Sunday, June 23, 2019

Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy - How they differ - NY Times

...if you ask five self-described democratic socialists what the term means, you’re likely to get five different answers... no federal official or Democratic candidate advocates communism.

At the other end is social democracy, which is common in Europe. It preserves capitalism, but with stricter regulations and government programs to distribute resources more evenly.
Ultimately, though, Sweden isn’t what democratic socialists like Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin magazine, a quarterly socialist journal, are looking for. “We come from the same tradition,” he said of democratic socialists and social democrats. But generally, he added, social democrats see a role for private capital in their ideal system, and democratic socialists do not.
.....NYTimes
These exceprts are from a June 12, 2019 NY Times article on socialism that tried to sort out the various aspects - I thought it was one of the better pieces and included talking to the leader of Jacobin and the leader of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), people who do not get quoted in the mainstream press. I've tried to write about the same subject but often get it muddled -- even my wife, who occasionally reads my columns in The Wave commented how much clearer this NYT piece was than mine.

I heard last week on NPR attempts to define differences between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren - she supports capitalism and the market based system but wants it tightly controlled - she would say that our current system is a distortion of capitalism. Bernie is an an avowed socialist - but what brand?

The NY Times has done some hits on his history trying to pin him to support for socialist regimes in the past that were not democratic socialists.

Mayor and 'Foreign Minister': How Bernie Sanders Brought the Cold ...


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/17/us/bernie-sanders-burlington-mayor.html
Jun 12, 2019 - 1:49Sanders Presents Vision of Democratic Socialism in Speech.
What the article below does is try to articulate the differences between social democrats (regulated capitalism and markets and democratic socialists (capitalism nyet.) I joined DSA without understanding this --- DSA is a broad-based open tent for socialists of every brand but after a few meetings it seems clear to me that social democrats who believe in regulated capitalism don't really fit in. There are no debates over this in DSA -- the assumption is that you are there because you believe in socialism where the means of production are not in private hands. They call themselves "democratic" socialists because they think this can be brought about by democratic means and governance under socialism will be democratic. I have my doubts.

My experience in MORE has taught me a lot about the left and socialism. MORE has fundamentally become an arm of the DSA NYC labor branch. As for bringing about change through democratic means, the DSA people in MORE, many of whom are aligned with the ISO faction, gave us a very bad example -- they couldn't bring about change in a tiny irrelevant caucus with less than 20 active people without tossing out democracy. DSA as a whole is really trying to do things democratically, but that is as long as people are on the same page - roughly -- just wait until the spitting and splitting begins. I'm still a member but not active.

What Is Democratic Socialism? Whose Version Are We Talking About?


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/12/us/politics/democratic-socialism-facts-history.html





Democratic socialism has become a major force in American political life. Just look at  Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is planning a national address on what it is and why he believes it’s needed.

Yet if you ask five self-described democratic socialists what the term means, you’re likely to get five different answers. Here’s why.

Democratic socialism has a definition …

Political theory isn’t exactly a crowd-pleaser on the campaign trail, but you need some of it to understand why “democratic socialism” means so many things to so many people.

Leftist political theory encompasses a wide range of ideologies, which can be divided roughly into three categories.

Communism is what existed in the Soviet Union and still exists in China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam. It isn’t monolithic, but the common thread is a fully centralized economy achieved through revolution.

This is the image some critics evoke against less radical ideologies, as the “Fox & Friends” co-host Pete Hegseth did when he called Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s $15 minimum wage for her staff “socialism and communism on display.” In reality, no federal official or Democratic candidate advocates communism.

At the other end is social democracy, which is common in Europe. It preserves capitalism, but with stricter regulations and government programs to distribute resources more evenly. Consider Elizabeth Warren: She supports capitalism, but her proposals  would remake the American economy  in an effort to reduce inequality and guarantee basic needs.

Democratic socialism falls in between.

