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Democratic Socialism Has Deep Roots in American Life


Democratic Socialism Has Deep Roots in American Life

Lawrence Wittner

The shock and disbelief with which many political pundits have responded to Bernie Sanders’s description of himself as a “democratic socialist”—a supporter of democratic control of the economy—provide a clear indication of how little they know about the popularity and influence of democratic socialism over the course of American history.


Pundits ignoring the existence of today's and yesterday's democratic socialists proves HOW MUCH THEY KNOW, not "how little they know about the popularity and influence of democratic socialism over the course of American history".

In recent elections less than 1% of US voters have voted for socialist candidates whereas nearly 10% of US voters voted for socialist or communist candidates during the first half of the 20th century. FDR and Congress were forced to toss the 99% some crumbs in the form of the New Deal as a strategy to keep the US from going commie.

The 1% who own most pundits subsequently concentrated many resources on demonizing all things socialist/communist complete with a cold war based on exaggerating commie threats, orchestrating Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy's witch hunt and steady erosion of the New Deal.

Ignoring the existence of and serially marginalizing left of center candidates is the pundits' and their 1% owners' strategy for destroying what little remains of the New Deal, and preventing the re-emergence of any populist legislation,


Sometimes you wonder that if we dropped all the labels... the dems, repubs, capitalists, socialists, communists, independents, leftists, reactionaries right, liberal, neoliberal, bolshevik (you don't hear that one much anymore), Trotskyite (hey who let the Trotskyite in here? Say... what the hell is a Trotskyite anyway? Wha? Nah! You're making' that up! G'outta here ya liar! Wha? Huh? No really? Where? Mexico? What the hell was he doing down there? You're just making this stuff up! He was a Bolshevik? How could Trotsky not be a real Trotskyite? Huh? Wha? Well nobody knows what being a Trotskyite is now either! I think being a Trotskyite means that you think that you are the only real Trotskyite and that all the other Trotskyites aren't really Trotsk... Pass me the aspirin...sheesh!)

If we stopped using labels... we'd find out who these people really are.


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Yes. Why do we need words to mean anything? Words can mean anything we want them to - like in Alice's whimsically insane Wonderland.


None of the things described by the author of this piece would be considered "socialism" democratic or otherwise. The proper term would be "social democracy"?

But Samuel Gompers - the great sell-out of the labor movement to the Bosses - a socialist? Gimme a break!


And don't forget that you can get anything you want in Alice's Restaurant.


cluck cluck cluck


I would have voted for her! She was a class act all the way.


No labels can mean anything we want. Words have actual definitions.

In response to your comment one can only say >>> Even the 'mome raths outgrabe' to hear it.


Any group that does not advocate for a system where working people own and control the means of production and distribution through worker ownership, democratically-controlled public agencies, cooperatives, or other collective groups is not any type of a socialist organization.

Real socialists call for the transformation from capitalism to socialism and can be summarized as follows:

The Socialist Party - USA stands for the abolition of every form of domination and exploitation, whether based on social class, gender, race/ethnicity, age, education, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.

We are committed to the transformation of capitalism through the creation of a democratic socialist society based on compassion, empathy, and respect as well as the development of new social structures. Socialism will establish a new social and economic order in which workers and community members will take responsibility for and control of their interpersonal relationships, their neighborhoods, their local government, and the production and distribution of all goods and services.

For these reasons we call for social ownership and democratic control of productive resources, for a guarantee to all of the right to participate in societal production, and to a fair share of society's product, in accordance with individual needs.

As we pursue a socialist transformation of society, we join with others in making radical demands on the existing system: demands that challenge the basic assumptions of a capitalist market economy while pointing the way to a new society. Although reforms will not in themselves bring about socialism, the fight for them will advance the cause by demonstrating the inherent limitations and injustice of the capitalist system. As we build the socialist movement, we organize around a platform committed to our common and interdependent struggles and aspirations.


"..Democratic Socialists of America—a descendant of the old Socialist Party of America, though an organization rather than a third party—is growing rapidly. Not surprisingly, it is fervently backing Bernie Sanders’s campaign for the presidency."

This is going to piss off our 'more Socialist than thou' Sanders haters.

Good. :smile:


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One can argue what true socialism is until one is blue in the face. The American socialist and writer Michael Harrington, excommunicted from the socialist parties of his day for supporting George McGovern, said the better socialist strategy was to work through and take over the Democratic Party since the socialists of his day were not increasing their numbers, nor are they doing so today.

