My political ideology has evolved over my lifetime as I have grown and changed as a person. Growing up, I considered myself a conservative Republican almost 100% because my parents were and I attended a conservative high school. When politicians were campaigning for the 2008 Presidential Election, I attended a rally for Mike Huckabee. Now, the very sight of Huckabee makes me gag. For me, college was a time in my life where I was cliche-ingly discovering myself. Why do I think what I think? It was a very perplexing time in my life.
Today, I consider myself a democratic socialist but have a hard time putting into words what that means, especially when I am put on the spot. There is an organization that I reference often to educate myself and put words to my feelings and thoughts: Democratic Socialists of America.
The text below is NOT my own writing. I am taking information from the DSA website to inform and share the knowledge of what democratic socialism is with others.
What is Democratic Socialism?
Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.
Democracy and socialism go hand in hand. All over the world, wherever the idea of democracy has taken root, the vision of socialism has taken root as well—everywhere but in the United States. Because of this, many false ideas about socialism have developed in the US.
Doesn’t socialism mean the government will own and control everything?
Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.
Today, corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders make basic economic decisions affecting millions of people. Resources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.
Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible.
Isn’t socialism essentially communism? Or will lead to it?
Socialists have been among the harshest critics of authoritarian Communist states. Just because their bureaucratic elites called them “socialist” did not make it so; they also called their regimes “democratic.” Democratic socialists always opposed the ruling party-states of those societies, just as we oppose the ruling classes of capitalist societies. We applaud the democratic revolutions that have transformed the former Communist bloc. However, the improvement of people’s lives requires real democracy without ethnic rivalries and/or new forms of authoritarianism. Democratic socialists will continue to play a key role in that struggle throughout the world.
Moreover, the fall of Communism should not blind us to injustices at home. We cannot allow all radicalism to be dismissed as “Communist.” That suppression of dissent and diversity undermines America’s ability to live up to its promise of equality of opportunity, not to mention the freedoms of speech and assembly.
Why are there no models of democratic socialism?
Although no country has fully instituted democratic socialism, the socialist parties and labor movements of other countries have won many victories for their people. We can learn from the comprehensive welfare state maintained by the Swedes, from Canada’s national health care system, France’s nationwide childcare program, and Nicaragua’s literacy programs. Lastly, we can learn from efforts initiated right here in the US, such as the community health centers created by the government in the 1960s. They provided high quality family care, with community involvement in decision-making.
Aren’t you a party that is in competition with the Democratic party?
No, we are not a separate party. Like our friends and allies in the feminist, labor, civil rights, religious, and community organizing movements, many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing, represented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
If I am going to devote time to politics, why shouldn’t I focus on something more immediate?
Although capitalism will be with us for a long time, reforms we win now—raising the minimum wage, securing a national health plan, and demanding passage of right-to-strike legislation—can bring us closer to socialism. Many democratic socialists actively work in the single-issue organizations that advocate for those reforms. We are visible in the reproductive freedom movement, the fight for student aid, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered organizations, anti-racist groups, and the labor movement.
Back to my thoughts:
Whatever you think, just make sure you do so because YOU believe it. Don’t take your parents, teachers, or friends word for fact. Challenge yourself, make yourself uncomfortable, and think out of the box. And if you come back to your original beliefs, great. If you change your worldview or political ideology (politics is far from the only thing I encourage you to challenge yourself on), that’s great too. Some of my best friends are conservative. Hell, my own mother is. And I love all of them to pieces. We also have some interesting, heated conversations-which typically end with agreeing to disagree. And that is OK.
Just think for yourself, dammit.