Lately we hear a lot of Democratic Socialists, and people wonder what the term means. Well, there are two major interpretations.
I. The etymologically correct interpretation: By the construction of these two terms, they should mean something different. Democratic Socialists would be people who want socialism and watch out that it remain politically democratic, in other words not the fake socialism of the Soviet Union which was kind of a bureaucratically rather than plutocrat-run state capitalism. Socialism stands for a socially responsible society based on the working people being at the economic steering wheel. A main aspect of this is that the country’s resources don’t belong to a tiny top of billionaires who therefore get to make all the important decisions. Unfortunately, in many of the socialism-themed armed revolutions that took place, political democracy got thrown overboard by the winners of the violent struggle, removing the people from the steering wheel. And thus things deteriorated, even despite the billionaires having been removed. In those places, big party officials unfortunately became the new oligarchy. Instead of wealth begetting power, you had power begetting wealth. Ultimately, the two are interchangeable, which is why a functioning democracy is so important and must reign not only in public affairs but the business sector, as well.
By the etymology of the the label, Democratic Socialists should be aiming for the root goal of socialism which is to put the economy’s resources back in the hands of the entire people, away from a few super-rich plutocratic lords who make purely selfish decisions – something that would get money out of politics – but also make sure to not throw democratic elections overboard. The task for real Democratic Socialists would clearly be to take out socially irresponsible capitalism and replace it with a socially responsible economy that serves the people instead of plutocrats’ profits, and where – to make this possible – all the people who are affected make the decisions together in democratic fashion. The result: political/social/religious and economic liberty and justice for all. A good thing, if you ask me.
II. The presently prominent meme: The way Democratic Socialists are currently identified in the media and progressive political candidates self-identify in our country, they are merely Social Democrats — basically capitalism-embracing politicians who professedly or genuinely wish to ameliorate the cruel excesses of gross societal inequality by means of welfare programs, such as Social Security, universal health coverage, free public education, and so on.
This approach, when taken and done well, clearly helps all the struggling people in major ways; but it also has the hidden disadvantage that it appeases them and thereby tends to bring attempts for fundamental change to a halt, and – even worse – puts the people to sleep so deeply that it ultimately permits goons high up in politics and the economy to rig the system to their benefit until we are back in the misery where we started.
This, incidentally, is exactly what happened with the New Deal, which was a social-democratic move to get us out of the Great Depression and which has by now been largely repealed, getting us a second Great Depression (called Great Recession this time to differentiate it) and a new Victorian age of gross and very painful inequity that makes tens of thousands of Americans die from lack of healthcare each year and has 50% and counting live their lives in poverty. So, while we can all yearn for social democratic moves to help us out of our troubles, in the long run they tend to diminish and even backfire since they don’t solve our problems at their root and even help to hide and protect the root.
Putting labels aside, I plead for all of us waking up to the root of our problems and committing to pull it out.
By the way, Jamarl Thomas gets into the DS-SD topic around 7-14 minutes in this video talk of his:
(Note: if the video linked above gets deleted, you may search the Internet for the title: “Communist Jason Unruhe Attacks Ocasio-Cortez As NOT A Real Socialist; Gets FACTS Of Attack WRONG”)
Also of interest may be this video:
(Note: if the video linked above gets deleted, you may search the Internet for the title: “Why You Should LOVE Democratic Socialism “)
Comment: What we see in the above video is the slippery slope that can stop us from going all the way. The lady representing the DSA speaks of the principle of all of us together making the decisions which mark our lives instead of letting a tiny money aristocracy dictate every aspect of our lives. Instead of talking about how to get there, though, she then brings up social democratic measures like universal healthcare which we all truly need and most of us are demanding from our unresponsive corrupticians. However, healthcare for all is only one very important item on the checklist of things we need for an ideal society, but it is not much of an instrument to dethrone the ruling class (it would merely force some health insurance billionaires to divest elsewhere). And if we focus exclusively on such direct help measures but forget to eliminate the root cause of societal corruption and misery, the empire of the rich will strike back and undo them again, as we observed in the time since the New Deal (made possible with deficit spending and high taxes on the rich – and causing an unprecedented economic boom – by the way). Therefore we must mature enough inside to walk the full mile and make fundamental and permanent change outside, creating a system dedicated to a good life for all and secured against rot from Big Money.