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

Just for the record, what they actually said was:
“We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way,’” Bruce Spiva, lawyer for the DNC, said during a court hearing…

i.e., that’s what party leaders used to do, but that isn’t done anymore. They were specifically saying they don’t choose party leaders that way.

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You people as in citizens of United States of America. Finland has 3 parties in Council of state/Cabinet (right-wing scum w/ extra right to center populist shit heads) and The Parliament has 12 or 13 parties in it.


Also, I think the term anarchism is getting more traction these days thanks to the fact that no one imagines the idea of anarchy as libertopia nonsense nor as a bunch of punks in some gutted out warehouse having an ad hoc concert. Some folks are beginning to realize that anarchism doesn’t mean there’s no democracy or consensus driven decision making but rather that it’s the acknowledgement that there should be no social hierarchies kept around for the sake of tradition or some other mythology. Most especially, that self-determination in this regard doesn’t need a dog-eat-dog mentality to be sustained.


Try something a little less hyperbolic. Instead of MLism it’s better to work towards a transitional system where we have worker cooperatives setup via state backed loans (good terms, probably less than 1% interest or even interest-free). On top of the state being more democratic with consensus driven systems in place such as a legislative body which has a proportion of the parties/groups voted for in a given election. A sort of third chamber which decides the government legal agenda beyond the existing body of law.


No fan of Ayn Rand’s politics, but also not on board with the simplistic critique of the books narrative. A closer comparison between the book would reveal that the books free loading government is more akin to our ruling oligarchy that uses rules for pay to ensure their dominance, and the books competence over all heroes, have more in common with our socialists who wish to craft government to fairly serve everybody.

But sure - its convenient to just say its a right wing text.

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From the Russians I’ve spoken with over the years, the consensus seems to be that it’s less nostalgia for the old system (which they did regard as a failure) and more a natural reaction to the privations they suffered during the 1990s. No-one pined for the days of goods shortages, endless queuing up, or five-year plans – they just wanted stability.

During the Yeltsin period the country was essentially undergoing a version of what we now call the shock doctrine. With the connivance of neoconservatives in the West*, former apparatchiks were becoming oligarchs and the ostensible goal of an equal society was being abandoned. Given the hapless political leadership at a time when the country couldn’t lean on oil revenues it was a free-for-all of looting for a small minority and economic trauma for everyone else.

The handover of once state-owned apartments during the time was not some act of beneficence but a temporary sop to people who were suffering in other ways (a measure that also allowed the state to get out of the public housing business). It was great if you lived in a Stalin wedding cake or prewar building, not so good if you lived in one of the many built-to-fail Khrushchev slums, Of course the oligarchs and cronies made sure they and their clan members were safely ensconced in the former when the time came. Even so, everyone knew that what the state gave the state could take away, despite it working as a stopgap measure.

It took a lot of those kinds of fits and starts (and, in the commodities market, the luck of good timing) for the system of looting and cronyinsm to be formalised into a kleptocracy. Putin, autocrat though he is, is also a coldly competent leader who knows how to keep the oligarchs on a leash while also distracting the peasants with nationalism and populist policies and keeping the intelligentsiya aware that an iron fist lies underneath a thin velvet glove. Part of the right-wing nationalist programme, as is typically the case, is to foster nostalgia for those parts of the past – Tsarist or Soviet – that suit the goals of the regime.

What didn’t happen in all of this was for an actual social democracy (e.g. the type seen in Russia’s neighbours Finland or Estonia) to take hold. A mixed economy under that kind of governance would have made for a society that was, while not perfect, much less tolerant of the cronyism and corruption that’s now an integral part of the Russian economy and much less friendly to the assorted sleazeballs from the West (the dodgy investors, the unscrupulous businessmen acting as cut-outs, and – always – the oily offshore bankers from tax havens) who’ve been enabling the kleptocrats since before Putin came to power and who continue to thrive to this day at his sufferance (and sometimes patronage).

[* Putin has cleverly re-framed them into “all Westerners” even though neoCons are hardly the default of politicians in the U.S. or Europe]


It’s a right-wing text with (as you describe) Soviet characteristics – Stakhanov as the capitalist tycoon instead of the Communist worker. Ayn Rand carried a lot of extra invisible baggage with her when she went to the states. In that light, and combined with her petulant and childish view of how an industrial society functions in reality and her fantastical remedies, the critiques aren’t really that off. American conservatives deserved a better class of philospher.


Bit of both I imagine. Certainly the latter is true. 1998 was very nasty for most Russians. Jeff Sachs repudiates his advice of the time. Not sure about Andre Schliefer.

But also this

Of course you are right about who got what. But not quite as straightforward as you suggest. So I for one wouldnt want to live in an old Communalki. But I have lived in some shitty places in London - the Tooting flatshare springs to mind from my old days at the BoE. However I also remember my old bosses place in one of those Stalin building. He bought it from a Red Army General for $125k in 1997. 3 bed, 2500 sq ft. Very high ceilings - must have been 20 ft high. Fantastic apartment.

Poor general had fallen on hard times and had to sell to a yank banker - he moved to his dacha. Place is probably worth $5mn today.

Still, even the general didn’t have a mortgage, which is of course Sumerian style debt bondage for most. And now in London we have god knows how many Poles and Romanians renting garden sheds in Leytonstone and Southgate.

