This is coming up more and more every day. Everyone in America, it seems, is completely confused about this, including me. I had to do all types of reading, just to start to figure out what these people are even talking about. I went ahead and did it, though, and from what I could glean from it, all these many headaches later, this looks like the place to start. These are two terms that sound a lot alike but are in fact completely different.
But what is the difference precisely? Is it really such a big deal what you call it? Does it really matter? That’s another easy one. Yes, and we can put the reason why into three short words, as a matter of fact.
The free market.
Where there is no free market, there is no freedom.
When we talk about socialism, we’re talking about a system of governance that has a fully state-planned economy. That means, in regular English, that the government won’t let the people engage in free trade, because of their insistence on imposing uniform equality of misery. They jealously hoard all power to one centralized hub, and from there the inevitable tendency is toward totalitarianism.
Wherever you find a free market, you find a place that socialism has not consumed. Under socialism, incompetent state bureaucrats are the ones investing national capital, and they always run it into the ground because they don’t know what they’re doing.
As a wise man I know once said, “All experiments in Socialism have failed and reverted into fascist dictatorship.”
He’s absolutely right, of course, and the people promoting this stuff know it as well as we do. They just don’t care. They want to blend the lines of truth as much as possible until things get to the point where the American people hear the word “social” and run.
The word socialism has always been divisive in America, and that has gotten worse instead of better as the idea has taken on more and more adherents. In recent months and years, this has done much to poison the waters for any change that would bring actual progressive ideas to the forefront for a serious American attempt to integrate into our system more of the changes we want.
But what about “Democratic” socialism? What’s the difference? The answer remains vague, and no matter how much Ocasio-Cortez may wish things to be otherwise, a wish list like the Green New Deal does not a political theory make. That means, in the parlance of us laymen, “democratic” is not a qualifier. It has no precise meaning and if it’s deleted from the sentence you’ll be left with the exact same thing.
“Most democratic socialists use the terms interchangeably”, said Joseph Schwartz, vice-chair of the D.S.A. “When Bernie is asked, ‘Are you a socialist?’ he doesn’t deny it, and he immediately talks about Scandinavia. He uses them interchangeably,” Schwartz said.
Getting back on track, what makes the social democracies so great are two basic but enormous factors. They have both a good social safety net and a free market. It keeps their economies above water and restrains any would-be dictators. On the other hand, take for an example the only place in the world that calls itself Democratic Socialist,Venezuela. That experiment has been a colossal failure.
To clarify even further, Democratic Socialism is socialism. Leftist media, unfortunately including some good papers, equivocate on this, but the facts show differently. The eight types of socialism are not interchangeable, and the reasons why are worth looking at; it’s just that we don’t have eighty years in which to do it for this particular piece.
For practical purposes, we can define a socialist country as being one with a fully state-planned economy. Social democracies don’t take things to that extreme and are not trying to. Although the two terms may sound alike, they are really different animals altogether, because of the free market.
The idea behind it is to temper liberal democracy, meaning in this context a system in which capitalism is not properly restrained, of its harshness with a social safety net, to keep citizens fed and alive with proper health care among many other things. The best minds of the left came together more than a hundred years ago and began to hammer out these ideas, ideas that guarantee all of us in the Western world the basic right to get help to stay alive.
We have some highly effective models to borrow from in the Social Democratic systems of other countries, like the vaunted Baltic states such as Norway or Sweden, whom Bernie rightly extolls for their excellence. We agree with him on all of that, or rather, he agrees with us, who he pillaged it from. It’s just that he then decided to muddy the waters to the benefit of no one but the right by adding the word “Democratic” to socialism.
The prime minister of Denmark was annoyed by this claim of the Bern’s enough to weigh in specifically, saying that Bernie doesn’t understand what socialism means in the context of their system, but that did not even slow down the grumpy old socialist. He has done his best to confuse this issue more with each and every single passing day. This is bad for absolutely everyone.
Jacobin Magazine, the one serious socialist publication around, used a similar title for their piece as I’ll be using in this one, and makes the same point about the Nordic countries not being socialism.
