Last week the ladies of the View were having an argument about Democratic Socialism prompted by the recent success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Meghan McCain argued that Ocasio-Cortez should be pressed to offer an example of one place where such a system had worked. She also pointed out that it wasn’t working out too well in Venezuela. Meanwhile, Joy Behar rattled off a list of countries—Denmark, Norway, Iceland—which she considered examples of successful socialist countries. But those countries are properly called social democracies. Here’s the difference as I explained it last week:
Social democracy is basically piling on a lot more public programs (at tremendous expense) on the engine of capitalism. Democratic socialism is the gradual erosion of capitalism altogether in favor of public ownership of everything. It’s not entirely clear where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez draws that line. Recently, she was asked about capitalism and suggested that it might not be around in the future. “I do think we are going to see an evolution in our economic system of an unprecedented degree,” Ocasio-Cortez said. That sounds a lot like true Democratic Socialism, i.e. the elimination of capitalism altogether which, again, is not what is happening in Scandinavia.
So the question which the media has inexplicably left unanswered is where Democratic Socialists draw the line. Are they just advocating for the Scandinavian model or are they looking for the end of capitalism and collective ownership of everything? Today, Vox has provided an answer to that question by allowing a current DSA member to explain where the group really stands:
I’m a staff writer at the socialist magazine Jacobin and a member of DSA, and here’s the truth: In the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism. And we want to do that by pursuing a reform agenda today in an effort to revive a politics focused on class hierarchy and inequality in the United States. The eventual goal is to transform the world to promote everyone’s needs rather than to produce massive profits for a small handful of citizens.
Pooling society’s resources to meet people’s basic needs is a tenet of social democracy, one that’s been advocated domestically by much of the labor movement and many of its political supporters among New Deal and post-New Deal liberals. This is a vision we share. But we also want more than FDR did. A robust welfare state in an economy that’s still organized around capitalists’ profits can mitigate the worst inequalities for a while, but it’s at best a temporary truce between bosses and workers — and one that the former will look to scrap as soon as they can…
As long as a handful of elite capitalists get to call the shots in the economy and society, the playing field will be tilted in their favor. They’ll always be the ones who come out on top.
Many observers see groups like DSA pushing for policies like Medicare-for-all and decide that we must actually be something like New Deal liberals who are simply confused about the meaning of socialism. That’s not true. Our goal is not to rein in the excesses of capitalism for a few decades at a time — we want to end our society’s subservience to the market.
The author believes Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all would be an improvement but points out it still wouldn’t be socialism. For DSA members, no amount of social democracy ever adds up to true Democratic Socialism. Only an end to capitalism can do that. The author concludes that DSA members like Ocasio-Cortez will be, “articulating a vision for society beyond capitalism, where each person’s life is truly theirs to live, not to spend toiling for a dime while the boss takes a dollar.”
So what’s the difference between Democratic Socialism and Communism? In the end, it’s a matter of tactics. Both groups want to see an end to capitalism but traditional communists believe the system would shift suddenly as a result of a violent revolution. There are still a few revolutionary communists around today but many have opted for the DSA approach, i.e. the long march through the institutions. That’s basically a more peaceful transition to the same system, a lot like what happened in Venezuela.
I don’t know if Meghan McCain is a Hot Air reader but she ought to take the next available opportunity to point out that Joy Behar was wrong about what Democratic Socialists want. They’re not looking to make the U.S. more Scandinavia, though they’d take that for starters. What they really want is something far more extreme.