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"Democratic" Socialism

October 23, 2009 1:45 PM

The other day I was exchanging tweets with a person who called himself a "democratic socialist," but who seemed genuinely interested in discussing ideas. This set me to thinking about "democratic socialists," a matter of some personal importance because, while I was growing up, important older family members gave themselves the same label, and had some influence on me. Specifically, there was a family tradition of rejecting Soviet-style communism, because it was undemocratic, but embracing socialism as the most ideal social system for humanity.

Having studied "democratic socialism" and given it a lot of thought, as well as having 66 years of experience, I have concluded that it does not exist. It is an oxymoron. But the fact that "democratic socialism" does not, and cannot exist is not immediately obvious to everyone. If it were, Barack Hussein Obama would not have been elected President. An explanation is needed, and here it is:

There is a basic principle of ethics and morality which underlies all socialism: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." One might even say that socialism has no Ten Commandments, but only one, and that is it. Everything else is based on it. For example, lying, cheating, stealing and sometimes even killing are acceptable if the targets of such behavior are those with ability who resist having their property taken on behalf of those with need.

From that moral principle, a fundamental political principle is derived: the public or communal ownership of all property, or at least, the "means of production," which in an industrial society means factories, farms, railroads, etc. Socialists, while speaking of "means of production" always and inevitably forget the most important one, which is the mind of individuals. But if you look for a dictionary definition of socialism, public or communal ownership, or something identical, is always mentioned.

So why can't socialism be democratic? Simple: people object strenuously to having their property confiscated on behalf of those with less ability and more need. They might often donate willingly to the needy through charity, but when gun-toting government agents support such policies, they balk. When fully informed about what socialism is, a majority of voters would never support it. That is why "democratic" socialism cannot exist for long.

Nevertheless, there is widespread public enthusiasm for the idea of "democratic" socialism. In European countries there are often political parties called the Social Democrats. Since "democratic" socialism is impossible, how do its supporters implement it, or try to implement it? There are three ways:

Bogus democracy: Dictators, especially in the absence of free speech, merely announce that the kind of socialism they are enforcing is "democratic," and anyone who argues will be shot or imprisoned. Historically, the greatest example of bogus democracy was Soviet East Germany, whose government called itself the German Democratic Republic (GDR). A long-standing joke was that the GDR was "none of the above;" not German but a Russian colony in the former Germany, not democratic, and not a republic but a dictatorship.

Another example of bogus democracy is the DPRK, the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea," aka North Korea, which has been in the news lately due to their recent nuclear testing and missile development.

Tyranny of the Majority: Another perennial joke about democracy is that it is a system where two wolves and a lamb vote as to what they are going to have for lunch. (The wolves win and eat the lamb.) When narrowly defined as a system of majority rule (with presumably fair elections), democracy can be an excuse to violate the rights of those who have a minority view. James Madison cautioned against it, using the term "faction" to describe the tyrannical group, in Federalist No. 10. Madison described both majority and minority factions acting "adverse to the rights of other citizens."

The antidote to the tyranny of the majority is a constitutional republic in which the rights of individuals are protected, a good example of which protection is the US Bill of Rights, which unfortunately has been severely eroded in the name of "democratic socialism."

Stealth Socialism: Norman Thomas (1884-1968), the long-time leader of the Socialist Party of America, a "democratic" socialist movement which threw out the Communists in 1919, but which no longer exists, had a famous dictum:

"The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of 'liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened."

This is what I call stealth socialism. What's wrong with it? It's dishonest, that's what. Fundamentally, it's a kind of fraud. Socialists, who rail in their propaganda against dishonest businessmen who employ "bait and switch" tactics to hornswoggle customers into paying for something they don't really want, seem to find no problem employing bait and switch tactics to get voters to support something they don't really want, such as (just to pull a random example out of the air) national health care. In my opinion, one of history's greatest exploiters of stealth socialism is Barack Hussein Obama, who, at the time I am writing this, is President of the United States.

While I am on the subject of Obama, I am pondering whether he and his "faction" also employ bogus democracy and the tyranny of the majority as outlined above. The answer is yes on both counts. Obama and his faction repudiate critics, such as the Tea Party movement, as "swastika-carrying mobs," rather than accepting them as legitimate dissenters. This is small-time bogus democracy compared to North Korea, but bogus democracy it is. As for tyranny of the majority, one only need look at the US Senate and their parliamentary tricks for trampling the rights of Senate Republicans.

Finally, a word about why socialism attracts so many followers, who then wish in vain for a "democratic" implementation. Socialism is not a new theory dreamed up by ideologues, although its nineteenth century Marxist variant is just that. Socialism, in its tribal form, was the original social system of the earliest human groups living in what Hobbes called a "state of nature." For example, native tribes of the Northwest Pacific coast and the Gulf of Alaska, who lived off the land and often starved, or were captured and enslaved, implemented a form of tribal socialism, in which group members gave away their possessions (with the exceptions of their ceremonial "treasures," which were transferred only by marriage) in a meeting called the "potlatch," ensuring a perpetual communal ownership.

Given that many Natives now have a choice of attending the potlatch or not, and of living with their kin or not, the potlatch, in my view, remains a sentimental and wistful remnant of a time when human life was simpler, albeit "nasty, brutish, and short" in the words of Hobbes.

However, the idea of applying potlatch principles to a complex industrial society, such as the USA and the global economy, is completely, entirely, and totally preposterous.

[Keywords: impeach-them-all.org bogus called democracy democratic example majority socialism ]