Saturday, April 13, 2019

The WAVE - School Scope: The Smell of Socialism is in the Air

School Scope: The Smell of Socialism is in the Air
By Norm Scott

Submitted for print publication for April 12, 2019 -

There’s been a lot of talk about socialism. Bernie and AOC plus at least two other members of Congress, Brooklyn State Senator Julia Salazar and five just elected Chicago city council members identify themselves as members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). The DSA has its roots in the Socialist Party of America (SPA), whose most prominent leaders included Eugene V. Debs, Norman Thomas and Michael Harrington. DSA has grown exponentially from 5 to 60 thousand members since the election of Trump in 2016.

I’ve been looking at options since I’ve pulled back from organizing in the UFT. One was to get involved in Democratic Party politics. A leader of a Manhattan political club told me to find a local club to join. Then I saw Lew Simon getting petitions signed to get current Queens borough president Melinda Katz on the ballot so she can run for Queens DA and the thought of having to do that made me gag. The DSA candidate is Tiffany Cabán who seems so much more akin to my politics.

So, I started to attend some DSA meetings to learn more about the organization The NYC group has 8 branches located geographically in all boroughs and a citywide labor branch for those in unions.

About 60 people attend the monthly meetings of the South Brooklyn branch. They are very well organized and have working groups organizing for housing, health care, climate and just about any other issue you can imagine. The idea is to activate people at the grass roots level but they also include lobbying and running for office on a Democratic Party line. At this point DSA is not interested in putting itself forward as a third party. The national organization and its local branches have already endorsed Bernie Sanders and are going full bore to support his getting the nomination.

There is a lot of internal debate inside DSA over which direction it should go. While avowedly socialist, DSA is a big tent for people with socialist ideas from revolutionary Leninists to social democrats along the lines of Scandinavian countries which are capitalistic, albeit with a lot of controls and high taxes. The key issue is who own the means of production, the state or private interests. I’m not ready to jump into full-bore socialism with absolute state control since that has not turned out so well. The China miracle can be attributed to the willingness to allow private interests to operate. But I do believe in heavy duty controls over free-reign capitalism where the profit motive will overrun everything and everyone and lead to immense wealth gaps. An extreme example are attacks on the public school system as being “socialist”, which the “choice” charter school movement has tapped into and has lead to one scandal over another. I believe in the neighborhood school and if you don’t like it go pay for a private school.

The closest this country has come to socialism was during FDR’s New Deal during the depression in the 1930s which gave us social security and other protections which Republicans and some Democrats opposed and have been trying to undermine since then, with some success. There are so many socialist brands inside DSA, including some New Dealers and other critics who say the Democratic Party is a dead end. I imagine Democratic centrists would be very happy if DSA just stayed away, given the threats to primary incumbents or to run people like Tiffany Cabán against machine candidates like Melinda Katz.

It was not that long ago where talk of socialism would cause most people to break out in wild laughter in this, the least socialistic nation. And Trump is going to make that his main attack on the Democratic Party. He may be successful in 2020 but over time the younger generation does not seem to have the same fear of socialist ideas, mostly due to the rampages of capitalism. No one wants to opt for the China model and it may take another severe depression to even bring us back to the New Deal, albeit with universal health care, something FDR had in his program but abandoned, fearing his going too far would endanger his entire program. Imagine if Roosevelt had succeeded then. What would Bernie have to talk about?

Norm runs a proletarian dictatorship at his blog,

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