Gonna keep this brief because I’m not a good writer, but I thought since I was posting all the time about socialism I should talk about it, since it is an ostensibly radical and even shocking thing to identify with. Last month I became a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the US. They’re an organization and not a political party, and I plan to stay an active member of the Democratic Party. If you’re interested you can find out about them here: http://www.dsausa.org/
I joined the DSA because I’m a socialist. I think, ultimately, we should socially own most of the means of production, and in the more short term we should enact policies that redistribute wealth and create a more just society.
More importantly, I think, I’m a democratic socialist, which means I think that our society should still be governed democratically (or as close as we can get), and that this democratic rule should extended beyond the state. This was actually pretty fundamental to how I changed my thinking: the idea that real democracy extends beyond our representation in government. A truly democratic society allows people to have a voice in all the spheres that dictate major parts of their lives. And this includes, of course, the economy.
If you’re an American, the national event that most likely had the biggest impact on your life in the last 10 years was the recession in 2008. This recession was caused by reckless lending and misuse of financial instruments; the actions of a relative few massively affected the lives of everyone in the country. Who elected the people who caused the recession? Who gave them the authority to gamble with millions of people’s livelihoods?
A similar thing I’ve been reading about recently is the long destruction of the American public school system that’s taken place over the last 25 years (including the Obama administration). You learn a lot of things in college. For instance, before reading this book, I didn’t think much about Bill Gates; I just thought he was a really rich nerd. But now I’m wiser and know that he’s also single-mindedly devoted to destroying public education in America. His foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to school districts around the country on the condition that they fund disastrous initiatives like charters, testing-based accountability purges, bad new curricula, etc. (This is all in Diane Ravitch’s excellent book The Death and Life of the Great American School System). Gates has exerted a massive influence on education policy akin or greater than any one lawmaker, and it’s because he has a lot of money. He can throw money at school districts to incentivize them to institute policies he and his foundation like, and no one else has any say in this.
Everyone gets that money is power. So, like any other type of power, it’s only legitimate if the people have a say in how that power is used. Some actual regulation would go a long way, but I think ultimately we need a more fundamental mechanism for the people to have a say in how the currents of wealth shape their country. Billionaires are antithetical to democracy.
And beyond that, the massive income inequality that exists in our country is so viscerally awful, so disgusting and morally wrong, that I couldn’t imagine fighting for anything other than massive redistribution of wealth and restructuring of our economy. The fact that people die in the street, that people die of preventable diseases and languish in horrifying conditions while 10 times as much wealth as what could secure people decent living conditions is concentrated in the assets of an extremely small, elite class, is an abomination. America will never be great when thousands of people die from heroin, from violence aggravated by poverty, and from tons of other causes that could easily be mitigated if we had some semblance of an appropriate welfare and infrastructure program. It’s a cliche by now, but it really is morally abominable that 1% of the population owns 35% of the wealth, while so many people are working terrible underpaid jobs, or living in dilapidated neighborhoods, or going to schools that can’t even afford air conditioning in the summer, or going into debt because they had to get life-saving surgery, or any other terrible situation where they need money.
Anyway I got more Mad than I intended but basically our country has become the tyranny of the rich over the poor, to say nothing of the related structures of white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity and other problems that inflict horrible violence on a ton of people. The only morally appropriate response to this is to fight like hell for whatever marginal gains in dignity we can get for the people that have been chewed up and spit out by the dominance of the ruling class. I’m pretty convinced that the best, most consistent way to do this is democratic socialism. But we can do a lot of good even with actions within our current capitalist framework, like the implementation of actual regulations and some reigning in of our appalling laissez-faire economy, which all liberals and even centrists should get behind. I hope we build coalitions to get the really obvious, widely approved stuff done, but beyond that I plan to keep pushing for a more just, less evil society. And that’s going to be achieved through democratic socialism. If you want to do that too, join OU’s chapter of Young Democratic Socialists (and of course there’s lots of other stuff to do). Alright I hope that made sense I’m out.
P.S. Another obviously evil thing about contemporary America is the fact that police kill people, especially black and Native people, with impunity. That’s also obscene and another indicator that we don’t actually live in a civilized society.
P.P.S. The other big reason I moved left is because the current national leadership and direction of Democratic Party are really bad. Like, I voted for Hillary and I really wish she had won, but now that it’s all said and done… I hope we never hear from her again. Same with Obama: he’s a great speaker and all, but his enduring legacy is gonna have more to do with the fact that he drove public education into the ground and killed Yemeni kids with drones. Contemporary “liberalism”, if you can call it that, isn’t working.