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What Democatic Socialism Is... And What It Is Not


What Democatic Socialism Is... And What It Is Not

Lawrence Wittner

In recent weeks, Donald Trump and other Republicans have begun to tar their Democratic opponents with the “socialist” brush, contending that the adoption of socialist policies will transform the United States into a land of dictatorship and poverty. In fact, though, like many of Trump’s other claims, there’s no reason to believe it.



It goes without saying that the group of people that are anti-social and deemed Sociopaths would attack a system called SOCIALism.

Under the system that is called Capitalism , only CAPITAL is of importance.



Most of these Trump morons wouldn’t know a Socialist if he/she bit him in the ass. I had an argument with a moron on line one time, him claiming Hitler was a socialist because the Nazi party was called the “Nationalist Socialist party”. I could in no way convince him that Hitler was a Fascist (right wing extremist) and NOT a Socialist just because the Nazis used the word “socialist” in their party name. Fucking dimwits all.

I finally figured out also that “Trump supporters” will support him no matter what. One time he didn’t lie is when he said he could go out and shoot someone on Fifth ave NYC and his “supporters” would still follow him. And, he was right. Complete failure of the US education system.



Education is needed:

All of the people working to provide those in the recently flooded states by supplying meals and bedding in the local schools - are Socialists
All of the fire departments who keep our homes safe and provide ambulance services - are Socialists
All of the not-for-profit hospitals who take care of us in ill-health - are Socialists
All of our National Parks employees - are Socialists
All of the non-for-profit small health centers in rural areas - are Socialists
Our public school systems - are Socialists
Our public colleges - are Socialists
The Interstate Highway system - is Socialism
Our state highway systems - are Socialism
Our local roads and garbage collection - are Socialism
Our airports - are Socialism
Our government agencies - FBI, CDC, FDA, Dept of Education, FAA, Social Security, et al - are Socialism (but Trump is trying to destroy all of these agencies)

I am proud to be a Socialist



State control does not mean socialism. Socialism means that workers democratically control the means of production. For example: a genuine socialist educational system would mean that the teachers, support staff, parents and students would democratically control and develop the educational system.

What you are describing is a social democrat which is a surface level modification to capitalism which has occurred at certain times.



So what’s in a name anyway? If you could honestly assert that capitalism or socialism were down n dirty political positions, who says they can’t be reformed to work for us instead of against us (99%)?



The historical ‘Fascist’ and ‘National Socialist’ movements/parties has a basis in ‘corporatism’ and made claims that they represented a ‘third way’ between ‘Communism’ and ‘Capitalism’. As ‘corporatism’ gets mixed up with businesses owned by shareholders (especially in the U.S.), here is an introduction to ‘corporatism’ for the curious -
'Corporatism and the Ghost of the ‘Third Way’.

Note too that Adolf Hitler besides lying about his army record in ‘Mein Kampf’ claimed that after the war he had been employed by the Army to spy on subversive ‘left-wing’ groups when in fact he was employed by the the Bavarian socialist government to give talks to young soldiers before they were discharged on the benefits of ‘socialism’. This activity led him to contact with the ‘German Workers Party’ which was renamed as the ‘National Socialist German Workers Party’ after he took over leadership to more reflect its Corporatist under-pinning. See: ‘The Trial of Adolf Hitler: The Beer Hall Putsch and the Rise of Nazi Germany’ by David King.

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My reaction to the following shows that I’m not a democratic socialist at heart:

“The ideal of [democratic?] socialism goes back deep into human history and, at its core, is based on the notion that wealth should be shared more equitably between the rich and the poor.”

To me, what’s wrong with this sentence is its implicit acceptance of “rich” and “poor”. If we look at even Sweden, the country Wittner extolls, we see that they have their billionaires (poor Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, who passed away last year, wouldn’t even have made the top 10) and their share of poor. And inequality apparently is increasing there as it is so many other places.

I see democratic socialism – where the government runs things like schools and parks – but leaves most wealth and the means of production in the hands of a rich minority, as “socialism lite”.

