After Bernie lost and Trump won, I realized the Democrats weren’t going to win my battles for me.
I first heard the word “socialist” in the movie Clue. It’s an early laugh line delivered by Tim Curry as he discusses his deceased wife’s previous indiscretions that led him into this murder mansion mess. You see, she used to hang out with *dramatic pause* socialists. “We all make mistakes,” he confides to the room of murderous Washingtonian shit-heels and the dead body among them.
Like so many others, I was heartened by Bernie Sanders’s campaign—particularly his desire to work on developing free or cheap higher education options, his dedication to “Medicaid for all,” and his continual highlighting of income inequality—but when Sanders inevitably lost to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, there was a sense of air being let out of the balloon. The specter of a potential Trump presidency loomed on the horizon, forcing most Sanders supporters to back away from their hopes of an actually progressive candidate in favor of yet another lesser of the two evils ticket. Sure, maybe Clinton won’t prosecute corrupt bankers or give us the government-backed healthcare system we need, but the alternative would be worse in so many ways.
That all changed on Election Day.
The Democratic Party, however reasonable and adult, clearly was not going to save us.
From Rolling Stone
Membership in the Democratic Socialists of America is way up – now, can the group become a major force against Trump?
“Has anybody been angry before about capitalism?” Hannah Allison, a 29-year-old organizer with the Democratic Socialists of America, asks from the stage of a recent meeting in Los Angeles.
The nearly 100 DSA members who’ve gathered at the Friendship Auditorium in Griffith Park on this Saturday afternoon erupt in cheers and applause, after hours of presentations by speakers at least twice Allison’s age.
Allison, who’s based at DSA’s New York City headquarters, has been visiting the group’s local chapters around the country on a mission to get new members – especially younger and more diverse individuals, including those catalyzed by Bernie Sanders’ campaign – excited about organizing toward so-called democratic socialism. There are signs her efforts are starting to pay off. The group, which officially formed in 1982 but has roots in the early-20th-century socialist movement, has experienced a renaissance of late. The LA gathering is one of the group’s largest in 25 years. And since last March, the DSA’s membership has nearly tripled, to more than 15,000 members, with 90 local groups in 37 states.
Americans are familiar with the language of political and civil rights – one person, one voice, one vote; equal treatment before the law. We are less familiar with the justification for the social rights that have been at the center of our great political and social movements over the last century. For all citizens to flourish in a democratic society, they must be guaranteed such basic human needs as high-quality education, health care and security in old age. These goods are provided to every member of most democratic societies not by purchase on the private market, but through equitably financed, high-quality public goods and social insurance.
Social and economic rights play a critical role in democratic societies because political and civil rights cannot be exercised effectively by citizens who lack jobs, economic security, good health and the opportunity to educate themselves and their children. Today economic inequality – the large and growing gap between high-income and wealthy households and the rest of us – means that too many citizens are denied full participation in our social and political life.
The labor, women’s and civil rights movements have all fought to limit the force of unregulated capitalist markets in order to insure equal social rights for all. Thus, the labor movement fought for unemployment, disability and old-age insurance. The feminist movement fought for parental leave and publicly funded child care. Movements of the poor fought for income security, job training and affordable higher education.
Many Americans devalue the social rights we have because they believe that their security results from personal responsibility and individual initiative. Only in the United States is child support and health care for adults and children means-tested. Until the Obama health care reforms, only the poor received federally funded health care for their children and themselves. Only poor women unable to find jobs in the labor market that provided health insurance and sufficient wages to pay for child care received federal funds to stay at home to care for infants. Hence, citizens who earned just above the poverty line have resented the poorer members of their community who received state-funded health care and child support. Such resentment fueled the vicious politics of welfare reform and the hostility of elements of the American working class toward the poor.
In societies where the publicly funded goods and social insurance are of high-quality, the upper middle-class participates willingly, paying their share of the progressive taxes that fund these social rights. In Germany, France and Scandinavia nearly all health care, child care and education through the university level is provided by and funded through the state. The result is rates of social mobility considerably higher than in the United States. The opportunities to realize one’s full potential are not constrained by the wealth of one’s parents or their position in the labor market.
In this document we detail a series of basic human social and economic rights whose implementation would help to achieve freedom and dignity for all. We also illustrate how these programs could be readily financed if we cut wasteful military expenditure and restore corporate and progressive income tax rates to their 1960s levels (when our growth rates were higher and our society more equitable). The social and economic rights that follow should form the basis of a second bill of rights for the 21st century.
How we can pay for a social and economic bill of rights
Jack London, the socialist author, died one hundred years ago on November 22, 1916. Probably his most well-known book, The Iron Heel, describes an epic struggle against brutal capitalism. Although fictional, contemporary events form the backdrop. The book was published in 1907, two years after the first Russian revolution was defeated. U.S. workers were joining trade unions. Big strikes took place, with the private security company, the Pinkerton Agency, infiltrating unions and recruiting thugs to violently attack picket lines. Rail union organizer Eugene Debs led the Socialist Party, receiving 88,000 votes for president in 1900, dramatically increasing this to 901,000 (6%) in 1912.
The Iron Heel describes the build-up to revolution in the USA and the ruling class’s vicious response to crush it in blood. Its central fictional device is a memoir, the Everhard Manuscript, by Avis, a professor’s daughter who marries The Iron Heel’s key character, the socialist leader Ernest Everhard. In the world of the book, her manuscript (which covers the years 1912 to 1932) was hidden and found centuries later. By way of footnotes, inserted after her manuscript is discovered, London makes clear that socialism eventually triumphed – some three hundred years later.
The book exposes the nature of capitalist society and powerfully argues for socialism. Avis initially believes the myths of capitalist justice and democracy until Ernest suggests she investigates the story of a destitute man, named Jackson. He lost an arm in a mill “accident” while exhausted, trying to save a machine from damage. The mill owners, management, foremen, lawyers and newspapers conspired to hide the truth and deny him compensation. He lost his job, too.
From The Guardian
Sawant, a Socialist Alternative party member of the Seattle city council who drew national attention last year by driving resistant fellow councillors to pass a $15-an-hour minimum wage law, was re-elected this week after an unusually nasty campaign which saw corporate money swing behind her Democratic opponent.
Sawant credited her victory in part to Sanders, for creating “enormous momentum” for change that has helped engage young people and alienated workers in politics.
“When was the last time you heard a presidential candidate say we need a political revolution against the billionaire class?” said Sawant. “That is not Hillary Clinton. That is not Barack Obama. That is clearly somebody who is fundamentally different.
“It’s absolutely true that Bernie Sanders putting these questions on the national agenda has really created, and will continue to create, enormous momentum.
“There were so many people who said: ‘I wasn’t paying that much attention to Seattle politics but I’ve been listening to Bernie Sanders’ politics. I’ve been so excited by his call for a political revolution against the millionaire class and I’m looking around me and thinking I need to get involved at a local level.’”
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