How is Modern ‘Socialism’ Different From Communism?
Democrats have had to distance themselves from the term made popular by Bernie Sanders
Abigail Spanberger (D-Va) blames increasingly widespread use of the word socialism for the loss of Democratic House seats this cycle. After becoming popularized by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it has subsequently been weaponized by the right to imply a totalitarian, freedomless state. And another moderate Democrat, Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) says that running on a platform of Medicare for All and Defund the Police is going to mean Democrats lose further elections.
The term has come under further scrutiny as Kamala Harris, who is considered to be the most progressive senator by some, and has a “progressive” ranking similar to Bernie Sanders according to Progressive Punch, has had to distance herself from the term. Despite backing Sanders’ Medicare for All bill and co-sponsoring the Green New Deal, she answered in the negative, laughing nervously, when asked on 60 Minutes whether her views were “socialist.”
The latest innovation in the weaponizing of “socialism” is happening among Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants in south Florida — and Trump seems to have won their vote running on the platform of “Biden is a socialist dictator.” Many were understandably concerned — Cuba under Fidel Castro was a nightmare for many.
But it’s a far cry from the brand of “Democratic Socialism” espoused by modern American leaders in the Democratic Party, like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. What, exactly, are the differences?
Though Castro and Che Guevara, who took charge of the socialist revolution in Cuba, claimed to adhere to a Marxist-Leninist view of socialism, they in reality did not. Marx’s vision of socialism was one which workers overthrow the government and seize the means of production from their capitalist overlords. In Cuba, the working class did rise up, overthrow the government, and seize the means of production — but then they became the government. So rather than a worker-run economy like the one Marx envisioned, the economy became government-run. There was no free market, and supply and production were controlled by the government.
The brand of “socialism” touted by Sanders, AOC, and others, is neither Marxist nor Castroian. In fact, it’s so far from either of these ideologies it shouldn’t even be called socialism. Modern American “socialists” do not envision the means of production being seized by the government or workers — they simply want to regulate capitalism to the extent that it remains sustainable and accessible to all.
In modern American “socialism,” the economy would remain capitalist, meaning that it would be based on a free market that allows for private enterprise and competition among producers of goods. The means of production would be owned, not by the government, not by the proletariat working class, but by the capitalists themselves.
However, the main difference between unfettered capitalism and a “socialist” government is that, in the latter case, the corporate tax rate would be higher, and wealth redistribution would ensure more equal access to financial resources — which would actually lead to more healthy competition among companies, rather than the economy being dominated by monopolies. In this case, modern “socialism” would look much more like the economy from the years 1944 to 1963, much of which was under Republican president Eisenhower, and ironically occurred at the height of American McCarthyism, and the Cold War.
The Democratic Party could do a couple of things to reduce the damage done by the weaponized “socialism” label Republicans have slapped on them. They could drop the use of the term altogether — since it is, after all, an inaccurate description of the type of government they aspire to — or the Democratic party, in a long-needed move to break up the two-party system, could split into two parties: A moderate Democrat party and a progressive, “Democratic Socialist” party (for that to work, Republicans would have to split in two as well).
A move like this would enable the Democratic party to move to the left in areas that understand the meaning of modern “socialism,” such as parts of the East Coast and California, but allow it to retain its centrist orientation in places that tend to be more conservative, but are starting to turn Democrat, such as in the South.
But regardless of what the Democratic party does or doesn’t do in terms of moving to the left, they’re not moving toward socialism or communism. Not even close.