It’s interesting that Wittner disses and distances himself from the Bolsheviks, claiming that they were a fringe group that could only succeed because of the “chaos and demoralization” caused by Russia’s participation in WWI. I recently read 10 Days the Shook the World, the book written by John Reed (featured in the movie Reds), who was in Petrograd before and during the October revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power in October 2017. He paints a different picture.

The previous February saw another revolution in Russia. Alexander Kerensky became the leader, and his Menshevik party sounds more to Wittner’s liking. It promoted gradual change, little wealth redistribution, and Russia’s continued fighting in WWI. This pleased the bourgeoisie but, according to Reed, didn’t satisfy the masses of Russians – the workers, the soldiers or the peasants. Russia had been an extremely unequal country. The vast majority were sick not just of the war but also the status quo ante. They wanted a real revolution that overturned the privilege, power and wealth of the “haves”. That’s what the Bolsheviks offered.

I wonder if Eugene Debs or Rosa Luxemberg would have agreed with Wittner’s definition of socialism. They dreamed of an entirely different world, one with genuine equality and no rich or poor, not a world where the majority of us remain on our knees, begging the rich for handouts, while the rich continue to despoil and destroy the planet.



Debs and Luxemberg would not have agreed with this author. Worth reading today, Luxemberg’s “Reform or Revolution” goes to the heart of this debate. The failure of the 2nd International, is centered on support for WWI: the social democrats fell in behind their capitalist paymasters and supported the imperialist war - supported mass slaughter; the socialists, communists and anarchists, that is, the real revolutionaries, opposed the war and the ensuing carnage. It is worth noting that Debs was imprisoned for his vocal opposition to WWI and Luxemberg was sold out by the social democrats and murdered by the Freikorps (proto-fascist thugs). How we define socialism is not an academic exercise: it will define the future - if we have one.



There is no place for an authoritative ruling class in Marxist Socialism or Communism (an advanced Socialist society) … and there NEVER has been. While the author of this article briefly made this distinction, the author didn’t provide any documentation.


Socialism is a common-sense path to a fairer, more prosperous and more democratic USA.


Right now, 99% of Americans share the work of producing all of the products and services of our economy. We work together in person or online. We work in factories and offices. We work in schools and stores. We work in laboratories and in hospitals. And, we work on farms and construction sites.


But, when it comes to reaping the rewards of this collective labor, things get turned upside down. What the joint labor of millions of Americans has produced ends up being owned by a handful of billionaires. Those same billionaires , without any say-so by the American people, make all the decisions. THEY get to decide to cut pensions, close schools, ship jobs overseas, and pollute the environment.


In a socialist economy, things get turned right side up. The ownership and control of the means of production would be in the hands of those who do the work. As a result, those of us who produce – the 99% – would make these important decisions together. This would correspond to the way we produce the wealth together.


With the people in the driver’s seat, corporate profits would no longer be Number One. Instead, the things the American people think are most important would come first.

Enough resources would be freed up to do many things. We could fully fund public education and health care for all. We could have mass transit, Social Security, free college tuition, and child care. At the same time, we could remove lead from our pipes. We, the American people, could set other priorities, too.


In a socialist society, people would get paid for the hard work they do. They would be rewarded for the initiatives they take. The difference? Corporate big shots and hedge fund managers could no longer walk off with trillions of dollars that belong to working families.

War, racism, sexism, and homophobia would lose their corporate sponsors.

We could apply the full power of American ingenuity and technology to reversing climate change and developing green industries.

America’s rich and diverse heritage could flourish in music and literature. Sports, dance, film, and art would be available to everyone. Opportunities would open up for millions of young people to contribute their talents and energy. This would result in well-paying and satisfying careers for our nation’s youth. Small businesses would have a role to play in building this vibrant economy. They would be protected from the unfair advantages given to big corporations.


