To the dismay of my dad (and his friend who bought me, my mom, and my sister a copy of Rand Paul’s The Case Against Socialism), I would consider myself a proud budding Socialist. My ideology developed when I became enamored with Bernie Sanders in his 2016 Presidential campaign and learned about Democratic Socialism (defined by the Democratic Socialists of America as the belief that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives). At the time, I had only heard negative, fear-mongering opinions of socialism, so I steered clear of accepting the same label as Bernie’s (even though I agreed with him 100%). Fast forward four years, and I’m gladly and openly supporting socialist policies and agendas that will push America in a direction toward equity for all, not just the rich and privileged.
Socialism is widely misunderstood, especially in America, as many people believe it occurs in the death of democracy in the same regard as places such as North Korea, China, and Cuba (the last of which has a largely misrepresented history in Western countries). The reason being that Americans particularly cling to capitalism, which they believe is what provides their “freedoms” in opposition to socialism or communism. But in reality, the fundamentals of capitalism are what separates the United States into a brutal class system where the wealthy hoard resources and money while manipulating and controlling every part of society. Merriam-Webster defines capitalism as “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.” Capitalism is the reason why approximately 40 million Americans live in poverty every day while Jeff Bezos is worth $113.9 billion (and climbing). It’s the reason why 26 people own as much as 50% of the world’s population. It’s the reason why the US represents 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prison population. It’s the reason why 44 million Americans are uninsured, and 38 million have inadequate insurance. It’s the reason why despite scientists on every continent warning us about the imminent threat of climate change, America continues fracking and catering to fossil fuel industries. It’s the reason why landfills and hazardous waste sites have always been placed in poor communities. It’s the reason why 24% of civilian workers aren’t guaranteed sick leave. It’s the reason why politicians will always be bought by the richest lobbyists and CEOs while ignoring the needs of their constituents. It’s the reason why the Federal Reserve just recently provided $1.5 trillion, then $500 billion, and now $1 trillion of overnight loans a day through the end of this month to large banks in order to keep the stock market afloat, but Congress still won’t give Americans $1,000 a month to pay for their bills and food during the Coronavirus pandemic. I could keep going on (believe me) about why capitalism is quite literally the root of all that’s wrong with America (and every other capitalist society), but I think I’ll stop there (Haymarket Books has many great blog posts and books about capitalism!)
As a contrast, socialism is defined as “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.” Of course, socialism as we know it is by no means perfect, but it offers much more humane alternatives to what capitalist countries provide. But in fact, America already has dozens of social programs including, but not limited to: the military, war, highways and roads and bridges, public libraries, police, fire department, postal service, garbage collection, landfills, CIA and FBI, social security, public schools, public parks, prison industrial complex, healthcare for politicians, corporate subsidies, food stamps, medicare, medicaid, waste and sewer systems, G.I. bill, vaccines, IRS, EPA, FDA, CDC, FEMA, welfare, CHIP, DHS, CBP, DOE, DOJ, etc. We as citizens who pay taxes (which of course includes undocumented citizens) also pay for all of these parts of American society that keep the country going. As much as both Republicans and Democrats alike want to argue that the US is a capitalist society, it’s not…or at least it doesn’t have to be.
As the coronavirus has spread across the world, it’s no surprise that Americans on both sides are begging for politicians to adopt socialist policies in order to save lives. You all know that I respect and support Bernie Sanders for President (always and forever) because of how he’s always fought for social and financial equity for all people despite sex, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or race; every person with a uterus’ right to choose what happens to their body; heavily taxing Wall Street and the top 1%; free college tuition; getting big money out of politics; combating climate change; raising the minimum wage; housing as a human right; peace over war; federal recognition and support of both native Americans and native Hawaiians; giving every incarcerated person the right to vote; and fighting to end mass incarceration, and his policies are what Americans are asking for now that we’re in a world crisis. The coronavirus has truly exposed the atrocities of living in a capitalist society and why stances such as Bernie’s are the only way to keep moving forward when everything is falling apart. People en masse are now seeing how important it is to keep community with other people; hold politicians accountable for their votes and decisions (ie: please remove the senators who sold their stocks after learning the truth about covid-19—Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Dianne Finestein (D-Calif.); release all people from jails and prisons because they are at a higher risk of infection; pay grocery workers, garbage collectors, sanitation workers, teachers, doctors, and nurses well while providing sick leave; house every houseless citizen; give every single person health insurance; protect renters; eliminate student loan debt, medical debt, and evictions; abolish the police; prevent rich and privileged people from accessing resources like coronavirus tests and ventilators before everyone else; and essentially ensure that everyone is taken care of and isn’t too poor to live.
We need socialism because we need to create a society that we want to live in—one that actually cares about its citizens and doesn’t prioritize the wealthy over the rest of us; one without prisons and jails; one where people aren’t forced to sleep on the street because they have no money; one that doesn’t have billionaires; one where everyone has healthcare and doesn’t go into debt to pay for their medical bills; one that allows all young adults to go to college for free (should they choose that path); one that ensures workers’ rights to paid sick leave, vacation time, and maternal/paternal leave; and one that gives the power to the people, not corporations. If this pandemic has given me anything (besides intense anxiety and a return to work every day), it’s that now I know for sure we can create a better world for all of us. I can only hope that once our brilliant and brave healthcare workers fend off the virus, we’ll collectively take back the power and start fighting for what’s ours.