Posted by: maboulette | September 9, 2019

The Meaning Of Socialism and What It Offers the United States

firefighters

I have seen the word “socialism” thrown around on Facebook when I am not certain the people using it really don’t know what they are talking about.  Socialism is a political ideology advocating for an egalitarian redistribution of wealth and power in society through the redistribution of society’s means of production (or means of making money).  Socialism, it the simplest terms, involves making more of an effort to balance the scales between the rich and the poor.

LEFT-WING POLITICAL THOUGHT

Nowadays, the term refers to a wide band of left-wing political thought. Some socialists believe that workers or communities should manage businesses as stakeholders, what is known as a cooperative, while others advocate for varying degrees of governmental ownership and administration.

IDEOLOGY EMERGED

By the time the 19th century rolled around and industrial capitalism was in stride, working conditions were INHUMANE. Children were forced into the workplace; workers’ days were long and difficult. With few rights, workers had no safety provisions and minimal pay. This was reflected in the dismal conditions and poverty that working-class people lived in.

REACTION TO WORK CONDITIONS

Socialism was a reaction to all this, and as an intellectual idea, first found its footing among the French elite, where two schools of socialist thought emerged: utopian and revolutionary. While the former group advocated reform, the latter believed that capitalism could only be overthrown through violence.

 EARLY 20th CENTURY

In the early 20th century, socialist ideals would change the world, as working people began to organize through trade unions and, later, in political parties. The writings of German philosopher Karl Marx also served to spread and define socialist ideals.

IS THIS COMMUNISM

Is socialism the same thing as communism? In short, no. Trump’s criticism of Sanders is either wrong or simply exploiting a confusion that stems from the Cold War. At the time, “communism” and “socialism” were used virtually interchangeably in U.S. politics to vilify leftist thinkers.

DISTINCT DIFFERENCE

There is, however, a distinct difference. Although Marx’s writing was a school of far-left socialist thought, it was also a rejection of it and denounced many socialists as part of the problem. Marx instead imagined the ideals of socialism absolutely as communism. Marx believed communism, in which all class boundaries and notions of private ownership would eventually end, was the endpoint of all socialism.

COMMUNISM

Communism required the state own and manage the distribution of wealth and property according to need. There were many countries throughout the 20th century that tried to implement communism, from the Soviet Union to Vietnam, Cuba to China. When economic difficulty continued, however, the dream of a classless utopia often fell to a violent authoritarian regime in which an opportunistic ruling political class and, often, a dictator commanded all material wealth and violently oppressed dissenters.   Socialism is a more moderate—yet still radical—economic philosophy that seeks to empower the worker through co-ownership of industrial and production capacity and through consensus, whether governmental mechanism or through smaller syndicates.

 EUROPEAN DEMOCRACIES

Within current European democracies, however, socialism’s principles exist alongside capitalism. In these countries, citizens pay higher tax rates to the government but benefit from universal pre-paid healthcare, free college tuition, and social welfare programs. This broad social welfare system exists complementary to a free economy with lightly regulated businesses that sometimes pay lower corporate tax rates than U.S. businesses.  This is the kind of democratic socialism that Sanders professes. He has consistently praised Denmark’s model of government. In 2013, he wrote an essay praising the “extraordinary security and opportunity” that the Danish government offers its citizens, describing it most recently as “a very different understanding of what freedom means … ending the enormous anxieties that comes with economic insecurity.”

 SOCIALISM VS DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM

 Democratic socialism is a type of socialism.  Democratic socialism exists within a larger democracy, therefore the term.  In other words, democratic socialists want to achieve their political goals – shifting the balance of power and wealth in society – specifically through democratic means (voting, union, etc.).

 Here is how the Democratic Socialists of America explains it on its website:

 “Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically – to meet public needs, not to make profit for a few.  To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affects our lives.”

 BRINGS TO THE US

Socialism brings us free schools for our children, police protection, fire stations and help in fighting fires, some hospitals and medical clinics, Medicare, Medicaid, social security, 8 hour work days, time and ½ for overtime, no children working, policies that support working against climate change,  road/infrastructure, libraries, and military/defense.

 So, before you get into any political discussions and start throwing this word around – at least know what you are talking about.

 

 

 

 


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