Why Democratic Socialists aren't afraid to call themselves "Socialist" anymore

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/07/29/putting-the-democratic-in-soci.html


Corey Robin (previously) points out that the rehabilitation of the “socialist” label isn’t just about the march of history, in which Stalinism has become a distant memory.

Although the march of history plays a part, it’s simpler than that or the recognition on the part of voters – especially younger ones – that both party establishments dislike democracy (the GOP way more than the Dems, of course – those selling false equivalencies can peddle them elsewhere).

The middle class continues to be decimated and precarity creeps ever-upward under late-stage capitalism, to the point where people who used to be considered affluent and comfortable now feel they’re struggling even if they’re not. As a result, more and more Americans are realising that things like single-payer universal health insurance and free tuition aren’t just things those “undeserving” poors and Marxists demand but programmes that might benefit them, too.

All of these changes have resulted in an increasing number of Americans seeing that “socialism” not only describes the failed closed and centralised command-economy implementations by the USSR and its imitators* but also the successful mixed-economy implementations that exist to one degree or another in open and democratic societies in Scandinavia, Western Europe, and Canada.

[* a perception encouraged by the conservatives and Libertarians]


That logo is really terrible if the DSA wants to make clear it has nothing to do with the Soviet-style fiascos of the past, though. It looks like the logo of the SED (East Germany Communist Party) or the INGSOC logo from the John Hurt version of “1984”.


Use fist bumps instead? :slight_smile:


I figured it was just the natural reaction to constantly being told that things like universal healthcare and reasonable gun control are “socialist.” Sooner or later people are bound to start thinking “I guess that makes me a socialist then.”




It really irritates me that Americans can’t seem to get their heads around the difference between a socialist and a social democrat. Most of these DSA folks are actually social democrats, not socialists.


From the November 1, 1918 NY Call, the Socialist newspaper, comes a very succinct definition of American Socialism, different from European Socialism I believe:

“Art Young’s Political Primer: What is Socialism? It is business operated for public benefit instead of private profit.”

Sounds to me very like a “B” corporation or benefit corporation, you know, like Vermont’s groundbreaking utility company, Green Mountain Power.

PS: I’ve sent this definition to Ms Ocasio-Cortez.


Bringing that up, or pointing out public utilities like roads, always results in a spasm of Humpty Dumpty redefinition or cherry-picking of meaning until that can’t possibly be socialism.

Of course, when people propose something, suddenly it’s: “We can’t do that, that’s socialism!”



That and their pervasive use of ‘comrade’ in both internal and public communication. I don’t know if they’re going for semantic reclamation but it grates every time I read it. There are a lot of other ways to convey solidarity and I feel like they risk reinforcing the equally pervasive falsehood here in the U.S. that socialism is intrinsically Stalinist.



If the term “comrade” is part of a running joke on a site like BoingBoing that’s sympathetic to their policy goals they might want to drop it. For all the progress they’re making they’re still shooting themselves in the foot with this misplaced and misguided nostalgia.*

[* not that the DSA unique in that sense, as Corbyn continues to demonstrate to Labour’s misfortune in the UK]


Pretty sure most people don’t actually want collective ownership of the means of production. I think private enterprise is what makes things happen. Certainly we can put limits on capitalism, tho, so that we ensure that income inequality is kept from becoming too extreme, there are nice social benefits for all, and no one is being exploited.

Social Democracy, yes. Democratic socialism, no.


“…great things. Terrible, yes, but great.” —Ollivander


Da. I say “comrade” sarcastically, usually to interloper trolls.


Roger that.


Lol. Yes, not all great things are necessarily good. But mediocrity is no virtue, either.

What is the ratio of positive advances to humanity derived from a committee approval process vs those driven by an exceptional individual with resources to achieve a vision?

Let’s rein in capitalist activity that has net negative consequences to society, while encouraging those with net positive outcomes.

For example, do we really want to prohibit Elon Musk from being able to do his thing? Space X, Tesla, Solar City, Neuralink, and Boring are not compatible with socialism.

Where do you think this amazing global network of computers you used to post that comment came from?

I don’t think private enterprise should be destroyed entirely, but the notion that capitalism is responsible for all the major technological and social advances in our society is pure silliness.


That’s exactly why it irritates me that Americans can’t seem to figure out the difference between these concepts.