Towards American Socialism
"America can do better than capitalism". Richard Wolff declared these words at Riverside Church on January 22, 2012. His affirmation surfaced the sentiments that many Americans harbor. As Americans, we submerge our discontent for many reasons. Americans embrace the illusion that the Federal Reserve Bank and the three branches of our federal government can manage the booms and busts of business cycles. Americans ponder, “Perhaps the right mix of Democrats and Republicans will address the market failures of concentrated power among corporations, spillover costs borne by communities, and the information gap between producers and consumers.” Americans speculate, “One day, our candidate of choice will assume power, appoint the right judges, roll out the right policies in 100 days, and administer the good government of our dreams.” But most importantly, each American wants to believe that, under the right conditions, we will each become millionaires and live the American Dream.
Americans envision an America that forever grows the economic pie, splits that pie fairly for every race in all places, and inaugurates the E Pluribus Unum country of our civic rituals. This is the hope of our nation – comprehensive political liberties, complemented by justice in our courts, prosperity in our commerce, peace in our communities.
All Americans dream “America.” More Americans, however, no longer believe that capitalism will deliver on the promises that are rehearsed every November. Instead of the Illusion of Democracy bought and paid for by capitalism, American Socialists propose authentic Democratic Socialism.
Democratic Socialism should regulative the capitalist ideals of our life together. What this means is American Socialists support the escalation – and prioritization – of aspects of cooperative organization that already exist in American history and modern life. Though largely unrealized, many local governmental authorities possess the title of flourishing utilities, municipalities own convention centers and plan land use strategies for their communities. Within the past decade, America has temporarily nationalized its banks.
Now, political figures and institutional actors within Washington will oftentimes deny the reality of America's socialized infrastructure, it is nevertheless well-documented by Gar Alperwotiz's classic text, What Then Must We Do.
Socialism is the well-settled conclusion of a society that values democracy. Americans cherish democracy. Despite America's violent acquisition of indigenous land and America's coercive leveraging of black slaves as financial instruments, the egalitarian image of our Constitution is still an idea worthy of perennial refinement into American laws, practices, and governance.
So, how might Americans increase the democratic socialist aspects within our already mixed economy? American academics and intellectuals can excavate well documented histories of American cooperative work, tell the often told story of a commonwealth country, and no longer provide conceptual legitimacy for the notion that oppressive capitalism is somehow democratic. American Socialists are citizen preachers. American Socialists recall the legacies of Angela Davis and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, emerging outlets like Jacobin magazine, and veteran groups like Democratic Socialists of America.
Secondly, American Socialists must celebrate conceptual openness in a new political economy. The Pew study indicates that socialism among millennials possesses more fans than opponents--49 percent hold a positive view of it; 43 percent, not so much. Inferences from this study may have been overstated, but this seems fair: the inequalities and externalities of capitalism have created a hearing for socialist arguments, campaigns, and messaging strategies.
Thirdly, American Socialists must organize in a way that emphasizes participatory governance, increasing commonwealth stewardship of real estate, and alternate business structures like B Corps, LC3, etc. Socialism is already implied by the work of groups like National People's Action, Democracy Collaborative, as well as organizations, such as – Criterion Ventures' New Economy, the expanding philanthropic commitments of social justice philanthropy, and other developments.
Capitalism seeks to grow the economy in order to reward a select few that control channels of production. Democratic socialism seeks to secure economic well-being for all Americans by rearranging the power and productive relationships that create inequality. The latter is neither a panacea nor a utopia. It is, ultimately, a less grotesque form of the former. Socialism is a regulated form of capitalism, a form of capitalism that ensures every American benefits from America's prosperity. America can do better than capitalism – American Socialists choose a more equitable, efficient, and excellent way.