The ABCs of Democratic Socialism

The democratic socialist vision does not rest upon one sole tradition; it draws upon Marxism, religious and ethical socialism, feminism, and other theories that critique human domination. Nor does it contend that any laws of history preordain the achievement of socialism. The choice for socialism is both moral and political, and the fullness of its vision will never be permanently secured.

Towards Freedom: Democratic Socialist Theory and Practice
by Joseph Schwartz and Jason Schulman

Karl Marx: Theorist, Thinker, beard-haver
Karl Marx: Theorist, Thinker, landscape beard-haver

Karl Marx was a 19th century German economist and philosopher. Marx, along with his #1 homie Friederich Engels, developed a method of analyzing history, politics and economics that we now call Marxism.

Marx and Engels believed that the contradictions inherent to Capitalism would eventually lead to a new political and economic system – Socialism.

The Contradictions of Capitalism

Friederich Engels, who favored beards in Portrait orientation
Friederich Engels, who favored beards in Portrait orientation
  • Capitalism is too complex to be managed by the profit motive alone
  • Production is an inherently Social act
  • Workers who do the production are the ultimate source of value
  • But owners of the means of production – Capitalists – reap the rewards and make the decisions
  • As an economy becomes more automated, more and more gains would go to the Capitalists – leaving workers, the source of value, behind
  • Eventually workers would “wake up” to their conditions and revolt – leading to Socialism

While history has proven much of Marx and Engels’ theories correct, ultimately, they are just dudes, and as science has proven, guys are sometimes-to-frequently wrong about things. Democratic Socialism is a more contemporary response to old-school Marxism, with an emphasis on–wait for it–Democracy.

So…what’s the deal with Democratic Socialism?

Democratic Socialists believe that a Socialist society is one in which the economy is controlled democratically by everyone – instead of being controlled only by people who already have all the money.

Democratic Socialists believe that private corporate property is not only wrong, but also nonsensical. Everyone should decide how to wield the tools of production.

Democratic Socialists believe that identity is important. While old-school Marxists believed that the only identity that mattered was class, Democratic Socialists believe in recognizing the value of ethnic, cultural, religious and gender identities in creating an open and democratic society.

Democratic Socialists believe solidarity can be achieved through a stronger, universal, social safety net, and that Socialism must advocate for economic growth via democratic control of capital.

Democratic Socialists believe that the things most vital to a productive and healthy life–things like environmental quality, housing, health care, education, retirement–should be managed democratically, instead of being left to the whims of Capital, which values Profit above all else.

A 24th-Century Capitalist
A 24th-Century Capitalist

Democratic Socialists believe that achieving serious reform requires movement-building and mass action…so, let’s get started on that already.

Interested in reading more? Jacobin Magazine has a special issue “The ABCs of Socialism” available for free online.