialist model of government to be put in place in America. Or have some political revolution where Communists come into power through violent military means and eventually take over the U.S. Government and throw out our form of government. And start nationalizing state and local government’s and replacing them with Marxist-Socialists or Communists. (I guess ANTIFA is working on that right now)
So in this sense at least socialism simply wouldn’t be a practical governing philosophy in America. Our form of government is simply too decentralized and would require again reforming the U.S. Constitution through all sorts of amendments, or rewriting it which would require amendments. But for socialism in the democratic form to become an alternative philosophy to Center-Right conservatism and Center-Left liberalism, Socialists in America and that starts with their leaders Senator Bernie Sanders and Dr. Jill Stein, need to start being real with their followers.
Stop promising free candy, cookies, sodas, to their followers that they want Uncle Sam to take care of. Explain to them why democratic socialism is the best governing philosophy, but also be realistic and honest with that. Stop promising free stuff! Like health care, health insurance, college, pensions, child care, etc. And tell them that government services have to paid for and be paid for by the people who consume them who are taxpayers. And tell them that if government is going to provide these services to people that taxes are going to have to be raised on everyone who consumes these government services.
And then we’ll really see how popular socialism is in America and if Americans really want to pay for this government-run Socialist Utopia that Socialists keep promising. Especially as more Baby Boomers die off and Millennial’s get older and hopefully finally grow up.
The Young Turks: John Iadarola, Ana Kasparian & Ben Mankiewicz- Bernie Sanders Speech on Democratic Socialism