Socialism: of the people, by the people, for the people.
Capitalism: of the capital, by the capital, for the capital.
Socialism too often is seen only as an economic system. It is, more critically, a political system that, to quote the cliche, puts people before profits. It’s really just that simple.
Implicit in any understanding of socialism is the notion that great disparities between the economic classes, by definition, pervert political equality. Democracy, or any semblance thereof, cannot co-exist with capitalism because the great disparities of wealth that capitalism always produces make the ideal of equally-shared power impossible.
Socialism seeks equally-shared power both in government and in the workplace. When “money talks” in the halls of the people’s government, government is corrupted because “equal representation” is not possible in a system that allows representation to be purchased only by those who can afford the fee. When workers are expected to subjugate themselves and sacrifice their liberties or risk losing their paychecks and their livelihood, our system of employment fails to reflect our values and our pursuit of democracy. Fundamental civil liberties and human dignity should never be the bargain for a paycheck.
We have failed to implement broad socialist themes in the US because we have allowed the capital elite to define socialism only as public welfare. We have allowed liberals to blindly define their agenda as the social safety net without recognizing that safety cannot exist without commensurate political equality. When the debate becomes, as it has, over what degree of subsidy to provide to the poor and the middle class (Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, Unemployment Compensation) and over funding for public “goods” (public schools, public parks, libraries, the arts and… Big Bird), socialism dies. The question ultimately becomes “how much must we cut?” This debate focus fights the great battle in our neighborhoods with dire consequences.
The right question is, rather, “how much must be taken from the wealthy elite to neutralize their excess political power?”. To speak of increased taxes on income without speaking of the more critical confiscation of existing wealth fails to address what needs to be done. Liberals refuse to address this issue. A debate that focuses on the abusive, un-democratic concentration of wealth moves the battle to where it rightfully belongs.
There are many means and methods by which socialism can be implemented. We must not allow these details, however, to distract us from the most basic objective of socialism. Without equally-shared power, i.e. socialism, government will serve only those with substantial capital and the dream of “of the people, by the people and for the people” will never be realized.