Socialism in the United States would be built on the strong foundation of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. This includes making the promises of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equality for all real. The rights to a job, to health care, and education must also be guaranteed by the Constitution. The criminal justice, police and prison systems must be overhauled from top to bottom to get rid of racial disparity.


A fairer political system goes hand-in-hand with a socialist economy. To work effectively, socialism needs the active and informed participation of the American people. The American people already agree that corporate money must be barred from corrupting our election system. Ten million undocumented workers are a part of our country’s working class. They must be welcomed to participate as citizens in a socialist democracy. By the same token, the voting rights of millions of incarcerated Americans – mostly African Americans and Latinos – must be restored. In place of voter suppression laws, fair election processes are needed. Universal voter participation is the basis of democracy.

In both open and hidden ways, racial inequality and sexism are built into the structure of our nation’s capitalist economy and society. Rooting it out is a task for the entire American people. That’s the only way we can build the unity that we need. It is this unity that will give us the power to build a just and democratic society for every one of us and for future generations.

A socialist society also needs checks and balances. Organizations at the grass-roots level can make sure there are democratic controls. Our country already has great traditions of grass-roots organizations: town-hall meetings, tribal councils, and student governments. Our working class has gained valuable experience in operating labor unions, cooperatives, and credit unions. At a local level Americans contribute their talents in PTAs, churches, and charitable organizations.


Building on this expertise and experience, Americans can have the confidence that together we can build a political and economic system of the people, by the people, and for the people.

The unity of America’s working people – African American and white, Latino, Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern – is critical to our progress. Men and women, LGBTQ and straight, young and old must stand together for each other. This unity cannot be broken if it is based on the working class principle of “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

This is our vision of a socialist USA. You can join with us. Help us make this vision a reality.

Source: Communist Party USA - Bill of Rights Socialism - People and Planet Before Profits

Another educational source for Marxist Theory can be found throughout the website at https://www.marxist.com/.

As long as the means of production and the distribution of products and services is under the control of capital … it’s not socialism. Call it whatever you want, but it’s not Socialism. Socialism is when a political and economic society is under the democratic direction and control of the working class.



An article by a professor of history, no less, that continues the mis-defining of what socialism is and it is indicative of how far socialists still have to go in the battle of ideas.

Stop being fooled.

Small, in fact, miniscule at the moment, the World Socialist Party of the United States, offers an antidote to the politics of so-called democratic socialism.




Thanks for mentioning Reform or Revolution. I’ve been wanting to learn more about Rosa for some time now. I’ll look that up. You’ve probably already read it, but Ray Ginger’s book “The Bending Cross” was a world view changer for me. I often show people Debs’ quote to the judge who was sentencing him to prison. It wasn’t only one of the most profound quotes I’ve ever seen from a politician, but one of the most amazing pieces I’ve read anywhere. I actually get choked up when I read it. In fact, I may as well post it here.

"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

I listened to all that was said in this court in support and justification of this prosecution, but my mind remains unchanged. I look upon the Espionage Law as a despotic enactment in flagrant conflict with democratic principles and with the spirit of free institutions…

Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believe in a fundamental change—but if possible by peaceable and orderly means…

Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison…

I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and the factories; of the men in the mines and on the railroads. I am thinking of the women who for a paltry wage are compelled to work out their barren lives; of the little children who in this system are robbed of their childhood and in their tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the monster machines while they themselves are being starved and stunted, body and soul. I see them dwarfed and diseased and their little lives broken and blasted because in this high noon of Christian civilization money is still so much more important than the flesh and blood of childhood. In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men.

In this country—the most favored beneath the bending skies—we have vast areas of the richest and most fertile soil, material resources in inexhaustible abundance, the most marvelous productive machinery on earth, and millions of eager workers ready to apply their labor to that machinery to produce in abundance for every man, woman, and child—and if there are still vast numbers of our people who are the victims of poverty and whose lives are an unceasing struggle all the way from youth to old age, until at last death comes to their rescue and lulls these hapless victims to dreamless sleep, it is not the fault of the Almighty: it cannot be charged to nature, but it is due entirely to the outgrown social system in which we live that ought to be abolished not only in the interest of the toiling masses but in the higher interest of all humanity…

I believe, Your Honor, in common with all Socialists, that this nation ought to own and control its own industries. I believe, as all Socialists do, that all things that are jointly needed and used ought to be jointly owned—that industry, the basis of our social life, instead of being the private property of a few and operated for their enrichment, ought to be the common property of all, democratically administered in the interest of all…

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.