If we use the standard definition, democratic socialists don’t support capitalism: They want workers to control the means of production. In social democracies, by contrast, the economy continues to operate “on terms that are set by the capitalist class,” Maria Svart, national director of the Democratic Socialists of America, told The Times last year. “Our ultimate goal really is for working people to run our society and run our workplaces and our economies.”

Unlike communists, however, democratic socialists believe socialism should be achieved, well, democratically. This requires a long-term outlook, because they know theirs is a minority position. Their goal is to convince a majority, but in the meantime, they support many social-democratic policies.

Ultimately, though, Sweden isn’t what democratic socialists like Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin magazine, a quarterly socialist journal, are looking for. “We come from the same tradition,” he said of democratic socialists and social democrats. But generally, he added, social democrats see a role for private capital in their ideal system, and democratic socialists do not.

… but Americans use it to mean a lot of things

In countries that have multiple leftist parties, these distinctions are commonly understood. In the United States, they aren’t.

Because a binary view of “liberals” and “conservatives” dominates American politics, ideologies to the left of mainstream Democrats tend to get lumped together — which often means the left conflates democratic socialism and social democracy, and  the right casts all of it as socialism or communism.

“Here in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” President Trump said in his State of the Union address this year. “Tonight, we resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

Mr. Sanders identifies as a democratic socialist, but when asked on Tuesday how he defined that, he described something closer to social democracy.

“What democratic socialism essentially means to me is completing the vision that Franklin Delano Roosevelt started some 85 years ago, and that is to go forward in the wealthiest country in the history of the world and guarantee a decent economic standard of living in life for all of our people,” he said. “And to do that, obviously we have to combat oligarchy and the incredibly unfair and unequal distribution of wealth and income, and to take on the incredible political power that the 1 percent have.”

The policies Mr. Sanders supports — like single-payer health care, free public college, and higher taxes on the wealthy to fund safety-net programs — are also standard in social democracies.

“His practical program is a program that would be pretty comfortable within the confines of any European country,” said Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard College. “As far as the policies he’s advocating, those are probably better viewed as social democratic — that’s what they would be in another place in which there are more left options.”

But “because we don’t have a social-democratic party in this country,” Professor Berman said, “the only way to indicate that you want to go further than the Democratic Party — that you are more critical of capitalism than the Democratic Party has been — has been to identify yourself as a democratic socialist.”

And so, even on a question as basic as whether democratic socialism and capitalism can coexist, there is disagreement.

“There are some democratic socialists that would say, ‘Absolutely not,’” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who identifies as a democratic socialist, told MSNBC in February. Others — herself included, she said — “would say, ‘I think it’s possible.’”

This complicates the debate

Democratic socialists are not necessarily bothered by the loose definition. There is room for more than one movement on the left, Mr. Sunkara said.

“Socialism means many things,” he said, adding that he tried to avoid policing which self-identified socialists count as real socialists.

But there is little question that the lack of a common definition confuses the political debate.

“Socialist” and “communist” have long been catchall epithets for any proposal that would substantially expand the role of government — including ones, like Social Security and Medicare, that are now popular across the political spectrum. There is a big difference between social-democratic policies and ones that would actually shift control of the means of production, but that distinction is often lost in political discourse.

This was clear in a Harris Poll conducted in April, which found that 40 percent of Americans would rather live in a socialist country than a capitalist one — but their definitions varied widely, making it impossible to conclude how many supported any given version of socialism.

About three-quarters of all respondents (both supporters and opponents of socialism) said a socialist system would involve universal health care and tuition-free education. About two-thirds said it would involve a guaranteed living wage, and a similar number mentioned a state-controlled economy. Sixty-one percent said it would include state control of private property, and 57 percent believed the government would control the news media.

“When everybody defines a term in their own way,” Professor Berman said, “it makes it harder for voters or the public to figure out exactly what that term is supposed to signal.”

Follow Maggie Astor on Twitter: @MaggieAstor.

Sydney Ember contributed reporting.

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