Many others will weigh in to make this point by the time 2020 rolls around because right now Donald Trump is getting so much mileage off of slandering the latter using the former’s out-there wackiness. He used his State of the Union Address this year to transition into his new narrative as to why he deserves to keep being the president, that being to keep the country free from socialism. The socialists are ruining all our good ideas and making it very difficult to sell them to a public who is rightly-and generationally- wary.
After all this talk, one thing is true and has been true. Socialists and Democrats both agree that in order to keep our rights intact, the most vigorous political action has been and will continue to be necessary.
That will not be possible if the Democratic Party ends up getting hijacked by the radical left. We are the sole protection around for the people of America and the system that allows our fair nation to thrive.
But American socialists like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez see the Democratic Party as being little more than a hermit crab shell they wish to occupy. They believe that America is broken and that it should be discarded. Our system is getting in the way of their brave new world, and so they want to run out in the streets and smash it up and light the night on fire with it.
They scoff at America as being outmoded and “capitalist”- as if the Nordic countries were not also capitalist. What “Capitalism” means in the context of a political system varies from one place to the next in its proportions, but one thing is always the same.
Again- The free market!
People think of capitalism as being a system of government, but all it really is is a power source. Even a purely socialist country is still going to trade. The Soviets did. Every person on Earth is engaged in the process of trade, even the few hunter-gatherers who are left around trade with each other, such as the Khoi Khoi people of Botswana.
The difference is that a communist/socialist (students of political science will be taught to use the term interchangeably by comparative political scientists) system will only allow financial business to be done through an official state apparatus. Those who run it are not well-qualified to do so. They’re utopian dreamers, not developers. This is why five million of the Soviet Union’s people died of starvation during Lenin’s first Five-Year Plan.
Ever since the Soviet Union fell, people have gradually forgotten about all the old anti-democracy qualifiers like “popular,” “guided,” “bourgeois,” and “formal” to modify “democracy”, although it’s true they’re rolling them back out. Their new trick was to come up with a way to use democracy itself as a qualifier, e.g. Power to the People plus socialism.
It’s an untrue slander.
Socialism and democracy are irreconcilably opposed because the former is not based on principles that are consistent with human nature and does not tend to satisfy the needs of citizens for happiness, a coefficient now measured by political scientists using something called the World Happiness Index- pretty cool idea! Deserving of an honorable mention.
At any rate, every time someone has tried to force socialism down the throat of a free society, they have caused a child-eating revolution followed by a dictatorship. Don’t even bother with the good old H.I. in Venezuela. Just turn on the news.
“Can we ignore the fact that none (socialist parties) has been successful in terms of its own dreams and designs, that not one has brought to realization the very purpose of its foundation?” Adam Przeworski, Capitalism and Social Democracy. (104)
Call me a skeptic, but it is very hard to believe that an organization calling themselves the “Democratic” Socialists of America can be unaware of all this. It’s much more likely they are lying on purpose and misrepresenting completely the ideas and concepts they are claiming to represent.
One thing, at least, has become very clear. These people should not be underestimated. They do not know what they’re doing, but they are rabidly serious about doing it. It has become necessary on every level to take a thorough look at these ideas and examine their doctrines fully. If we cannot show the people why the socialists are wrong, they’re going to beat us.
The first thing to understand, in my view, is that the people who codified socialism, especially the greatest of all socialists, Karl Johann Kautsky, did not believe that social democracy would ever bring about socialism, which was envisioned as a good option for people who are living in a society that has collapsed totally and utterly. Marx himself envisioned it as more, but it wasn’t Marx who created Marxism. It was Kautsky, and he was very clear on this point. Socialism is a post-disaster plan for any democracy that has collapsed. That’s all it is.
Until then, argued Kautsky, the workers will serve their own interest best by cooperating with the capitalists of their countries and fighting within their own systems for democratic reforms. His ideas for how to do this were developed into a system, and that system became what in Europe is called Social Democracy.
In America, we just call it democracy. As for fighting for the rights of the workers, and everybody else, that is what the Democratic Party does here in America. Therefore, if you really care about the people, if the so-called “masses” are really more to you than a shapeless concept to invoke for political clout, you had better stick with the Democrats and care about keeping our party healthy.
By now it should be clear that real socialists, which is to say social democrats, and we American Democrats, are mostly in agreement about what we feel is best for society, and also in the methods that we want to use to get things done. There’s no bad blood here!