I like Mortimer Adler's thinking in this regard:

"The economic counter part of this political ideal (real democracy) is socialism. Socialism is an ideal, as democracy is, and it is approximated in varying degrees. As an ideal it is the economic face of political democracy. The ideal is approximated in a society in which all mature citizens are economic as well as political haves. It is a society with no economic have-nots -- no one deprived of a decent livelihood, to which every human being has a natural right.

In the same way that all citizens are political haves, they are all economic haves. That is why democracy and socialism are two faces of the same coin. Among the economic haves, some will have more and some less in terms of the contribution they make to the economy. But all are equal at the baseline in which all have enough to live a decent human life."

Living a decent human life means just that, not a minimum wage life, but a full life with all necessities including liesure time to actuate the many human potententialities most often lost in the present system. Socialism will come about by enacting socialist programs that contribute to this ideal. Bernie's bringing socialism out of the political closet is a contribution in itself, the sour socialists will never be satisfied. Let them channel Rosa Luxemburg, vote for Bernie instead.


This pretty close to the original Manifesto of the CCF here in Canada during the 1920's.

The NDP which succeeded them have drifted far away from what is deemed Socialism.


Yes, we use words to communicate. We use such words as "socialist" to describe a general ideology, rather than submit a 10-page outline of the specific views of (for example) candidates. When people don't have a clear understanding of what the words mean, they should "Google" them. No question, politics is a very complex area, and it should not be "dumbed down." It really is necessary to take the time to learn what political terms mean.


In debating the meaning of "socialism," we're trying to establish just what people are talking about, and what they want today. It's definitely relevant to point out that there is no such thing as "socialism for only the better off," the middle class, which appears to be what liberals have been advocating. All of this goes to the heart of what sort of nation we want to become. Our biggest conflicts concern class -- rich vs. middle class vs. poor. The idea of "socialism only for the middle class" is unique to this era and to the US. It demands more examination because it is a warped notion that does nothing to address America's continued economic deterioration.


I didn't know there were any democratic socialists running.Sen. Sanders was an Independent, is now a Democrat, and I haven't heard him say anything in years to indicate that he's a democratic socialist. A key point: What does he say we should do about our jobless poor, and many of the unemployable? As far as I can tell, he has embraced "trickle down economics" as the sole response to our poverty crisis, consistent with what liberal media have been advocating -- even though we know that "trickle down" has been a grotesque failure.

Understanding our situation requires grasping that we aren't dealing with "the 1% vs. the 99%." Unlike similar eras in the past, that "99%" is profoundly divided, pitted against each other -- middle class vs. the poor, workers vs. the jobless.


From our first "democratic socialist" President:

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance
of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who
have too little." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

However, when a young reporter asked him about his philosophy, the
President replied, "I'm a Christian and a Democrat -- that's all."
(from the book, "Debating Franklin D. Roosevelt's Foreign Policies,
1933-1945" -- by Justus D. Doenecke & Mark A. Stoler, p.7)

And in January 1944, FDR proposed a 2nd Bill of Economic Rights:


Socialists and communists have never gotten as many votes as populists and progressives. William Jennings Bryan ran on both the Democrat and Populist tickets in 1900 and got 45% of the vote (he lost to the Republican McKinley).

Teddy Roosevelt, running as a Progressive in 1912, got 27% of the vote and beat the Republican President Taft, but lost to Woodrow Willson. Teddy wanted steeply graduated income and inheritance taxes to redistribute the wealth. We did get an income tax under Wilson, but we also got into WWI.

Battling Bob La Follette, running as a Progressive in 1924, got 17% of the vote.

Eugene Debs (a Socialist, not a Democratic Socialist) never got more than 7% of the vote. Socialists want the government to own the means of production, while Democratic Socialists accept private ownership of businesses, but they want social welfare programs (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.). Communists are socialists who want to violently overthrow capitalism and replace it with a classless society (no private property). The first communists in recorded history were the early Christians. "All whose faith had drawn them together held everything in common: they would sell their property and possessions and make a general distribution as the need of each required." (Acts 2: 44-45)

The reason there was never a Social Democratic party in the US (as there is in Europe) is because our very conservative Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons. If a corporation is a person, then it has the same constitutional rights as people do. Amendment 14: no person shall be deprived of the rights to life, liberty and property without due process of law. This means that if there is a strike, the police will side with the owners and not the workers because a strike deprives a corporation of the right to make a profit (the right to private property). The labor movement never became strong in the US as it did in Europe.

Huey, the Kingfish, Long wanted to share the wealth ("Every Man a King") during the Great Depression and would probably have challenged FDR, but he was assassinated.