What is Socialism? The Debate by Tina Phillips

Part 2 “The Debate”

How Do We Get To Socialism?

How we bring about a socialist society has been debated throughout time and is still being debated until this very day. I would argue we have to replace the capitalist system itself with a socialist one, but how that happens is still unknown. 

I am highly suspicious of anyone who claims it will go down one specific way. There is no real way to predict it. Many people believe a violent revolution is the only way because the owners of capital will never give up the money or power (they stole). Some believe socialism can be voted into being at the ballot box. Some take an incremental and pragmatic approach and think we can get there with reforms. Most think it is going to take a revolution of some kind, maybe only a social revolution. As democratic socialist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called for a radical revolution of values. There may be some violent clashes, but maybe not an all-out war. Things like boycotts, strikes, civil disobedience, mass protest, and direct action could be employed. This idea proposes the movement for socialism would be a complete social, economic, and political transformation based around a grassroots movement and a diversity of tactics.

Moreover, people still debate whether electoral means can bring about socialism. The efforts of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have been an example of an organization that supports Democrats that identify as socialists. This strategy is called entryism. It’s where socialists enter the Democratic Party in an attempt to reform it.fundamentally change it, or transform it from the inside. Just to be clear though, the Democratic Party is a capitalist party, just as Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, and leading Democrat, recently said herself. Moreover, the Democrats are not just a capitalist party, it’s not very democratic, contrary to their name. Particularly in light of how I have laid out what capitalism is v. socialism, you can see that a political party that organizes itself in support of capitalism is supporting a system that is not democratically based, given my premises. Without economic democracy there is no political democracy. There is no true democracy under capitalism.

Furthermore, entryism to date has never worked. The Democratic Party is plenty happy to co-opt and water down socialist ideas. They try to garner and harness that populist energy to gain support from people this way without fundamentally changing anything. Fundamentally this results in keeping the capitalist system in place. At the most, we get something like the New Deal out of it,but nothing even approaching socialism. Some may argue it’s better than nothing. But it essentially kicks the can down the road.

Could this strategy work this time around? Who knows. I cannot say it will not work this time because no one can predict that. Just because it has always failed doesn’t meant it cannot work. It just means it’s probably unlikely to work.

What really worries me is we don’t have time to fiddle around and wait to find out if it can work. We don’t have time to delay socialism, because of global climate change. Capitalism just isn’t a sustainable system for us as human beings or this planet. At this point it’s socialism or extinction. I try to be an optimistic realist and stay away from being a total dreamer or total cynic. A middle ground suits me. We can be cautiously optimistic about the rise of the DSA, 50K members strong now, and socialism rising in popularity among Millennials in particular.

But if most folks have the definition of socialism incorrect, where does that leave us? In more peril than most can phantom. But heck, let’s give it one more go. If the new folks to the socialist movement need to be disappointed again by the Democratic Party, let’s give it a whirl. It’s beyond me after what the DNC did to Bernie Sanders, rigging the primaries in favor of Hillary though.

Let’s also be clear: the Democratic Party loves its corporate donors and its power more than it loves the people of this country. That much is apparent. There is no loyalty or accountability to us. The Democratic Party isn’t very democratic either; it’s controlled by party bosses, corporations, and until recently, Superdelegates. So unless folks can fundamentally change the Democratic Party from top to bottom, there is no turning blue to actual red.

Furthermore, I have always favored having our own independent political party which challenges the Democrats and Republicans from outside the two party system. This strategy is one I think we must seek for the long-term. Personally, I don’t vote for Democrats and I don’t invest in the Democratic Party. Ultimately, the electoral system must be changed in order to make third parties viable. But whatever we do, we shouldn’t stop short of socialism itself. We are socialists for a reason — because we believe a socialist society is best suited to meet human needs. We cannot settle for anything less than socialism because capitalism will only benefit the few. And it will ultimately completely destroy this planet. Green capitalism cannot save us. We need an egalitarian society that benefits all and is radically democratic and non-hierarchical. Only socialism can offer that.

We can see that DSA’s current strategy is somewhat effective in building movements as well as getting people elected. Although I feel running third party campaigns is a more effective strategy because it takes on capitalism head on and challenges the two party system directly.

Personally, I believe in prefiguration. Prefigurative politics for me means we have to embody what we are trying to achieve in order to bring the society we want about. In part this is about morals, values, and principles. I think we need to stay consistent with our principles and our actions. This will get us on track to consciously create the socialist society we say we want. For me that includes not voting for capitalists and not supporting their political parties or efforts. It seems to me the  DSA thinks that the way the electoral system is set up, they have no other choice if they want to actually win elections.And they do so by running their candidates as Democrats, and try to influence or change the party from the inside out. But how much influence one can have within a capitalist party is minimal in my reading of history and my personal experience. I think many in the DSA imagine breaking off from the Democrats at some point, just not soon. They want to amass a lot more members and political influence and power first. They want to capture independents and progressives to join up. Their project is very long term as one can see here. It remains to be seen if this long-term strategy can bring about the socialist society we all need, want, and deserve. Until then I hope this piece serves as a starting point for educating those new to socialism and a catalyst for thought and debate.


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