This order of things cannot always endure. I have registered my protest against it. I recognize the feebleness of my effort, but, fortunately, I am not alone. There are multiplied thousands of others who, like myself, have come to realize that before we may truly enjoy the blessings of civilized life, we must reorganize society upon a mutual and cooperative basis; and to this end we have organized a great economic and political movement that spreads over the face of all the earth.

There are today upwards of sixty millions of Socialists, loyal, devoted adherents to this cause, regardless of nationality, race, creed, color, or sex. They are all making common cause. They are spreading with tireless energy the propaganda of the new social order. They are waiting, watching, and working hopefully through all the hours of the day and the night. They are still in a minority. But they have learned how to be patient and to bide their time. The feel—they know, indeed—that the time is coming, in spite of all opposition, all persecution, when this emancipating gospel will spread among all the peoples, and when this minority will become the triumphant majority and, sweeping into power, inaugurate the greates social and economic change in history.

In that day we shall have the universal commonwealth—the harmonious cooperation of every nation with every other nation on earth…

Your Honor, I ask no mercy and I plead for no immunity. I realize that finally the right must prevail. I never so clearly comprehended as now the great struggle between the powers of greed and exploitation on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of industrial freedom and social justice.

I can see the dawn of the better day for humanity. The people are awakening. In due time they will and must come to their own.

When the mariner, sailing over tropic seas, looks for relief from his weary watch, he turns his eyes toward the southern cross, burning luridly above the tempest-vexed ocean. As the midnight approaches, the southern cross begins to bend, the whirling worlds change their places, and with starry finger-points the Almighty marks the passage of time upon the dial of the universe, and though no bell may beat the glad tidings, the lookout knows that the midnight is passing and that relief and rest are close at hand. Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning." - Eugene Debs



Amazing post.

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Why not let all the people decide what system or part of it they want to go by at the time, depending on the situation? Why do we let an oligarchy or hegemony decide this for us?

Why are we afraid of democracy?



Well , Mr Blubber DOES want to be a Dictator .



Whenever I read these passionate words from Debs I am humbled. I realize in all honesty and analysis that I have yet to earn the right to be called and be known as a Socialist.

A person cannot read about Eugene Debs or Peter Kropotkin (an Anarcho-Communist) and not come to the transformative knowledge and understanding that there is much more to Socialism than can be limited to economics and politics.

Going beyond the economics and politics of Socialism, there are profound principles, beliefs and actions that are spiritual in nature as they become the motivating force and conscience of Socialism.

  • Socialism is all about sharing and caring for all of mankind and the betterment and solidarity of the collective commonwealth instead of being focused on self (individualism) and greed.
  • Socialism is about feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, housing the homeless, giving a hug in time of despair and need, providing physical and/or mental healing to the sick or injured, giving a smile of acceptance and appreciation to those rejected by society, being a trustworthy friend to the lonely.
  • Socialism is all about accepting the responsibility and accountability of being a productive member of the collective society … to be hard working, honest, truthful, to becoming the best that one can become through formal education and an open mind to life-long learning to serve humanity, the collective community – and just as important – to know a completely fulfilled life.
  • Socialism is coming to the knowledge and belief that there are many aspects of life that far exceed material wealth.
  • Socialists realize that every individual is a critical component of the whole and that the labor, skills and talents of each individual is necessary for the advancement and betterment of the collective society. Everyone is important. Everyone’s experience and contributions of labor are important, needed and appreciated.
  • Socialists understand the vital importance in the wise stewardship of our planet’s natural resources and willingly accept the responsibility to protect these resources from further exploitation and loss … even when temporary sacrifices are needed or required for future sustainability.
  • Socialists understand that cooperation produces more and better result than antagonistic competition.
  • Socialists believe that honest, respectful dialogue and cooperation with our global neighbors is the best way to obtain and maintain global peace. Socialist oppose war except as a last resort for self-defense.

