Socialist Worker: Opinion: Phil Gasper: Socialism, Stalinism and Eastern Europe
This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger
Socialism is the perfect example of how labels can get you in trouble if you are not a political junky, or at least a political fan, someone who follows politics on a regular basis but who perhaps is not a political junky, such as perhaps a government employee. When people think of Communist Republics, they tend to think of Socialism, when really these Communist Republics are not so much Socialist, looking out for the people, but are interested in protecting the state, meaning the regime, more than anything.
I'm not even sure Socialist is the best way to describe someone who is a Democrat ideologically, meaning someone who believes in Democracy, however you want to define it. It also can mean someone who also believes in state-owned economics, meaning a state-run economic system. Today's Democratic Socialists tend to be in favor of capitalism or at least have accepted capitalism as a necessary evil to fund the big government that they want.
Since Barack Obama became President of the United States 5 years ago, when all of the socialist charges were thrown at him, I've been thinking about Socialism and what it is and what it means to be a Socialist. The more I hear from actual Socialists, the more I believe that Socialism is not really about nationalizing industries to create a state-owned economy, It is about creating an economic system that works best for everyone, not just the wealthy or corporations or people with political connections with the central government, but everyone.
My idea of a modern Socialist, for instance, Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator from Vermont, the only self-described Socialist in the U.S. Congress, is someone who believes in capitalism, but only if it works for everyone. For that to happen, you need a central government big enough to see that people get the day-to-day services that they need to live well, such as education, health care, pensions, and health insurance and a safety net, a government strong enough to regulate the private economy well, Everything else should be in private hands, but in the hands of the many and not the few.
Sweden is the perfect example of a Socialist-Capitalist economic system where the economy is largely private but where the welfare state is big enough to give people the services they need. Everything else that economies need to run well, where you must have competition to make it as productive as possible, should be left in private hands, such as automobile production, communications, media, restaurants, agriculture, etc., but paying their share of taxes to finance the welfare state.
A modern or Democratic Socialist does believe in big government economics but also that government shouldn't try to run the economy itself. You need the people to be able to take care of themselves as much as possible, with the central government doing the rest to see that the economy is as strong as possible and works for everyone. So when we talk about Marxism and state-owned economics, maybe we should call that economic statism or simply just state-owned economics but not Socialism.