Sumbitted by Ed Koons, AADC President, May, 2019
I was approached a few weeks ago by the head of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. He wanted to know if the AADC wanted to collaborate on a certain project. It was a worthy project, one most Democrats would be happy to support. I told him that I could not recommend that the AADC be identified with a group that called itself socialists.
Socialism. It’s a protean word in a hard knock world. An innocent term in the mind of idealistic youth, who associate socialism with the public benefits offered by most of western European governments. But the word is poison to those of us raised during the cold war. Remember the dystopia that was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Remember Chairman Mao, the Cultural Revolution and the persecution of shop owners and landlords?
Some politicians popular with many Democrats conflate Socialism with praiseworthy programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act. They make the great mistake of allowing themselves to be called Democratic Socialists…or simply Socialists. Instead of rejecting that label, they attempt to finesse around the problem by making up new definitions of the word. But old folks–you know, the people who actually vote– have dictionaries. My favorite dictionary, the formidable twelve-volume Oxford English Dictionary defines socialism as “A theory or policy of social organization which aims at or advocates the ownership and means of control of the means of production , capital, land, property, etc., by the community as a whole and their administration or distribution in the interests of all.”
Unchecked capitalism can be a destructive force. But capitalism operating within a reasonable regulatory framework has been and should continue to be an engine for innovations and services which have changed the world for the better.
In a poll taken earlier this year by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal only 18% of registered voters had positive feelings about socialism, compared to 55% of those polled who thought Washington should do more to solve problems and help people.
The Republican leadership has figured this out, that the positive democratic message can be defeated by a single word. Their strategy in 2020 will be to label every Democratic candidate a Socialist. And, if that label sticks, it means another four years of Donald Trump.
We are liberals and progressives and should be proud of that. But we are not socialists and we ought to make that clear.
Corporate socialism has been the method of rule in the United States for a very long time. It has not worked and we are in a downwards spiral into the black hole of a climate catastrophe. It is time to try democratic socialism, which holds the promise of slowing and reversing this environmental decline. This environmental decline, the mass extinctions that come with it and the climate change science deniers themselves are, as Bob Dylan said in his song “Masters of War,” which shined a light on corporate militarism, “A threat to my baby unborn and unnamed.”
Corporate socialism has allowed corporations to externalize or export onto the public the costs of cleaning up the environmental mess they create. We subsidize corporate profits with our tax dollars by either paying to clean up the toxic air, water and soil they leave behind or we pay with healthcare costs by treating the illness caused by the toxic poisons corporations leave behind. Poor communities pay the majority of these costs because toxic waste is disproportionately located adjacent to where poor people live. You may say that we pay either way, because if regulations require companies to operate without polluting. the cost of goods will rise. That is true, but if clean up costs are not part of the costs of doing business there is no incentive to find cleaner ways of production.
In defending democratic socialism during a televised town hall on Fox news a front runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination defined democratic socialism. The candidate said…
“Democratic socialism to me, is creating a government and an economy and a society which works for all, rather than just the top 1%. It means ending the absurd inequalities that exist today. (the) American people have got to conclude whether we think it is appropriate, and what America is about… to have three families owning more wealth than the bottom half of the American society — 160 million people. Whether it’s appropriate for the top 1% to own more wealth than the bottom 92%. Whether it is right that 49% of all the [inaudible] income goes to the top 1% when many people watching this program who (are) working two or three jobs, just to pay the bills.
So first of all, we want to create an — a government that works for all of us and we want to create a political system, which is based on one person one vote, not billionaires buying elections as a result of this disastrous Citizens United.
And furthermore, furthermore, when I talk — and you know, people have different views of capitalism or democratic socialism — whatever it may be — but this is my view. I believe that human beings, especially in a wealthy, democratic civilized society, like our own, are entitled to certain basic rights.”
The candidate went on to list what they believed some of those basic human rights to be including health care is a human right not a privilege, education — whether you’re poor, whether you’re rich — you have the right to get all of the education you need. And that is why I believe we should make public colleges and universities tuition free, to when they turn on the water, they have drinkable water, not toxic water. It is a society not where just a few people can make a whole lot of money, but a society where everybody in this country has the opportunity to live in security and dignity.