Friday, August 17, 2018

Understanding the Dangerous Growth of 'Democratic Socialism' in America

Some solid reporting by Kate Aronoff at InTheseTimes:
[Democratic Socialists of America] may soon have 50,000 members across 200 local groups in all 50 states—up from 6,000 members in 2015. The surge in freshly minted socialists came in three waves: First, those energized by Bernie Sanders’ primary run; second, those brought in by Donald Trump’s election and the Women’s March; and third, those inspired by 27-year-old DSA member Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory in May over incumbent—and Democratic heavyweight—Joe Crowley...

 Members—most of them millennials, in small towns and big cities in every corner of the country—are engaged in everything from
occupying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices to evangelizing about Medicare for All...

What’s made DSA’s ascendance remarkable is less its analysis of capitalism than its ability to put people angry about capitalism to work...

Democratic socialism itself has always been a heterodox term, encompassing everyone from ideological Trotskyists to New Deal Democrats. The surge of new, mostly 20-something members include anarchists, Marxist academics and—most numerously—political neophytes excited about Sanders’ message and frustrated with the Democratic establishment...

Members I spoke with took this to mean everything from taking public goods like healthcare off the private market (along the lines of Scandinavian social democracies) to worker-ownership of the means of production...

Pittsburgh DSA held its first general meeting in December 2016 with around 100 people. Now it has a dizzying number of working groups: a health justice committee campaigning for Medicare for All; reading groups tackling Marx and Engels; an anti-imperialism committee lobbying for legislation criticizing Israel’s occupation of Palestine; a socialist feminist working group exposing crisis pregnancy centers; an ecosocialist group fighting the privatization of the city’s water and sewer system; a housing rights group pushing for protections for renters; and a number of inward-facing groups handling tasks like recruitment and communications...

Big, universal programs like a federal job guarantee or Medicare for All draw overwhelming popular support. And small, local races offer an opportunity for the grassroots to tip the balance...

Because there are big DSA chapters in cities with expensive housing stock—Los Angeles, Chicago and the Bay Area, for instance—the fight for affordable housing has emerged as a major priority. “Housing justice is probably the biggest issue in Los Angeles; the homelessness crisis is at a tipping point,” says Arielle Sallai, a member of DSA Los Angeles’ steering committee. DSA-LA and other California chapters are canvassing to pass Proposition 10, an initiative on the ballot in November that would loosen a statewide limit on rent control. Similarly, Chicago DSA is supporting a campaign to overturn Illinois’ rent control ban, with the backing of Alderman and DSA member Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.
Things could get really out of control. With a large portion of the conservative movement lost to Trump, more and more hold the view that the only way to battle Trump is to advocate for a managed economy/

Libertarians should attack Trump positions every chance they get to let the masses know there is an alternative to both Trump and central planning.



  1. --- [.. ] second, those brought in by Donald Trump’s election ---

    Perhaps this wave of democratic socialism would have increased if Hillary had won but I don't believe it would be as energized as it seems today, thanks to DJT and the horrible face he puts, unfairly, on capitalism, a disaster that will take mant years to recover from.

  2. I would like to add to their reading list Richard Pipes's excellent book, "A Concise History of the Russian Revolution." There are (at least) two interesting themes that come out of this book which are pertinent to today.

    First, the Bolsheviks came to power without anything approaching majority support. It seemed to be a combination of political opponents being fractured, and the masses being uninterested in national politics. Basically, this was a clear case of "fortune favors the bold." The Bolsheviks acted fast and ruthlessly, and ended up running a very large nation because of the apathy of the population.

    Second, as the Bolsheviks discovered that their economic programs were leading to impoverishment -- which I attribute to socialism being a revolt against nature (to paraphrase Rothbard) -- they misdiagnosed the problem and assumed that they needed not just to change economic activities, but also personal activities and minds, and hence all of the ruthless suppression of personal liberties, executions, and seizing control of the press, the arts, schools, etc. (One could argue that this is what is happening in western civilization today in the EU and the US, minus the executions, which the US government is currently limiting just to foreigners living in the Middle East.)

    Our job as libertarians should be to get folks excited about the ideas of liberty and the potential for the free market, and to warn of the dangers of centralization, to prevent apathetic acceptance by the masses of what some bold, minority movement intent on seizing power might propose.

  3. The error libertarians keep making is in thinking that this is battle that can be won with more and better rational arguments defending liberty, as though what's holding us up is a shortage of thoughtful libertarian writings.

    Most of the freshly-minted democratic socialists were not reasoned into their way of thinking.

    Libertarians are like a guy trying to have a conversation with a girl in a dance club, then scratches his head when she leaves with the guy who is dancing.

    1. I don't think that the democratic socialists should be the target for libertarians. Our target ought to be the masses whose acquiescence the socialists will need to seize and hold power.