Being a Socialist is a way of thinking and living. It all leads to the attainment of a happy and fulfilled life among the collective community of our families, friends, and other members of our shared commonwealth.

When one succeeds or triumphs, all of us share a portion of the success!



So, you are wrong on at least two counts here,

  1. The Nazi party called themselves the, “National Socialist German Workers Party” because they were socialist. Among their platform points, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Program:
  • Abolition of unearned income, breaking of debt slavery (point 11). This includes inheritance and “property income” - rent, interest, profit from owning capital equipment.
  • Nationalization of industries (point 13) - As has been done in many countries when socialist parties have taken control.
  • Division of profits from heavy industries - redistribution through higher corporate taxes
  • Expansion of “old age welfare” (Point 15) - US Social Security
  • Creation of a healthy middle class, by taking over resources as needed (Point 16)
  • Free higher education and government control of the education system (point 20)
  • Freedom of religion, so long as they, " do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the ‘Germanic race’", (point 24) - Freedom of religion but subservient to the government as the nation can only succeed with, “The good of the community before the good of the individual”
    Their 25 point program has many other points that relate to the Nationalist party and racial identity. But from an economic standpoint, they are clearly socialist.
  1. Hitler was a Fascist (right wing extremist), agreed. But Fascism requires a strong centralized autocratic government, putting it squarely on the hard left (hard right would be no government, i.e. anarchism).


You’re full of shit. Did you even READ the link and assorted articles related to the link?? Did you READ ALL 25 points? Your second point is not fucking true. “…a strong centralized autocratic government, putting it squarely on the hard left (hard right would be no government, i.e. anarchism)” is not a true statement.

A couple of “hard right” governments were Pinochet in Chile, Franco in Spain and Mussolini in Italy. Hitler was a Fascist, period. Look at ANY history of Germany when he assumed power in 1933, they ALL will call him and his govt Fascist.

Therefore, I can truthfully say, you are full of shit.



Anarchism = Hard right?

There are two types of Anarchists:

The first known person to call himself an anarchist was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (15 January 1809 – 19 January 1865). Other early social anarchists were Mikhail Bakunin (30 May 1814 – 1 July 1876 and Peter Kropotkin (December 9, 1842 – February 8, 1921). All three of these men held far left beliefs with Peter Kropotkin being credited for being the father of Anarcho-Communism as he describes in the book The Conquest of Bread of which the Kindle Edition is free on Amazon.

Based on the original principles of anarchism, anarcho-capitalism is NOT a legitimate form of anarchism.

Many anarchists view capitalism as an inherently authoritarian and hierarchical system and seek the expropriation of private property.[14] There is disagreement between these left anarchists and laissez-faire anarcho-capitalists[15] as the former generally rejects anarcho-capitalism as a form of anarchism and considers anarcho-capitalism an oxymoron. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-capitalism.



Yes, I did read the article.

Are you saying the points I highlighted do not align with socialism? Reduction (elimination) of capitalism? nationalization of industries? redistribution through taxation? expanded welfare state? government control of the education system? Religion subserviant to government needs?

If “left” is defined as “more government control” and “right” is defined as “less government control” then yes, Fascism sits right next to absolute monarchy and communism and anarchism (no government) is all the way to the right. Either way, fascist, dictatorial, unrestrained monarch, communist and socialist (including Democratic Solcialists) states use (can use) authoritarianism to control the citizens of a country. The distinction is in who calls the shots. Myself and most people on the right (as I have defined it) want a strong national leader with LIMITED POWER. Not the Authoritarian that many on this site believe we want.

Yes, and I agreed with that statement.