But What REALLY is Socialism?

March 1, 2016

 

I was really hopeful when I found out that the Vindicator would be doing a series of articles about their writer's political opinions. Having always been politically minded myself, I figured the articles would help shed light on some of the underrepresented affiliations that are often marginalized by the spectacle that is Two-Party Politics in this country. Eagerly, I awaited the dominant philosophy of the radical left to take the spotlight in what I was sure would be a scathing critique of capitalism filled with Marxist rhetoric and dialectical materialism. What was finally delivered, made me, and other leftists, feel about as betrayed as Red and Black Anarchists did in the Spanish Civil War.

 

To be frank, if your definition of socialism uses Sanders, snow plows and Sweden as examples, you probably have a misguided understanding of socialism. This is where, I suppose then, we should start. Socialism, broken down to its basics, can be best described as radical democracy. This pretty much means not just settling for political democracy, but striving towards economic and social democracy as well; particularly in the workplace. One of the key tenets of socialism in almost every form, is social ownership and democratic control of the means of production. Think about it this way: If our government was a top-down, hierarchical unelected bureaucracy controlled by one very wealthy individual, the average person probably would not stand for that; yet the average person works at a job, that is run in the style of a top-down, hierarchical, unlected bureaucracy controlled by one very wealthy individual. The socialist would would say that this simply is not fair, that the workers and their labor are being taken advantage of by the bosses and owners, and that democracy in the workplace is the only way for the workers to achieve actual freedom. This makes capitalism and its exploitative nature, the sworn enemy of socialism and democracy.

 

Now that, certainly is a radical statement. Bernie Sanders on the other hand, has explicitly stated, that he is not in support of worker ownership of the means of production. How then, can Bernie Sanders be a socialist? Well, the truth is, he's not. Although Sanders does indeed represent the first candidate run by the Democratic Party to be left of center since George McGovern in the 1972, Sanders can be better described as a Social Democrat. So what's the difference between a Democratic Socialist and Social Democrat? Democratic Socialism is socialism through the ballot box. It believes that worker ownership of the means of production and the elimination of capitalist system can be achieved through democratic elections, as oppose to violent revolution. Social Democracy on the other hand, much like Sanders and his Scandinavian friends, is not anti-Capitalist, as it just believes that the ruling classes can be convinced to nicely exploit the working classes if they're forced to pay higher taxes.

 

One of the biggest misconceptions in the previous article was that American Politics and Socialism have always been in opposition, but that's just not the case. During the early 1900s, particularly in the election of 1912, the Socialist Party, lead by Eugene V. Debs, pulled in more than 6% of the US popular vote, making them the fourth largest political party at the time. Another prime example of socialism in the US was the Black Panther Party, an armed group of African Americans defending their communities from corrupt police in the 1960s. Contrary to popular belief, real socialism, both democratic and revolutionary, has always been a trend in the US and today its number of comrades are on the rise. The previous article certainly hit the nail on the head when it said that Sanders is forcing the word to be used in political discussion, but its important that we don't sanitize it. So I end with this advice to the Sanders camp: If you're down with the struggle and feeling the Bern, educate yourself and get active with the radical left. Chances are you'll really love actual socialism.

 

This piece is the fourth installment of a blog series about what our writers' political views mean. Check out others here!

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