This is what the nuts will not look at. They’re still mad that Bernie lost, and so they’re still mad at the Democrats who fight for them so hard. So they call themselves “Democratic” Socialists to sling feces at the whole shebang. Little do they appear to know, that in so doing, they are undermining their entire value system.
This whole disastrous confusion in terms was the work of Bernie Sanders, who did it on purpose to cloud the issue and to deliberately befoul the Democrats and their values. His Bots still repeat these same talking points, well- Robotically! That guy and his pack of shrieking brats are the most obvious example of controlled opposition there ever was.
The key thing to keep in mind here, and what the point is, is why the divide on the left the Bernie Bots all caused was manufactured. At whose behest? To whose benefit, are these foreign actors ripping up our country? The Conservative Political Action Conference was dedicated to fighting the spread of socialism this year, but actually, they’ve been encouraging them all along.
The far left and the alt-right operated hand in hand together in 2016. Three top strategists in the anti-Clinton effort, two in Trump’s team (Paul Manafort and Rick Gates) and one in Bernie’s (Tad Devine), had been doing Vladimir Putin’s bidding fixing elections for over a decade. Bernie’s bromance with Trump is still going on all the while too. It’s like a threesome. “I like Bernie,” Trump said, with a huge and genuine smile.
You bet he does.
The thought of Bernie actually being his opponent makes Trump drool, as it does the rest of the right. Likewise Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They desire nothing so much as to paint those two as the face of the Democratic Party. But why would that be the case, if they were genuinely interested in fighting socialism? Don’t they realize that if that happened, they’d be staring down the barrel of civil war?
It doesn’t make any sense until you come across the historical truth that the right has never considered communism and the far left to be the true enemy.
They consider liberals the enemy.
That is why they are supporting the socialists, and why they will continue. It’s why Bernie Sanders suspiciously benefits from so many things the Koch brothers do, such as the study they did last year suggesting we could afford his health care plan- which costs $9 trillion dollars more than the total worth of America! It is very convenient for them to have Bernie’s crazy plans for something to point at and say “See? We told you they were crazy!”
This is not new, either. This is why Wall Street financiers paid so much money to help along the Bolshevik Revolution.
Here’s another thing from this guy Przeworski I’ve been reading, my PoliSci professor recommended him. Wherever Communism (socialism) has been an option for the people, social democracy has failed.
That is to say, wherever the rich right has paid for a cliff the far left can run off of, they will usually do so, goaded to one extremity after the next by their more fanatical comrades. That is what they are setting up for.
By now, it should be clear that this line of thinking is far more serious than the scoffers or the usual conspiracy theory (a term invented by the CIA to discredit their opponents) suspects would have us believe or suggest with their personal silliness. The socialists are insane, but the right is absolutely murderous. Those people will stop at nothing to beat us and keep power safely out of our hands because they know they can beat the socialists with the greatest and most ultimate ease. After that they can set up fascism in earnest- and fascism is itself a type of socialism. It fits together almost too well.
We all know how disingenuous and ruthless Trump and the rest of the fascist right can be; just this morning, we found out Trump was attempting to use his state power to interfere with the mergers of two private companies, AT&T and Time-Warner. Why? Because that means good things for CNN, and bad things for Rupert Murdoch of Fox News.
In addition to being a good example of how flagrantly Trump is willing to misuse his power, this incident is also a good example of what working socialism looks like. Far from getting rid of rich and poor, it merely sets up a new elite, based on party loyalty (complete with punishments reserved for those who do not enthusiastically demonstrate it, like Trump is doing to the merger for Murdoch), cronyism, and bureaucratic efficiency. Here, what Trump is doing is completely unacceptable. In a place like Russia, however, it’s just the way things are, and in the days of the Soviet Union it was official and lauded as just.
This is not what we want for America.
The difference between social democracy and Democratic Socialism is far more than merely semantical. One is an example of a working, logical, and perfectly viable way to administer the affairs of a given state. The second is a catch phrase aimed at a slander. The public needs to know, and as usual, the task of raising awareness falls to us.
As American hero G.I. Joe used to say to us Millennial Democrats when we were kids, “Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.”