Monday, August 13, 2018

Social Democracy vs. Democratic Socialism

Sheri Berman had a very interesting article in the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post comparing social democracy with democratic socialism. I think Berman is a little hard on today's democratic socialists, most of whom are really just left-ish social democrats, rather than true blue democratic socialists committed to replacing capitalism with a different economic system. In this sense, I think she errs in comparing today's democratic socialists with the genuinely revolutionary socialists who stayed out of the Third (Communist) International and briefly formed their own international (sometimes referred to as the "two and a half international"). The democratic socialists of today don't match up very well, either ideologically or in terms of social base, with those socialists of yesteryear.
Most democratic socialists today are really mostly concerned--here and in Europe--with pushing the left into a more confrontational attitude toward neoliberalism and toward the adoption of larger-scale reforms. That's pretty far from the revolutionary replacement of capitalism with socialism. Still, Berman does raise some important questions for those democratic socialists who are explicitly committed to replacing, rather than reforming, capitalism. .She asks:
"What does the DSA’s goal of socialism actually mean? If abolishing capitalism is its goal, as its adherents say, how are the growth, efficiency and innovation that are the prerequisites for redistribution to be achieved? And if reforms can’t create a better world (“Today’s democratic socialists don’t see positive policy reforms as something we’ll stack up until one day, voilĂ !, we have socialism,” as one democratic socialist wrote in Vox), then how is socialism to be achieved? Is democracy, even when flawed, a means or an end? Will democratic socialists prioritize democracy if the votes for a “socialist future” do not materialize? Will they eschew the compromises and alliances necessary to protect democracy? The unwillingness of Jean-Luc MĂ©lenchon to support President Emanuel Macron in the French presidential elections, and the refusal by some American leftists to support Hillary Clinton, come to mind, as does the willingness of some democratic socialists to consider running outside the Democratic Party. And will democratic socialists accept the trade-offs and bridge-building necessary to win elections? Or is compromise, as [one democratic socialist] put it, antithetical to truly fighting “for the working class and marginalized”?"
Good questions all! Or, put another way, was this guy the main man or a shameless capitulator to the bourgeousie? Every generation must answer this all-important question!

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