What Socialism Means

The constant cries of “socialism” for every government program from the American right has really diluted the meaning.

Socialism refers to a system where sectors of the economy and basic aspects of human society are moved outside of a market system and into communal ownership. This process of the people taking ownership of basic human needs like housing, health care, education, and food is precisely what we call socializing a public good. This is, in my opinion, a non-negotiable minimal condition of socialist belief. Socialism, at bottom, must entail an alternative to capitalism, not a series of systems to ameliorate capitalism’s deprivations. It must do away with the profit motive and markets, or else it is bound to fail.

Why? Because one of the basic contentions of socialist thought has long been that the welfare state and worker’s movements are indefensible within capitalism. The demand for endless growth and ever-increasing profits, coupled with the power that corporations and the rich have within capitalism, makes even the most robust safety net and the most empowered labor movement vulnerable. Indeed, this is the history of the past 40 years of American and British politics – the gradual erosion of redistributive programs and a sustained assault on labor unions.

Centrist, liberal politicians believe fundamentally in the free market. Never lose sight of the fact that the Affordable Care Act, passed by the Democratic Party during the Obama Administration is decidedly not socialist in nature. The law requires Americans to purchase insurance from the capitalist free market…with some assistance to those who would otherwise be unable to pay. The ACA is not socialized medicine. Under socialized medicine, you would be entitled to healthcare funded and owned by citizens as a whole without any regard for payment.

The ACA and the Wall Street bail-out are the kinds of policies that liberals will pass, policies that are more concerned with the welfare of businesses than the welfare of the people. If you want true socialist policies, organize with other workers and join a union:

The level of social spending that Nordic countries have traditionally enjoyed has been politically protected by the labor movement. That defense has required extremely high union density.

What Socialism Means by Fredrik deBoer