Friday, December 12, 2008

"Where are all the Socialists?"--not with Harlan Baker

This article, by Harlan Baker of Democratic Socialists of America, is a prime example of why DSA is pretty much an opportunistic organization that puts mainstream acceptance ahead of social change.

It's a response to the idea that there aren't any socialists anymore in the U.S. and goes on to list ways that DSA is present as examples that prove that U.S. socialism not only exists but has been with us for a long time.

"Not all socialists are Marxists or atheists. Norman Thomas, the leader of the party in the 1930s and '40s, was an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Socialists do not believe nationalization of an industry, government buying stocks in banks or the subsides to auto makers makes the country socialist.

Socialism is about social ownership. That can take many forms, such as employee-owned co-ops. It also does mean an end to privately owned business. But, socialists would want to democratize large corporations with real worker and consumer representation."

Norman Thomas also came from an ultra-elite family and went to Harvard. He was so elite, in fact, that his college room mate ended up being a head of the CIA.

Socialists do in fact believe in the nationalization of industry. There's no way around it. I believe in the nationalization of industry. Every Social Democratic Party in Europe believes in the nationalization of some industry, usually the "commanding heights", and every country where Social Democrats have won has nationalized some industry including the UK in the post-war Labour government.

Social ownership is usually associated with nationalization of industry as well as government buying shares in banks. It's pretty damn hard to argue that democratizing corporations has nothing to do with nationalizing them.

"After the 1956 campaign, the Socialist Party suspended its third-party presidential campaigns. Asking the movement's natural constituencies of labor, minorities and liberals to abandon the Democratic Party was proving fruitless.

In the 1960s, the Socialist Party adapted a strategy of working within the Democratic Party alongside its allies on the left to strengthen the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the hopes that a new more left-wing party could be formed.
The largest socialist organization in the United States and one of the heirs of the socialist party of Eugene V. Debs is The Democratic Socialists of America, which is affiliated with the Socialist International along with the Canadian New Democratic Party."

Both of which are embarrassments. Eugene Debs founded the Socialist Party in order to break the hegemony of the Democratic and Republican parties; the idea of having a third party and struggling for social change through it was largely responsible for the effectiveness of Eugene V. Debs' social movement. Calling yourself the heirs of Eugene Debs, as opposed to those present in the Socialist Party (who you do mention) is disingenuous in the extreme, as is your membership in the Socialist International.

Putting yourselves in the league with the Canadian New Democratic Party is an insult considering that they're an actual political party that has actually put people into office and has actually passed measures, like national health care, that have improved the lives of Canadians. You, on the other hand, want to woo the Democratic Party to the left, meaning that while you're wooing and doing little organizing outside of it you can claim a fictitious status that your actual effect does not merit.

That DSA is the U.S. representative to the Socialist International is a joke. It's an even bigger joke that Michael Harrington, the leading DSA intellectual, got selected as the Socialist International president for a term, meaning that someone with no constituency was able to be president of an organization whose members have included the governing parties of France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Finland, Sweden, and the UK. Harrington never fielded a successful candidate into office, as far as I know, and on top of all of this was known for denouncing other socialist inspired movements---like the New Left as a whole.

Yes, DSA and Michael Harrington have the other legacy of denouncing the original SDS and refusing to cooperate with the New Left as a whole. This policy continued well into the '90s and into the 2000's, with DSA having a graphic up on their website purporting to be a field guide to the American Left. In a little box labeled, I believe, either Democratic Socialists or non-authoritarian socialists, there were two groups: DSA and the Socialist Party. To the left of them, containing every other socialist group in the U.S. was a section labeled "The Loony Left.".

"The DSA is not a political party. It functions as sort of an American Fabian Society, attempting to bring socialist ideas into mainstream political debate and to help build anti-corporate social movements. Many of its members have worked in campaigns for Democrats"

That sums it up pretty well.

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