Im not sure the Russians are so badly off or even were so badly off, although maybe most of that is how far we have fallen rather than how much better off they were under so called “communism”.

Remember that saying of theirs? “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work”. I can vouch for it.


Of course. I was replying to

A sentence which carries the implication that the workers would get to vote on such issues under a socialist state. But I agree with your statement.

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How so? Your story of the wedding cake apartment going from rented residence of a general to one given to him by the state during the 1990s to his having to sell out (probably because he didn’t get in sufficiently on the larger looting) fits in very well with the situation I described – better since a Western banker swooped in to take advantage of the situation, a kind of preview of what became formalised under Putin (despite his rhetoric I’m sure Putin does a lot of business with a certain type of Western banker).

Your crappy apartments in the West are a separate issue as are the enforced communal living arrangements of the Soviet area and nostalgia for childhood. And again, the giveaway of apartments was not an act of socialist benevolence to keep people from debt peonage to the capitalists but a grand stopgap gesture to buy Yeltsin some time.

Compared to their neighbours in Europe who enjoyed real social democracy and mixed economies not riddled with corruption I’d say they were worse off. Of course, the effects might be mitigated for a people who’ve strongly internalised the concept that “suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.”

So can I from my own experience. That said, I’ve always strongly suspected (starting with the etymology of the Russian word for worker) that this attitude predates 1917 and lives on now. What I do know is that the saying is not one you hear in actual social democracies in Europe (it makes me laugh to imagine the absurdity of a German saying that).


No, its still upside-down and backwards.

American conservatives are largely the incompetent inheritors of wealth that twist government to benefit them, gathering unearned wealth by sponging off the rest of us - The government and the masses in Atlas Shrugged. The American lower and middle class workers and laborers are the hard working, get paid for what you do, 40hrs+ per week - the the super competent heroes of Atlas Shrugged.

To see it any other way is to capitulate to the right wing delusion that they have all the money because they are smarter/better than you and I.


I was talking about the real-life American conservatives (“leaders” like Paul Ryan and the temporarily embarrassed millionaires in the base) who’ve adopted Rand as their official popular philosopher and taken her fantasies as their holy writ.

Portrayed hard-working and super-competent, perhaps, but Rand reserved the term “hero” for the tycoons and creative geniuses who could move to a remote valley where lower- and middle-class workers and labourers were nowhere to be seen.


Ouch! Where is your “Russian soul”?

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Except most of those “individual” achievements were far more “collective” than you give credit for. It’s never been the case of an individual genius working alone to come up with breakthroughs. It’s often people working with others together who’ve made advances possible.

When that rests of abuse of the people who works for him, yes! When it rests on his own self-glorification over the health and safety of a bunch of kids stuck in a cave, then yes.

Or that it’s only the individual who contributes to advancements in technology.

But… he put a car in SPACE!!! /s Agreed, though.

Good thing no one here said that… There are plenty of aspects of society that you just can’t use to make a bunch of already rich people richer. Education, healthcare, public infrastructures we ALL depend on, the means of feeding ourselves, etc, none of these should be privatized to make a profit for someone else. The free market does not do a better job distributing those goods to the public, because it’s goal is not the building of a just and freer society, but to accumulate wealth for a few.

Clearly not, since we know how he feels about unions.

You do know how quickly the Soviets developed their space program, right? in less than a decade. Musk is not reinventing the wheel, here, he’s building on technologies that already existed.


But he actually does all that now.


In that regard, stored safely right in the pages right in the pages of the Dostoevsky novels on my bookshelf. As it stands I take a less sunny view of life than most Westerners do, so there’s no need to upset the balance further.


What gets to me is that people don’t see that our nation of the people, by the people, and for the people is and always has been a fundamentally socialist government. We choose our representatives who in turn debate and and create laws which are mostly concerned with how we as a nation choose to spend our tax dollars on socialist programs like education, police, military, fire, mail, roads, environmental protection, etc etc
That’s socialism 101. Some point to our capitalistic markets as proof we aren’t socialist but that just betrays a lack of nuanced thinking and poor education. Sure we have a capitalistic market but they exists side by side with many other market types we use and has nothing to do with your system of governance.


Well, as I remember the story they certainly took some trusted labor with them, and flipping burgers and flipping them well was not beneath any of these heroes.

More to the point those heroes saw labor who worked hard and worked competently as great assets, and paid and treated them well. Rand’s class of spoiled 1%ers only see labor as an unnecessary evil, and one to be exploited, competent or hardworking or not.

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This sums things up better than I could.

If there was burger-flipping it was the backyard BBQ kind, not the “if I don’t do this I’ll miss the rent and starve” kind.

The wise and benevolent employer being the rule rather than the exception was another fantasy, especially at the time she was writing. Absent a union, workers at best were seen as cogs in a Taylorist machine that needed to be regularly oiled and cleaned.


Look - my point is by condemning the text as right wing you reinforce the conservative right’s claim to the role of super competent (and persecuted) industrialist, which they are so opposite from being.

Instead if you argue the points of how much more similar the right is to the entitled manipulative benefactor of a bought government I think it would be much more useful to the cause. And by the way, truer to the text.

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